Drama Fiction

This story contains sensitive content

As I stared into the fireplace of my humble home, the embers of the roaring fire and the flickering flames that disappeared into the chimney told the tale of life. Once young and glowing red, burning bright, now old, gliding into the chimney never to be seen again. The fuel burned out, the ash black and used. As I sit pontificating the symbolism of my fire, I take a drag of my last cigarette blowing out fumes. Like the ashes of a fire I survey, I am burned out. I’m out of fuel. I’m an old man ready to start the next chapter. Each ember a memory, each flicker of flame of new life becomes ash and cinder: a beautiful dance no one will ever know existed.  

There are a few times when a cigarette tastes, smells, feels the best. An intoxicating aroma of perpetual sorrow and elation to the mind and soul: like a refreshment handed to a man running a marathon. Sometimes it’s after sex, other times it’s after immense failure. It could be after achievement or defeat, but each time marks you closer and closer to oblivion. It’s a reflection of life loss: a deep introspection of fear and dreams in the form of physical addiction in every puff. All life can be summed up in the anatomy of fire. Each drag is a chapter in the book of my life: a ticking clock. This is one of those times. The end is near for me. I can feel it in my bones. They are brittle. My muscles are sore and worn. My lungs are depleted. The fire of my life is almost at its end. The water will come stamping out these rotting embers of remembrance and turn into a soggy mess of ash: a memory to none.  

Was I a good man? Was I what was needed in this world? Was my life planned and executed exactly to his will? I don’t know, though, my questions will soon be answered. My mind grows numb while my hand draws to my mouth for another drag. Inhale the smoke, exhale the fumes of a newly found philosophical junkie contemplating every chapter of his life wondering if it all made sense. To me, it seemed like a blink of sorted thought. It was the first draft of a book autographed by an artist no one knew. 

It was a bitter flavor of success and failure, Charles thought. As he looked around the room, the accomplishments displayed on the walls were scars of a humble life lived. Was he the man he was meant to be or was he the leftover remanence God cast aside? The true definition of Hell is meeting the man you could have been, he contemplated. He silently prayed for the former than the latter. To go peacefully ignorant was heaven. To know your true self, what’s truly inside your soul, was Hell.  

The knock on my front door was firm. Charles shuttered. No need to answer, he thought. The thing at the door would present itself soon. It was Heaven or Hell. Whichever it was, he was ready for the next chapter. He was tired. A life served to the fullest was a life deserved of Heaven. A life less was Hell incarnate. He would soon find out if Heaven or Hell approached. It would either be a mirror reflection or a proud stranger of failed declaration. A coin flip of destiny, he pondered. His nerves were worn but still active and pulsing. His heart rate almost beat his ribs to a rhythmical death march. The front door creaked open, and the deep thumps of footfalls trampled through the foyer. The deep loud pound of inevitability. Finally, he thought, exhaling smoke. Questions of life will come to fruition. Memories will be rehashed, and the future will be foretold. Providence. 

Inconsiderate consideration for the dying or dead assaulted the hallway. The footsteps of a dead man that lived for generations approached. What approached was death and truth. The same death and truth every man will face. Charles’s heart palpitated against his bones in rhythm to the thumps of footsteps from the hallway. He entered and as he did a cold barren zephyr grazed Charles face. A light howl like a hundred souls of hurt and pain followed his fluttering cloak. The fire started to die little by little. The room grew colder as the hooded man sat next to Charles. The dying man fate picked this day to take.  

The gust of wind that followed was cold and barren. As he passed, Death smelled of rotting roses and brimstone. He walked like a tombstone carrying heavy burden. 

“May I? The trip was long and arduous.” Death’s voice was deep. It reverberated throughout like a moaning ghost. The wall art shook side to side like the flames of the dying fire. An expectation of fate. Death rested his bones on the captain's chair after throwing his cloak out behind him. He exhaled an unwelcoming sigh. The skeletal hand protruded from the cloak and reached for the pack of cigarettes that laid on the hassock between them. A play of words ensued.  

“I would never deny myself more time of life. Like fire to a cold heart, it is welcome.” Charles took a long drag of his smoke looking at the faceless creature sitting beside him. “Are you me or the man I was to become? Was this the gates of Heaven or Hell? Have I done his will appropriately and rest or am I doomed to repeat life’s burning flame of heartache?”  

Death lit his cigarette. He exhaled a cold black smoke that filled the floor like a black cloud at a funeral. It slowly lurched up the walls as the conversation ensued. “That’s not for anyone to decide my friend, not even me. That’s for each man’s soul to decide. That’s what it’s there for: The soul is judgement, an equalizer. It is peace and prosperity or torment and suffering.” Death relaxed, rested in his seat.  

“Show me your face demon. The flames are dying so the room is dimly lit. Then I’ll know my fate.” The hood of Death was onyx. His aura is slate and shadow. 

“To show you my face is to add a chapter to your life. I am not life Charles, but death. This cannot be done. Your fate and future are your past. Recall and recoil or reflect and rejoice. It makes no difference to me. I am a messenger. A guide. The choice where your chapter begins is yours to make.”  

He takes a drag of his cigarette, blowing out more black smoke filling the room. “Your time in life is done. The first chapter of your death is now. Like the blazing flames of fire to the black burnt embers of coal. All has purpose. But the purpose of your fire is not for you to stoke but only for the fire maker's hand to fuel or smother. I am merely the heat of the flame, not the fire maker.” 

“When will the fire maker present himself?” 

“That...is the second chapter in your book of death. Come. Let us and begin.” 

The black smoke engulfed the room as well as his mind. The fire was out.  

August 17, 2023 13:31

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