The Gates of Dawn

“Andrew?” Kathleen knocked softly on the bedroom door. He didn’t answer, and she waited a few moments—just listening—before entering. The rain continued to patter on around the house. It fell lazily from the sky and made the day feel so much longer, so much quieter and even more eerie. The sun hadn’t shone for several days.

Would she walk in now to find the air never to return to his lungs? The life gone forever from his face? The laughter from his eyes? Her eyes blurred and stomach tightened and turned. She brushed the tears away from her eyes before opening the door, tiny squeaks sounding as she pushed it further.

“Kathleen,” he beckoned—only whispering—now aware of her presence.

She entered, stopping only a few seconds to observe his face. The once tanned skin could almost match the white washed walls of their bedroom; and yet under his eyes, hauntingly dark circles stood out. She reached his side in seconds and leaned onto the bed, the upper part of her body lying beside his. She stretched her arm around him and sighed, closing her eyes. She wanted to remember mornings and evenings beside him. Travels, theatres, restaurants. Laugher, playful teasing, and smiles. Happiness.

But it was slipping away. Slowly, slowly slipping away from her. It didn’t seem to matter how tightly she held onto him, for his mind was elsewhere. Regardless of her will, his spirit and soul were flitting away—and those were not things she could grab ahold of, no matter her efforts.

His eyes were still closed, his breathing slow. She worried that each breath would be his last—that, in a matter of moments, she would be embracing a dead man. She could feel each breath on her hand as he exhaled and cherished the feeling. She opened her eyes and looked up at him, gently stroking his face. He was everything to her. Everything she knew and loved and couldn’t live without. Without him she had no one—nothing. She would be alone.

“He might…he may not live, Miss…” The doctor’s words resounded through her mind. “Pray for a miracle.”

A miracle.

It was still raining, thunder clapping in the sky. Death cheered her husband on, eager that he relent. And she felt the choking, deathly grip. It trapped her. She stood helpless in a cage with this black shadow of a monster, blind to his movements and unaware of any weapons of defense, but still wanting to protect whom she held most dear.

“If he can break the fever by dawn…” The doctor’s only comfort echoed within her. “By dawn,” she whispered. Then, looking up at him again, she said again, “Dawn, my love. Just stay with me until dawn.” A tear wet his shirt as she nuzzled her head into his chest and closed her eyes.

As the first rays of light streamed in the next morning, Kathleen slowly opened her eyes. She’d slept through the night. She hadn’t risen to at any point to care for and nurse him! She lay in the bed beside Andrew; his arm was around her, but she neither felt nor heard a single breath. Slipping down to the floor at his side, she anxiously stared at him for several moments, awaiting some sign of life. Her eyes watered as she detected none, and she tried to catch her breath. “Come with me to the Gates of Dawn,” she sang softly, wistfully. The old Celtic tune barely came through her desperate breaths. The words came slowly and between tears, more following as she finished the short line, slinking to the floor.

“Keep singing,” a quiet voice bid her as a warm hand moved atop hers, stroking it gently.

Kathleen gasped and, snatching her hand away, flew two steps away from the bed, terrified at what she thought was Death’s ghost. But her shock died away as she saw the color in Andrew’s face and the slight smile flitting about his lips. Letting out a cry, she rushed to, embraced, and kissed him.

He took hold of her shoulders, though, and moved her away so that he could see her face; taking her hand and placing it upon his beating heart, he whispered the lyrics softly, without the tune: “The wheels of the heart keep yearning, for the sound of the singing soul…”

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A Dream of Youth

The final Nutcracker song filled the theatre. She was swirling, spinning countless times around on one, silken foot,ballet slippers ribbons circling around her calf. Glimmering lights made her cloud pink dress sparkle brilliantly. She was the centerpiece, for she was the youthful, wanderlust Sugar Plum Princess. She closed her eyes for a split second—she wasn’t acting anymore. This was real. Her heart raced, her breath was quick, and she felt like she was flying. There was no audience anymore. It was she and Prince Eric and the townspeople, all celebrating together with dancing, sunshine, and festive music—with life.

As the next great burst of music sprang forth from the orchestra beneath her, Rosamond leapt into the air, her legs flying in front and behind her as her slender arms were outstretched. She threw her head back. She wanted to laugh for joy. Upon hitting the ground she twirled several steps and joined hands with Derrick—Prince Eric. They smiled at each other as the duet began, not because they were on stage and simply required to smile, but because they both felt the magic of the night and even shared in the love that their characters expressed.

They danced, lost in each other’s glimmering eyes, hers brown and his blue and both full of emotion. Their body movements evoked complete silence from the audience—such a contrast from the celebration on stage. Village people danced, trailing a vibrant rainbow of ribbons behind them as they went. Other young girls took up partners and danced gracefully in the background, but she and Derrick remained in the forefront of the stage, lights following their every move.

They fell into each step in such a precise manner, and yet it was all natural. They were lost from this world. And in the final scene, he’d kissed her.

~~~~~

“Derrick,” the old woman whispered after passing the elderly man. The memory of that youthful, carefree night hadSS Competition Prompt flashed before her eyes and consumed her mind. She could see his young, handsome face as they had danced in that final scene. She remembered the feeling of strength and freedom and power. Of carefree joy. And she remembered that face… It was Derrick. She’d caught sight of his eyes as they passed—the same eyes that she’d fallen in love with.

But he was deformed and crippled, now. The energy in his movements had left. The color in his face had drained over so many years. And there was no smile. He was old.

She chuckled to herself. Old. She was old too, now. White hair, using a cane just as he did, bundled up as if the weather itself was too much to handle anymore. She had lost the vigor of life too.

He had not recognized her…but maybe he would. She hoped he would. Tonight, or tomorrow. Or maybe next week or even next month. She wanted him to remember the night of the Nutcracker—remember youth and beauty and joy. Remember days that had slipped away without their notice, never to return.

She hobbled on, continuing in the opposite direction of where youth—a memory, a dream–had been resurrected for a few fleeting seconds. As she sighed, a smile lifted her lips. “Eric…”

In The Shadows

Smoothing out her plain dress, Nora looked into the mirror. Her small, calloused hands and stern face gave proof of the toils she had experienced in her nineteen years. Her blue eyes, however, shone brightly with curiosity and mischief. She quickly pinned up her long, hazelnut brown hair and grabbed a shawl. The town festival for the start of autumn was held tonight, and she didn’t plan on missing out, even if it she would lose a few work hours. Slipping on her mother’s bracelet, Nora sighed, gently touching the hand carved beads her father crafted—an engagement gift. Her mind raced back to that night—eight years earlier.

Her parents had long since retired and their home was so quiet and calm. Clutching her small doll, eleven-year-old Nora slept peacefully in the small room at the front of the house. Tucked under a warm blanket and breathing softly, she dreamed of horses galloping in an open field at sunrise. She was riding one herself as her parents stood in the doorway of their home, smiling and waving. The sky clouded suddenly, however, and the horses neighed fiercely, rearing up on their hind legs as their eyes flashed with fury. Thundering hooves echoed through her mind—the other horses had turned and were fleeing something. What?

Nora awoke with a sharp gasp and sat up quickly. Shivering slightly, she listened. The dream was over, but the whinnying did not cease. Grabbing her doll, she scuttled to the window and watched in fearful uncertainty. Men dressed in black sackcloth and carrying torches emerged from the dark forest on sleek horses. Pulling the horses’ reigns, they came to a halt in front of the house. Her eyes shifted from the face of one dark figure to another until she came across a boy several years older than herself. His expressionless face stared into her own, making her uncomfortable and even more afraid of the strangers. Two large men, dismounting and striding forward, distracted Nora, however, and alarmed her of an approaching danger. She sprinted to her parents’ bedroom. “Momma! Papa!” She cried desperately, barely able to make her voice heard as she shook them out of their deep sleep.

Opening their eyes to Nora’s anxious face and hearing the fierce horses’ neighing outside, they understood what was happening. Springing out bed, her father rushed out of the room. “Nora, go! Hide! Now!” her mother ordered, voice escalating as she spoke.

Nora’s hesitance and confusion wouldn’t allow her to move, though. “Momma! Why!”

“Go!” her mother frantically shrieked, turning as she rushed from the room to give the final instruction.

Though frightened, Nora obeyed, bolting to the back of the house. Opening the wooden door quietly, she stepped into the cold night air, her bare foot touching the frosted ground. But she didn’t run. She couldn’t. Crouching down against the chilled clay wall beside the door, she waited. Trembling, she heard the front door open and close loudly. Heart fluttering rapidly, she listened. Seconds later, tables and chairs were thrown into pieces and her mother screamed. There was shouting. Deep voiced went back and forth—arguing. Pulling her knees up to her chin, Nora buried her head in them. “Go away, go away,” she silently cried, mouthing the words slowly.

Moments later she heard someone leave, slamming the door roughly. As the horses galloped away, an eerie silence quickly enveloped her. She waited, but her parents never came for her. They didn’t light a candle or fire. She couldn’t hear her father’s deep, reassuring voice. Her mother didn’t come for her. Slowly standing, Nora leaned against the wall, weak with fear. She could practically hear her own heartbeat. She was afraid to go inside; a terrifying curiosity led her hand to the door, though. The creak sent chills down her spine as she pulled it open. Timidly stepping into the kitchen, she saw them. She saw them.

Nora shuddered and pulled herself away from the memory. It haunted her every day. She could see them almost every night. Why her parents had been so brutally killed and who had committed the crime was a mystery to her, though. Questions constantly filled her head about what really happened that night. But she had no hope of ever knowing. Longing for her mother’s sweet embrace and father’s wise words, she choked tears back and wrapped a shawl around her tightly, setting out.

~~~~~

Sitting in the shadows, William looked at each pretty face that entered the room. He didn’t see her. Sighing, he reviewed his plan—what to do and say…how to explain. If I explain…if she even comes. He doubted that she would recognize him, though.

For eight years his conscience burdened him with the thought of the scared little girl peeking through the window—her distinct nose, fair complexion, brown hair, and wild eyes. She couldn’t have been older than twelve. He had accompanied his father that night, knowing what would happen; but he didn’t care—until he saw her face. What happened to her he never knew—until several days ago. Walking through town, he caught sight of a girl who resembled her. He followed the young woman, studying her features as she went about her business. She had the same wild eyes and brown hair. It was her. She looked well…though perhaps too thin…and tired. He needed to be sure she was well off. He felt so responsible for that night. How had she survived even survived? His father had typically been so thorough in…those jobs. What did she do? I’ll just make sure she’s okay…

~~~~~

Stepping into the crowded room, Nora smiled. The building was warm and cheerful. The merry faces about her almost made her laugh for joy. Tonight would be a night free of pain or memories. She would enjoy this moment. The gaiety of the evening made her steps lighter and heart beat faster—and her worries really did disappear. As she scanned the crowd, she came upon several familiar faces, friends and neighbors. Greeting them all, she draped her shawl over the back of a chair and took a seat, gazing upon the lively couples who danced.

As the song ended, Nora pushed away from the table and scanned the room for the dessert table, but she caught sight of a young man in the shadows. Her smile slowly faded and eyebrows furrowed as she leaned forward only slightly. She wished he would move forward, only slightly. Something about the silhouette of his face struck a chord in her heart and mind. A memory. A memory that she couldn’t quite identify. But as he shifted his body and the light touched his face, the breath left Nora’s lungs and she couldn’t force her eyes off of him. It was him—that boy. His were the same eyes that he had stared at her through the window eight years ago. The eyes that made her flee to her parents’ bedroom.

And then he looked up. He saw her. His eyes stared into her own. But she didn’t move. Neither moved, but they both remembered.

The Cover of Geek Magazine

With that black, silky cape falling from my neck to my knees and my palms sweating nervously underneath, I looked at the ground. Those look like long pieces of hair—longer than I expected. Or wanted. But the mirror wasn’t in front of me yet. There was still hope. I started to pick at my nails, all the while peeling the skin off my lips.

As the hairdresser swiveled my chair around, I held my breath and looked into the mirror. I couldn’t help but think of Rapunzel and her hair disaster. I mean, I didn’t cut it that short, but I wanted to scream what her step-mother when that beautiful golden hair turned brown: “No! No! What have you done!” I wanted to gather it all up in my arms like she had done and–yes–maybe even fall out of a window and die.

At least there’s one princess out there that doesn’t have amazingly perfect hair—or even just amazing hair, for that matter. I mean, no one I’ve spoken to actually likes it.

Bernice from Fitzgerald’s Bernice Bobs Her Hair also came to mind. She bobbed her hair—obviously. Would that be better or worse in my case? I’m not even sure. I mean, she cried, so it must have been pretty bad. I didn’t quite cry…more like sulked and mourned for the rest of the night. The sweet taste of revenge was able to comfort her, though—I would never see my hairdresser again.

After climbing out of the chair and paying at the counter, we headed out to the car. “I guess I’ll be sporting the I-don’t-care-about-my-hair look for a while,” I thought. Only then I remembered college. I would have preferred to actually look nice.

I avoided the mirror—all mirrors, in fact—quite like Erika from that one Adventures in Odyssey episode. So unlike her situation, though, no one would be able to fix this cut. I really would be on the cover of Geek Magazine.

Well, Anne from Anne of Green Gables cut her hair too. And her reason was worse than mine—at least I told myself that. Free will vs. dying your hair green. She was right about one thing, though: having to cut your hair for a romantic purpose would have made the situation much more bearable.

I thought of Jo from Little Women. That was a good cause. Her sacrifice helped her sick father. And then Marian’s hair was cut based because she defied the sheriff in all his evil—at least in the BBC version. If only I had something to go on—some reason that I could present as the “real” reason for chopping my precious hair off and throwing it away.

But then there’s Fantine from Les Miserables, which I suppose is the definition of the worst haircut ever. My eyes widened as I imagined myself in her place. “I could look like a boy,” I realized in a single, horrific moment. I peeked into the mirror for a second but then promptly turned around. This called for a nap. And definitely chocolate. And maybe a few episodes of Call the Midwife. I collapsed into my bed and squeezed my stuffed Tigger.

“We’re going for a walk, Abby! Wanna come?” my sister shouted up from downstairs.

“No thanks,” I responded, then muttering, “I rather have as few people as possible see what I’ve done.”

Maybe I can look into some hair growing tonic…

A Novel…

Desperate Dreams

Crashing waves upon the shore

Echoes far away

Pines point and prick the foggy sky

Far above the sandy clay

 

Sea gulls soar, their wings outspread

Not bound by earthly ties.

Away to castles, kings, and knights

So eagerly they fly.

 

Misty heavens shimmer above

Eyes rove the faraway lands

Desire—so desperate—captures the soul

Thoughts all where it cannot go

 

Anxious and waiting

Dreaming and watching

Eyes close to hear the crashing waves

sea gulls

Zalila Karamat

“Zamora Keres…” She whispered her own name into the mirror in front of her—glaring into it with disgust. Her eyes dropped to the sloppy, black blotches on her porcelain like arm—letters. Letters to a word she’d read every morning and night, and yet hidden with long sleeves and sweaters during the day. Letters that stuck to her, defined her, cursed her. Words that had been with her since she was young. She didn’t pull her shirt sleeves down now, though. She didn’t try to hide letters. Her eyes roved over each letter slowly, painfully, hatefully.

Bastard.

Hot, angry tears sprung to her eyes, and her eyelids shut forcefully. Even her name: Zamora—pain—and Keres—evil spirits. Pain and evil spirits. Her parents had named her after what she was to them. Nothing. The name told her she was worthless. It communicated the insignificance of her very life.

She tried to imagine, to remember her parents—unmarried, poor. She remembered wanting someone, anyone. Her mother was nonexistent. And all she knew of her father was what put him in jail: drinking, drugs…child abuse. He had put this word on her, forever stained the ink onto her skin, the meaning into her life. Zamora’s eyebrows drew together in hatred as she imagined him, intoxicated, without compassion or love, and holding that cursed tool that had burned not only her skin but her soul.

She’d been hurried off to an orphanage after his imprisonment. “What mean?” she would curiously ask the nurses and caretakers as a child, pulling her sleeve up and pointing to the letters. “Why nobody else has?” But she never got an answer. They would often pretend to be too busy to give her a moment of their time, hoping she would just go away. Others would sigh hesitantly, never meeting her eyes, and simply pull her shirt sleeve back down and hurry her off to the nearest playroom. It didn’t take long for her to learn, though.

Bastard.

Winter winds whirled around her tiny house, now, one she could barely afford. Chilled breezes snuck through tiny cracks in the windows, letting parts of the storm inside. She opened her eyes, red with tears and anger, and looked out the window. All she could see was a white haze of snow. Nothing more.

She hated this body, this life. A passionate rage consumed her mind for several seconds. And then—nothing. A trance. Numb. Senseless. She opened the front door. The icy coldness stole her breath away at first, but she walked out into the storm. The wind bombarded her tall, thin body as she pressed on. Her arms hung limp at her sides and her brown eyes were glossy. Snowflakes, white crystals from hell, flew at her so quickly that they felt like tiny stones. But still she moved on.

At last she stumbled, though, falling into the snow. Her eyes again caught sight of the letters. She cried out, rage and resentment returning to her mind. She wailed and screamed into the wind, tearing at her arm, scratching at the letters, wanting them away.

Pain. Evil spirits. The words encircled her—trapped her. She so desperately wanted to be free of them, but they stuck to her—and she somehow felt that the Devil was smiling, for he had claimed her life.

She was his.

Her nails dug into her skin, but the cold had numbed her body. The force of one hand and the pain of her arm were indiscernible. But she could see. And she still saw the letters. “God! They won’t leave!” she screamed.

But they would never leave. And she couldn’t see past them.

Her strength was giving way, and she collapsed further into the snow. It melted through her clothes, creeping into her skin, freezing her fingers, soaking her hair. It stiffened her body and stifled her already shallow, irregular breaths. She was almost anxious for everything to end. And it would—soon. Darkness was creeping into the corners of her vision. The wind beat at her harshly. She looked down to her arm, again wishing the word away—but it was still there. Beneath the red and bleeding scratches, it was still there. Still… Her body convulsed; her lips trembled. Nothing…

~~~~~~~~~~

Hours later she awoke, her eyelids lifting slowly. Everything around her was blurry and her head throbbed painfully; but blankets had been piled upon her, and she lay in a small bed. She made out a glowing orange light in the corner of the room and knew it was a fire. The cottage felt familiar, though she couldn’t make out small details. She closed her eyes, blinking hard several times. Her vision focused more, and she could see that sheets covered several pieces of furniture. She assumed the owner had been away, recently. But who he was she didn’t know.

Her mind was slow, and she didn’t understand what had happened. She didn’t speak. She tried to look around, but the movement only caused a more intense throb, and she winced, leaving her eyes closed. She sighed, her body slipping into a quick shiver.

“Zalila?” someone murmured.

Realization swept over her mind and she felt more at peace. He was the only one who called her that. It meant “dearly beloved.”

“Eamon…” she whispered.

In a single moment, she remembered his departure over two years ago; she never thought he would return.

“I will come back,” he’d said. “My father needs me, right now…I don’t know how long, but I will come back. I promise.”

She’d wanted to break the space separating them. She’d wanted to embrace him—hold onto him, force him to stay and not to abandon her. But she couldn’t. And she didn’t respond, either. The only relationship she had ever formed was being ripped away from her. The only care and love she’d ever felt was leaving. It was as if the warm glow of the fire was dying down and she was left behind in the darkness—a darkness she was all too familiar with. A darkness she hated and feared.

And yet, now he was here. Her voice had been quiet—barely audible—when she whispered his name. Emotions swirled about in her mind. He had finally returned. Sheer delight filled her mind as love filled her heart.

But then shame. He knew what she’d tried to do, then, and he’d saved her from herself.

The window revealed the grand night sky, inky and mystical, shimmering with white dots. The storm was over.

How could she have fallen into this mess after everything he’d opened her eyes to? After everything he’d taught her?

Glittery hazel eyes opened to find him searching her face. His own emulated sadness, disappointment, and concern. Had she had forgotten everything—all he tried to show her about her life, her worth? Without speaking, Eamon’s face dropped to her battered arm, resting limply beside her body.

And in that moment she was horrified. The little sprout of hope and joy completely shriveled inside her and she cringed, turning her face away for a moment. But he gently took her arm into his calloused hands, his blunt fingers softly, lightly trailing down all the scratch marks and cuts she had inflicted upon herself in an unconscious rage—and she looked back at him. His blue irises reflected an everlasting space, full of stars and lights like the auroras. But it was his tender touch that evoked her tears.

“Zalila…” he started, still holding her arm. “You are dearly beloved.” He clasped her hand, his warm fingers wrapping around her own frail ones. He looked up. “The ‘pain’ in ‘Zamora’ would have been mine had I lost you—the ‘evil spirits’ in ‘Keres’ who I’d have lost you to.”

She’d listened intently to his words, and now her tears fell more forcefully as she slid her hand out of his to cover her face. He moved close to her, kneeling at the bedside, and pulled her into him. Strong arms wrapped around her; he was her rock. Her body shuddered as she wept, clinging to the arms that sheltered her, protected her, loved her.

The “shhs” from Eamon quieted her in time, and a serene rest settled on her mind. Her muscles relaxed and her head stopped throbbing.

“Zalila Karamat,” he whispered into her ear. “My dearly beloved miracle.”

She didn’t know how long she’d cried, or how long he’d remained there with her, but she’d fallen asleep in peace.

“Dearly beloved miracle.” She would try to believe in the name Eamon had given her. The word marked upon her body would still be there tomorrow, though. Her past wouldn’t change. Her arm would still be bruised and scratched. Her today would become a horrible memory. And she did not know if the taunting thoughts would ever quit her mind.

But instead of death, she’d received life. Out of the storm’s icy grip—the Devil’s dreadful hand—Eamon had pulled her into the clear, peaceful night.

The Crossroads of the World

Vibrations reverberated through my body. But they were of quiet sounds, somehow. The whispers of night wind. The rapid beating of my own heart. The incoherent chattering of a thousand people. The noise tickled my ears as more people condensed at the crosswalk, awaiting the permissive green hand. Each person weaved along in his own direction, glancing every few seconds at a phone or wristwatch to check the time and then quickening his pace. Faceless individuals bumped me as they passed, but apologies were either carelessly abandoned or forgotten. No one had time to stop and think of another. Each was consumed in his own schedule.

Icy December air filled my lungs. The immenseness of the city overwhelmed me. Lights flashed as words danced across buildings and signs. Illumination. The electricity was palpable. Waves of energy penetrated my body. “Mama Mia!” cried one sign, a laughing Mexican woman tossing a pizza beside the words. Disney proclaimed its own name with fancy letters that promised secrets and magic. How had these dull gray streets, cluttered by newspapers flittering in the breeze, transformed into an inspiring clash of colors and lights, people and cars? And all after sunset? Soft melodies from Phantom of the Opera floated through my mind, reminding me of night’s mysteries. Slowly, gently night unfurls its splendor; Grasp it, sense it, tremulous and tender. Turn your face away from the garish light of day… The Moon assumed power, her flowing cape of brisk air tied around her neck. …And listen to the music of the night.

The Sun would have been ashamed to witness the lights here; but he brightened the other side of the world now—self-consumed and shining light on those he assumed had so desperately missed his presence. Little did he know of the fantastic amazement brought on by the Moon—one he considered so lowly, only a reflector of his fiery composition and magnificence. Little had I known of the Moon’s magic. Yet she was not so grand in her own mind, either. She had never ruled boldly. Her countenance proved serene and delicate—graceful. She contentedly looked upon activity bustling beneath her.

And I stood watching with her, amidst the sparkling lights and chaos. I groped for my iPod in my backpack. My fingers met the cold glass screen and plastic case and I soon held it up, camera ready, wide-eyed, and mouth slightly ajar. I knew I looked like the tourist I was, but I didn’t care. I wanted something tangible—as a reminder. Yet my numerous attempts to properly focus the camera resulted in a dozen either over- or under- exposed image. Apparently night lights aren’t photogenic.

But I was soon dismayed, realizing that my camera never could have captured this. The ability simply didn’t exist. It couldn’t take in the crowd’s constant, fluid-like movements or the flashing lights. It couldn’t absorb the delightful senses dispersing through my body—the unrelenting sense of freedom and amazement. It couldn’t, as it had now, unleash my soul to embrace the universe. Nothing tangible could remind me of this night.

Now, lying in bed and snuggled under blankets, darkness consumes my exhausted figure. My mind slowly phases into the utopia-like symptoms of sleep. My muscles relax and the bed conforms to me. But my thoughts rush back to that night. Exhilaration. Flashing lights, flowing people. Exuberance, anticipation, awe. I can still feel the frigid air against my face and in my lungs, numbing my nose and fingers. I remember the security my scarf and coat provided. I am turning in circles, dazed by the neon lights—the lights that so strongly contrast the blackness of the empty sky and its lovely ruler, the Moon. I can’t speak. I don’t want to.

Night

Throwing on my winter coat, I head out into the dark to retrieve my book from the car. The crisp cold air envelopes me as I open the door and step outside. It makes me zip my coat up further. I inhale. Iciness fills my lungs. It sweeps over my face as a breeze hurries by. My pace slows as I move down the sidewalk. The memory of the forgotten book has faded away.

I let my head fall back slowly, taking in the vastness of the dark, navy sky. I gaze at the sparkling dots shining out there in the magnificent depth. It looks smooth—but deep. Miles and miles away. And going on for miles and miles still.

“Hush…Lay down your troubled mind. / The day has vanished and left us behind / And the wind, whispering soft lullabies / Will soothe, so close your weary eyes.” Secret Garden’s lyrics to “Prayer” encircle me; and I breathe the words slowly. The tune, her voice, the instruments all play in my mind.

I didn’t want to talk, or breathe, or sing. I didn’t want to do anything. I just wanted to absorb the darkness around me. I wanted to absorb the peace and beauty. I wanted to become a part of it. I wanted to absorb the cold, though I shun it in the day. I want to be alone with Night, though I crave companionship when the sun shines.

“Can you feel spirits embracing your soul?” The song goes on.

Darkness is the time for reflection. Darkness drives the soul from a person, throwing it into the universe with other souls and spirits and thoughts.

The moon mirrors the sun’s bright light so brilliantly. All is completely still. I almost forget the world I stand in, the neighborhood I am surrounded by, the to-do list of tomorrow, even my purpose in coming out here. I want to close my eyes and float into the air—soar, peacefully and silently, into the dark, sleeping heavens. And yet, I wanted to fall. To close my eyes and let my whole body fall backwards—ignorant of where or when or even how I would land. I want to spiral downwards through the stars, reaching for, but not quite touching them as I go by. Touching them would make it real; and I don’t want to leave this dream of magic yet.

Night’s shimmering cloak outdoes the sun’s bright cape. Day declares its presence with bursts of light; it kept nothing hidden, and so nothing marvelous—nothing a mystery. All is open for men to see. Night whispers secret imaginings of beauty.

All too soon it will pass. In a few hours my eyelids will drop heavily upon my face and night will go on without me, sweeping over land and singing a tune unheard to men who do not strain to hear. I want to hear it. But I will miss it all.

Dawn shatters the magnificence of night.

I want to see the magic of the stars again. I want to smell the cold, empty air—air that’s ready for dreams and thoughts to fly away in. I want to hear those whispers of beautiful imaginings. I want to ascend into the heavens—into the darkness.

“So dream, while secrets of darkness unfold.”

Starry Night