Are You Haunted: part five
Powell became aware of how alone he was here, how dark it was. He wanted the window open…just to hear a car pass by on the road would steady his nerves. As yet, of Summers’s fog, he could see only a stray wisp that hugged the roadside ditch. The window took jamming high in its frame before it would stick, and Powell, leaning out, breathing moist air, the woodland scent of a spring night, feared it would crash onto his shoulders.
Summers had been so intent on telling his story to Powell in particular. He thought about Guy’s bumping floorboard. What a sudden inspiration, asking him to stay the night here. And Tovey, at large with the car, might turn up anyplace. Though he reminded himself of all these things, Powell still felt leery of Lettie Drybrook. He repositioned the blanket he was using for a pillow; in the other, he wrapped himself again, making a hood of it over his head, and laid back down.
The equation was irrational. He had allowed himself to be persuaded, and Rohdl no longer understood…
He could not now make these same representations to himself and come to a sane conclusion. When had it ever seemed to be so? He had been a hated child. He had been a gifted chemist. He did not count himself as having loved anyone, but he had shared in deprivation…he had been part of a circle. Speak to me the name of a place, and my mind’s eye sees what your eyes have seen. Say a word that only you and I know…
But his old friends would call him a liar, if he told them he’d left believing that the work would save them all. In expiation, Rohdl could say only that he had not told the lie; the lie had been told to him.
Still, how could it make a difference? He had never been close to as many as twenty or thirty people. What struck Rohdl was that the question could not be one of valuing a life against another life. That distinction would be irrational.
He sat on the glider. A corner streetlamp made of the river fog a slow moving picture. He did not value his own life. He waited only to be shown what was expected of him, now.
Beauty crossed the river. She was whiter than the yellow glow of the lamp or the churning mist from which she emerged. Her pallor was that of ice-bound death, and for Rohdl, her eyes did not shift. She might have borne him some compassion. He was small and dark and had always been terribly isolated. Yet in her last hours, Beauty had known this loneliness too. And though her chill withered and dispelled the halo of fog that surrounded her, the others who followed―the ribs, the skull with its single eye, the smoldering arms with their curled, clutching fingers―burned with a green, scintillating fire.
(copyright 2015, 2017 Stephanie Foster)