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Death By Candlelight

October 31, 2014

In honor of Halloween, I share this scary story. I delivered it as a speech to my Toastmasters club last week.

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Not far from here, but long ago lived and died a man alone. Oh the loneliness didn’t bother him for he had his books. He was mad for his books.

“Those books will kill you one day,” his friends would only half tease.

On the evening of his death came a knock on the door of his lonely cottage in the snowy woods.

“We’re off to town for an evening of drink and stories. Join us!” his friends entreated.

“No, I’ll not go out, for I have a vintage bottle I’ve been saving and the story has come to me. A book arrived today. It’s a new writer and they say his characters and scenes leap right off the page.”

“Suit yourself, but those books will kill you one day.” And with a promise to stop by on the marrow they turned their sleigh and headed off through the gathering storm.

The man built up a fire, lit a candle, poured himself the first glass of wine and settled down by the hearth. Oh, what a tale he read that night. One of danger and daggers. Assassins and angels. He read and he drank. And eventually he forgot to drink. But the story sucked him in. It told of one wild and stormy night, a victim stranded all alone in his lonely house in the snowy woods.

The cold seeped into his very bones. He huddled closer to the fire, tilting the book to read by the light from the candlestick.

The wind shrieking through the trees matched the scene on the page. The rattling windows were the thieves trying to break in and assault. Their TAP, TAP, TAPPING was all around him, on the window, the walls, the door and back to the window.

Which is worse the knowing that you are marked for death or approaching your untimely end blissfully unawares? He couldn’t tell. No longer knowing ear from eye. He read on. The thieves made their way through the blinding snow and howling wind. The snow crunching beneath their feet as they approached their unsuspecting victim. Now the thieves and murderers were right outside his door.

Suddenly their came a crash. A door? A window? A tree? Who was there outside in the storm?

Laying aside his book, he gathering up his candle and by its light he glanced around the shadows in the tiny room. How had it gotten so dark?

But, the crash and the incessant tapping at the door? He stepped gingerly across the room.

“Is someone there?” He no longer heard tapping, but on the the shriek of the wind answered him.

Was someone there, outside in the snow? Who could know? Again he called out, “Is anyone there?” only to be answered by the howling wind. Finally setting aside the candle, we went to open the door but a crack.

CRASH!

With the force of 20 men the wind ripped the door out of his hands and slammed him aside. The candle knocked from his hands went out as it clattered to the floor, plunging the room into semi darkness. Unseen fiends attacked the room scattering his papers. The fire flared up catching shadows dancing against the walls.

“Who are you?” The wind took his words, twisted them into knots and threw them back at him.

Catching hold of the door, he struggled against the unseen intruders. The howling wind pushed back. Finally, after a mighty shove he succeeded in locking whomever or whatever back outside. Bolting the door, he caught his breath. “What a fright I’ve given myself. Over nothing.”

He laughed a nervous laugh. “It was only the wind, of course.” He almost believed it himself.

In the darkness he fumbled to the desk beneath the window for a light. The match flared.

What was that? A face. At the window. Only for a moment. Peering in as he glanced out before he pulled the candle away.

Who would be out on a night like this? No sane man, surely. Only assassins and thieves, come to rob in this remote place where none could hear his cries for help.

His ailing heart raced. Despite the cold, sweat beaded his forehead. Never one to gain courage in the bottle, he no longed for another drink. But, here hiding beside the window, dare he dare it? Clutching his pistol in one hand, candle in the other, his fear finally overcoming his courage he darted past the window.

THERE!

For a brief moment he saw the man again. His face the mask of the insane. With trembling hands he raised the glass to his lips, but the wine turned to vinegar in his mouth. Still the fear ate at his gut. The pain in his arm, in his chest. His breath labored.

What to do? Sit and wait to be struck down in his bed? “If I am to die tonight. I’ll not go quietly.” With courage he did not feel, he caught up the candle and his pistol and stepped to the center of the room boldly faced his attacker through the glass.

Oh the hideousness. The horror, from him or of him he couldn’t say. The man, while dressed simply enough had the face of the deranged. Clearly mad. All sanity and reason fled. He also armed brought his weapon weapon to bear as each pointed the instruments of death at the other.

“WHAT FIEND FROM HELL ARE YOU TO COME TO TORMENT ME?” But his words and those of his assailant were lost in the shrieking of the wind.

“Leave me know or one of us will die this night!” But, the insane madman, shouting inaudible words, held his place.

The pain in his chest now nearly too much to bear. He determined he must kill or be killed. Not daring to look to the left or the right. His gaze locked into the that of his deranged killer. And those eyes. Oh, those eyes. All reason fled. All humanity bloated out.

His trembling finger found the trigger. A pause and a hold.

“LEAVE ME! LEAVE ME! LEAVE ME BE!” he pleaded to deaf ears.

Finally,

CRACK

A tree? A branch? Or a bullet? Who can say. The man slowly crumpled to the floor. Blackness settling around him. His only satisfaction knowing that his aim had been true, for he saw his killer also struck low.

It was thus that his friends found him in the morning. They had to break down the barred door. It’s a mystery to this day what killed him. For the door was barred, the windows shuttered. The undisturbed expanse of snow losing itself in the start and dead silent trees.

Him slumped on the floor with a pistol that had never been fired, a burnt out candle not far, and by the hearth his still open book: “Death By Candlelight.”

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Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

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2 Comments
  1. Brilliant.

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