Twilight had just gone on this lovely day in early spring, My gaze rested upon the candle which I, as per usual had lit in the dying hearth to watch over me while I slept.
I couldn’t even dream to sleep without a little flame watching over me. Despite me having seen sixteen winters and being married to one of the strongest men of the city guard, The dark still frightened me more than anything.
Chandler, My husband, had laughed at me quite a few times: “There’s a bigger chance of ye knockin’ that candle an’ burning me house down than a beast lurking in the dark” He would say as he’d mockingly pat my head as if I was some sort of child.
From within the safe confines of my bed, I watched the little candle flame dance upon the side table. It softly licked at the wax and the string in the centre, slowly burning it away into nothingness.
A soft howling picked up outside and cracked against my window boards. Chandler hadn’t come home yet and the wind sounded like it would pick up into a bit of a storm.
I sat up in bed, knowing I wouldn’t sleep while he was out there on the walls during a storm. One wrong huff could cause him to tumble down and break something, or worse. My hand reached to the lid of the candle holder and I stood up to have the wind flick her wrist at me.
The gust that followed blew the window boards open and my candle out.
Near pitch black surrounded and blinded me. “Don’t worry Caroline,” I said to myself. “The embers might still be hot.. You just have to go through one door”
My feet dragged against the floorboards, not daring to lift them up into the unknown. I closed my eyes as if the dark within my eyelids was any less scary than the one clinging onto me like the thin, white gown I was wearing.
The boards behind me creaked, and a soft cold breath blew against the back of my neck. A shiver ran down my spine, my feet stopped and I whimpered: “P-please. Don’t hurt me..”
As I stopped moving the creaking ceased too. I slowly turned around, my eyes still closed.
The same cold breath stroked against my face and blew into my gown, however as I turned the creaking moved to just behind me again.
I sighed with a shallow breath and slowly opened one of my eyes.
Nothing was there. Nothing but the open window through which a gentle breeze was still flowing.
Nothing that could jump at me with frightening big claws and yellow eyes. I chuckled slightly as I realised that the creaking was nothing but my own movement upon the planks.
The only thing causing me fear here was my own paranoia. However, luckily for me, this realisation had granted me enough courage to turn back around and stroll in the direction of the other room. The floorboards gently creaked as I opened the door in-between. Before I took a step in, I did think to myself that the room was awfully dark for one in which the hearth had burned a short while ago.
I shrugged off the thought and headed onwards.
I felt something hard and cold press against my chest and when I gazed up I distinguished the shape of a man. I shrieked and pushed the man’s steel chest piece away from me. I stumbled backwards and fell on my behind.
“Help! Intruder!” I shouted at the top of my lungs, despite living a good yard away from anyone to be able to hear me.
The man remained silent and leant forward, looming over me with his broad shoulders and a helmeted head. One of his arms fell from his side and reached out for me as he came closer and closer.
I scrambled backwards and rose the metal candleholder in front of me. Then, with his stretched hand he fell forwards, grabbing at my leg.
I quickly pulled it away and heard a clattering louder than anything I had ever heard before. I yelped and clutched my ears as my knees brought themselves to my chest.
The man stopped moving entirely, and silence took over once more. I felt a tear roll down my cheek and must have been sat there, crying for a good minute before I saw a light under the door to the right of the one I had opened.
I wiped my tears and cursed a couple of times as I became aware of what I had just done.
Not only had I lost the candleholder and my candle but I had also opened the closet in which Chandler kept his battle armour, The one he’d only wear in the times of war. I had proceeded to knock it against the back of the closet and probably damaged it as it fell over.
I sighed and scurried back onto my feet to kick open the door to the room in which the hearth was gently burning. With that light, it was easy to find both the candle and its holder.
Once I entered, I glanced around the room still a bit shook up from the incident with the armour. A smile crawled on my face as I approached the hearth after seeing no one hiding in any of the corners of the chamber.
A finger of the flames wrapped itself around the candle to allow it to burn again. “Everything is so much nicer in the light,” I said as one of the logs in the hearth seemed to agree. It sputtered slightly and allowed the gentle flames to burn more fiercely.
I grinned as I placed the burning candle upon the shelve above the hearth. I knew it was a bit of a waste but I cared not. Chandler could be home any second and I would need to make haste to the bedroom before he realised I had been waiting up for him. He hated it when I waited for him instead of going out and doing something for myself.
I enjoyed the fire though, Its heat was far warmer than anything the cold, dark outside could bring.
As I stared into the depths of the hearth I noticed how it slowly became colder in the room. The flames began dying down and it got just that tiny bit darker in the room. Afraid the hearth might die down entirely I glanced beside it. The place the fuel logs were always laid.
This time, however, there were none. The final log in the hearth fell apart and left but one tiny flame.
“You can’t let the flames die Caroline” I whispered, almost silent. I got up from my place in front of the hearth and glanced at the door behind which the storm and the dark resided. I strode towards it and as my hand touched the knob it was almost as if a different voice in my head told me: “You don’t have to go.. You can just.. Throw a bit of your own in”
I turned my head and with the light of the single flame, I saw plenty of my things that could serve as fuel for the hearth. No one would miss them, they were only mine anyway.
An old painting of my family was the first thing which caught my gaze.
“They’re all gone anyway.. why’s it matter right?” Continued this second voice which sounded so very similar to my own. The voice was right. These people lived too far away and in the year that I had lived here, they never visited. And the heat from the flames would be so nice.
Before I knew it the painting had made her way into the hearth and was greedily engulfed by this lonely flame, making little brothers and sisters to dance alongside with.
“B-brothers and s-sisters who don’t care about you” Proceeded the voice, always saying exactly what I thought. The voice had moved from inside my head to within the flames of the hearth. Still sounding like me, although shivery.
As if the heat of the hearth could not satisfy the voice.
I didn’t want to make her ask and broke a leg off of the splintery chair Chandler would always sit on. The chair would stand perfectly fine on three legs.
I lobbed the piece of wood into the flames and the voice replied: “Exactly… Chandler won’t care… He rarely does”
She no longer sounded cold and seemed rather pleased with the fact that I was feeding her.
I moved to sit down in front of the flames again and the flames protested. “Just-… A little more, please… You can miss it.”
“But you already took enough!” I sputtered, not wanting to feed the voice anymore.
As the storm outside seemed to become harsher the fire and the reach of the light became smaller again.
A shiver ran up and down my back as I noticed how cold the room was without the fire burning at her brightest. A quick glance through the window and onto a bird struggling to fly through the wind deterred me from trying to get more logs from outside.
“I’m too cold..” synchronised both me and the voice from the hearth.
“I need more light in this dark,” I said.
“I need more food to shine brightly” Snarled the voice in return.
Slightly startled by the sudden change of attitude I reached out for the remainder of the chair and threw it in, not bothering to snap it into pieces.
The voice did as she promised and roared a light which filled the house all the way to the open window in the bedroom. However, she only did so for a second or five.
“More. You’ll never have to be in the dark again”
The hearth took the shelve on which the candle was still stood, flickering gently.
“More… You’ll never be cold again”
I ran to the bedroom and found the blade which came with the broken set of armour on the floor. As I entered the room I saw that the hearth had already devoured most of the shelve.
I quickly swung the blade into the table. The hearth flickered, struggling to remain on.
I struck again, hoping the table would give in before the flames would.
“Please… Hurry.. I can’t hold out much longer” Begged the hearth.
I unleashed a flurry of weak strikes upon the thick wood until just in time it snapped in half.
“-.. Goodb” Just before the hearth could finish her words I shoved the table half into its hungry jaws and the other very soon after.
“Please.. stop taking things so fast!” I yelled as the room became emptier by the minute.
I sniffled as the other shelves got taken. I cried when I burned the mattress upon which I slept every night. I howled when all which was left was the little candle which had always guarded me at night.
“.. Not this. Everything but this” I begged as the tears streamed down my face.
“Give in.. The candle is not worth the darkness or the cold” Replied the hearth, stern and fierce.
“No.. I don’t want to!” I shouted no louder than a whisper.
“It’s the only way!” Roared the hearth.
As the candle slipped out of my hand and got taken by the fire everything turned black.
The darkness had returned. The hearth had burned out.
Chandler headed down their cobbled path, a torch in one hand, a bouquet of picked flowers in the other. The storm had delayed him for a couple of hours and to make up for it, he had delayed himself for another few minutes to pick some flowers for the woman he loved more than anything in this world, his Caroline. Her smile was like a rising sun on an open field and her scent was enough for Chandler to fluster into bliss.
He opened the door. The torch and the bouquet turned upside down as his lifted arms dropped by his side. The room had been changed around: A small painting of her family was lay on the table beside which a note was placed. A leg of the chair had been cut off with his own blade and right above it hung sweet Caroline, a noose around her broken neck.
The note read:
“I’ve always been but a flickering torch by your roaring hearth but recently it was nought but a candle of which the wick was wet. I don’t want to be alone anymore, I’m sorry.