Disclaimer: The characters used in this story are not mine; they were conceived by Neil Gaiman, I presume DC Comics own them. I'm just using them for a bit of amusement.
The Sound of Silence is by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.
I'd love to hear what you think about this story. Please write a review or email me at xwingace at gmail dot com.
Hello Darkness my old friend,
I've come to talk to you again.
The words of an old song echo in my head as I walk through the familiar darkness. Darkness is an old friend. One of the few constants in my life. It's already too old for a couple of centuries to make much of a difference.
There are so few other constants. This pub I'm heading toward is one of them. It has been here as long as I have, in some form or other. The neighbourhood is decrepit now; the narrow streets still paved with cobbles while elsewhere asphalt and concrete have taken over decades ago. Neon lights were abandoned almost as long ago, yet here there is still a sign, flickering on to its end. The pub remains. Until almost a hundred years ago, I'd have held an old friend responsible for that fact. But that friend is gone, and the pub endures. As do I, Robert Gadling, together with the darkness.
I miss him. His existence was reassuring. He was someone who had been there since the beginning, and who would be there until the end. My end. Yet his end came before mine. There are others, of course. Most of them are not very interested in affairs of mere mortals. Even if those mortals happen to be immortal.
So why am I here? Have I formed a habit of coming here every century and am I just going to sit there pining for days past? Or will I remember a friend this way, like I find a way to remember all those I've lost? Perhaps I will. But there is still some hope in the back of my mind. A dream, if that is the appropriate word, that when I open that door my friend will be there, just as he always was before.
The interior of the pub is a stark contrast to the quiet dark outside. The music is loud, but people still try to talk over it. The lighting glares off the fractured mirrors behind the bar. And even though smoking has been prohibited for almost eighty years, the air still feels stale.
For a single instance my dream seems to have come true. Then the black- haired man in the black leather coat raises a tanned arm, and my disappointment can set in. I am good at fooling myself. Morpheus is gone, and I'm alone with the pub. Even the darkness has been shut out.
Still, I'm here. I might as well have a drink.
Of course all the tables are taken. I find myself a relatively quiet corner at the bar and order a glass of wine. That gets me something approaching wine in appearance and closely resembling vinegar in taste. The wine triggers the memory of the exquisite bottle the Dream King left behind when he came to apologise in advance for not being able to come our the next meeting. Hah. I would never have thought that he actually meant it.
The screech of a barstool being pulled back gets me out of that reverie efficiently enough. Some idiot is coming to sit right next to me. His white clothes and hair are all but radiant in the glare of the lights. The angry look I give him isn't enough to chase him away. He doesn't say anything, though. Just sits there next to me. As the evening wears on, the music gets quieter, then stops. The lights dim, and the stranger is still there. He hasn't spoken all evening. He keeps me company in silence.
The bartender calls out for the final round. Time to go. I raise my glass a last time to the Dream King. To the memory of Morpheus, and as a promise to return in a hundred years.
When I get up to walk away a hand on my arm stops me. The skin is as white as alabaster. I look into the face of the young man that has sat next to me this entire evening. His eyes are green stars in twin night skies and his mouth is twisted into a sad smile. He offers me his hand. With the handshake we seal a new agreement.
Goodbye, my friend. You will be remembered.
And the vision that was planted in my brain,
Still remains, within the sound of Silence.