The Return by Antti Ervasti

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SUMMARY: Entry for the May '09 flash fiction competition.

I stood in the doorway of a shadowy room. The only pale light filtered through a dust covered window and it left the corners in almost total darkness. I gazed around: everything was exactly the way it had been all those years ago. "Ah, not quite everything.", I thought and laughed briefly despite of myself. The cactus on the bookshelf had a not-so-healthy colour of dirty yellow. After a moment I took a few cautious steps into the room. The wooden floor creaked under my feet.

An object that rested on the table drew my attention. I walked to it and picked up the diary. Thousands of little particles took flight and were left flickering in the motionless air. I leafed through to the last entry.

"John doesn't want to know yet if it's a boy or a girl but I'm too excited to wait! I'll try to persuade him to change his mind today when we go see the doctor for the first time. Oh, mother will be so happy to hear the news!"

Suddenly I felt something twist painfully inside me and the room seemed to tilt. I leaned on the table to steady myself and slumped hard in the chair. The oldness of it was beginning to show and the chair carried my weight just barely. I felt the hot sting of tears in my eyes and the bottomless sadness came rushing back. I vaguely remember coming home that day. It was all like a dream. "No, a nightmare." The front door was a little ajar again. I entered the house annoyed and was about to give Angela the same lecture of the importance of keeping the door closed and locked. Those words were never uttered aloud.

"Why?" I thought the millionth time with my head hanging low. "Why did you have to go away and leave me here?" The tone was almost accusing and it made me a shiver. The sound of waves crashing on the beach gave no comfort.

With shaky legs I finally stood up, dried the tears and slowly left the room. Almost without even knowing it, this time I walked to the living room. The sadness changed to angry bitterness when I saw the almost black spot on the floor. It seemed to have burrowed itself on the wood. I cursed the gods in my mind. "What kind of sadistic beings would let a monster like that to live and cause sorrow wherever it went? Why us?" It seemed my life was now filled only with questions that had no answer. "And some people dare wonder why I am an atheist."

I walked around the room and purposely avoided looking at the picture on the wall. I was afraid what would happen if I did. "But I have to. I need to see her again." I stopped in front of the picture, sighed deeply and looked up. Two persons were standing before a large window. In the background was Earth with its deep blue seas and snow white clouds. The woman with a beautiful brown curling hair was saying something to the man. He was laughing.

At first the picture didn't seem real. It was somehow distant and surreal, like I was looking it through rain. Little by little the veil lifted from my eyes and the picture came clear. "I remember you now." What I had dreaded didn't happen. Instead I was engulfed by calmness and serenity and filled with pleasant warmness. It was strange because I hadn't felt like that in years. The longer I stood there watching, the more in peace I was and the more confident I became. I lifted the picture from the wall, swiped it gently on my coat and put it carefully in the pocket. I turned to the front door and saw it was ajar.

For a second I just stared at it. Then laughter escaped from my lips. When the irony settled in I thought I could never stop laughing. Tears ran down my cheeks again but these were the good kind. Eventually my stomach started cramping and with great effort I forced myself to stop. When I could finally see I looked around the room once more. The stain on the floor was not as black and brooding as before. "Everything is going to be fine." I thought and smiled. With sure steps I walked to the door, closed it and lifted the gun in my hand.