Jurica is currently a student at the University of Zagreb, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. An amateur writer and a football fan.
A man was lying beside a fireplace out of shiny, white marble, as close to it as he possibly could to keep himself at least partially warm. The marble-built fireplace was the only source of heat in that spacious, vast house he was in. The house was huge and so, so cold. Thick walls kept out the heat from surging in, even if there was a little of it outside. It couldn't have been winter nor summer, in fact you couldn't say what time of the year or even day it was. All the creeks, fields, land, and trees outside the house were consumed by some thick black mass that could only be referred to as darkness. However, even if the world around the house was consumed by darkness, the house itself was fine, even more so, it remained untouched. The man inside was safe from being consumed yet so cold. He felt that he'd rather be consumed by this darkness than suffer from unbearable cold but he wanted to live, he wanted to find a way to keep breathing and not be consumed. Marble was shining at him, giving a distorted reflection of his pain-ravaged face looking inside the fireplace where the last few logs were about to burn away.
Seeing the fireplace screaming for some more fuel to keep producing heat, he looked around. There was nothing he could see that would help. Burning his cotton shirt would just be stupid, and there was nothing else in his line of sight. He was tired but he knew he had to find some wood or logs or anything else that will burn and keep the fire going while he’d be asleep. Since stepping outside was madness, he decided to get up and search the house he was in first. A house this big surely has got to have something useful!
He got up and started to walk away from the fireplace. As he went farther and farther away it was getting colder and colder. His fingers were freezing, his whole body was shivering but he needed to keep going to help himself. There was no known reason as to why it was so cold, it was like the darkness outside had sucked up all the heat. He remembered a movie he had watched last week: “Cold spots”. Cold spots everywhere indeed! He forgot what it was exactly about, but he knew the title and the general premise. He watched it with his friends and family, and wished they were there to help him now. It would be so much easier if he wasn’t all alone here. Maybe they were consumed by the darkness, maybe not. He didn’t know what happened to all of them. Did he care? Well, yes, but there was no time to think about that now- he had to focus on the task at hand- searching for something that will burn.
The house, as we already know, was very spacious. It had just two floors and an attic, but so many rooms and hallways. It was much wider than it was taller, built centuries ago from bricks and stones just like a fortress. The man searched every corner, opened every drawer he could see, went into each room twice, but couldn’t find anything that’d help him. He searched both floors thoroughly but he could see nothing. House seemed empty like an abandoned ship in the middle of an ocean. A devastatingly cold ocean that is. The man wasn’t only freezing from the cold now, it hurt. Badly. Nevertheless, he couldn’t give up. Maybe there was something on the attic, he thought. He went up to check it out.
There was no time to search it as thoroughly as he did the rest of the house earlier, and luckily, he needed not to. In the first drawer he opened with his blue-ish hand, he found an album. Not something overly useful, it seemed, but he opened it and saw photos. Paper photos of him, his family and friends. He didn’t understand how that could be possible. This wasn’t his house- or any house he knew or could recognize. So how? He had no idea at all. Does it really matter right now? Not really- so he stopped trying to figure it out.
He looked at the photos closely. His friends, family, himself. Happy and together, unlike now when they’re all gone, maybe dead, maybe not. He was alone and had to worry about himself now. He knew it right away. Burning those photos was the only way to survive, the only way to retain the fire in the fireplace downstairs. Yet, it was hard. Very hard for him to burn the only memories of the good times he had. What is left then? If a man has no memories, he’s just a shell. An empty one, obviously. Those memories are what made him human. But those are just photos, the memories will remain, right? He gets to keep them. But what if he doesn’t? What if he loses his soul by doing this? It was a weird house, weird darkness outside, it was so cold when it shouldn’t have been. So, who knew what else could happen to him? His thoughts were all over the place and nothing made sense to him anymore. He was holding some of the photos with a baffled look on his pale face.
His own will to survive was decided in the end. Confusion and uncertainty couldn’t stop him. It was way too cold to just keep standing on the attic, so he grabbed the photos and went downstairs as quickly as he possibly could.
Standing in front of the fireplace and seeing the fire fading to nothing, he dropped the photos into it. They ignited the fire more than they should have and burned out brightly. Ashes were all that was left. Ashes, fire, the house and one lone man inside it. A man who was so exhausted that he collapsed in front of the fireplace.
As he woke up, there was no fire nor fireplace, and it was not the same house that he found himself in a while ago. He looked outside the small window and saw nature bathed in glorious sunshine. There was no darkness here, wherever he was. This house also seemed a lot smaller and warmer. He wasn’t cold anymore, on the contrary, he felt warm and full of life. Looking around, he saw something like a box lying on the floor next to him. A photo album, as he looked at it closely. A different one. As he was looking at the photos inside, he recognized nothing and no one. No one but himself.
Thank you for reading! Comments are very welcome :)
© 2018 Jurica Babic