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Pauline Duschesneau
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radiantnight.jpg
Art by Noelle Richardson 2018

RADIANT night

Pauline Duchesneau

 

     Such a cold night.  Kara trudged through four inches of snow, thankful for reasonable warmth beneath her extra layers, good winter boots, and parka.  Her breath was moist under the fleece scarf that wrapped around the lower half of her face.  The light of the full moon was brilliant.  The clean snow fairly glowed with it.  Shadows were sharp in contrast.  Ever since she was a child she was enchanted with the otherworldliness of nights like this.  This light urged her outside.  The frigid temperature was no deterrent, a challenge easily met by a mere seven minutes of bundling.  The immediate reward from the brisk clarity was absorbed through inhalation, presence, and movement into her physical and mental aspects.  Of what was to come on this walk, she had no warning.  Neither of the epiphany.  Nor the impending death.

     The quiet of the night spoke simple wisdom.  Kara listened.  Occasional sounds of the highway in the distance and a passing airplane high overhead broke the solitude.  Still, by comparison, it was peaceful.  Such a welcomed difference from the complications and noise of daytime bustle.  She felt stress exiting her, and gave unspoken thanks for this gift.  The lessons she received from nature right now were to slow down, go with the flow, simplify and wait.  How many frustrations were of her own making?  How many of them would resolve themselves by patient observance rather than reaction and angst?   Why could she not think like this in the heat of a moment?  Did the trees curse the snow that burdened their branches or wait it out, trust in the warming rays of the sun that triumphantly always came, perhaps even the next day, to relieve them of the weight and allow their branches to spring back and reach once more in salutation and welcome? 

     The sound of wind chimes from a nearby darkened house played a melodic song in the gentlest of breezes.  Beauty was everywhere.  It was a healing balm that was ever-present and available, waiting to be noticed, so that the cure could be conveyed.  The soul sick with stagnation would be free again.  Was it really this easy?  And why not?  The words of wisdom reminded again: slow down, go with the flow, simplify, and wait.  It began to sound like a mantra.  Kara repeated the words in meditation, ingested them, smiling and aware of the transformation matched in word and step. 

 

     And so she did not notice when footsteps fell in behind her.  A gloved hand reached around her head, yanked down her scarf and covered her mouth tightly before she knew what had happened.  Something sharp poked into her back and she was pulled up against another body belonging to someone she could not see.

     “Don’t make a sound.”  The words were a growl in her ear.  The sharp object pressed harder.  The point of cold steel found its way to her skin.  “Understand?”

     The gloved hand moved with her head as she nodded.  Why Kara wondered, did she not fear?  Her head was tilted back and she saw in the night sky, that glorious full moon.  A dog howled somewhere far away.  Or was that a wild animal?  She never learned to distinguish.  Slow down. Go with the flow. Simplify.   And wait.  The words still echoed in her mind, kept her pulse from speeding.  The astounding beauty of the radiant moon soothed even now. 

     Pain seared as she felt the knife enter her torso.   A warm stickiness wet her backside.  She knew without seeing that no one was nearby.  Just Kara and her fate conducted by this man.  He released his hold and allowed her to turn.  His face was as otherworldly as the night.  His eyes were wild with fiery intention and his teeth were bared in the ferocity of his mission.  A large elegant knife dripped slow dark blobs onto the snow.  She did not move as he lunged.  He thrust the knife into her abdomen.  His hand on her shoulder steadied her and pulled her into it.  Still, the mantra repeated in her mind and peacefulness remained.  As if dancing the man withdrew, lunged, and thrust again.  And again.  And again. 

     Kara crumpled to her knees and saw the spatter on the snow, illuminated in the moonlight.  The randomness of pools and splashes were like artwork added to the beauty of the night.  The enchanted kind of night that had always fascinated her, called her out, toward this moment.  This moment of peace gained on this radiant night.  She had slowed down, gone with the flow, simplified, and waited.  There was no pain now.  Only glorious gratitude.  She felt herself fall into the softness of the snow.  Her check registered cold, that turned to warmth, and the brightness overtook and became her.




Pauline Duchesneau is a full-time writer in rural central Maine, where she lives with her wife, who is her greatest supporter, critic, and fan; and their adorable little beagle, who is her trusted and ever-patient listener. She is deep in the revision of her first novel, in addition to writing short stories and poetry.

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