Sunday, July 23, 2006

Into the Night/Artistic License Prompt Challenge

Story based off this picture:

They were gone, all of them. They were gone, and he was left alone with only his grief for companionship.

"Dr. Kovac, it's time." It was the Priest's voice that interrupted his thoughts and he turned dull eyes toward the man in response to his call.

"Pardon?" His brow creased as he registered that the man was still there at the gravesite, that he hadn't left as the service had finished.

"It's time to..." The Priest paused, then motioned to he gaping hole that ran parallel to the largest of the three coffins. "They're waiting." It was only when the other men were pointed out to him that he realized they were standing off to the side with shovels in hand. How long had they been there?

"Please, I need more time." The plea was quiet and he found himself moving closer to the coffins that held his family as he made it. "I'm not ready."

"Dr. Kovac, Luka." The Priest inched his way closer, pausing between steps until he was near enough to lay a hand on the grieving young man's shoulder. "It's getting dark, they need to start."

"No..." His eyes shot between the coffins, the smallest with the teddy bear resting on it, the next with a doll, and the final, the largest one, decorated with a bouquet of flowers. How could he possibly let them go?

"Luka, look at me." The Priest motioned for the men to begin their grim task even as he tried to distract him. "You can stay but you need to step back and let them do what they need to do." He took his arm firmly, fully expecting resistance, only to breathe a sigh of relief when there was none.

The next half hour was a difficult one and had he not maintained his hold on the young father's arm he was certain the man would have thrown himself into the grave as the coffins were lowered one by one into the hole. As the cemetary workers began to shovel the earth over them the man had sunk to his knees, oblivious to the snow that was falling and the dampening ground beneath it.

The final shovels of earth were done in darkness, the only illumination that offered by the moonlight and a few isolated streetlights. As the men finished the Priest left Luka's side to offer his thanks to them as well as his blessings.

If Luka was aware of the Priest's absence he didn't show it, and his eyes remained fixed on the ground that covered the graves and the snow that had begun to blanket the freshly turned earth.

"They don't have their coats, they'll be cold, I forgot to bring them. They need their coats." He crawled closer to the gravesite with the realization and by the time the Priest reached him again he had prostrated himself over it.

"Luka, son, come on, you can't stay here." How many more times would he have to go through this before the siege was over? How many more grieving father, mothers, husbands and wives, how many more children would there be before enough was enough?" Luka, time to go home." The Priest bent down to grasp his arm and surprisingly found, no resistance as he helped him to his feet.

"I don't have a home anymore...I don't have anyone." He turned to the older man as he spoke, grief and loss etched clearly on his face. "I forgot their coats...they need their coats."

"It's okay, Luka, God will take care of them, now, it's time to go." It took ten minutes for the Priest to get the the grieving husband and father to move away from the graves and another fifteen for the two of them to make it to the Chapel, but once there the man refused to enter.

"I can't." His voice was shaky as he pulled out of the older man's hold only to begin backing away. "He could have spared them....taken me instead."

"Luka, we can't question why God does what he does, now, come inside." The Priest began to move toward him only to stop as the doctor raised his hand to stop him.

"No, don't...don't try to defend it." He'd had enough and as he finished he turned his back to the man, all he wanted now was to get away.

He lost track of how long he walked, oblivious to the dark, to the cold, to the dampness of his coat as the snow continued to fall. It wasn't until he found himself on the bridge that he finally stopped, he could put an end to it all now if he chose to. Until that moment he hadn't thought about the risk of a sniper bringing him into their sights, or maybe the truth was that he was hoping for just that.

Standing at the railing it was hard not to follow the inner urge that was prodding him to climb over the side. He could be with his family, or could he? The deeper voice was impossible to ignore, suicide was not an option open to him. His hold tightened on the top rail. Why did it have to be so hard? Why was his life continually spared when those around him had theirs stolen? The questions were ones he knew held no answers, but neither could his brain cease the asking of them.

Was this all he had left to his life?

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