'The Final Ember' by 'Brian1'
The old man switched off the wooden cased radio perched on the mantle top, unceremoniously silencing the Irish national anthem. Massaging his chest, he reversed his frail frame back into the armchair. ‘That oul pain was back'
Outside, the wind continued to howl. He must have slept for quite a while judging by the dying embers in the turf fire. A shiver ran the length of his spine. “Jaysus it's cold!” He groaned. Reaching into the turf basket, he selected three of the smaller sods and placed them gently on the ailing fire. He picked up the remains of the glass of whisky he'd been drinking from earlier. Emptying the last of the honey-coloured liquid to the back of his throat, he uttered a long “aaghh” sound in appreciation, then wiped his lips.
The Atlantic storm grew in strength, roaring ever louder as it battered and bullied it's way inland. Sitting back in his armchair, he stared into the fire and listened to the threats from the storm. Already, the hungry embers in the fire were nibbling at the new sods, giving birth to baby flames. The young flames played hide and seek, feeding on their new-found sustenance. Popping up and disappearing the infant flames quickly matured, throwing flickers of light on the dusty hearth.
He lifted the bottle of whisky and looked to see if there was enough for one more glass. With a glint in his bloodshot eyes and a toothless grin on his almost skeletal face; he poured the last of the whisky into his glass.
"Turf on the fire, a drink in my glass.
A place on my knee, for my sweet Irish lass".
"Aye, and a place in my heart for you, my lovely Mary".
With his long wiry arm outstretched he toasted his dead wife to the empty room. "To my beloved wife Mary... I hope she's happy". The words had barely left his lips, when another sharp pain passed through his chest. The intermittent periods of comfort were being squeezed ever shorter. Each agonising attack brought with it a long bout of traumatised coughing. He threw the few remaining sods of turf on to the now healthy but greedy fire and drained the last drop of whisky thirstily from the glass.
The storm, with nothing but a few trees and bushes to aim at on the hillside; concentrated its wickedness on the old man's cottage. "Go on, away with you now" he shouted, as if scolding a disobedient dog scratching at the door to come in. The tempestuous reply was an almighty crack of lightening fired from a dark thunderous sky. Distraught; the old man reeled in unbearable agony, as if the fork of lightening itself had seared through him. The massive heart attack tore through every sinew in his upper body.
The house was thrown into darkness. The solitary light bulb gave way to a powerful surge of electricity. Gale force winds came crashing through the doors and windows, tearing up all in its path, reeking havoc, as it vandalised its way through the darkened house.
His head back, eyes and mouth gaping, the old man sat paralysed. The rampant wind scooped millions of burning embers from the grate, swirling them high in the air. A myriad of bright orange flakes performed a magnificent fireworks display high in the darkness. The exhibition seemed to be taking place in slow motion. Gaily the glowing starlets danced above, filling the darkened spaces. Mesmerised by the sight, the helpless man stared in silence. He felt nothing. Bereft of all senses but his sight, he sat motionless as shoals of countless glowing goldfish, swam in synchronised loops high above him. Suddenly the performance ended. The wind stopped.
Red-hot particles drifted down like downy feathers falling from the sky. A layer of soft hot ash settled on the old mans face. The room grew darker as the number of embers became fewer and fewer. Each one losing its glow, reduced to nothingness in the darkness. Suspended in the blackness a solitary fragment continued to hover. Refusing to weaken, the glowing ember grew brighter and brighter. Gradually it developed into a brilliant white light, beckoning the old man towards it. He drew comfort and energy from the gleaming presence. He stood up and began walking, lured by the light's irresistible attraction. The inviting warmth enveloped him like the arms of a loving Mother. Hesitating momentarily, he looked back. Confused but unafraid, he observed his own charred remains-sitting upright on the burnt remnants of the chair.
A warm familiar voice came softly out from the light. "Come on old man, don't look back. I'll look after you now". The old man filled with happiness and peace replied, "I'm coming my lovely Mary, I'm coming".