The Old Journal (Short Fiction)

27 Nov


Photo by Sgarton on Morgue File.

Is there a person you should’ve thanked, but never had the chance? Is there someone who helped you along the way without even realizing it? Here’s your chance to express your belated gratitude.

The window panes sighed a chilly breath of winter as the wind howled against their face. The fireplace crackled and sparked, as the fire lapped at each woody morsel, feasting on its hearty meal in the stone hearth. The light was dim; the sort of soft glow that made eyes blur if concentrated in one spot for more than a few seconds. 

In the middle of the room, a middle-aged man sat reading a weather-beaten journal. The brown leather had faded over the years, its pages had yellowed and seemed to be as brittle as tired, old bones. The journal was plagued by the stains of life: drips of coffee, smudges of water or tears and dirty fingerprints; both physical and emotional.

He couldn’t remember when he came across the journal first. He couldn’t remember his first impressions as he read the opening pages: pages dated to a time long before he was born. He had spent the past several years pouring over its pages, visualizing the events transcribed within and trying, as much as he could, to live the emotions, the feels and tenses of each moment. The highs and lows tossed him about like a hilly, rugged countryside. He felt the pain in each harrowing moment. The jubilation at the moments of light and reward.

The journal was a testament: a testament to life. A testament to the pull and push of this mortal walk. An existence lived in perpetuity in the hollow chasm of the long yawn of mortality. He had never felt so much. He had never bled so deeply from another’s sorrow. He had never rejoiced with such revelry over someone else’s successes and happiness.

He had known loss. He had known pain. His history was marred with festering wounds and half-mended scars. He knew the sound and feel of wrought iron steel: the clang of hopelessness and the weight, not only about the body, but the heart and soul. He had the marks to prove it . . . and some marks were deeper than others.

He sat and he thought, rubbing his thumb over an oft-read page. A page he could recite verbatim. A page that spoke to him: it spoke to who he once was, who he was now and who he hoped he would become. He had added his own stains to the old journal. He had dirtied it with his own stuff of humanity.

He was thankful for the journal. He was thankful it had come into his possession, all those years ago. How had it happened? Influences and lapses refused to give him the satisfaction of remembering; all he knew is it was now his and he cherished it as if it were a lover.

He knew one day it would be time to part with it. One day it would pass from his hands to the hands of another. He knew this all along. He knew it was not truly his and never would be. He felt the anger of that thought. He felt the jealousy burning in him hot as coal.

I could remedy it, he thought half-aloud, I could toss it in the hearth and it would forever be gone and forever mine. I could do it. 

But, no sooner had the words escaped their tortured chamber that he knew he could never do it. He’d soon kill ten men then to part with the journal. It was too personal to him now. It was the one thing different in his life, the one thing that gave him a daily taste of grace, a daily pang of humanness.

So, he sat and he read the entry over and over again. He felt the tears. He felt each heartbeat as they rose and raced within his chest.

He was thankful. It was an odd feeling for him. It was alien and strange, a glowing ember in a pile of cold, dingy ashes.

As the wind howled and beat against the window panes, he clutched the journal against his breast−and he was thankful.


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