Death of a Stranger

All day long the rain spilled from the sky as though countless unfathomed seas were being poured on the world. Murky and menacing clouds hovered in the heavens, keeping watch on all life below, waiting to seize an unsuspecting victim in their embrace. I sat by the window immersed in a nameless melancholy that has remained my only friend through the passing years. Despondent of my fellow men and despairing over all other kinds, I fell into a deep reverie.

There was a knock on my door. Nobody ever comes to visit me. “Must be one of those wretched souls seeking shelter from the rain,” I said, bidding them enter.

Familiar steps came walking through the doorway. The prattle of raindrops on the roof could not hide the intimacy of that sound as it advanced through the unlit rooms.

“If you don’t mind my intrusion, sir,” said a genial voice. “I have finally taken the liberty.”

When I saw him, I recognized the face immediately. Gentle and guileless, how many times had I passed him by! In the loveless streets, in the hostile alleyways, in the merciless corners. Many a time our gaze had met, and a sparkle of affection was exchanged. Though I had sensed the oneness that bound us together, I had walked on without a word, leaving him to brave the vile and vicious world alone.

I still remember the day I took a photograph with him. The sun was shining so furiously that I was wearing a hat. He had nothing on him, but he was content. He always seemed smiling though I often wondered how miserable his life was. But all I did was click a picture. Nothing more.

Now to meet at last! Today of all days. Cold as the grave, sad as eternity. If only I had known beforehand, there would be no forgiving.

“I could not leave without saying goodbye, sir,” he said, as he settled by the chair. His fur was wet from the torrent outside. He shivered as though he had trudged many miles in the downpour.

Looking at him lying at my feet, alone and helpless, almost like myself, my heart was filled with aching. It was the pain of having looked away, the torment of having turned a blind eye. It was the agony of having forsaken a friend so many times. I was overcome with regret and shame.

He looked at me and sighed. I turned away unable to meet his gaze. He took another deep breath and then ceased. The rain kept falling without end.

With tears veiling my eyes, I ran my hands across his soggy fur and covered him with a blanket. But he would be warm no more. For verily he was gone. He had crossed over into the land that knows no tears or pain.

In the garden, among the dahlias, I buried him. The rain kept pouring from above as night submerged us both in her bleak godforsaken darkness.

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Beryl Zephyr

An occasional writer but a regular thinker, Beryl sometimes fiddles in speculative fiction. He sees both humour and tragedy in everyday events and is extremely concerned with the fate of other creatures trapped in the monstrous march of 21st-century human civilization.

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