Sunset’s Hope – a short story
This little gem was tasked to me during one of the workshops I attended. Well, perhaps not exactly as is. See, the assignment was to take the image we were given, a travel poster of sunset over Venice, and use it as inspiration for a short story. Well, as with all the assignments I’m given, nothing ever turns out exactly the way anyone plans. Although, I have to say, by the end of the month long workshop, the instructor knew full well to expect the unexpected from me!
So with a fresh edit, here’s the story I created out of that inspiring image.
No scuffling of footsteps, ruffling of fabric, or growling from Herk precedes the sudden pain inserted into the breath of space between Valentino’s ribs. He gasps, inhaling the not-so-subtle aromas of alcohol and sweat, almost tasting the odors as they permeate his lungs. A rush of fear drowns out the harsh whispers to grab the cash. Herk’s pain filled yelp momentarily breaks through the confusion in his mind.
Where’s the harness? Fingers open and close in search of the missing hardware. Someone frisks him roughly and pulls out the wallet from his back pocket before releasing him. There’s a moment of weightlessness, like he’s floating in water or suspended on clouds. Gravity once more takes hold. His head bounces off the unforgiving concrete with a bone jarring crack, further muddling his thoughts.
“Bah, twenty dollars? Not even a credit card or goddamned points card! I thought you said this guy was loaded?”
Valentino can’t believe what he’s hearing. Loaded? If living in a bachelor apartment on social assistance is loaded, he’d love to know where all his money is. Funny what you think about when you’re dying. Dying, yes, that’s it. How can he not be? His fingers search for the intruding object. A sharp blade slices into the delicate skin. The sting takes his mind off the fact that he can’t breathe. A strangled gurgling emerges with his next inhale. Must have hit a lung. An item hits him in the face. It smells of old leather and cigarettes. The material, he knows, is ripped in one corner. Herk once used the wallet as a chew toy. It’s now twenty dollars lighter.
His breathing emerges in shallow gulps, he knows he’s about to pass out. A scrabbling of claws against the pavement draws Valentino’s attention. A cold, wet nose nuzzles his cheek. He’s unable to do more than place a blood-soaked hand into the dense fur of Herk’s neck, requiring all his remaining energy to fight for the next breath. If he can only survive until help arrives. Help. What time is it anyways? What does it matter, the world is dark, it’s always dark. Perhaps it’s too dark for help.
Light floods his vision, a gentle glow that’s unlike anything anyone’s ever described. This must be the sun. At least, it’s exactly what he imagines when they speak of that warm ball which paints such wonderful canvases on the horizon. Buildings sprout along the banks of a river, houses with a sense of timelessness and mystery built into the very stone. Hazy reflections play upon water as smooth as a mirror’s surface without the hint of cold he associates with those panes of glass. The sky, for that vast expanse above the water can be nothing else, displays colors he doesn’t have names for. They evoke memories of sweet foods, like cotton candy melting on your tongue and all the strawberries you can stuff onto a vanilla Sunday.
The calming sight draws him away from his body, away from the pain and the dizziness in his head. Herk’s beside him, a soothing presence guiding him, as always, into this new world. “Look boy, look at the light!” Herc nuzzles his hand in affection, as if to say I see it, isn’t it wonderful? The last of the light fades beyond the horizon and still they watch, revelling in the peace of their passing. Night gradually descends upon them, inviting the stars to dance upon the still waters.
No, it’s only beginning.