Time for another short fable, for those who enjoy that sort of thing.
It’s been a while since i’ve done one of these. (See previous ones under Allegory.) I find that the brevity and symbolism have a unique way of getting at something i’m feeling or experiencing.
Most times when i write these, i have an interpretation in mind, although some meanings come about in the process that i didn’t consider at the outset. (This one began with the first few lines given as a writing exercise, but soon took on a life of its own. Alternate title: Beyond Doubt.)
Please do let me know ideas or meanings that come to you from this story. I also invite you to write your own continuations of the story in the comments.
As always, thanks for reading.
The Side Door
Out for her daily walk, lovely Dubia blinked twice and looked again. Could it be?… Yes, definitely, it was Paul — walking toward her. It had been several years since their last contact. Her hands trembled as she drew her jacket tighter against the cold wind. What was he doing here?
Here on the boardwalk along the river, where she had long ago tried in vain to connect with Paul, the odorless cold now hinted at the coming snow storm.
The present light dusting had not yet made her steps uncertain, but would soon.
Away from the elements and close to her body, she carried a shivering kitten. Pausing momentarily to unbutton her jacket, she reached in and reassured the tiny creature, then bundled up tightly again to protect them both from the bluster as she strolled.
Fishing shanties dotted one side of the wood-plank walkway. On the other was the river, lined with idle fishing boats waiting for their owners to take them to their winter storage places.
Most of the diminutive old buildings had been restored, now housing cafes and other shops. Just past midday, the clinking of cafe dishes paired pleasantly with the muffled clanking of chains that moored the few remaining vessels.
Just one shanty was shabby and still, apparently abandoned. The door facing the walkway was padlocked, but there was a side door someone had left ajar.
As Dubia and Paul neared each other, she knew beyond doubt that he would not recognize her, given her metamorphosis of the past few years.
Paul, for his part, still had an unremarkable gait, a blithe indifference, and a seemingly featureless face — that’s how she recognized him.
After all this time, she could either ignore him or try yet again to engage him. It was completely in her hands — he would never know the difference.
Her heartbeat quickened slightly as the separation between them lessened. While still a few shanties away from Paul, Dubia’s mouth began almost imperceptibly to fall open, then she stopped herself and closed it firmly.
Without warning, a piercing, despairing scream shattered the dull milieu. Dubia realized a second later that it was coming from her own mouth, and felt her countenance contort in grief and confusion.
It was a cry of lament, and carried within it was the anguish of every suffering being who had ever lived and died.
It was a long time before the sound died down and all was quiet.
Finding she’d collapsed on the walkway, Dubia slowly sat up, gathered herself and gingerly opened her jacket to check on her kitten.
The winsome and barely perturbed creature looked up eagerly at her, blinked and then sneezed.
Dubia chuckled lightly, gave it a reassuring pat, and then stood and turned her eyes back toward Paul, just as he was about to brush past her.
She realized that he had not even paused in his unremarkable gait, the blithe indifference unaltered on his featureless face.
Neither the scream nor the kitten seemed to have any effect on Paul.
The familiarity of his unchanged expression steeled her resolve to let him go once and for all.
With this brutal yet calming epiphany, she silently hurried past him toward the old abandoned shanty and turned into the side door.