Horatio Benice, Chapter 1

March 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

1.  Bittersweet

Through the inky darkness of 3 a.m., a withered hand stretched out from the green leather chair.  The skin was stretched tight and dry around swollen, arthritic knuckles.  Five trembling fingers sought their mark in the darkness, which seemed to pull at the hand; to cling to it like mist.

In those fragile minutes before most sleepers wake, the hand wrapped itself firmly around the shiny brass handle attached to a solid cherry cane.  A wedding band reflected the yellowish glow from the streetlight outside as the old man stood and struck a match on a fireplace brick.  He lit the Kerosene lantern that sat on the mantel and flicked the match, still burning, into the cold and empty fireplace before him.  There was much to do before dawn.

Horatio Allen Benice was the old man’s name, and he loved darkness and flame with what could be called passion.  It was not always so.  He had, in fact, rather enjoyed life in his day.  A baker by trade, he used to enjoy the quiet solitude of his pre-dawn hours, mixing, kneading, and firing his ovens.  He relished being left to his own thoughts during those sweet few hours before the day began.

But that was long ago.  That was before The Visitor came and taught him to love the darkness through long hours of patient and devoted practice.

They say that the night is darkest before the dawn, but Horatio had learned better.  They were fools who thought that way.  Through patient practice, one could embrace the True Darkness and never have to fully embrace the dawn again.

Now the only sound in the house was the steady ticking of the clock on the mantle.  It was the last birthday gift his wife had given him before the cancer claimed her, 51 years ago this morning.

The old man stood there, steadied by that brass-topped cane.  He stood looking at the clock, swaying ever so slightly to the rhythmic tick tock.  He had waited for so long already; what were a few more minutes?  He had honed his patience like the edge of a dagger.

The darkness swirled around him like vapor.  He breathed it in and exhaled it out.  The fringes of shadow grew longer and thicker there in that room, filling the old man’s house with the sickeningly-sweet smell of decay.

And still, he waited.

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