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Jean Woest, 07 Oct '12

The singed page fluttered down on the evening breeze as the last traces of sunset sank into the serrounding hills and meadows. The man standing far beneath the balcony watched it intently, willing the paper to fall faster.

It fluttered a bit in the breeze, moving sideways, slightly brushing the brickwork before blowing away from the building again. Around its edges, the small glowing red lines could faintly be seen, as they ate the paper away bit by agonizing bit.

Sweat gleamed down the man’s nape as his heart beat with fervor, each agonizing second like a lifetime beneath the balcony, watching the paper fall as it was slowly consumed by the fire.

But it couldn’t! It was his last hope! He needed to have that paper and if the slow feed of the fire claimed it he would be lost. That was why he was here. This was why he had come. And now all his hope, all his dreams, his very future, rested in the hands of the wind as it carried the burning page lower then higher then lower again.

Small trails of ash flecked off the edges of the lost regions of the page, the neat black handwriting there gone forever, the words lost to him. He could stand it no longer. He began leaping for the paper, while it was still too far from him. No success.

He jumped higher and higher, his gloved hands barely missing it. One more jump, muscles tensed, calves flexed, his boot’s soles dug deep into the wet muddy grass as he launched himself upwards, hands outsretched so far his joints screamed in pain. But his finger only barely brushed it before the cursed breeze picked it up and flipped it away. Away from the building and the balcony and himself.

He ran after it, pursuing the piece of burning paper, his lungs aching with need for air. But he could not stop now. He was so close. No, he had to push on. The paper was all he had left and would not give it up, no matter what. He cleared a small stone bench in a single leap, almost slipping on the cursed gravel, steadying himself with his other gloved hand, eyes transfixed upon his prey the whole time.

Then with utter dismay he moaned as he saw where the page was being blown. The small lake. Where fire threatened before now water, it seemed, would claim his prize. No! He recalled how that page, that single solitary page would make all the difference. If only he could save it. It was all in his hands now. He willed his feet to run faster, the gravel kicked up behind his long strides.

It began its slow descent towards the lake’s slopping wet surface. He dashed faster. The page went lower. He was almost there. The page was almost there. Just a few more feet. Just a few more inches. He leapt forward, and came crashing down, just short of the lake, his whole form quivering. The quivering had spread to his whole body, from his arm, from the back of his hand touching the water, from the quivering piece of paper he held in his palm.

He breathed raggedly as he rolled over and drew his shaking hand in. He opened the piece of parchment, flakes of ash falling on his coat. His eyes scanned the solitary few lines still left untouched by the flames, and widened.

Comments · 2

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  • Jean Woest said...

    Just a little something playing with elements of tension, mystery, and suspense. Also using a bit of a different narrative voice than I normally use.

    • Posted 7 years ago
  • Angela Watt said...

    I desperately want to know what's written on the paper Jean :-) You did build up the tension and suspense well and then left us hanging at the end, which I like as an ending although I'd still like to know what made his eyes widen.

    • Posted 7 years ago