A breeze, and with it the scent of balsam, caressed him as he stood in the doorway of the ballroom. The large chamber was decorated like a hall of the harvest, sprinkled with festive trappings and garlands of fall flowers. To the left, several musicians prepared for the night's revelry, arranging their chairs and tuning their instruments; playing lively little tunes to the empty hall and the flowers. A group of tables stood clustered to the right; empty now, but the evening would find them overflowing with food and drink. At the far end of the hall, a fountain murmured. Water flowed from the pitchers of three maidens, each as lovely of face and figure as had ever been captured by artist's brush or sculptor's chisel. And the smell of flowers drifted by him.
The flowers of the harvest.
The flowers of life.
Life. That was what would be celebrated here tonight.
Life in all of its glory, all of its wonder, all of its beauty. Music would play, dancers would whirl, people would laugh and love and live. It was what these decorations were all about. Life.
The man turned from the doorway, eyes cast downward. ''Life,' he thought, 'a celebration of beauty and joy; a gift given us by the gods.'' He remembered the words that he had been taught as a child, not so many years ago.
And the memory made him sad.
Later, as the musicians played and the dancers spun, the man stood alone, expressionless, in his small room. From there he could hear the music drifting on the evening breeze. In his mind's eye he could see the dancers in their graceful movements. He could hear them and he could see them, but he could not feel with them. The celebration of life was...