Part Two

Part Two

A Chapter by Seth Armstrong
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The boy in the black suit stood away from the crowd with the girl in the black dress. They were wrapped in each other’s arms. They were shivering and shaking, trembling and stuttering.  

They eagerly met each other’s eyes. 

 

The haggard old man took the best possible care of the puppy.  

They spent days together, playing in every far corner of the house, but the old man stayed away from the door. The puppy would rush to it often, yipping and barking at him to take it outside, but the haggard old man refused. He eyed the door warily and grew nauseous at the thought of leaving. He opened the door to allow the puppy out but never followed. The puppy always came back looking up expectantly at him.   

But the rift caused by this was hardly great. The days ran by beautifully and swiftly, everything washed under a pure glow.  

The haggard old man felt like he was steadily growing younger; life suddenly had meaning once again. When he looked into the dark brown eyes of the puppy, the warmth that had consumed him flared up once more, encompassing him in endless waves of comfort and glory.  

The haggard old man felt comfortable smiling again.  

The haggard old man felt comfortable living again. 

 

The naked prince recognized the ghost.  

“I love you,” he told her.  

“Do you?” she asked.  

“Of course.” 

The ghost laughed, then flickered out of existence.  

The clamoring of his people outside the walls filled the silence. 

 

The child raced through the library, throwing down tomes and tearing through their chapters 

Useless words bounced off his mind. The pages may as well have been blank.  

“There’s nothing in there for you,” the librarian told him.  

The child ignored him.  

The howling grew louder in the distance. 

 

The murderer threw himself to the ground, trying to catch his breath.  

He looked at the incoming hateful storm with baleful eyes.  

He thought of the days when he was the man who welcomed.  

He thought of the boy in the black suit.  

His eye began to twitch.  

The storm roared in the distance. 

He felt the first drops of the rain. 

 

The boy in the black suit knew he couldn’t wait any longer. It was so, so quiet. The moment had come.  

He steeled himself.  

He leaned in and kissed the girl in the black dress.  

They both blushed.  

“I love you.” 

“I love you, too.”  

They eagerly met each other’s eyes. 

 

The haggard old man began to allow light back into his room.  

The dreary walls were once more bathed in deluges of golden sunlight and spears of silver moonlight.  

He began to put the shelves back in place, put his belongings back in order. He hung up his posters properly. He purged the room of forgotten dishes and garbage. He made the bed, straightened his rug, righted the mirror. He fixed the room, and watched with contentment as he stood in the glorious light of the sun, bathing in the weight of his accomplishment.  

At his feet, the puppy, now having grown much, jumped up to his waist and barked happily.  

The haggard old man kneeled and looked the puppy in the eye. The puppy wagged its tail excitedly and met his eyes. The haggard old man smiled, and tears began to form in his eyes. He reached out and hugged the puppy tightly to his chest.   

 

The religious man counted the leaves of his god, inhaled the magnificence of His flowers.  

He ran his fingers down the smooth skin of the petioles.  

He caressed the stem.  

He traced his fingers down to the dirt, down near the roots.  

The soil felt dry--far too dry.  

The religious man gasped, his eyes gaped. He began to hyperventilate.  

Water, water, water, water, water, water, water, wa--

 

The sick man threw the stuffed snake over his neck like a scarf.  

He managed the strength to pull himself off the ground. His parched skin heaved and cracked under the strain.  

The sick man ignored the blood. He blinked back tears and whispered into the ear of the snake.  

The snake told him that he wasn’t dying. 

 

The murderer was the arbiter of truth, of presentation, of impressions.  

The murderer’s duty was great and dreadful.  

He had the power to tear down a nation as easily as he could build it up.  

He thought back to the last nation that was torn down. 

His eye began to twitch. 

 

The boy in the black suit walked hand-in-hand with the girl in the black dress down the side of a mall.  

They talked about everything, they talked about nothing.  

They eagerly met each other’s eyes. 

 

The haggard old man’s happiness blossomed and exploded on the regular as the days of his life quickly slipped out of his grasp.  

The puppy was growing steadily--faster by the day, it seemed. It grew strongly and steadily until it no longer had to jump so much--until it was a small but strong and beautiful dog.  

The pair spent days on end entombed in the house. Occasionally, the dog would go outside and stay gone for quite a while, but it always came barking happily back. And, each time it left, it would turn back a moment before rushing through the door, begging the haggard old man to come along.  

He never did.  

He couldn’t do it.  

The dog would always let out one last mournful howl before turning back to the door. 

 

The boy in the black suit held hands with the girl in the black dress in a dark cinema.  

Brilliant picture displays flashed erratically in front of their eyes.  

Yet they saw nothing but the warmth of each other’s smile.  

They eagerly met each other’s eyes. 

 

The haggard old man was often woken up by the dog jumping up onto him and jostling him awake. It always barked happily when he opened his eyes.  

The haggard old man would wrestle the dog off himself with as much vitality as he could muster, and the dog would anxiously run circles around him as he got ready, waiting to start the day.  

Most everything they did, they did together. At meals, the haggard old man would donate some of his plate to the dog. While he sat around to read or watch TV, the dog would protectively lie down next to him. Whenever he would pace around the house, lost in thought, the dog would plod along with him, only ever one step behind.  

Even when the dog left to explore the outdoors, the indelible mark it had left on the haggard old man was too powerful to be overcome by the temporary absence.  

There was never a truly lonely moment anymore.  

The haggard old man began to forget what it felt like to be hurt all the time. 

 

The child sifted through volume after volume in the library.  

Nothing showed him a way forward.  

He began to feel nauseous. His head was swimming. The world seemed to be set to slow motion.  

The floor was littered with tossed books lying open, all of them useless.  

The librarian watched him impassively.  

The child looked up and met his eyes. “Stop it,” he said.  

“Stop what?” the librarian returned.  

“Looking at me like that. I’ll find it. I will find it.”  

The librarian smirked.  

The howling grew louder in the distance. 

 

The boy in the black suit stood on a concrete front porch with a heart and a letter.  

The girl in the black dress was so shocked at the sight that she slammed the door.  

The boy in the black suit was still waiting moments later when she reopened it with an abashed smile.  

The boy in the black suit read her the letter.  

They fell into each other’s arms and vowed to never let go.  

They eagerly met each other’s eyes. 

 

The naked prince wandered after the ghost. 

He walked cautiously down dark hallways of the palace. He took so many turns he lost himself.  

He could hear his people calling out to him through the walls.  

He shut them out. 

He listened for the ghost.  

He thought he could hear her down that passageway. Then this one. Another one. The one over here. This other one.  

He found himself in a wide room with a window on the far side. He tried to creep closer to it, but the golden sunlight tore through his eyes and speared his brain. He squinted and tried harder, but the effort was too much. He slunk back and sighed.  

He heard an exclamation from outside. He recognized shapes of bodies out the window, in the grounds beyond. Someone had seen him.  

The naked prince panicked. The form that had shouted was waving about violently, trying to call the attention to everyone.  

The naked prince fell backward through the door and threw himself into the darkness.  

His people clamored for him outside.  

He shut out the noise. 

 

The religious man threw himself across the room.  

There, he had buckets of water. 

There, he made sure there were pumps that never ran dry.  

The floor whined beneath the religious man’s weight as he crawled across the floor and grabbed desperately for one of the buckets.  

The rafters above squealed as he stood up and ran back to his god as quickly as he could without spilling a drop.  

The walls seemed to sway with the wind.  

The religious man ignored this.  

The religious man poured just enough water onto the soil.  

He smiled with tears in his eyes as his god accepted the offering.  

He reached out and tenderly caressed one of the flowers.  

He could hear whispers from his god--encouragement and love.  

He cried freely then. 

 

The boy in the black suit sat with the girl in the black dress in his living room, with family.  

With heartfelt laughter in warmth and merriment, they decorated a tree, ornament after ornament, long into the night.  

The lights sparkled and shimmered on silver balls while decorative crafts spoke of years of life and enduring love.  

They eagerly met each other’s eyes. 

The light glimmered within them. 

 

The sick man stumbled to the side.  

He caught himself on the bureau in the corner.  

He rubbed the edges of it as he steadied himself. He wiped away the blood that began to drip into his eye, and the dry skin of his hand chipped away at the scabs of his forehead.  

He ignored the blood the best he could. He shut the eye.  

He groped blindly for the handles of the top drawer. 

 

The murderer could barely catch his breath. Another storm came. Another. Another. Another. Another.  

The man took in all their faces before their bodies faded away. They were all so different, all so unique. They looked so friendly. Perhaps they all should’ve lived.  

The boy in the black suit had looked friendly, too.  

The murderer’s eye began to twitch.   

 

The boy in the black suit and the girl in the black dress sat at a restaurant.  

They ate cautiously and talked hungrily, lost in intimacy.  

They both listened graciously as the other spoke of their passions.  

They slipped out after the meal and went away for the festivities--for pictures, for dancing.  

They held each other closely and swayed long into the night.  

They eagerly met each other’s eyes.  

 

The sick man reached into the top drawer. His hands flayed around a mess of wires and memorabilia, groping wildly until his fingers wrapped around the handle of a red plastic spoon.  

He pulled out the spoon with one hand, studied it carefully with his remaining good eye while he wiped away at his bloody eye with the other. He could barely focus his mind over the sound of searing pain in his skull, and his incessant rubbing tore away more of the cracked skin at his eyebrow, crunching like autumn leaves and floating off like paper--and the blood poured evermore.  

The sick man clamped one hand over the wound, trying to dam the bloody mess. In his other hand, he still held the red spoon. He smiled at it, pulled it closer and cupped his nose with it. He laughed, but the effort proved too great, and he burst into a fit of coughing. His dam hand fell from his face, and blood gushed out to the ground as the fit bent him over and threw him back down to the hardwood.  

The sick man could hear his joints crackle and imagined he could listen to the slow breaking of his fragile bones. His mouth spewed a horrifying amalgamation of laughter and coughing, and he spat up blood and phlegm and spat all over himself and on the floor.  

It took several minutes for the sick man to come back to any semblance of stability, and he was still bleeding into his eye, and he was still coughing, and he was still crackling.  

He caressed the skin of the stuffed snake he wore as a scarf. It, too, was bloody now. He took the plastic spoon and cupped the snake’s nose. He laughed again--and broke down into coughing.  

The snake whispered into the sick man’s ears. It told him that he wasn’t dying.  

The sick man said he knew, and vomited. 

 

The boy in the black suit was madly in love. The girl in the black dress was, too.  

They were connected root and stem.  

They wandered through the world as if it were made solely for them.  

They held onto each other by the hand, by the eyes, by the smile 

By the day, by the night.  

By the heart, by the soul. 

They eagerly met each other’s eyes. 

 

The haggard old man noticed the dog growing steadily more restless one day in their endless tapestry of paradise.  

It ran outside and back in constantly, coming back jumpy and impatient, nuzzling at the haggard old man and trying to lead him back to the door.  

The haggard old man wouldn’t come.  

The dog, dejected, would leave again--and come back just as insistent as before.  

The haggard old man constantly watched the door while the dog was gone.  

He thought about how the days had gone by before the dog had come. He thought of the loneliness, of the darkness, of the chaos.  

A pang of guilt grew steadily in his chest.  

The next time the dog came back, it didn’t have the spirit it had before, but it still insisted on the haggard old man following it out.  

The haggard old man tried his best to swallow his fear. He stood up from the couch shakily and took a step toward the door.  

The dog jumped and barked happily, its tail a blur wagging behind it.  

The haggard old man grabbed at the handle and pulled the door open. The sunlight was blinding.  

The dog raced outside. 

The haggard old man hesitantly followed. 



© 2020 Seth Armstrong


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Added on September 22, 2020
Last Updated on October 1, 2020
Tags: until, the, end, of, time, boy, black, suit, in, girl, dress, sick, man, religious, haggard, old, dog, prisoner, naked, prince, child, librarian, host, stranger, guilt


Author

Seth Armstrong
Seth Armstrong

Tuvalu



Writing
Blurb Blurb

A Chapter by Seth Armstrong