Lights Out #1
I had been waiting many years for that night. They were not short years either. Each one seemed to be dragging not past me, but over me. Time pinned me beneath the crushing weight of expectation.
I was waiting in my flat. You remember, I am sure, when we used to live in those buildings which reached up and seemed to touch the sky. Each person had their own little shell of brick and mortar to call home. I think you must remember soft mattresses and warm beds. I think you must still dream of them sometimes when you are lying in the dirt with your bones rattling against the cold.
I should not have been frightened that night because I was not alone. None of us were alone because we were all waiting together. Imagine every man, woman and child in the entire world catching their breath and whispering to each other as they waited for our existence to be snuffed out like a candle flame pinched between two moistened fingertips.
But you know that is not how it happened. You remember sitting on the edge of your soft, warm bed, holding hands with your family and watching the countdown on the bright television screen. Everyone you knew was there with you, waiting. That was what all of us were taught since we were born, safety in numbers.
Everything was bright, I remember. I had turned on the white electric bulb on the ceiling, the yellow lamp on the bedside and thrown the curtains wide so that pale moonlight flooded onto the carpet.
‘Can’t we have some of these lights off?’ My father asked.
‘They’ll go off in a minute.’ I replied.
The television screen was bathing our faces in a marine blue aura, as though we were swimming underwater. Sometimes I wish that was what I had been doing at that moment, swimming in the quiet ocean somewhere off a remote island. I never would have known it had happened.
You remember the small digital clock in the centre of the screen, I’m sure. I still have the image of those small, white digits gradually changing from tens to nines and from nines to eights burned into the back of my mind. Scars formed over those images long ago, but I can still feel the time ticking away. I bet you wish you had used that time more wisely.
Time kept ticking away on that digital clock counting the seconds until we were to be cut free from life and left floating in darkness. But I do not need to describe how the time passed. You still remember how to count.
‘I need to go to the bathroom.’ I said.
Someone put their hand on my arm and squeezed it in a firm, encouraging grip. It was a touch which told me I could not go, but that they would be staying with me. I have often thought that it would have been better if I had gone. Then I would have missed the whole thing. For a few minutes, it might never have happened.
Instead, I have been forced to live through every torturous, sickening moment of it. I suppose it is cruel of me to make you now live through it all again, but I do not know whether I care. I wonder if I am even capable of caring any more.
There were only fifty-nine seconds left on the clock. I did not understand. There had been an hour left when we sat down, the time could not have passed so quickly. I had things which I needed to do, people I wanted to talk to.
Thirty seconds left and I was panicking. That was not the way I wanted things to end, running out of time and not knowing where it had gone. I was so desperate for the toilet that my bladder felt like it was about to burst. My stomach felt as though it was rolling around inside me and I wanted to throw up. I was terrified.
But that is how these things are. Time passes, that much is always certain. If you do not watch it closely, or watch it too closely, as I think I must have done, then it will escape from you. Zero seconds.
Find another short story here.
Find a novel written by me on Amazon Kindle here.