Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: Guard Your Heart( 06/08/12)
Glen of Demise
By Hugh Houchin
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As Tartmouth left the kitchen, he grabbed a beer from the fridge and headed for his recliner. His recliner, a microcosm of his life, sat in the living room. His recliner sported bald spots and broken springs, suggestions of an attempt to support the dead weight of a fruitless existence. It faced Tartmouth’s escape; a television set. His remote, with most of the inscribed numbers worn smooth, lay on an end table an arm reach away; a symbol of an unresponsive life trying to find the channel of fulfillment.
An onslaught on the can of beer drained it, and Tartmouth leaned his torso against the back of the recliner. He fell asleep; his raucous snore, a possible indicator of his inner torment, belied any peace sleep could bring.
A sign above the wide gate fronting the pathway read, “The Glen of Demise.” He wondered where he was, where the path led, and what the sign meant. He looked for a clue or another path but to no avail. “Have only one option,” he said, and entered through the gate, to encounter the yawning path.
He began his trek and the width of the path allowed Tartmouth plenty of walking space. However, the thick tangled vegetation along the sides and over the pathway limited his vision, which gave him an eerie feeling. He felt unprotected and that he wasn’t alone.
Something brushed his chest and caught his eye. “What are you?” he said, flailing his arms to fend off the attack. As the onslaught intensified Tartmouth observed his attackers were like placards, with destructive words on them; words like “cruel,” “disgusting,” “despicable,” “destroy,” and “demeaning.” The word-entities attacked his chest like they were after his heart. Terror descended on Tartmouth when he grasped the plot of this one-act scenario; the word-entities were characteristics of his heart and portrayed him.
An impromptu cry of relief reverberated from deep within his knowing heart, as a new and larger word-entity, “It is Complete,” burst onto the scene. This placard, larger and more powerful than the others, began to shield his heart from the other placards and they retreated before it. Likewise, Tartmouth could not resist its potent force. “I give up,” he said. “Please protect me,” and he folded to the ground.
Sometime later he regained consciousness and looked around him. He lay in a dense green pasture adjoining a lake of motionless water. He felt an invite, and rolled into the fringe of the waters cool refreshment. It soothed and saturated him with peace. He put his hands across his chest and felt the solid, rhythmic beat of his heart. He lay there safe and secure.
Tartmouth opened his eyes. His shirt, pants and parts of his recliner were damp with perspiration, and on the arms of his recliner his arms lay still. His eyes searched the room for nothing in particular but fell on a piece of notebook paper, which lie next to his worn-smooth remote on the end table. He picked the paper up.
The note read: “Tartmouth, you pushed my button one to many times. This dream is over.”
Tartmouth sagged deep into his armchair and his mind whirled. He knew his wife would be at her mother’s house and would not speak to him; a replay of previous panoramas. He would call and leave a message, as usual. The substance of his dream, though, confronted and confused him. He had to sort it out. He knew the future of his marriage, and his life for that matter, resided in that dream.
He did, however, have a place to start. He would begin at the safety and security he fel in the fringe of the lake; adjoining the dense green pasture.
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