Midnight

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Midnight  (1929) 
by Robert Ervin Howard
First published in The Junto, an amateur journal, September 1929

Red leaned his elbows upon the table and cursed. The candle guttered low. The bottle was empty, and a slow fire coiled in our brains--the fire which devours and consumes and destroys but never leaps into full wild flame.

I looked at Red with bleared eyes. He hid his face in his hands. He was thinking of a woman he knew. The cards, greasy with handling and stained with whiskey and candle tallow, lay scattered between us. The desire for gambling was gone, and there was no more whiskey.

"Cheer up, Red," I said. "Listen--I'll tell you: Somewhere in the world the sun is coming up like a red dragon to shine on a gilded pagoda; somewhere the bleak silver stars are gleaming on the white sands where a magic caravan is sleeping out in the ages. Somewhere the night wind is blowing through the grass of a mysterious grave. Somewhere there is a gossamer sailed ship carving a wake of silver foam across the dark blue of the Mediterranean. This isn't all, Red."

"Oh, Christ," he groaned, reaching for the empty bottle, "I wish I had a drink."