I can’t remember the last time I saw him standing by the window, but each time seemed to usher in unsettling news. I would walk from my bedroom, turn the corner and see him–see me–facing the distant horizon. His ghostly appearance never once sent shivers up my spine, though–perhaps because he was me–and never once did I hear him speak. Each time I would look out the window, follow his gaze, and each time I’d turn back to find no one there.
He stood there before my mother died the day after Thanksgiving.
I gathered my composure and took a deep breath, as I always did before I left my bedroom. I didn’t want to see him there, nor did I ever think that I would again. There were times when his visits were so short-lived, I’d wondered if he ever came at all. Was it just me, psychologically projecting my image down the hall, forming an ethereal visage of myself staring out the window? If so, why would I do it just prior to something bad? Was he a premonition?
He stood there before my father died on Christmas Eve.
I exited my bedroom and turned the corner, breathing a sigh of relief he wasn’t there again. Who would be next? My brother passed away when I was seven and the rest of my family was now six feet under. Maybe that’s why I hadn’t seen him in such a long time. I abhorred the holiday season, if not for the festive nature of the world around me, but for the death he–I–brought with him, brought with me.
He stood there before my wife died on Christmas Day.
I grabbed my coat and prepared to leave. Once invited to a New Year’s Eve bash, I couldn’t just refuse. Bosses have a way of volunteering you for fun, and if I wanted to remain in his good graces, I would have to pretend life was fun. Sighing, I picked up my keys and walked to the front door.
A faint hint of wind brushed against my neck. I turned to look back. There he stood at the window, staring off toward the distance. He came late this time, but I didn’t question why.
I gathered up enough strength to speak, but the words refused to leave my mouth. Instead, he turned and looked directly at me.
“Have you seen the view?” he whispered. My hair stood on end as chills ran through my body. He’d never spoken before.
“No,” I found myself saying, although I don’t really know where the words came from. “What’s out there?”
He smiled at me, then turned and looked out the window again. Slowly, I walked forward and followed his gaze like I had so many times before.
I can’t say what I saw out in the distance. Is this what he wanted to show me so many times: a lake of crimson, rocks strewn across a desolate beach and far off past the water, a mountain erupting in flames. Was this Hell? Each time I looked before, all I ever saw was the other side of the street and nothing more.
I turned my gaze away to stare into the eyes of that ghostly bringer of death.
He was gone.
With another sigh, I looked up at the clock and realized the time. If I hurried, I could still make the party in time to usher in the New Year.
But it occurred to me, then: what does it matter? I believe I know why he came.
Benjamin X. Wretlind is the author of Castles: A Fictional Memoir of a Girl with Scissors and Sketches from the Spanish Mustang. He lives in the shadow of Pikes Peak. You can learn more by reading his brand of self-therapy at http://bxwretlind.com/blog/