The old man woke of a sudden, the room around him filled with the night. The doors, open to the terrace, let the cool night air cover his unclad body. He felt the familiar, deep chill that would often wake him in the night, and reached, somewhat urgently, for the thin covers he habitually shed, finding them, again, pushed up against the body of his sleeping wife. He smiled, assured. The covers captured his warmth and the chill relaxed. All his good life was around him, lying next to him, and solidly surrounding him, in this old house.
It was then he saw it, a darkness, there in the night room. He knew then that it had come.
“I thought you would have come before now.” He spoke hushed into the night, not wishing to stir his dear wife.
The darkness said nothing, only stood back, away from the bed.
“Oh, I’ve held you back. Or at least I’ve tried,”
He addressed the thing in a whisper, his fear evident.
“and I’ve tried to live too. Really live. While still holding you back.”
The old man chuckled under his breath.
“Why just today I rode a long ride. On my bike. I still do that. It takes me such a long time now. To ride far. But I did it today. Again.”
His voice trailed off as he considered the futility of his protests. The darkness moved closer to the bed.
“And I wrote!” he said, urgent to make it known.
His wife stirred beside him. He held a finger to his lips, glancing up at the darkness.
She lay still.
“She will be so sad,” he said, looking at his beautiful wife laying now on her back, her face and form in full view.
‘still so beautiful, I am so sorry my love'
He found her late in life. She was younger than he, but with the years they shared, she now was also old. His vieja. Beautiful vieja.
He smiled sadly and looked to see the darkness closer now, at the edge of the bed.
He felt the texture of the sheet and the small contours of the mattress she had insisted on buying so many years ago. He looked down, his eyes following the movement of his hand.
“I love this bed,” he said.
The darkness was silent.
“You know, don’t you?” He lifted his eyes, his head still bowed low. The look was clear, he could not conceal the hate and guilt so long resident in his soul.
“I would do it again you know. I would do it a thousand times.”
“She killed him. She killed him with her uncaring indifference and horrible conceit. He needed her and she laughed.”
“She was screwing everyone. Picking up men right in front of his face and leaving with them. He pretended not to see. But I saw.”
“Damn her! She deserves it!” His voice rose to fill the room.
“What my love?” His wife mumbled from her sleep, not opening her eyes. “Are you alright?”
“Yes. Yes, my love. I’m sorry. Just a dream.”
Slowly, he lifted himself, reclining against the headboard. He laid there, still and silent. The darkness waited, remaining at the end of the bed.
“I found him you know, I found my son.” His voice was barely above a whisper, trembling. “It was truly the most terrible, terrible discovery I could have ever made. The gun was on the floor. All the horror of that moment washed over me, it entered my soul and denied all purpose. Save one. I knew what to do. I took the gun and I left.”
The old man smiled wryly as he looked upon the darkness.
“I would do it again.”
The darkness folded over onto the bed, covering his feet with a cold, insufferable closeness. He winced, weakly trying to free himself.
“Why do you hide yourself? I want to finally see you. You have shadowed me all my life. Are you so horrible to behold? Show yourself for pity’s sake!”
It moved up his legs. The old man felt impossibly tired. He became aware of his heartbeat. Measured and slowing. He was passing, as into a deep exhausted sleep. The darkness fell like a blanket, heavy.
His eyes closed. He forced them open, fluttering, to see the dark thing now at his chest.
In that eternal instant, he saw it, the face of darkness.
So horribly beautiful.
He felt the morning sun against his back. He stirred from the depths of a sleep, the likes of which he could not recall. He remembered the dream. His terrifying dream. The darkness coming finally for him.
He smiled to realize he was alive, laying in the wonderful bed, the sleeping face of his beautiful wife before him.
‘something is wrong.’ The thought, a taunting whisper, most unwelcome, most certain.
Her mouth hung slack, drooping down, parting her lips oddly. Dried spittle crusted the fallen corner.