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What The Dickens

The Writers' Block #21 - Theme: Write in the manner of an author whose style is different from yours

In a shabby street of this town - which shall remain nameless so as not to offend, although, given a momentary pause for contemplation you, dear Reader, may perchance suggest one, yet, at this stage in the story, it is entirely coincidental and therefore needless to mention - was a door with peeling green paint that matched the cracking window frames beside it, tired, worn down by weather, use and life in general.

The weather matched the overall gloom of the place, drizzle and mist wafting by as though pondering whether to linger and add to the sad feel of the house. It concluded otherwise and drifted along on its journey passed the other, similar, downtrodden abodes.

Afront this particular slab of old solid oak stood a man, his breath adding to the dawn dampness. He was tall, enough to be able to pass through the door without much of a stoop, but too high for his meek frame to hold him upright, as he shuffled from each of his sodden shoes to the other as though dancing to an inner rhythm of jovial doom. For he was about to knock on this door and, as a bearer of bad news, was thinking of his words so as to cause as little distress as possible to the receiver whilst, inwardly, enjoying their tragedy.

His bony hands produced a rag from a trouser pocket upon which he blew his large nose. The rag had never seen better days and had, therefore, never been a fresh, new, white handkerchief. It had simply been a strip of old cloth from a dank bedsheet that had gained an unexpected use and, without being aware of the individuals that have ever slept upon it - some may have been young and innocent, others mature and sordid - it could not, if it did possess emotions, be pleased of its use now, wiping, as it did so often, this stranger’s dangling dewdrops.

The man, who we shall call Tobias Chalfont, mainly because that was the name his poor, desperate parents gave him, stared at the door, following the line of one of the paint cracks with his failing eyesight. To him it was like a view from on high, far above the clouds, looking down upon a green land with deep brown valleys slashing through it. There was no knocker or bell evident so, with a slight grimace of pleasure upon his unshaven face, he prepared to rasp on the wood with his knuckles. As his arm lifted and his fist clenched, he was taken aback by the door opening wide, a motion that caused the mist to swirl by his legs. He stood there, in a mock salute to calamity, but completely unarmed by the vision before him.

Tobias was frozen, unable to look away from the woman’s beauty. She was small and dressed in the traditional pauper’s rags, but her eyes seared into him. Beneath the ruffled hair and besmudged face, she smiled at him and all those years of hatred and anger washed away from his veins and was replaced by a purity of which he had never experienced, like how a snowdrop blossoms against the odds of harsh winter bringing warmth and joy and hope.

His legs gave way and he stumbled, sensing the spinning world overtaking him as he fell towards the darkness in his mind; but his fall was halted by her touch. She placed a steadying hand on his arm and looked at him - right at him like no one had done before, seeing him, acknowledging his very existence, accepting his gaze in return.

‘Are you Mr Chalfont?’ she asked. Her voice, calm and soothing to his ears, as melodious and innocent as a songbird’s call.

The most he could achieve was a nod, speech being quite some minutes away.

‘Then do come in. We’ve been expecting you.’

Tobias nervously stepped into the hallway and the door closed behind him.

His life, dear Reader, would never be the same from hereon in.


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