A quiet, unassuming man, he had no family- that he would speak to me of, at least- no job, for his retirement was a cosy one, no vices that might barter a year of breath for a night of brazenness, not even a hobby peculiar to men built as him- for he was built right between the jolly, redfaced heftiness of a woodcutter, the wiry, bearded strength of a fisherman, or the stately, supple grace of a watchmaker; as he opened the door that morning, he greeted me with a pensive smile, and took my hand with his own, as wrinkled as the book-spines on his shelf, and callused as the logs that made the walls of his cottage in the mountains.

The only luxury he truly seemed to need, I noticed as I entered, was the camera perched snugly atop the sturdiest shelf nailed into wood perhaps older than either of us, surrounded by ancient books and illegible papers, yellowed as the eyes that read them, strewn across the table, and a tea set which he looked at with that indescribable melange of contrition and nostalgia; and as we had tea, he slowly turned his thoughts to laughter, and our first meeting filled many a mountaintop minute with the heartiness of two with much between them yet, inexplicably, more to share.

Then up on last of the rays of the sun climbed the night, and the sky darkened, and the fire now gave us tea, warmth, and light; and I rose, and smiled, but he smiled and said to me- "no, lassie, let me show you something now- my life's work, if you will", and then the door opened- but it was he who was outside, and I was left a- amazed, perhaps- adrift, now that I think of it- but then again, retrospect never made things clearer.

And so it was that on the first night of our meeting, he took my hand again and brought me to the top of his cottage, and the ancient camera, his singular pride, joy, and love, sat upon a tripod on the roof; then he motioned to the city that lay below us, massive and corpulent, red and radiant in its bloatedness, and he sighed and took pictures of the sky, the stars, and the hills; and though he tried his best, the lights of the city always found their glare into the corners of the lens, like- like some mere tourist gazing the camera, oblivious to the wonders that lay behind them, the light glinting of their teeth like it were some trophy of theirs.

"Behold the works of Man, as many as they are terrible", he said to me, and I could only nod mutely as he sighed once more, and started to take down the tripod; but as he fastened the last leg, there rose a terrible silence in the air, tenuous and tenebrous, and suddenly the light of a million homes went out as surely as the fire below his stove; and all of a sudden, the only lights in the sky were a million patters and a waning moon, and the only gleam that the world returned shone off the burnished silver of his camera.

In that moment, his eyes widened as a child's, and he laughed, and cried, and forgot about me, and in the glorious darkness he worked with the fervor of a man who had seen that he had spent the first three years of his life babbling and wetting himself, and that he very well might spend the last three years the same way; the tripod went up, and then the camera, and in those few minutes, a lifetime's dream came true as he photographed the night in all its unsullied glory, the glory of a million stars, the blackness of the sky, and the shadows of the hills upon a sea that whispered on the breeze; and when he had taken the last picture, he merely smiled, recalled that I was there, and took my hand another time- and he said, "please have them developed for me", and coughed his last laugh into the coldness of a night that was the closest he ever felt to warmth.