Darkness fell. There were no stars, no moon. The soft whispers of the wind spoke not, nor did the gentle chirping of the crickets in the field. All was silent. Nothing stirred.
A man sat in the corner of his room, surrounded by the eerie silence of the night. A lone candle burned in the centre, illuminating a small sphere of the room. Its light barely reached the man’s face, whose arms held his knees so close to his body that only his eyes remained. As the candle flickered, tendrils of shadows danced around the room, performing a twisted welcoming ceremony for the incoming darkness. Occasionally, the light would briefly sweep over the man’s eyes, but even as they gleamed, the light was gone, flickering off to another direction, another corner.
As the man listened to the soft crackles of the flickering flame and the shallow breaths he exhaled, he thought. He did nothing except sit and think alone, save for the company of the candle. He had been thinking for as long as he could remember, pondering about the world and about life. Sometimes, he would distract himself by focusing on the flame he had been staring at the entire time. Most times, it was simply there, always within his sight but never noticed. But when he did, he would notice how dim it was, how small it was, how fragile it seemed.
Yet he could not deny its beauty. It mesmerized him, even when he looked only for a short while. He would watch as it flowed up and down, as it set into motion the dance of the shadows, as it flickered back and forth, pulsing with a brilliance he could not put into words. Then he would break away, retreating back into the fortress of his thoughts as his gaze grew blank once more.
Suddenly, the door opened.
The flame flickered.
From the recess of the hallway, a woman stepped into the room. Closing the door slowly behind her, she stepped towards the candle on the floor. Without a word, she sat down across from the man on the opposite side of the candle. She pulled her legs up to her face, mirroring the pose of the man. Resting her head on her knees, her eyes locked on to the flickering candlelight, staring into the depth of the dancing fire.
The flame flickered again.
The man started, for while he had known since the woman’s entrance that something had changed about the room, he didn’t notice just what had changed until he decided to observe the fire again. For the first time, his gaze shifted, slowly moving up to the face of the woman who sat a little ways from the flickering candlelight. He noticed her slender legs, her curled up pose, and her oversized gown that formed a pool of white cloth around her, painted slightly orange by the candle flame.
What he noticed most of all were her eyes. For in the small slit between her knees and her jet black hair, her eyes gleamed with the flickering light of the candle. At first, he thought they were just light brown, but as he looked more closely, he began to notice the warmth of a thousand different tones of orange and red, as though her eyes had become the fire, making the candle dull and colorless in comparison.
He couldn’t look away. Entranced by the dancing flames in her eyes, he stared and stared, searching for some other beauty within, for it seemed to him as though it should be there. And suddenly, he noticed he was face to face with the lady. For it seemed that as he was peering into her, his body had moved of its own accord, bewitched to motion, drawn to the source of all of his curiosity and admiration.
She had done the same. They were now face to face, separated only by the candle. But the candle might not have even been there, for they looked only into each other’s eyes, taken in by their mysterious, frighteningly powerful beauty. They seemed to go on forever, staring into each other’s eyes, peering into those glittering windows of color, as the flame in front of them danced and danced.
Then she got up. Slowly opening the door, she turned one last time to face the man, who was still looking up into her eyes, puzzled at her actions. The corners of her mouth moved up ever so slightly, and a single bead of light appeared at the corner of her eye, sparkling as it rolled off her cheek. In a second, the man understood what was happening. He jumped to his feet, eyes full of fear and denial, opening his mouth to call out to her to stop.
Then she closed the door.
The flame went out.