A Red Glow
This piece was written in winter of 2007. For now, it is presented as a standalone, though I envision it in a longer work at some point.
It was the dead of night. The house reeked of silence.
A light in the kitchen; the ghosts were asleep, but Jay was awake. Always awake, forever conscious. His body struggled with his mind. He felt the constant battle wearing on his nerves, between what he wanted and what was right – or rather, what was proper. He thought it was morning, knew it had to be true. It was dark though, black to the unobservant, and he felt the brief desire to rest tug at him. Jay ignored it.
A breakfast to warm his gut, a clattering of dishes scalding his hands; Jay collected the waste and stepped out into the late autumn night.
He deposited the waste into its receptacle, and wandered through the yard. Jay brushed his hands across the neatly trimmed shrubs. Thorns grappled for his palms and fingers. He ignored them. At the curb, he stepped into the street with no concept of purpose. He glanced around at the rooftops, the quiet, complacent neighbours all sleeping soundly under them. The moon did not exist, and the black night was hazy from the lights of even that small, unobtrusive town. The sky growled the faintest shade of crimson. Jay knew it was morning in his heart, if only a bit more red might show through, they could all see the sun, in its full rosy majesty, a sun unlike the hot yellow ball everyone was accustomed to. Someday, Jay resolved, that sun would be his.
Jay turned in the middle of the street, suddenly feeling the desperate coldness on his exposed grey arms. From outside, the kitchen light was a beacon, but he felt no peace looking at it, no sense of belonging. Perhaps this was a lighthouse, beckoning him to a place to moor for a night, or even a year, but soon he knew the restlessness that ate at his core would fully consume his being. It had already begun, and some long-dormant sense of adventure was awakening. He was overwhelmed.
The cold was creeping through him indiscriminately. Jay was possessed by the red glow. His heart whispered tales of warmth – they were lies. He wandered along the road, occasionally catching glimpses of wavering far-off headlights. He ran his hands over his bare arms, hopping a little as he walked. Before long, Jay had reached the edge of town, and the road abruptly transformed to dust. He kept walking still, now imagining the red sky was a sunrise over the desert. The desert would still be cold in the morning, he reasoned.
Jay was shivering, freezing and exhausted. Two dirt paths crossed, he was atop a hill twelve miles from town. The sun’s eastern beacon now shone, glimmering ever so faintly in the distance. The shell of dark grey sky no longer had even a hint of rouge. There were no silent houses near, instead trees and brush insinuated from all around. Jay raised his eyes, searching for his sun, the beckoning warmth. His arms shot to the sky in frustration, arms stained a crusty brown. He painted a rosy glow over the sky once more as his scarlet hands fell to his face. Jay’s sanguine vision took over once more, as he fell to his knees, hysterical, hot bloody tears stained his frozen cheeks. He couldn’t bear to take his hands from his head; he couldn’t look back at the bloody path. The thorns, such tiny grappling hooks, now tied him to this land. The sea, just beyond the sun, just beyond an imagined lighthouse, would now only be a ghost’s fancy.
To the west, the bucking darkness of the ocean not yet touched by the new day’s sun, suddenly came to a glassy calm.
It was the dead of night.