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…”