The moment before

The most frightening thing is not the end, but the moment before.

Not the fall stopping, but those impossible seconds filled with life; the instant before.


The instant before when there is time to change what will happen in the end, the instant before when all the voices cry and laugh at once;

the before before the silence. 

That before: Some mathematician in glasses and a white long coat facing a green board recording fractions and numerals and letters, the data of lives, added, divided, all the threes make sixes and nines, and the twos four and four thousand; all the scribbling, the side calculations, the crossouts, all boiled down, line by line, column by column across the board and back to the start, then across again, to conclude what comes after the equal sign: Us. 

And us, having lived all that, say no. It is not that easy.

Because of that silence: It contains the echoes, the fullness of hearts, the things that hold the shimmer of eyes and the taste of tongues and your dewy wet skin; the last time the old dog turns a slow circle and knowing, rests; the last time before the breath leaves, the eyes darken, the fingers fall limp.

Oh, that last, unmeasurable thing, the fullness of loving, the rattle of pain, all the world’s feelings, compressed; the faces rise, the voices, all the knowledge of air now seen; the crust of language broken.

Yes, the broken thing that spills out the heart’s secrets, the crack that opens those hidden wounds, the words unspoken, sterile desire, the grunt of us unexpressed;

The emptiest thing not the end, but the possibility that fades, not the fingers unlinking, but the soft slide as they pull away seeking traction, finding none.

Not the walking away, but the turn, the wisp of your hair held aloft by the brief motion of your shoulder, eyes dark and cold with hurt, the weight of leaving coming, the doom of walking away descending.

The most frightening thing is not the crack left in souls and time and what spills out, but the crack closing, contents undeclared;

Not the end and the stillness, not the darkness, but the helplessness of standing as the shadow falls, the hollow of living unfilled.




About michaelstephendaigle

I have been writing most of my life. I am the author of the award-winning Frank Nagler Mystery series. "The Swamps of Jersey (2014); "A Game Called Dead" (2016) -- a Runner-Up in the 2016 Shelf Unbound Indie Author Contest; and "The Weight of Living" (2017) -- First Place winner for Mysteries in the Royal Dragonfly Book Awards Contest.
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