Fiction: The Choice

The writer leans back in his chair as an abandoned cursor blinks at him from the screen.  He ignores it and stares outside his office.  It is a small space, bigger than a closet but not big enough to be called a room.  It has a window and room for a desk. That is all he really needs.

Out the window is the absence of light.  The heart of winter continues to bring the onslaught of darkness, with the sun barely glimpsed during the day.  As he stares, a great longing seizes his soul.  It is one that begs him to be on the road, to be rid of this house and his responsibilities and to go beyond the reach of those who love him.  He fights this longing for a moment as it mocks him and his comfort.

You used to know what it was like to travel.  It is a dark longing, one that has teeth and can rip flesh.  It also speaks truth.

“I can’t now; my wife and family must be fed.”  His words ring hollow in his ear even as he says them.

What happened to you? What happened to the young man that wanted to backpack across Europe? The one that wanted to discover all the abandoned pools and overgrown hedges? The one that longed to look for the hidden history of the world inside long lost ruins?

The writer struggles for a moment but soon ceases.   His office is gone now as he floats in the darkness.  Lights appear to form around him, intricate patterns of various sizes start to swirl.  He can hear the faint sound of laughter and music in these patterns.  He can see the fae and the pixies dance outside the window and light up a hidden path.  It is a path that leads away from this house and his responsibilities, a path that echoes a dark freedom.

“You can have this again. The path is there, for one with the will to find it.”

It is only a voice in his head, the man thinks.  Yet, the path is there and he can see it.  The fae and the pixies form a canopy over a road in front of his house.  One that never existed there before and is going into a place.  The place fuzzy but with the outlines of towers and the existence of light –

“Dad?”

The writer jumps and his heart starts pounding against his chest. He is once more in the little room, his cluttered office full of the flotsam and jetsam of a lifetime.

“What?” He says a little more harshly then he means.  His son says nothing and he can see the stony cold creep over his face. The son shrugs and jus says “Mom.” And walks out.

His wife. The love of his life.  She is downstairs and he is up here.  Two children lay between them.

So much else in life is also between them.  Life and money, for instance.   A desire for a change.  An affair she had with the neighbor.  Moths of drunken debauchery after…

It is a love lost.  It is a love that once burned so bright that those that knew them had to succumb to the flames or leave their sphere of influence.  The writer’s heart aches as he thinks of what used to be and what it is now.

He had driven her in to another man’s arms.  Their love used to be a wild fire on which they built their life. It used to be…  Can something like that be regained?

He didn’t even want to try anymore.  He did try once.  He tried to talk to her but the conversations always turned cold a brittle.   A frost had developed between them, the fire quenched and their love nothing but a lost ember.

Yet, an ember can still be stoked under the right conditions.  That ember just needed to be found.

You don’t need this.

The longing, the voice had returned.  The writer looked out the window and saw the path.  He saw freedom there, a chance to start over and renew his life.  He saw the city full of wonders.  He could have it all if he just…

At what cost? Would he lose his son and his daughter?  He loved them more than life.  Parenting could be hard and it could be so lonely.

Especially with a shrew living in the same house. The voice reminded him.

The shrew that used to be his love.  A part of his heart twitched for a moment as old memories flowed through his mind.

The path stood there taunting and inviting him.  The fae and the pixies were magical and their music intoxicating.   It was natural and primal; the music ebbed and flowed with the gusts of wind.

Your kids will be taken care of.  They are of age now.  Just say it and you will be free.

His heart ached to be free of this mess he made his life.  His kids were beyond the stage where they adored him. That seemed lost in the past now.  After a series of fights, this betrayal by his wife, finances that never seemed to stop leaking money and so many unfulfilled promises it didn’t seem possible.  These had left the whole family torn and battered.  His kids would be better off with him gone. With him here, they were only reminded of the good times.

“Maybe she will meet another that can repair her torn heart.  Maybe meet a man worthy of being called a father.”

The voice said a comforting chill setting over the writer.

Your kids will be taken care of and only remember the good times.  You might have been worthy of them once, but not now. Just say yes and you can travel down this path.  Your family will be gone and you will be free.

The writer could feel his heart beat against his chest, could feel the line drawn in the sand.  The choice was in front of him, his choice to leave his family to better things and start anew or to stay and continue the loosing battle.

You are so tired, so weary.  You will be refreshed and renewed. The voice said as the writer looked in to the dark, in to the fae and the pixies that showed the hidden path before him.

He could almost see something in the distance.  Darkness over that far off city.  A voice that was an echo of an echo, telling him to hang on because his family would be healed in the end.  He almost believed.  Almost.

He saw his wife in the arms of another man.  He saw his children standing in shock as he came home drunk and hit her.  This was not the man he wanted to be.

You could be any man you want, once you are on the road.  Your family will only remember the good things and another will help them.  You will be free.

He whispered “Yes.” And reality broke, and his heart with it.  The fae and the pixies screamed, fleeing the path and the voice laughed, going from a high-pitched squeal to a deep and evil baritone.

The writer could no longer feel his heart and he passed out in to the waiting darkness.

When he awoke, his house was bare and his family was gone.  The writer wasn’t ashamed to cry, his tears of sorrow and frustration streaming down his face.  His broken sobs filled the empty house but no one was there to comfort him. He had made his choice and now he would be walking that road alone.

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