Shadows And Charades

Entry by: percypop

30th December 2016

His bedroom window faced east. Through the curtains, the shadow of a great oak tree moved slowly in the slightest breeze, menacing him silently. He tried to ignore it but occasionally, it scratched at the glass, trying to reach him and howled when the wind was high in winter. Summer was no better. The leaves hid the branches and obscured the view. Then, he had no way of knowing when it would reach out to touch him. The trick was to hide. If he could burrow under the bedclothes, he was safe.

He was seven years of age and knew a little about the nature of things. How flowers and plants bloomed in the spring and died in the winter. That people were frightened of things they didn't understand; how no one knew everything.

He grew up and treated all his fears in the same way. Hide. But the safe place changed. A shell of confidence could protect him. He suppressed his fears and played a role. A smiling face, the superior stare, a look of longing; all masks, worn convincingly. As time went by, it was easy to live in the charades.

By the age of fifty, he controlled a financial empire. A nod could clinch a deal; a smile sent shares soaring. If he frowned, banks quivered and stocks fell. The veneer of confidence covered his fears like delicate glass, reflecting the outer world back upon itself. He realised how fragile the cover was and took care to protect it. No one shared his life. What would happen if they discovered his real nature? The frightened boy in the bedroom. So he lived alone in a great house where servants worked during the day and stayed away at nightfall.

The shutters sealed him from the natural world but sleep came fitfully and he lay awake for many hours. His body ached to escape the layers of falsity he had laid upon it; one lie was overpainted on another so that they formed a varnish of deception.

Through a crack in the shutters, a slice of bright moonlight cut through the semi darkness. It laid a trail across the floor to the foot of his bed, drawing him to the window. He pushed back the shutters. Outside, a tall cypress tree stood, sentry stiff in the moonlight.

It spoke to him.
“Why do you sleep in the darkness of an enclosed room? Are you afraid of the night?”

“All my life I have lived so. The shadows of the trees made me afraid.”

“But I have lived here for a hundred years and never hurt you!”

“But others might!” said the man, “their shadows grow wild with the wind and claw at me.”

The Cypress tree gently swayed and seemed to say ‘Be still.’

And he understood.

Next morning, they found him pale as ashes, dead upon the floor by the window. He lay as if asleep, safe in the shadow of the tall tree.