Home » Short Stories Jamestown NC » The Open Door

The Open Door


A plume of smoke clouded the air as a mass of black, burnt gunpowder filled the nostrils and streaks of orange, blue and red swam together in a sinister dance of folly chiding the smoke to retreat as if stillness would take the scene and birds would sing against the backdrop of honeysuckle and hickory trees once again. A cold air rushed through. It was as if September had given way to November in the blink of an eye and the earthy smell of musty fallen leaves and wet clay bathed the senses from the forehead down to the jaw accompanied by a throbbing pain. A pain of bloody relentless torture that seized every good thought and held the feeling of relief and closure hostage.

Out from the right eye, turned so slightly upwards against the mounded clay where breath was laboriously choking dirt and blood, a Confederate flag waved proudly, its torn edges and disheveled appearance mocked its own reality. And then it happened quite so suddenly, on the battle field behind the flag a bit, a door appeared open perhaps, from a nearby home or building of sorts. A light of warmth glowed from a crack in the door, perhaps a fire, or perhaps a place to dress the wounds and warm the soul. A spark of life grew and the agonizing decision became born to move , to crawl through fire, smoke and suffering to the door, the light, the warmth.

The pain subsided for a moment and the muddled taste of blood and dirt became like wine. How sweet it was if only safe passage could be bartered to the open door. With an out stretched hand, the mix of sun and smoke glittering as gold through fingers arched to take hold, the knob came first. A rusty old knob held the hand and beckoned inside, a push forward then another, the fire glowed ahead, beyond the crack a small distance, such a bright light of peace and comfort. It seemed a weightless effort embarked upon by such a soul that life itself did not want it yet there it was in all its glory, and the light greater than imagined, behind the open door.

Hesitant a bit, looking back , the maddening swirls of red, orange and black became so constant almost shadowy in nature and ahead the warmth beckoned with a complete hope of redemption for the days troubles. And then it came, quite so suddenly, the smell of earth and fire, and the sound of canon and comrade, so very real again as a cold flow of blood fell silently from the lower jaw, only for a moment though that didn’t live as long as moments usually do .

Lieutenant John Yeates lay dead on the very mound of clay and dry leaves upon which he had been shot earlier by enemy fire, his face almost buried in the dirt with arm and hand peculiarly outstretched upon the ground in the direction of an old abandoned barn some distance away.

-Desmond Shay Oliviart


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