Lighting the Candle
"So let me get this straight... you're... literally a candle?"
"And you can actually choose whether your wick is lit or not?"
"So then why live in darkness? I feel like this must get pretty annoying after a while; I mean, I've only been here like 30 minutes and I'm already sick of it!"
The old candle let out a loud guffaw, "You'll get use to it. I used to look, in my youth. Realized I was burning through myself too fast though. Now I just embrace the life I was given."
The girl, who still had no idea where she even was, paused for a moment. "Burned through... yourself?"
The candle chuckled, "Don't tell me ya don't know how candles work?"
The girl immediately snapped out, "Of course I do! I just... hadn't thought about the price of using your light, that's all." She stopped to take in a deep breath. "Where are we, anyway?"
Soft sounding footsteps echoed out of the darkness as the candle began to walk. He called back to the girl, "Well come on, I'm not just gonna stand around. You want answers? Then you better keep up!"
The girl ran in the direction of the sounds until she bumped into the candle, knocking them both over. The old timer huffed, "Watch it!"
"How can I watch it when I can't see?!" The girl shot back.
There was a long silence. The girl wondered if she'd offended her new friend, but her concern was washed away as laughter boomed out of the candle. He reached a hand out and patted the girl on the shoulder. She jumped slightly, not expecting his hand to feel so... mushy. "Can't argue with that!" The candle said, pushing himself back onto his feet. He started walking again. "We're in what you'd call a 'parellel dimension.' You are human, ain't ya? Sure felt human."
The girl laughed, "Ya, I'm human alright! Weird that you know about us but I had no idea you existed! I mean, I knew candles were a thing of course, but not-"
"Ones that can talk?"
"Yeah..." The girl sounded somewhat embarrassed, as if she were afraid she'd insult his entire race through this conversation.
"How'd you get here anyway?" The candle pressed, still continuing to walk in some unknown direction.
"Well..." The girl pondered, "I'm not really sure. I remember being at home... And I remember lighting some candles, y'know, for atmoshpere and all that jazz. And then before I knew it, I was here!"
The candle stopped walking, causing the girl to bump into him again. This time they both stayed upright, "Tell me, when you try to remember how you got here, do ya see some sort of... bright light?"
The girl thought hard, "Now that you mention it, yeah, I do remember that! What's it mean?"
A sad sounding sigh escaped the candle, "It means..." He hestitated. When next he spoke, his voice had gained a cheery tone, "It means I gotta show you a good time while yer visiting!" He paused again, "But if I'm to do that, I should know what you look like."
A flame suddenly appeared in the darkness, illuminating a small circular area around the candle. A girl of about 19 stood bathed in the light, her long brown hair reflecting the flames like some sort of odd colored mirror. She moved to shield her eyes, not being prepared for the sudden light. Just as quickly as the flame appeared, it was gone. The candle spoke up once more, "Name's Mortimer, by the way. And you are?"
The girl piped up, "Courtney! It's great to meet you, Mortimer! A little warning on the light would have been nice though..."
Soft footsteps once again filled the air as the two walked on. Courtney addressed Mortimer with a quizical tone, "Hey, why did you say you had to show me a good time?"
Mortimer cleared his throat, "Girl I'm gonna level with you - I ain't ever been much for beating around the bush - you want the truth that may hurt, or you want to just enjoy our time together and not worry about the why?"
Silence once again over took the conversation as Courtney considered the two options. Finally she said, "I want to know."
A moment passed, and then the flame was back. "You're dead. Or rather, dying. Don't know why, but for some reason when some of you humans die you get a brief glimpse into other dimensions before finally passing on fer good. Guess you got stuck with me."
Courtney stopped in her tracks. "Dead?" She began to cry. How could she be dead? Unless... "The bright light. The candles. I died in a fire, didn't I?"
A low murmor accompanied Mortimer's reply, "That'd be my guess, yes. Look, Courtney... I don't know how you ended up with me, but I can't let your final moments be spent in the dark like this. I haven't been walking for no reason. Just trust me, we're... we're almost there."
The rest of the journey was a quiet one. Mortimer kept his flame on the whole time, just enough to create a circle of light surrounding the two companions. After a few minutes, he stopped and made a gesturing motion with his arms. "You ready?"
Courtney nodded. Suddenly the flame burst into life, illuminating the area. The girl's eyes filled with wonder as she took everything in. It was like a rolling desert, but instead of sand the world was composed of some sort of rainbowy glass-like material. It caught the light from Mortimer's flame, creating dancing shows akin to the aurora borealis all around them. In the distance tall spires of crystals dotted the landscape.
Courtney gasped, "It's all so... beautiful. I can't believe all of this is hidden in the dark. It's such a shame."
Mortimer chuckled dryly, "Yeah, it really is. Take it all in, girl. I can't offer you much, but hopefully this is something for you to enjoy."
A smile filled Courtney's face, "It's wonderful, Mortimer. Thank you. Thank you so much." Tears streamed down her face. "You know, I'm-or I guess, I was an artist. I painted things like this, but I never imagined places like this could be real. This is truly a dream come true."
The two walked around, taking in the sights, until Courtney began to feel tired. She sat down, but was surprised to find her energy wasn't returning to her. Realization struck within minutes, "I can't recover, can I? I'm running out of time."
Mortimer winced, "I'm afraid so, girl. Won't be long now... But hey-" He gestured to himself, "you won't be alone in it."
For the first time, Courtney realized her friend had been shrinking. He was now littler more than a stub. She moved to extinguish his flame, but he pushed her hand away. "No, you'll die too!" She yelled.
The candle smiled, "My life has been a meaningless one. I worked so hard to keep myself alive, never understanding why my friends and family let themselves burn out so young... You finally made me understand. What's a life spent in darkness? I may be old, but I didn't live. This, these moments with you, taking in the world's beauty; this has been living. And I thank you for that."
Courtney started to protest, but she found her strength failing rapidly. Mortimer shushed her gently and motioned for her to lay down. The two lay side by side, staring up at the watercolor-like sky. Courtney took the candle's soft hand gently, "Thank you, Mortimer. I can't imagine a better way to have spent my last moments." As the last of his wick burned out, Mortimer laughed and said, "Me neither, girl. Me neither..."