There is a restaurant in Manitou Springs, Colorado, called The Stagecoach Inn. It was an actual stagecoach inn in the 1800s. On the outside of the building are strings of lights. One beautiful rainy night my wife, me, and some of her family had gone to eat here, and as my wife and I held each other outside, she said “…rainy nights…and Christmas lights….”
You don’t say something like that within earshot of a writer and expect to get off lightly…especially by one who trucks in death, dreams, and the hereafter.
As I read it for the first time in years for this posting, it brought tears to my eyes. It is another of my favorites.
This story has never been published.
Rainy Nights and Christmas Lights
© F. P. Dorchak, 1993
Rainy nights and Christmas lights. That’s all I can think of. All I want to think of.
I only just stumbled into this…inn…moments ago, seeking relief from the bitter cold of an angry blizzard. It’s dark, but I don’t know the time because I no longer have my watch and it’s very desolate—not just for my own heart, but for the souls outside as well.
No one wanted to be out on a night like this and God only knew how long I stumbled about out there, dazed and disoriented. The weather, frigid and snowy for most of the day had turned more brutal, forcing all life in from the streets. I, too, searched for a place to take me in, but nobody would have me, everyone hurrying home for their own families. Was I a leper? It was only this inn that took me, and I had to barter my soul just to gain entrance.
Her name is Laura, and I love her like no other. I love her more than life itself.
Sure, we had our differences like everyone else, but nothing, nothing changed my deep unfaltering devotion for her. Not even the times she said she was leaving….
But now I sit before a raging fireplace in a darkened room, utterly alone. It’s cold, and the chill I feel cuts to my marrow. Just now I think I see a waiter or waitress behind me, but turning find no one.
I look about the room and see that it is small, by some standards, large by others…and has not quite a dozen tables, including those in the alcove to the far end. Each table has unlit candles and neatly placed silverware atop it. The shadows I see are disturbing and gnaw at me. It is all so vaguely familiar, this place, and I feel I should know it, but I…I feel disoriented.
Deep memories stir within, but nothing surfaces.
I am just as helpless as when—
I love her, oh dear God, how I love her!
Why is it that I alone survive?
Why should I have this cursed privilege! What I would gladly give to have her back! Why did not both of us perish—it is so much better that way, you know, to be together in death than alone in life!
Oh, how I curse God and all that is life! I curse the devil for the torture! I curse everything, except—
Rainy nights and Christmas lights.
That’s what she said, my Laura, the one with the beautiful hair and loving smile.
The one I was to marry…to begin a new life with.
Suddenly I rush to the front door and pull it open.
The wind, she wails and batters me back and I hear glass shatter as the door slams behind me into the wall. It is hideously cold, yet I don’t feel it. All I feel is the pain in my heart.
I do recognize the inn.
Rainy nights and Christmas lights.
There are Christmas lights strung out across this building, and as I stand there I know where I am. Know exactly where I am. This is the inn my love and I frequented when…when we were whole…but, worse than that, it is the place where my beloved Laura was so brutally ripped away from me!
I scream into the wind, to the innkeeper who admitted me. Here—you have my soul, why not also take my heart!—oh, why even to be created, only to die! Why is life nothing but torment! Why are we to love, only to lose?
Again I look to the lights.
Still, strangely, they are lit; out of place. I peer through the blinding, heavy snow, but see no others; no movement.
I am all there is.
There is nothing beyond the snow-covered flagstone steps I know are before me. Nothing exists beyond myself and this haunted inn. The lights. I remember
Standing out on this porch one rainy, summer night…my Laura wrapped around me…her breath warm against my neck. We gaze lovingly at each other stretching out the moment to eternity.
“Rainy nights,” she bubbles.
“What?” I ask.
“Rainy nights…and Christmas lights!” she blurts triumphantly, radiantly.
I adore her smile and know, right there, why it is I love her.
“Rainy nights, and Christmas lights,” she says again, still beaming.
“That is so beautiful!” I proclaim, and hug her tightly.
“Hold me,” she whispers sweetly into my ears and mine alone, “hold me and don’t ever let me go.”
I knew I’d marry her someday.
But the tears now freeze to my face and the wind rips me apart.
Take this too, Devil, take all there is I have left!
My voice is nearly gone and I tear into my clothes to get at my heart—that eternally pumping and vile thing! Fingers unfeeling, I cut into my skin and bring forth blood, but it, too, freezes, and I realize I am truly—truly—doomed—unable to even take my own life!
I slump forward to the snowy porch and bury my hands and face. Rainy nights.
And Christmas lights.
So I am resigned to the fate of this dispossessed inn. It seems fitting that I should be held here, a place my love and I so enjoyed. It is so fitting to be forced to relive those moments, those memories…the moment…of her death.
We had finished dining, leaving the building for a stroll. Ever the adventurous soul, she had leapt upon the ledge of a stone which guarded the creek below. I remember how the water was still visible, unfrozen.
I had hoped she wouldn’t fall and rushed to her—
“May I take your order, sir?”
Startled, I spill my coffee and send the porcelain cup skittering across the room to shatter somewhere. I look up and see, in the dark and standing entirely motionless, a waitress of ageless beauty. I could barely breathe, yet spare a word.
“W-what? Who-who are you?”
“Your order, sir, do you care to order?”
She placed a menu before me. I stared at it for an eternity…then lifted my head to look out the windows. All I see is the storm, which has increased its intensity, if that be possible. I also notice that I have gripped the edges of my table in a mighty hold, knuckles most assuredly bone-white.
The fire crackles.
“I-I already ate,” I said.
“As you wish,” she says, most politely, and withdraws the menu.
“B-but I could use some more coffee,” I continue. All she did was turn…and smile. I could have sworn she spoke, but I did not, for the life of me, see her lips move.
I’m sure you could, she said.
I know it was dark, and I know I am not in the most stable of minds, but I know what I experienced. She spoke…but did not move her lips.
I blink. She is gone.
I need my woman and I need her now! Forever! I cannot and will not live this way!
The pain is unendurable!
How does one survive?
How can others live through what I continue to grieve over? Nothing means anything to me anymore! As much as I don’t want to dwell on my beloved’s death, I feel compelled—it was our last few moments together…the last time we kissed, held each other…gazed into each other’s eyes or felt the warmth of each other’s touch.
I so desperately want to die and be among the dead with her!
I attempt yet again to get at my heart, my wrists, with knives…forks…broken glasses…but am without strength. Instead, I collapse upon my table and heave great tears into the wood….
I remember my arms reaching out to her.
One moment she stood atop the wall…pirouetting beautifully and telling me how much she loved me and would never, ever leave me—and the next—the next moment I reach out for her and clutch only air…huge fists full of it…and watch helplessly as she tumbles over the side like newly falling snow…drifting down, down…ever downward…
in her grasp. I watch until I can bear it no longer….
“Your coffee, sir.”
I bolt upright. A busboy is pouring fresh coffee into a new cup. His back is to the fire and he seems aglow. His smile is genuine, but he, like the shadows, scares me.
“Nowhere, sir,” he says, and fades from view back into the shadows, his Cheshire smile the last to go. I look to the coffee poured and it remains, small curls of ghostly white steam disappearing into the dark. I touch the cup and find it warm. Solid.
“I don’t want coffee! I want Laura!”
I pound the table. Again.
I drift off.
Time has again passed, and, as I have already told you, I know not how much, but it is still evil and blinding without, dark and foreboding within. I watch the spoils of snow as it batters against the windows of the alcove, and there are times I feel the building shudder, or think so.
Maybe it is just me.
The fire is still alight, though I have yet to touch it.
Where did that gentleman who admitted me go off to?
The shadows close in on me. Something is different.
Rainy nights, and Christmas Lights.
She had grabbed Christmas lights….
That’s all I want back. I want that summer night again, I want her back! I will gladly mortgage my soul again to have her! Anything, I just want that moment to remain, to never change. I want to spend that moment in eternity with my Laura. She is all I live for…all I want to die for….
Yet cannot die.
This I know for some strange reason, but I shall try one more time. I look to the fire and spy a poker. Going to it, I raise it and touch it to my chest; feel its dull accusation. Stoking my emotions, I raise the weapon with mighty intent—but alas, it misses its mark and strikes the wall above the hearth instead. I anchor the handle end into a wall, the point placed firmly over my heart…and ram myself forward…but it slides harmlessly off. I attempt yet one more blow, but it is again deflected, this time pulled from my hands as if by some unseen force.
I pound my fists into the wall.
Laura! Why has this happened?
I want so much to die and join you—I no longer wish to bear this tragedy!
I collapse at my table and once more try to dream
Of rainy nights and Christmas lights.
But hear a door open.
Something is different….
I hear footsteps and look up.
A figure is in the doorway. Stands still.
“Who…are you?” I ask. “I can take this no longer! Please, take me, I am yours!”
I cry, my blood long since cold, my senses frayed. I hope the figure to be Death’s messenger, finally come for me.
“I know,” the figure says, and it is a soft, pleasant voice.
I rocket to my feet, chair spilling out behind me.
I know that voice!
Unstable, I grip the table for support. Again, I ask, “Laura—i-is that…you?”
“Yes,” she answers, moving out from the shadows. “I am here, my dear.”
It is her, there is no mistake! As sure as I live, it is her!
“But—but you had died!”
She smiles ever so lovingly as she approaches.
“No, my love, it was not me who died. I had grabbed a string of the Christmas lights…and when you saved me from falling by diving for me…you fell yourself. Don’t you remember?”
My throat is suddenly dry. I collapse to my knees.
“But—that would make you—”
“—dead? Yes, I am indeed.”
Still she smiles, unaffected by her words.
My heart pounds, rises to my throat.
I love her so much!
I touch her and find her as cold as I am.
“Does it really matter?” she asks casually, “I am here.”
Standing before me, she reaches down and I grasp her hand. She pulls me to my feet and I notice she places an empty prescription bottle on the table.
I say nothing.
“Tell me how much you love me,” she says, drawing in close to me.
I see the concern on her face…feel the tears on mine and cry, “I love you with all my heart and soul and will always—ever—be there for you!”
“And I, you, my darling. I love you more than life itself!”
And so I know.
We sit at our table…together at last…and gaze into the fire. Our hands are tight and true, our hearts one. The blizzard still rages, but I no longer care. As we look to each other, we are no longer cold.
- The Ice Gods (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Tick, Tick, Tick, Tock (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Dark Was The Hour (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- The Coming of Light (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- The World’s Greatest Writer (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- The Death of Me (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Tail Gunner (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Do The Dead Dream? (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Short Stories (fpdorchak.wordpress.com)
- Voice (amazon.com)
- Psychic (amazon.com)
- ERO (amazon.com)
- The Uninvited (amazon.com)
- Sleepwalkers (bookstore.authorhouse.com)