I keep doing that thing with my eye.

I keep doing that thing with my eye.  You know, where you press your finger in the corner of your eyeball and you see a big black dot?  I’ve become obsessed with the parasitic circle of darkness surviving on a host of colour and brightness.  I suddenly become nervous to the possibility of bursting this black blister only to poison myself with blindness.  My arm has emptied of blood to warn my brain against this potential toxin.  I place my hand in my pocket, only to consciously stop myself from raising it again a moment later.

The storm outside draws my attention to something else.  Aunt Lindsey floats in, clinking ice in an empty highballs glass.

My arm has grown tired.  I keep doing that thing…

“We don’t get storms like this out west, Sean,” Lindsey informs me.  “I’ve never seen lightning like this in my life.”

“I don’t think I have either,” I reply.  “Normally our summers are―”

“Your mother said it would be sunny all week.”

“I think I heard that too.”

“What did I tell you?” my mom shouts from the kitchen.

“That it would be sunny all week,” Aunt Lindsey shouts back.

Lindsey raises the glass to her lips.  I can see the glass’s lipstick print that mirrors her cracked lips, like the movie set of a low budget earthquake scene.  My mom appears in the archway, drying her hands on a dish towel, still creased from being freshly removed from the drawer.  My arm is tired.

My mom continues, “This morning they were saying something interesting on the weather channel.  Each bolt of lightning in this storm can last for several seconds, even minutes.”

“How do they know this?” Lindsey snorts.

“Has anyone seen this?” I ask.

“That’s just what I heard,” my mom reminds us in a tone that dodges responsibility just enough to still warrant an “I told you so” if later required.

“Well, I find that a little hard to believe,” Lindsey retorts.

My mom shrugs and wanders robotically into the bathroom.  My aunt checks her glass again for more liquid.  I’m intrigued by the possibility of slow lightning.  The more I think about it, the more I feel like the very existence of it makes it possible.  If it were to not exist, it would not be possible.

I suddenly realize that I’ve been seeing two large black dots for several moments now and pull my arms tight to my sides.  I consider the possibility of Velcroing them to my hips.

There is an ominous blast that comes from outside.  My aunt jumps.

“Good Lord.  Diane, get me a drink.”  She chases after my mother, clinking like a winning slot machine.

The thunder brings with it a torrent of rainwater.

The rain brings with it a knock at our door.

“I’ve got it.”

It’s our neighbour Mary from a few doors down holding her dog, both drenched from the seconds of heavy rain.  She is wearing some sort of bright yellow rain poncho, which appears to be failing in its sole duty.

“Do you mind if Killer and I come in until the rain dies?”

“Not at all.”

Her dog’s name isn’t actually Killer; it’s Oswald.  However, it adopted the name Killer for ironic purposes because of the dog’s miniature nature.  Mary puts Killer down, who immediately scurries off, probably in search of our cat Caesar.  Mary and I sit down in the living room, becoming serenely isolated spectators of the cloudburst outside.

“I decided ten minutes ago to go for a walk,” Mary answers the first obvious question.

“Hm.”

“I was hoping to beat the rain.  And, well, you can see how that turned out.”

My mom wanders by, now drying her hands on a different towel.  “Oh, hi, Mary!” she exclaims maniacally.  Mary and I had been undisputed friends since Elementary School.  “My goodness, would you like a towel or something?”

“That’d be great, Diane.”

My mom looks around for a moment, then hands Mary the dish towel she is holding.  “I’ll be right back.  You want a drink, Mary?”

“Nah, thanks.  I’m okay.”  Mary holds the towel in suspension before wringing her hair out.

Suddenly the room is lit up as if the lights are turned up simultaneously, followed by another loud burst of thunder.

Mary hops in her seat, turning to face me.  “I heard you and Natalie said the L-word.”

I swallow.  “Yeah.  It sort of came as a shock to both of us, but, you know, the moment was right, or whatever.”

“That is so mature of you two.  I always knew you were right for each other.”

I chuckle.  “That’s the first I’ve heard of this from you.”

Mary laughs meekly.  She lowers her voice: “I hope that doesn’t mean it’s the end of us.

I nervously reach for my eye.  I glance quickly around the room.  Looking at my feet, I say, “Natalie’s great.  But I really do like you Mary.”

“I’m not forcing you to make a decision.”

“I know.  I mean, I hope not, but if I had to―”

We’re pulled into darkness by another reverberating boom.  Mary impulsively plants a kiss on my cheek and swats me on the arm.  She knocks into the coffee table as she tries to return to her previous seat.

A tap is running somewhere in the house.

My arm is tired.

We are suspended in dark silence for a few more moments before Aunt Lindsey drifts by.  “Sean?  Is your mother in there?  We were just discussing Jesus.  I think she’s losing her mind.”

“No, she’s not in here, Lindsey.  Follow the sound of running water.”

“You’re being smart now, Sean.”

Her silhouette floats away.

“I just had an interesting idea,” Mary tweets.  “You know how darkness only exists where there is no light?”

“Sure.”

“What if it was actually quite the opposite?  And right now, darkness just stormed on in here and booted all the light out of the room.”

“Both ideas are semantic.”

“No, because people always see light as dominant.  What if darkness is dominant?  We only sleep at night because that’s what we’re told.”

“Not to mention the general fatigue that accompanies darkness.  And the light does assist with the basic principle of vision.”

“Yeah, yeah.  But think of day as a prolonged burst of light.  The light eventually wears down, to its big brother, dark.  It’s all perception, Sean.”

There is a defeated silence.  I laugh for a lack of something better to say.

The power comes back on a moment later.

Mary declares, “Darkness defeated!”

“The powers of good always prevail.”

Our formless philosophizing is interrupted as Killer bounds dumbly in.  Mary swoops down and grabs Killer, who is flipped upside down as she undersides his tiny legs.  Mary teeters in her stance.

“Whoa.  I stood up too quickly.”

“Orthostatic hypotension,” I inform proudly.

“What the hell is that?”

“A head rush.  I learned about it in Psychology.  It’s a type of phosphene, which is a trick our eyes play on us.  We see light when there is actually no light.”

Mary laughs and flops herself back on her chair.  “Like when you rub your eyes and see big colour circles?  Or when someone takes a picture?”

“Basically.”

“When the darkness gets tired and retreats for a moment.”

I roll my eyes.  “Precisely.”

“Why are you always touching your eye?  Is it because you learned about phosphenes?”

“No.  I think it’s a nervous tick I recently developed.  Or something.”

“Are you nervous?”

“No, I don’t think so.  Maybe in general.  Not right now, necessarily.  I think.”

We both turn to face the window as a streak of light reaches out of the clouds like a giant tree branch arm.  It paints a hairline crack in the sky, until splitting into three and connecting to the horizon.  The giant limbs of lightning hold their pose for several seconds, before painting the same lines in reverse and disappearing completely.

The blast that follows scares away all remaining light.

Copyright (c) 2009 Joshua Nichol.  All rights reserved.
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2 Responses to “Prolonged Bursts of Light”

  1. keightylee said

    I like your stories Josh but they always leave me wondering. 🙂 Just what are they all about…I find myself randomly thinking about parts of them during my day, and at first can’t remember where I read/saw it only to finally pinpoint it back to one of your stories. You paint very vivid pictures, but like this story they are flashes of light that i wished lasted a bit longer so I could see just what the dark is hiding. Of course maybe that’s what you wanted…for your readers to wonder and think, I like it. But I also can’t wait until you come out with something longer that has a more defined beginning middle and end so that I might understand a bit better. Keep at it Josh! Your writing is Great 😀

  2. Santino Marinucci said

    Josh, you’ve got some great reading here. I stumbled across this post on Facebook and decided to read it. I like the metaphors and the animal references like “Killer” and “Oswald” chasing the cat who is ironically named Caesar. Anyways, great stuff man defiantly worth a read.

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