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 The Gloaming 

 

It was when the sun and moon shared the sky, linked briefly in the solitude of where they had been, that the priest had his vision. No stigmata, nor speaking-in-tongues, just that rare jewel of sight: when the darkness lifted, he would be the only one left.

 

The sun rose like a brand. Fire was what they had been given generations before, but for the decade they had been cast in darkness, they had forgotten its light. Children had grown up in the gloaming the way others grew up in war. They cried, as did the old people. But the latter did so from relief, and not fear as did the mewling newborns and their older siblings for whom this sad night was all they had ever known.  

 

Of them all, only he saw in it something terrible. He lifted the flap of the stone home his ancestors had built and looked out. Life had been happening somewhere else. Now it had returned, but with it a rigor—he could feel it in his bones, chilling, just as the sun’s heat lit and warmed his face for the first time since…

 

Though she had died in spring, the Lord’s daughter did not transition to the world beyond until the advent of winter. She hung around all that time, with her rasping breath and paper skin, empty eyes open but unseeing. She had gotten lost in the moors. When they found her, she was already dead, her chest rising and falling slightly, her face slack. The rigor had claimed her. The wise woman said the girl would leave them soon, but it had been months before her spirit departed, and with it the sun. The morning she departed, it did not appear.

 

So why was he now so afraid as it climbed from the black and silver hills of water that stretched to the horizon? Life may be elsewhere, but so was death. He had heard tales of the pustulant men and women, with their bursting skin and blackened organs to the South, of the thaumaturgists who strode amongst them on wooden sandals and in ridiculous masks. No one knew whether this pestilence came on the wind or in the water, through the dark humors or the touch of vermin. But it came, bringing buboes that wept red as the wrath of God. And now it was coming North to them. He could feel it.

 

A woman bearing a staff hobbled towards him. She had a bad foot. She saw him looking at it, “I hurt it running to the sun. I’m not used to the light.”

 

“You aren’t the only I’d wager.”

 

She laughed. She was missing more than a few teeth, “When you wager, you lose. Be careful or you’ll end up paying me with that dangler of yours.” She pointed the staff at his groin. 

 

She had lost her husband to the sea the year before. Without the sun, what food they ate came from the shores and nearby waters. The husband had been out looking for winkles when the waves had grabbed him. So the priest took care of her needs. No one had cared, when they lived in the dark. It was one of the few comforts. But now that the sun had returned, he knew that self-righteous gossip and its attendant humiliation would be hot on its heels. He looked at her again. How ugly they all must look. 

 

For More of:

"The Photographic Work of B. Draheim accompanied by the Imagined Stories of W. Gosline, in the tradition of Chris Van Allsburg's Mysteries."

 

Go To:

 

Keeping up with the Joneses

Forgiveness

 

 

For more Speculative Fiction by William Gosline go to:

 

http://wgosline.wordpress.com

 

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