The Flame That Softly Danced
By: Boston Paul
I SAW A CANDLE BURNING IN A WINDOW OF A HOUSE DURING one of my midnight walks. The roof of the house sloped down until the corners of the house pointed up, like a temple in China or Japan or one of those far away places I read about in books. I liked to venture out late at night in this small town, situated right outside of suburbia. I liked to go out at night when the World was quiet and asleep. I was glad that I changed my usual walking route that night. Had I not, I would not have seen that Dwelling and this would be a tale that would not have been told.
A cliché Moon enshrouded in see-through clouds, hung in an ink black sky. She (the Moon) told me that it might Rain tomorrow. I imagined this Moon to be like the Moon during Ramadan. How she shone! I did not know when Ramadan was. But I like how it rolled off my tongue. It sounded Romantic to me.
Indifferent to the Armies below that hustle and bustle about.
Intimidating the populace.
Pillaging the masses.
The Moon was indifferent to those below that tried to give their lives some meaning while succumbing to their insecurities. She was indifferent to the race that the Rats seem to be winning. She was indifferent to the conspiracies the powers that be wielded. It was a quiet night and I could almost hear the flicker of the flame as the candle burned.
I sat down against a tree across the street from the house. It was a special house. No doubt, the owner had added the sloping roof after a visit to the Orient or after looking at pictures in a magazine. It was a bit out of place in this quiet neighborhood, so I stopped to look.
The Flame in the window of this house was Hypnotic. I lost myself in thought as I stared at the reds, yellows, and oranges that flickered and danced in the night, through the window, in the room of that house, that Warm house.
Those moments I watched the Flame, I felt Peace.
Warm blanket Peace.
For a moment, I forgot what so many others try to forget in their day-to-day struggle. My insecurities, for a fleeting moment, vanished. At last, I was the Ruler of my own World and the Master of my Destiny. I saw my future expand with every quiver of that small Fire in the window, dancing just for me.
Dancing for me to see…
I do not know how long I sat there, but at once, the Flame went out, and I was jolted back into Reality’s grip. What blew out the Fire? Did a small breeze blow through a crack in the window perhaps? It was then I saw a Silhouette in the darkness of that room draw the curtains closed. The Moon at last had disappeared while I had been reveling in contemplative thought. And the Rain decided not to wait for tomorrow.
I stood up. Did the Silhouette see me? The Rain must have been soaking my clothes, but I had not yet noticed as I struggled to hold onto that Peaceful feeling I had as it ebbed like the tides. And alas, the bitter cold Rain reminded me that I was not in a Peaceful world, after all.
The Rain. From inside my Dwelling, I can hear the pitter-patter on the roof above. So inviting, so comforting. From inside my room, I can hear the Rain hitting the street, the rooftops, and the leaves of the trees… how soothing!
It was not soothing then as I stood in it, clothes soaked. The Peaceful feeling that had been slowly fading, vanished all together.
I decided to kill the person who extinguished the Flame.
I had never killed before, so I was not quite sure how to do it, but I had thought about it many times. So many nights I lay in my bed. Thinking. If I were to kill someone, could I get away with it? I always came up with a Master Plan for every situation I conjured up. I would read or hear about others who had killed and had been caught. How stupid they were!
In order to kill, it seemed essential to have a Plan. Think the Plan over. Play your own Devil’s Advocate. Perhaps go through a trial run or two, and then execute… the Plan that is.
Execute the Plan.
I forgot how wet I was. I walked away from my spot. I was not sure if anyone had seen me from within that Warm house or not. The Shadow that blew out my Peaceful Flame may have seen me. So I had to be careful. I walked a safe distance from the house to where I was almost out of sight. Then I circled back around. I walked down another side street keeping my eyes on all the houses I passed. Making as sure as I could that no one could see me. When I was positive that I could not be detected, I made my way back towards the dwelling. I went straight to the backyard. Stealthy, I made my way to a window on one side of the house. I did not dare look directly into the window. I could see that it was dark inside. The Rain, still pouring down, once my Foe, now became my Friend and disguised any sounds I may have made.
I stayed at the side of the Warm house and listened for any sounds coming from within. I heard nothing. But then I surmised that the same Rain hiding the sounds that I may be making, might be hiding the sounds that the Silhouette that blew out my Flame may be making.
I sat at the side of that house for a long time. It could have been a very long time. When I was sure (I am not sure of what), I slowly stood up and took a peek in the window. I saw Blackness. I could not make out any light or anything. I tried to open the window, but it would not budge. Locked, I surmised. But it could very well have been stuck from not being opened for so long. I crept to the next window. It would not open either. Locked or stuck. Hhhmmm…
I moved around to the back door. I turned the doorknob and then pushed ever so lightly on the door. It resisted and then at once opened! There was a little vibration from the corner of the door and a squeak sound. I froze. Could someone have heard the sounds?
Adrenaline peaked as I thought about what I was doing. I began to get excited as I slowly pushed the door open and then… CLUNK! The door was still secured by a chain. One of those blasted chain locks! Who uses those anymore? Discouraged, I sat down on the step leading to the locked door. Damn! The Rain beat down on me, but I was still sweating. I lifted my face towards the Heavens and let the ever-increasing intensity of the Rain fall on me.
The thunder was sporadic and the lightning fantastic, but they came at long intervals. I sat their wondering what to do. When I was a boy, my Mother used one of those chain locks for the front door of our rented house… then I got it! Maybe if I opened the door and pulled the chain over to me, I might be able to unlatch it. After all, these chain locks were only designed to keep the honest people honest. I tried it and indeed the chain unlatched. I opened the door fully and entered. I stopped in the doorway and listened for any sounds. I was in the kitchen. I heard nothing but the refrigerator. The Rain seemed to muffle the sounds of the night. I closed the door ever so gently and sat down on the floor.
I thought about how I would carry out my Plan. Should I use a gun? Maybe not. That was too messy and besides, I didn’t have a gun. A knife? No, that was messy and too violent as well. I do not think I could ever bring myself to stab a person. Poison then? I did not have any and I was not much of a chemist.
Suffocate them? Strangle them? Yes, yes, this sounded better. It was clean. No blood or guts. Except that… when if this person was stronger than I was? When if it was some big construction worker or someone who knew some kind of martial art? No, suffocation or strangulation put me in Danger. That only left one other option… I could bludgeon them to death. I would have to be careful to hit them in places that would not explode with Blood, like a nose.
One good blow to the head would give me total advantage. I could then beat them at the place where the neck meets the back of the head. That’s how I would do it. I looked around the house for something I could use. I tip toed around, gently opening closets and cupboards, careful about getting fingerprints on anything. I looked for something heavy, like a baseball bat perhaps. I found nothing.
I walked into what seemed to be a living room and saw a Piano. Upon close inspection (as close an inspection one could do in the dark), I found that it was a beautiful Piano with a beautiful bench. I admit that I am bias in that all Pianos are beautiful to me. Then a thought occurred. I could use a leg from the Piano bench. It should be heavy enough. Yes, the leg!
It took a while, but as quietly as I could, I separated the leg from the bench. It seemed to be cherry or mahogany. It was nice, hard, heavy wood.
Mission accomplished, I took my new tool and set out to complete my Task. I paused for a moment trying to adjust my eyes to the darkness. I couldn’t make out everything, but it seemed to be a very nice living room. I would have liked to sit and play the Piano for a while. I was quite good actually. I am self taught. Some called me a child prodigy. The living room was Warm and perhaps with the lights on, it would have had a nice ambiance. Warmth. The feeling of Warmth. I imagined sitting with my Sweet-heart as the Rain fell outside.
Romance, then Fallen days and Saddened nights.
The Sweetness still bitter on my Soul.
I walked out of the living room and came to a closed door. I opened it slowly, it creaked and I hesitated a moment. I pushed it open a little more and it creaked again. It must have taken five minutes to open that door. At last, I peaked in. Total blackness. I crept in and as my eyes adjusted, I looked around. I did not see a bed. I saw books and a desk. Nothing else.
I crept back out. I contemplated closing the door. I did not want anyone to know I had been there. I left the door open and found my way to another closed door. I slowly turned the knob. So slowly. Thank a god it was Raining out. The door did not creak as much as the other one did and I pushed it open. I stepped inside the room. I saw the outline of a bed in the Shadows and I heard breathing. Slow, deep, slumber breaths. I could hear my own Heart beating and wondered if my Heart beating could be heard in the Silhouette’s dreams.
I went to the side of the bed. I saw a bump in the shape of what seemed to be the fetus position under many blankets… or were they quilts? I raised the Piano leg high over my head as I tried to determine where the head was. I focused my eyes to better my aim for a lethal blow upon my target.
I had to do this just Right.
The bump moved. I froze. There was a grunt and a small fart followed by the smacking noises one makes whilst sleeping. The slow breathing from this Soul continued and I stopped holding my breath. I let out a quiet sigh. I had not lowered the Wood. It was still high above my head ready to strike. Every muscle in my body was flexed and ready with anticipation.
Once again I focused and was about to swing down with all my might when I paused and thought…. When if this is an old woman? A child? A pastor of a church? I thought and thought some more. How can I beat an old woman? How can I beat a child? Then I thought: Wait! To beat them would be wrong. But I did not come here to beat anyone. I came here to Kill. I have no idea who this is. I have no idea about their age, gender, creed, or color. I don’t know about their physical condition… and it doesn’t matter.
Death does not Discriminate
We all Die. It is just a matter of how and when.
When your ticket’s up… they say.
I thought back to when my Childhood friends and I would talk about Death. We talked about an Afterlife. What our funerals would be like… who would read whose Eulogy. We decided that when it’s your time to go, nothing could be done about it. Then I reminisced how we would all get drunk together as teenagers and laugh, go on long drives and go skinny dipping in the nearby lake on hot summer nights. Those days when my Life seemed to be full of
Love and Surprise…
I don’t know how long I stood there with that piece of wood poised above my head, ready to attack, recalling my younger days. But then, the body moved again. I did not move.
“Who…?” the body said. The voice was a bit gruff. The just woke up voice that could have belonged to anyone. I swung the wood down in the direction of the voice. A sharp crack rang out and then a sudden expulsion of air from the body’s lungs. One hit. I listened carefully and heard no breathing. I wanted to turn a light on and see, but then decided that lights were out of the Question. I swung down again. I was sure that I hit the skull from the blunt crunch sound that it made.
The temptation to look was so great, I wanted to see if I had finished my work, but decided instead to hit again and again… and again. Each time I swung down, the feel, sound and crunch were unique and different.
Drenched with sweat and wet from the Rain, I finally put the wood down. The Silhouette just had to be Dead. I sat down on the bed next to the silent bump under the quilts and I wiped the sweat from my forehead with my Rain soaked shirt sleeve. The bed was quite comfortable. I wanted to lie down and sleep for I was quite exhausted. I sat and waited for feelings of Guilt to wash over me. Feelings of regret or remorse.
I decided that we are all animals. Darwin came to mind as I pondered the survival of the fittest theory. Fittest not necessarily meaning strongest, but perhaps smartest, most cunning. Yes, I believed that I was smarter than this Soul.
I stood up and stretched. It was time to leave. I had to get some sleep. I walked out of the room taking the Piano leg with me. I went back into the living room. I really wanted to play a tune on the Piano. I decided maybe another day. I went over to the window where the Candle was. There was a box of matches on the window sill. I re-lit the candle and sat down on the floor. I watched the candle for a long time. I felt that Peace again. That Warmth. I knew eventually that I would have to go back out in the Rain, but for now, listening to the Rain outside and watching the Flame softly dance… I was at ease. Momentarily consoled. Satisfied. A roaring Fire could not have given me the Warmth that candle gave me. It danced. It flickered… it sang…
I drifted in and out of a light sleep and had dreams mixed with memories until at length I knew it was time to go. I got up, went to the back door, and let myself out. I still had the leg of the Piano with me. I wasn’t sure what to do with it, so I took it with me.
The heavy Rain became a light drizzle as I mused and made my way home. Home? Actually, it was a room where I merely existed. I left Home a long time ago. Home is the place I hang my hat, I heard some say. I did not own a hat.
I pondered that night’s Events. What is the difference between murder and killing? Both involve taking a life. The accepted idea generally is that Killing is to cause the Death of something. Murder is to kill unlawfully with malice. It seems that I did both. But did I really kill with malice? Does an animal murder? Aren’t we just that?
Four legged creatures that stand up on two?
I went home. And as I made my way back to my hovel, I turned to take one last look at the house, now ablaze. I turned back and walked quicker as I realized that the candle might have caught the curtains, setting the entire house on Fire. The Flames grew bigger and danced in the Rainy night sky. Now I would never get the chance to play that magnificent Piano.
For weeks, I stayed in my house. Coming out occasionally only at night, very late at night for my walks. I changed my walking route once again. I whittled the Piano leg into a fine statuette of some Asian Goddess. For those random rare occasions that I saw someone else, I had to wonder if one knew or suspected. It seemed they all looked at me with accusing eyes… I looked back with knowing eyes…
I followed the news on my black and white TV that needed a bent coat hanger for an antenna. I read the papers I found in the garbage. I listened to the gossip at the diner and the radio when I sat on my porch.
It has been a quarter century now and nothing has ever pointed to me.
I still feel no remorse
I feel no guilt
There was no face for me to remember
No windows of the Soul for me to see
No post traumatic syndrome this time for me
Just a memory
A Candle and a Flame