The rain slid silently down the grooves of the old Victorian brick, saturating the little house from the outside in. Soon, there will be droplets cascading from the creaky ceiling and filling the various pots and vases placed strategically throughout the house.
A man, small of stature and voice, sits by a crackling fire in his warm, dry nook. His wife’s loveseat stares at him from across the room, unattended with a coating of dust upon the upholstery. He stares back, imagining what he once had, still there with her knitting and soft smile. He shakes the image from his mind and stands, wondering how he got here, how his life became so colourless and empty.
Beside the abandoned loveseat is a small, dusty crate of fine paints and brushes, untouched since she was too sick to continue. The Little Old Man glances over as he walks past, a heavy weight in his stomach. The constant numbness he lives in seems to fade for an instant, but then seven years of loneliness comes crashing down, suffocating his rationality. His mind darts to the small shelf in the bathroom. Her shelf, holding the rainbow of bottles that promised relief. Relief with an expiry date. That’s what he needs; just a bit of colour, just a bit of relief. He carries his tired body to the bathroom, navigating around the now-full rain catchers placed on the floor. He reaches the shelf, admires the array of colours, colours like the ones his wife had placed on a canvas before she had to ingest them to keep her heart beating. He takes a bottle and pops the cap off. Bright yellow stares up at him from inside, yellow like the sun. Just as he’s about to put a whole bottle full of sunshine in his mouth, a crash of thunder startles the sunshine out of his grip, spilling onto the tiled floor. As he crouches down to pick them up, he notices a small creature huddled by the base of the sink, tucked into itself. The elderly man reaches out and lightly touches the animal’s exposed side. The animal shudders, then slowly untucks itself to accept whatever grueling fate has come its way. The man is rigid for a second, realizing there is a baby hedgehog on his bathroom floor.
The Little Old Man does what any sensible person would do; he waits until the storm passes, then carefully coaxes the creature out and into the forest behind his house. During his walk back, he pauses and looks out at the trees, the layers of green glowing with streams of sunshine peeking through. Sunshine. His thoughts drift to the sunshine still sitting on his bathroom floor. How nice it would be to feel relief from this endless cold that leaves him shivering with tears every night. Suddenly, he hears a rustling break through the silence and begins to back away, retreating into the house. But wait. Oh. It’s back. It must be hungry.
During the spring weeks following that instance, the baby hedgehog made an appearance at the Victorian house every day, for the Little Old Man left a dog biscuit for him. Each morning, the Little Old Man would emerge from his home with a small book of Sudoku and a ballpoint pen, ready for his daily visitor. The creature gave him something to wake up for, feeling that if no biscuit was left, the hedgehog would be left to the careless world to fend for itself. He wouldn’t have that. They were companions now, him and little Elliott the hedgehog.
One warm day, as summer approached, he caught himself drawing on the corner of his Sudoku puzzle as Elliott enjoyed his biscuit. The sketch looked slightly hedgehog-like. He silently went inside and sat in his chair, eyeing the old crate of paints. He slid it out and began to search through it. He gingerly picked up each item in the crate until it was empty and memories of his wife surrounded him on the floor in every colour imaginable. He picked up a battered pad of paper, a charcoal piece, and returned outside with an inspiration. An inspiration named Elliott.
Years passed, and the Little Old Man grew to enjoy the promise of tomorrow rather than dread it. Early mornings meant quiet, colourful horizons as the sunshine poured itself into a new day. As the feeling of emptiness subsided and the sun took its place in the clear sky, the small easel perched on the cobblestones would be acquainted with a fresh canvas as the man patiently waited for his Elliott. Passing the time became a comfort rather than a sentence, and every day the Little Old Man grew more and more thankful for the hedgehog. His hedgehog, the one who showed him the sunshine before he swallowed a handful of it. His Elliott, the one who saved his life.