A micro story (377 words) set on Christmas Eve.
approximately 400 words
It was so cold that Tim's footfalls should have squeaked as he hurried over the new-fallen snow. The voices of unseen carolers singing Silent Night echoed across empty streets. A distant church bell tolled eleven, presaging the impending demise of another Christmas Eve. With a whispered curse, Tim increased his pace.
When he at last arrived, darkness shrouded their apartment. Worry dragged his lips downward, and he called out. "Luke? Are you home?" His words disappeared into the void, silent as an unanswered prayer.
Hesitant, he drifted forward to the bedroom. A single candle guttered on the dresser. Shadow and light fluttered across the bed where Luke lay sleeping. Sandalwood and sage wafted in gentle waves, enfolding Tim in memories of things that once were.
Luke stirred, and the sheets fell away. Tim's heart ached to see his lover's body, once so athletic and alluring, now ravaged by age and infirmity. He reached out with a tentative finger and traced a line down Luke's withered cheek. Unshed tears blurred his gaze.
Luke's breath quickened and his pulse quivered in his neck. His eyes roiled under closed lids, and his lips moved with a soundless question only Tim could hear. "Is that you?" It was a plea, a hope, a dream.
Tim's garments fell away as he slipped into bed next to his lover. The promise of Luke's warm embrace brought surcease from the cold of winter's long night. Their lips met, and Tim caught a hint of candy cane.
A smile trifled then with Luke's features, and when he spoke, his voice seemed to come from the nether world between sleep and wakefulness. "I love you still." A sudden chill gripped the room. Fog puffed forth with his words, and a momentary shiver wracked his body.
Tim knew this time must soon pass. He tried to whisper, "I love you, too," but no sound would escape his lips. The candle flickered, and its glow grew bright, alluring, compelling. Weightless, Tim drifted away, toward the light and toward oblivion. He wanted to tell Luke he'd be back next Christmas, as he had returned so many Christmases past. But it was too late, and the candle's call was too insistent. Tim faded into the light, leaving behind naught but the memory of a perfect love.
Author's note: The Victorian era had a tradition of telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve. Dickens built on this by having Marley's ghost play an instrumental role in "A Christmas Carol." Indeed, even the modern carol "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" includes the line, "There'll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago."
This little story continues that now almost-forgotten tradition.
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