Slightly Afflicted
Signs Of Life

The following is a brief excerpt from Horizon:

Cagnes Su Mer, France

Michael Chare sat in the chair with the cat overlooking the water, dozing in the early-morning mist. The fog had rolled in sometime during the night and dropped light moisture over everything, giving everything a haze-like appearance. The sun would burn the fog off in just a few hours, but for these few remaining minutes it would seem to anyone looking at the prone man sleeping in the chair that there was a particular timelessness about the scene - almost as if the man, the chair and the small cat sleeping in his lap were suspended in time. Or perhaps from another time altogether.

The chair was perched on the hill behind a house next to a small garden. The house, which was stark white and gray marble, was really a combination of small boxes that seemed to be arranged more like a fortress than a house. The original owner of the house, the father of the man asleep in the chair, had instructed the architect to build it so it would indeed appear to be a kind of fortress, as imposing and as impenetrable. Not to keep the world out, but rather to keep what he valued highest, his loving wife, protected inside.

The house commanded a panoramic view of the Mediterranean Sea along the south of France, just west of the Riviera and touristy Nice and Cannes. It was built here at prohibitive cost not because of its proximity to those locales but because of the view and, of course, the garden.

This particular garden held a strange assortment of flowers: orchids, tulips, red and white roses, and the requisite amount of flowering ferns and tropicals. During the long summers common to the south of France the garden would bloom and thrive as if the soil was magically ingrained with only the most vital minerals needed for growth. Even during the cooler winter months, the garden never quite lost its appeal nor its capacity to astonish those few who had the good fortune to view it.

Because of the view and the garden, the land on which the house sat was worth almost twice that of the house. And the house, which would go on the market the following Monday, was worth plenty.

The man in the chair stirred slightly, causing the cat to waken. The cat looked around from his vantage point of the man's lap, then turned his head and looked up at him. The cat rose and moved to rub himself agains the man's chest, and the man subconsciously rubbed the cat's head. The cat noticed the man looking at the garden and the freshly-dug grave marked by the replanted sod and purred in both acknowledgement and a strange kind of familiar grief, as if the cat knew and understood what the man was going through now.

"I know," the man muttered, nodding his head slightly. "I miss her too."

The cat purred again, rubbed himself harder against the man.

"No, I don't think she's too lonely right now," the man continued. "She's with father now. She should be -" His voice broke as he turned to look at the cat. "- happy now." Finally, he thought.

The cat nodded slightly, the suddenly jumped off the man's lap and trotted across the yard. He then hopped over the small hedge separating this property from the next. The man watched the cat and then heard the sound of a door creaking on its hinges from next door, the sound somewhat muted in the fog.

"Michael?" an older female voice called in French across the hedge. "Are you out here?"

"Oui, Catherine. Je suis ici," Michael answered. Por maintenent, he added to himself. For now.