The dead days were amongst us. Those low light grey dreary days between Christmas and New Year.
New Years Eve night was eerily quiet. The damaging storms of the previous week had blown themselves out. The once-raging winds and lashing rains had given way to an eerie calm, casting a serene hush over the countryside. The air felt crisp and invigorating, tinged with the scent of damp earth and the subtle fragrance of rain-soaked foliage. The storm, in its ferocity, had cleared away the dust and pollutants, leaving behind a purified and revitalized atmosphere. A world renewed.
Chaz sat at the top of the mountain. His small campfire cracked and cackled away. The meagre heat not really warming, yet the flickering flames cast a mesmerizing play of light and shadows on his face, creating an intimate and contemplative atmosphere. The world only stretched as far as the meagre light of the fire would stretch. A small world. All the worries and cruelty now invisible beyond reach. It couldn't hurt him anymore.
Taking a sip of whisky from the battered pewter hip flask inherited from his dad. The smokiness of the malt as he rolled it around his mouth was soothing. Then came the fiery kick as he swallowed. He pulled out his notepad. It opened, as if bookmarked, on the well-thumbed page. Scanning the calendar before him, He saw 364 crosses. Every day crossed off apart from the last one. Another year almost traversed. The target almost within his sights. A sense of achievement that he’s nearly reached the point he set at this spot almost a year ago. One cross at a time, neatly marked in black. A year navigated.
Some days had been easier than others. Those were like rainbows against the darkening clouds of despair. The majority of days had been stormy, whirlpools of fetid torrid encounters, that sometimes made making the next cross harder to achieve. It’s hard to see the rainbows when storms were so frequent. Life was hard. There were no hall passes given to Chaz, he had to earn the next day. Despair had more times than he cared to admit, made him think about jumping off the roundabout. Every day was a battle to survive. All for a cross at the end. Was a cross really worth all the trouble?
Times when it was easier to not lift your head off the pillow, never mind the parapet. The voices in your head get louder on these occasions. All the negativity, as thick as treacle, made Chaz sink further into the bed clothes. It could be an easy way to earn another tick, yet the mind was always there nagging him. Left with too much time on his hands, those duvet days were a mess of putrid repulsive thoughts. Yet life frequently made those days the preferred choice. Inferiority and despair in the waking hours, tortured frenzied dreams in the night. A tick obtained was a beacon in the dark, drawing him towards it like a moth towards a light. Living on a knife edge meant you had to tread very carefully indeed. Any deviation results in searing torrid experiences.
As the minutes ticked down towards midnight, Chaz knew what would come next. The annual decision that he’d made every year since Cathy had walked out on him. Does he carry on?
It was his fault that she’d left. His anxiety over the last few years had made keeping a relationship alive, a struggle. At first, she’d calmed him. Wiped his brow when he’d woke up screaming in the middle of the night. She’d reassured him when he couldn’t make it over the doorstep. At first her caring made that step easier, but then he’d worried that she’d leave, become tired of his pathetic life. That made life worse and the nightmares stronger. It was like a battle. Cathy trying to calm him, reassure him whilst the voices in his head spread manure over his thoughts. As time went on the voices started winning through. He’d tried to get help. It worked for a time, but those voices got louder, and Cathy’s was sunk in the tsunami that came. In the end he realised that she had to walk away before he destroyed her as well as him. He felt relief at the end that she’d have a better life. Now there were only the voices that controlled his life.
His phone buzzed announcing midnight and centring his thoughts on what was to come. Pulling out his pen he put the last cross in place and put down the pad. As he had done for the past few years he stood up and walked the few steps towards the cliff edge. Now was time to decide. Did he make the commitment for 366 more crosses, well it is a leap year, or admit defeat and take the short step forwards?
As Chaz stood alone on the cliff edge, negative thoughts began to burrow their way into his mind like insidious tendrils seeking refuge in the recesses of his consciousness. Uninvited and unwelcome, these thoughts slithered through the corridors of his thoughts, whispering doubts and fears that echoed in the silence. The shadows of self-doubt danced on the walls of his psyche, gradually overshadowing the brighter facets of his thoughts. Each negative notion seemed to grow roots, entwining with his emotions and sprouting the seeds of uncertainty. As he struggled to push them away, the thoughts persisted, leaving Chaz caught in a mental struggle against the encroaching darkness, desperately seeking a glimmer of positivity to dispel the intrusive negativity.
Sensing the encroaching darkness in his mind, Chaz took a deep breath, determined to banish the shadowy thoughts that threatened to engulf him. He needed to shake these demons if he was to go forward. Each year it became more difficult, his power of resolve to try again weakened. Would it be easier to just make coin toss? Let the gods decide. He’d once read that coin tosses aren’t really random but based on what the person really wants.
With a coin held between trembling fingers, he took a deep breath, feeling the weight of the choice resting on the thin edge of the silver disc. As time seemed to slow to a crawl, he fixated on the coin, capturing every nuance of its descent with heightened awareness. The air around him thickened as the coin spiralled through the suspended seconds, a metallic dance that mirrored the gravity of the decision at hand. In the suspended reality of that coin toss, Chaz felt fate hanging in the balance. The world seemed to hush, amplifying the crisp sound of the coin flipping through the air. With the coin's descent, Chaz braced for the revelation that would determine the course of his life, the arc of chance marking the pivotal moment of decision.
In that moment of truth, Chaz extended his hand, fingers poised to catch the metallic harbinger of destiny. The coin landed, the sound carrying the weight of a verdict yet to be deciphered. With a careful glance, Chaz turned his palm upwards, revealing the coin's final resting place. The metallic surface, now still, bore the clandestine answer to the choices that hung in the balance. His eyes fixated on the coin, the Kings head upwards.
From a writing prompt about New Year.