“Chill” by Tyler Appleby

The fog is heavy tonight.

The early chilling of Winter’s breath has coaxed the clouds out of their hiding places, giving them a short, albeit delightful freedom.  Their sheets of white drape over my shoulders, and they shroud me in a blanket of mystery.  I can feel the water soaking into the sleeves of my thick, cotton overcoat.  A shudder worms its way through my body, and I shove my hands into my pockets.

I dance lightly on my toes, peering down the empty road.  The pale, yellow streetlight flickers uneasily.  It casts a heavenly halo into the fog like a fool.  It wants me to believe in happiness, to push away my steadfast skepticism and embrace the freedom of the soul.

But to my disbelief, I am faithful.

I glance at my watch, nervous and relieved.  The time for redemption is long gone.

I could walk back to my drafty apartment, braving the fog and uncertainty that surely lies ahead.  Or I can wait.  I can wait for the ride that may never come… the mighty savior that ever so slowly dissolves into nothing.

Pursing my lips, I adjust my woolen cap, the one I made myself for Christmas.  I pull it down over my ears, breathing out a puff of quickly evaporating mist.

A rumble catches my attention.  I look up and see the twin eyes of a car.  It inches forward, and for a moment, I wonder if my savior has come.  My hopes and fears are soon put to rest.  The rhythmic thud of an electronic bass grows louder, accompanied by the tingling tones of a squealing guitar.

The window rolls down, and a man’s head appears.  He asks me if I would like a ride.  I do… but not from him.  When he persists, I turn on my heel and walk away.  I cannot go through this.  Not again.

As the car’s hum fades, I stroll back into the park.  The path is eerie at night.  The trees loom around me, and only the slightest of glows emanates from intermittent lamps posted on either side.

The way home is long, winding, and fraught with unseen peril… but I have nothing to lose.  I will make it back, or I will not.  It isn’t worth the worry.

I see a bench up ahead, decorated with the slumbering clump of a homeless man.  His ratty coat is pulled tightly around his chest, and a bulky trash bag lies beneath his head.  What intrigues me the most, however, is his expression.  His eyes, though closed, are peaceful.  His mouth curls slightly around the edges, cloaked in a stringy, gray beard.

I look away.  If this is happiness, then who am I?

My odyssey through the park continues at a drifting pace.  The speed at which my dainty boots trod does not concern me.  I do not hurry to incur the inevitable.  What must come will come.

The night becomes deeper, and with depth, comes the frost… the icy, biting frost that curls around my legs, sinking its teeth into my flesh.

Before long, the park is behind me, and I erupt into a familiar place… a city of stone.  At this hour, the only lights that show are those of the unfortunate and disreputable.  And what am I but unfortunate?  Does not the mere mention of my name cast those around me in ill repute?  Thus, the light does shine in me.  And it is not one of the pink, extravagant, neon signs.  It is mellow… and dim.

I continue down my chosen path, knowing that in the end, I will reach my destination.

I trudge to the withered crosswalk and step out into the street, as if traversing a bridge dangling over an endless chasm.

A dingy taxi cab sidles down the street toward me.  I hurry across, eager to leave its sight.  Unable to contain myself, I glance up and meet the eyes of the driver.  His somber, lonely gaze pierces my heart, before vanishing into the mist.

Shaking my head, I bring myself back.

Before me stands the rickety, twelve-story building I once called home.  The rusty railings twist up the steps to the door, glazed with ancient cobwebs and wads of gum.

I trail my fingers along the gritty metal and carefully ascend.  The dilapidated door solemnly watches over me, reflecting a piteous gleam of yellow on its polished brass.  I drag it open and slip inside.

The buzzing, fluorescent lights are bright, as they are for both night and day, excepting the tiny shadows cast by the singed remains of many a curious moth.

I step into the elevator and gently press the button labeled with a white 3.  The doors slide shut, sealing me off from the fantasy of solitude and committing me to the drab, unspoken story that lies ahead.  Simply an unspoken story is infinitely more desirable than the story I know so well… a tale lacking a protagonist.

The fated chime wakes me from my muse, and I step through the doors into an old hallway.  The carpet is ugly… as it always has been.  No one has ever changed it, for fear of the consequences.

My door is to the right… the one emblazoned with the brass 184.  I approach it with the caution of a doe, placing my hand on the wood.

Remembering my duties, I slip the cold, steel band over my finger.  Inserting my key into the lock, I push the door softly open and disappear.

Tyler Appleby is a budding, young author living with his family in Tacoma, Washington. He believes that his mission in life is to create, his main medium being the written word. His love for writing began when he was fourteen years old and had the idea to write an epic fantasy trilogy before he turned eighteen. He completed this goal in early 2017 and has since gone on to write more books of varying genres, all of which are available for sale on Amazon.com. When not furiously typing, he can be found smashing out movie themes on the piano, vivaciously portraying myriad characters on a live theater stage, or simply sitting in the outdoors and staring off into space.