Peering through narrow slits of old and wrinkled eyes, he sees the dust catching in the last of the daylight, old floorboards creak underfoot as he makes his way down the dark corridor to his study. Carpet running sideways along the adjoining and narrow stretch running from the door frame of an old, locked, heavy Oak door.
Reaching Into a threadbare dressing gown with crooked and liver spotted pale hands, he shakily fumbles out a rusty key ring with a single polished and well kept key that reflects part of his aged forehead.
With breath rattling in his chest he slowly extends a skeletal hand to the lock, the key just grazing to the side from trembling fingers and an aching wrist. Pain gathering in his lungs, he takes a breath from the small tank he keeps by his side and guides the key into a difficult lock and groans with the weight of his condition.
Under the weight of himself and the last few precious bursts of energy, he pushes the door open and stumbles through the threshold into the long neglected study to collapse in a heap on the floor, heart pounding in his ears as his head hits the thin carpet mat, fighting to stay conscious.
From the kitchen a young woman hears the soft thud of old bones falling under themselves, the faint cry of pain, along with the fainter wheezes and groans of diminished lungs struggling to take in oxygen. Hurrying down the hall, heels barely touching the floor for long enough to gather any sensation through the panic and fear coursing through her body she turns left and looks through the doorway to see her father struggling to open an old chest in the corner of his cramped and candlelit office that was.
Reaching her hand to his, she guides it to the catch in the middle of the lid, with the catch unhooked, hands move the creaking, peeling and pale blue top. Light spilling from a close candle illuminates a single mahogany box, flawless, polished and the size of a fist.
Reaching down, hip cracking with the strain of the movement the old man takes the box and turns to sit against the wall, tank at use again as he breathes deeply, a grimace on his face as his lips twist exposing ancient teeth as he grunts for one of his last times.
With his daughter by his side and his chest in hand he looks through milky eyes at the only blood he has left. Mustering the strength to speak, taking the mask off his face and tasting stale air he knows he is close, a few minutes at best. If he’s lucky, it won’t hurt. Not too badly….
If you were to see them from the doorway it would look nothing more than an elderly man and his daughter sitting against the wall, her arms around his waist and shoulder as he plants his head on hers.
With the box open and the contents on his lap, he takes the smoother hand of his daughter in his and turns it palm-side up, placing a sealed envelope in the delicate fingers, inhales as good a breath as he can manage and starts his short tale.
” Ever since I was a small boy, I had a habit of writing everything I had done wrong on a single shred of paper and placed it in this box. Once a year I would walk to the top of the cliff and set my wrongs free into the winds to be swept away, to help ease my mind of my last actions. Eventually, and I mean when I hit about 15 years old, I became so aware of my actions my secret box was almost as dusty as the chest I kept it in. But one day, that all changed. It wasn’t long after you were born and your mother passed. Your father wasn’t around so I took you for myself.”
The old man shakes as he coughs, sputtering blood from his chapped and dry lips. Blood trickles from his nose as his wipes his sleeve over his eyes, drawing another death rattling inhale he tells her , “That letter is thick, I want you to take it up to the cliff when I have passed, along with my ashes and read it. When you are dine I want you to burn it, scatter the ashes with mine into the wind and set me free with My sins.”
Tears leak from her eyes as her father, frail and broken takes his final breath. Disease had claimed his liver earlier in life, cancer killed one lung and a lifetime of heavy smoking had left him Dependant on an oxygen tank with a mask to help him breathe.
As she runs her hand over his cheek she feels his drying tears under her fingers, wiping them off as he used to do for her, she feels his last breath escape his body as he goes limp and falls completely to her arms, into her memory and always in her heart.
And so concludes that short story. I hope you enjoyed it. Happy trails all.
Posted from somewhere amongst the tangled interwebs….