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Short Story 58



There was white-out conditions in the town; subsequently, the roads were impassable. Sitting in the small lobby of the town’s only inn Hector watched as the external white flurry moved against the thick windowpane. It was impossible to see more than an inch distance and what was perceivable was a vacant patch with no interest.


Sighing, he glanced at the magazine he had been pretending to read for the past three hours. There was nothing to do. Phone reception was terrible, it was only possible to make emergency calls. There were televisions in the rooms, but the cable was out. There was nothing other than reading and all there was to read was the table full of magazines in the front lobby, which were all five years out of date. Giving up, Hector tossed the reading material back with his brothers wishing for the first time in his life that he had gotten trapped in a library or bookstore.


There was movement somewhere behind him. He assumed it was one of the staff members that had been trapped by the snow. He didn’t turn to look back. There was no point in checking. There was no point in doing anything, except maybe going back to his room to attempt to sleep through the worst of it, however, getting up was disinteresting. He shifted back in his seat resting his hands against his stomach closing his eyes.


A fancy passed through his mind, that maybe the person moving behind him was some sort of murderer or criminal. It was strange to believe that he should have ever thought that the idea of such a thing would be refreshing. The ideas of a horror movie coming to life entertaining against the absent nothingness of white noise.


“Excuse me.”


He opened his eyes and at once was greeted by a woman, Holly, who ran the reception desk. She was a girl as ordinary as most clumps of southern grass. She smiled, showing creases that suggested she was perhaps older than the thirty-five or so that she looked.


“Would you like a cup of coffee Mr. Gongora?”


The electricity flickered and then went out.


“I don’t think that will be possible now.”


“Oh no, we make the coffee on the stove top, its gas you see. Would you still like some?”


“Sure, but don’t you have a generator.”


“Yes, but it has to be manually turned on. I’m sure Ignatius is taking care of that now sir. But until then I’ll bring in some candles for you.”


She disappeared into the building leaving him alone in the dark with the rushing wind as company. Such a hateful place to be. Hector resented having ever come to such a place. But everyone had said how beautiful the snow was this time of year. How great the skiing was. That it was at the very least an out of the way destination that would give him something new to enjoy. Bah humbug. The snow across the whole planet could melt at that moment and he wouldn’t cry a single tear for polar bears or penguins.


“There is an allegory here don’t you think?” This was a new voice one he hadn’t heard yet, and with it came the light of a candle.


“Excuse me?”


A man, very young and quite handsome entered from stage left of the occupant of the lobby. He couldn’t have been much older than twenty or twenty- one, literally half the age of Hector, something that rather bruised his pride. He hated the idea that he was old enough to be his father. His eyes were very open not only in aura, but also in shape. He had a rather pleasant mouth and a face that was roughly filled with happiness despite everything that had befallen them. Besides this he was slender and had great confidence in his posture, though a meekness that prevented it from being offensive.


“Sorry, I should introduce myself shouldn’t I. The names Warren, I’m a guest here too.” The candle was placed on the coffee table before a hand was offered, Hector shook it reluctantly.


“I’m Hector.”


“Nice to meet you, I was worried I was the only one here.” To Hector’s distaste Warren seated himself nearby, “So what do you think, doesn’t this have an allegorical feeling?”


The question had come after more than five minutes of sitting in silence, the very same silence in which Hector was pondering whether or not he really did enjoy his solitude from moments before. Maybe the only reason why he had wanted someone was simply because he was ignorance of his enjoyment.


Giving in and deciding that it was at least a mild form of entertainment as he waited for his coffee he proceeded with an amount of indignance, “I’m not sure that I understand you.”


“I can get that. I suppose there are times where things like this can be rather personal. Would you mind, if I explained?”


Another bout of hesitation, which was quickly overridden by the sense that there was nothing this child could teach him, but he would like to see him try, “Please, go right ahead.”


“Okay then, the darkness represents the world as we know it, a place we knock around in without really being able to understand it. The snow is something we’re trapped in, something we can’t escape on our own no matter how hard we try. Oh yes, we could wander out into it, but gradually our body will lose heat and we’ll die of hypothermia, so we stay where we are. The candles are those people in our life that enter it and carry with it heat and a guiding light. We are attracted to it, because we want it, but we are equally repulsed by it because it reveals things in us that we weren’t able to see without it, and we also despise them for having something we don’t.”


“I see and what exactly is this allegory about?”


“Forgive me for saying, before answering your question, that you seem rather unhappy Hector. Is there a reason why?”


“What is there exactly to be happy about at the moment?”


This answer drew a smile to the lips of his young inquirer, which seemed to stir the irritation of the man, “Your question couldn’t go better with the allegory. You quite literally picked a perfect way of putting it. The snowstorm is a crisis in someone’s life. Oh yes, they have felt the darkness before, the helplessness but they have been able to ignore it with the help of the imaginary freedoms they enjoy. They repeated slogans like ‘live your best life now,’ and various comments of self-worship, because we all know putting ourselves first makes us happy, right? But then something happens, and they are aware that they are helplessly trapped, like in a snowstorm, and that it’s terribly dark and there is nothing they can do to fix that. We are all ourselves born into that. It is the representation of life from birth until death lead by self-interest, and meaningless gods and even more meaningless pursuits to fix a life that is empty. One impossible to impose meaning on.”


The receptionist returned with the coffee giving each of them a cup. Hector got his first, he said nothing taking it from the tray, she then went to Warren who took his with a smile, “Thank you Holly.”


“You’re very welcome, I’ll leave the cream and sugar on the table for you,” She did so leaving a sugar bowl and a milk pitcher, along with a small cup filled with coffee straws for stirring, “If you need anything else just ring the bell on the front desk.”


Just that quickly Hector and the young man were alone. The wind blasted the building causing the windowpanes to shiver. The snow was coming down harder than before.


A small, pleasant hum slipped past Warren’s lips as he looked into his cup, “And now there’s coffee.”


“I suppose that represents something as well,” Hector took a draft and had to admit it was good, the first truly pleasant thing that had occurred thus far.


“Of course, the coffee represent momentary reprieve. Ways we attempt to fix our own life, something that artificially warms us and makes us forget the cold for just a bit. You can say it’s our way of fixing ourselves. With false gods, and meaningless treasures. With degrees, money, anything that synthetically fills that void.”


“And the candle?”


“It represents someone with an unearthly hope, they present a warm light that casts away darkness. But in looking at them like this you must understand that they are the vessel, the light burns it not the fire itself. This candle remains in them until they die and then after. Tell me Hector have you ever looked at yourself using candlelight?”


“No.”


“Well, it’s warm. However, unlike bright light, especially in darkness, it leaves plain shadows on the skin from only one angle at a time that can be quite unappealing to the eye. And often displays flaws in the skin just due to its type of illumination. Many people eventually get annoyed with this light, so they push it away. Feeling that it’s inferior. Maybe they even try to blow it out. It’s better to stay in total darkness and see nothing than see all the things unappealing about oneself or the room. If it was dark you wouldn’t have to see that the magazines were out of date or the chair you were sitting on was out of style. So long as it was comfortable. Some people spend their whole lives in this sort of darkness. Can you believe it?”


Warren paused to sip from his mug, up until that moment he had allowed it to only ambiently heat his hands.


“And what else is there to this allegory of yours?”


“Let’s see, there’s the generator. The one that belongs to this inn has to be turned on manually, did you know that? Which means you need an intermediary to return the light. This intermediary is the only one who can do this job, because he is the only one who understand the machine, knows where it is, and how it works. You can say in this allegory he is the absolutely only one that has access to it. So, he can restore warmth again through heat, bright light, peace in knowing where you are going and what’s happening around you. Because of him you’ll be able to see and appreciate everything good and avoid everything bad. Until the bad weather stops and you’re able to leave. That’s when his help becomes useful yet again, he also happens to be the one that clears the snow out of the way and shows you the path to take.”


“What’s so bad with the darkness?” Hector took the cream and poured a generous amount before plopping a spoonful of sugar into his mug, taking a black straw, “The snow will eventually stop.”


“Have you ever noticed what it’s like to be in total darkness. Everything is tremendous and you can’t see where anything is. This condition isn’t common to you, you’re not blind, and even blind people can be limited if a room is unfamiliar or changed from what they know. Eventually those in the dark would also find an end, though likely it would be less pleasant.”


“How very morbid for someone so young.”


“Am I that young? I guess I never saw myself that way.” Here Warren stared at the candle for a long time. He wasn’t as happy as he had been moments before, a solemn mood clouding over his earlier temperament.


Hector didn’t much mind, the allegory that had so obsessed the boy, had begun to lose its luster, Not that it had much impact in the first place. He should rather sit in the dark silence and sip his coffee without being bothered.


“I wonder why they haven’t gotten the lights on yet?” He said for no reason drawing the attention of his young companion.


“Why that’s simple, it’s because you’re still in darkness Hector.”


A deep scrutinizing frown, “And what exactly do you mean by that?”


“I thought at first when I introduced myself it was a pity you didn’t remember me, and now I see that the darkness has consumed you so much that you have grown cold to its very existence.”


“Excuse me, I don’t remember meeting you before today.”


“It was a rather long time ago, about twenty-six, twenty-seven years now.”


“How is that possible you can’t be older than twenty.”


“It’s very possible. Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten Warren Finch. My family used to live next to yours.”


Hector almost dropped his cup, Warren Finch, he was the eldest son of one of his next-door neighbors, and the enigma that had overtaken his idea of the dream elder brother. He used to run around after him. Warren had always been so good natured, indulging him more than his own siblings. But he had died, killed in a hit and run when he was twenty.


“Impossible you can’t be The Piper,” That’s why the name hadn’t run to the back of his memory, everyone used to call Warren ‘the Piper’ because all the kids in town were drawn to him.


“Yes, well miracles do happen sometimes, or have you forgotten that?”


“But… I…”


“Maybe I’m your Marley or possibly the ghosts… maybe I’m just your own conscience taken form.” There was a moments silence, “Hector would you like me to explain the meaning of the allegory?”


His hesitation made his fingers tremble against the ceramic mug. The sensation of insanity trickled up his back and round his head.


“If you’d like.”


Warren smiled again and in doing so seemed to express to Hector that he knew what he was thinking, “The darkness is where you lie Hector, it is the world and all it promises. The way it keeps people happy with their lives, it takes away the light so there is no scrutiny so that you don’t have to deal with the flaws, so you can feel happy just as you are. The snow is the struggle with life, the struggle within. It prevents you from leaving, it holds you hostage to its will. It brings in a lying cold that will trickle in and freeze you until you’re so near death you begin to feel warm. This is joined by the cup which is a form of tempting lies. The little things that make you believe you can survive the freezing breath all around you. The delusion that somehow the minor things you do, the false gods, whether yourself, another religion, nothing, or just the idea that there is a god, gives you this sense of imaginary wellbeing, all while slowly killing you.”


Hector squeezed his mug, “And the candle?”


“That represents the people who come into your life with the truth. They are the vessel to a deep raging flame and that flame exposes all your flaws by revealing your shadows exposing your pockmarks that can be hidden in the darkness. Most people who live in the darkness are comforted by the false warmth. They hate this and try to blow them out, destroy them, or make the light leave so that it won’t reflect the things they don’t want to see or change.”


“And the generator technician?”


“That is Jesus Christ, Hector, the only one that can turn on the light. The one that knows where the generator is and how to operate it. He holds the keys. He opens doors. And He alone turns on an all-consuming light. When you accept Him as the only Truth, the only Light. When you believe that He died, rose again, and destroyed sin and death, and reject yourself and the lies of the world, the lights come on and He warms you. Nothing in this life can kill or harm you at least not in a way that can take what you have gained in Him. You may be bound in the snowstorm, but when this life ends, He will lead you out to beauty and away from the false things in that dark world.”


“Why are you telling me this? Shouldn’t you be giving me some kind of grand revelation or something, some guiding light? Not just religious mumbo jumbo.”


“Your offended? Why? Because the path I came to tell you about isn’t easy. Or is it because it’s too easy?” Warren set his mug on the table near the candle turning toward him, “Hector, this life is so short, look at me. Would you have guessed back then I’d die at twenty? But I didn’t die a second time, instead I lived. That’s what I came to tell you about Hector. I don’t want you to die twice. I want you to live. To see you again. I can’t tell you how much it hurts to think that this will be the last time. And that will be exactly what it is if you don’t stop here, don’t seek the right path that only Christ can lead you down.”


Warren Finch had been everything Hector had ever wanted to be. Tall, athletic, intelligent. He was in prelaw when he was twenty and the day before he died, he had returned home for a visit. Despite how busy he was he made time to spend a whole hour with Hector, a fifteen-year-old nerd who had no self esteem. To Warren, the great Piper, he had never felt like a burden. No, he was someone who had always felt like a true friend.


Hector could remember the funeral. They had tried to make it all cheery, but even as the paster spoke of Warren being welcomed home into the arms of Christ who welcomed him as a son, bought with His blood, Hector hated God. He hated religion, it was all nonsense. All meaningless. All empty. It couldn’t bring the person back. It didn’t change what couldn’t be changed.


“Hector,” He looked at the young man who he realized now was the very image of his great idol and felt it there, all the tears, all the hatred everything, every emotion jumbled together, “It’s not God’s fault that I died, or that bad things happen. That was something we chose ourselves. We wanted a world where we could be like God. We were tempted and we gave in, and this is what we’ve got. But He offers a way out through Christ. Hector…”


There was a big burst of light, blinding light. Hector opened his eyes with a start, his heart racing.


The woman who had offered him coffee paused in placing candles, “Oh, well looks like Ignatius got the lights on again. That’s good it was getting cold. Oh, I’m sorry Mr. Gongora that must have been a shock for you.”


“Oh no, I’m fine.”


“Well, I think for now I’ll leave the candles as they are. Would you still like your coffee out here? It should be done by now.”


“Yes, that’s fine.”


“Very well.”


“Oh wait, you didn’t bring out this candle, the one on the coffee table, did you?”


She stopped looking at it, “I never lit that Mr. Gongora, I thought you had found it or brought it from your room.”


“No, I didn’t.”


“Maybe it was one of the other guests then.”


“Wait one more moment please, but do you have a young man staying here with the first name Warren last name Finch. He would be young twentyish.”


“I’m afraid not sir, there are only three other rooms besides yours that are full. Two of them with newlyweds and the other is a pair of elderly sisters that come here every year.”


“I see. Well thank you.”


“Of course.”


Hector sat very still watching the candle burning in front of him, the flame bouncing around within the glass. Inside himself something grew. A curious feeling, a want for something, he stood going toward his room where he knew a book was waiting for him in his nightstand drawer. The candle from the table in his hand flickering warm and bright.



End



Thank you so much for reading everyone!!



Prompt Sentence: There was white-out conditions in the town; subsequently, the roads were impassable.


Word Count: 3379


©DecemberKnight 2023


Special thanks to Sixteen Miles Out from Unsplash for the use of the image!


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