Snow came early. By midnight the house was buried by frozen crystals blotting out the sky. No stars shone through the windows. A feeble fire flickered in a hearth unable to block the advance of entombment. The feeble old woman huddled beneath threadbare covers offering scant relief from death’s infringement. The Grim Reaper’s footsteps rang hollow on stair treads worn by the passage of time as it entered. When the hooded figure stood by her bedside, she was ready to embrace it. As her limbs grew numb and her breath turned shallow, she remembered a conversation she had with her neighbor several days before.
“I don’t fear death. I welcome it with open arms. This world of larceny, pain, war, pestilence, and greed has tasked me for longer than any soul should endure. I only wish I could have seen Paris before taking the next step of my journey. Darkness or light, I’m prepared to explore what comes next.”
“Why didn’t you go to Paris?” Her neighbor inquired. “You had the money and plenty of free time.”
“I had no one to share it with. Besides, tourism in a wheelchair has limitations. It’s not like wandering the streets at will.””
“What if you found someone there? It’s supposed to be the city of love.”
“True. But a journey is more fulfilling when taken together instead of wandering alone, hoping dreams will come true. And look at me. Who’d want this wrinkled bag of bones?”
“That seems a defeatist point of view. Living without hope.”
She remembered smiling ruefully. Scars on her body and heart spoke of life’s cruelty to flesh and spirit. She’d known love as well as abandonment. Success and failure. None of it permanent in a world of constant transition.
“ Hope.” She snorted. “I always hoped there would be an end to war. That people could learn to share. That children wouldn’t starve and be raped by insensitivity. Instead, I learned mankind isn’t kind and embraces heartless agendas that shatter hope and destroy love.”
“Then why should anyone bother to aspire to anything if it’s pointless?”
“Because the experience itself is worth making the best of what comes along. Having feelings and knowing what being alive is all about. Don’t mind me, I’m simply worn out. I need to move aside so younger, stronger idealists can fight the battle.”
As the snow grew deeper and the hearth grew cold, the dog wouldn’t stop barking. As its master’s heart stopped beating and her limbs grew cold, it nestled against her, hoping to revive joy they’d shared. He knew not of Paris and dreamed of nothing but a full bowl and water to drink.