A Million Winking Lights
By: Kathleen Guo
There is a violent thunderstorm outside. Which, by itself isn’t strange since it’s the middle of summer. What’s weird is...it’s just—
You know that feeling? The feeling of waking up from a vivid and exciting dream and only remembering that? No context, just a sense of fulfillment. The feeling of memorizing the layout of an area so well, that you can walk through it with your eyes closed.
That. That’s what I’m feeling.
I love thunderstorms, but it’s been different ever since I had chickens. Now I need to worry about the roof of the coop collapsing in and the state of the water pit. The coop is a rickety old thing that I refurbished with some wood planks, a hammer, and some nails. It’s already collapsed once, from that flood a few days back. I rearranged it on some stilts but I have my doubts. I was never handy with wood.
My chickens hate the rain. They hate getting wet and will push and shove to get under something. But they hate the dark even more. So I always keep a lightbulb running in the coop. It runs on batteries I put in a water-proof bag. I don’t want my chickens getting electrocuted. I put a metal mesh around the lightbulb so none of them accidentally bust it. I can see the faint glow through my rain blotted window. The individual blobs of water each captured a dash of light, fracturing it into millions of bits. Light nuggets.
Anyways, the thunderstorm. As I sat in front of my computer, typing away, I got a tingle in my chest. The steady drum of rain ran through the roof and down the wall and into the floor. I felt it thudding with the force of nature. It rang in my ears and I slowly realized that I had begun typing my thoughts into the computer. I hastily spammed backspace.
I need to pull it together. I checked my watch. 11:50 PM. I’ve got ten minutes to finish this.
I tuned out the rain, the drumming, the occasional flashes of lightning, all that background noise. There was only me, the computer screen, and my fingers click-clacking away.
I was too focused to check the time. But right as I pushed the period key, ending the last word of my essay, the lights went out. I was encased in darkness. The computer was still on, the light of the electronic screen cutting through the darkness. I groaned and watched the document fruitlessly try to auto save itself. The wifi was out. I can’t even turn it in now. This is what I get for my hours of procrastination before. Stupid. I’m stupid.
As I sat there, wallowing in self pity, I noticed movement in my backyard. I sat upright, peering through the storm. Was it that cat that had stolen one of my chickens last week? No, not in this weather. Whatever it was, it was moving towards the light in my chicken coop. I got up and grabbed my jacket. I hastily threw it on and grabbed a flashlight. And a baseball bat. Just in case. I opened the back door and ran outside, accompanied by a crash of thunder.
I shouted at the thing. It was the size of a lap dog. Wrong shape to be a dog though. Rain pelted at my face and the wind dragged at my hair. I turned on my flashlight but all I could see was the rain. As I neared the thing, another flash of lightning illuminated the sky.
“You! What are you? What do you want?” I yelled above the boom of thunder.
The wind grew louder. The rain grew harder.
I stood just a yard away and whisked my flashlight beam at it.
I bristled at what I saw and jumped back.
It was...well a goblin is the most fitting word that comes to mind. It was humanoid, and hairy. With bulging eyes and a grotesque nose. It was like a nasty, little, gremlin.
My mind whirled. Now that I’d moved away, the thing was cast into darkness again. It might’ve been a wad of trash. Yeah, maybe someone’s trash can flipped over and piled up here.
A flash of lightning illuminated my surroundings and I saw, once again, that creature.
Oh, it wasn’t trash all right.
A blast of thunder.
It moved, slow and robotically, like a puppet. I heard it speak. I heard it’s voice slice through the rain and thunder. It all faded into the background when it spoke. It was all tuned out.
“You feel it, don’t you? I know you feel it. That’s why I came here.”
“What do you mean?” I answered.
The wind roared in my ears, but I didn’t hear it. The rain pecked at my skin, but I didn’t feel it.
It was like I was in...what’s the word? Limbo? No wait, that was a car. Wait—
“The feeling. The feeling that made you come out here.”
“I came out here because I thought you were going after my chickens! I love my chickens!” I yelled.
It blinked at me.
“If that was the only reason, then you wouldn’t have come out into the rain.”
I shook my head.
“Wh-what? Who are you? What are you?” I stammered.
“Someone who has felt the touch of the light and understood it’s preaching,”
I goggled at it.
It turned its head up at the heavens.
“It’s almost time,” it said.
“Time for what?” I said.
It said nothing.
Suddenly there was a loud flash of lightning. It seemed dangerously close and I jumped. All the noises returned. The howling wind, the pounding rain, and the cascading booms of thunder. The thunder was so loud I felt as if the earth itself was cracking open. Rain ran down my eyelids and I swiped it away, breathing heavily.
“Screw you!” I spat, raising my baseball bat and stepping back. “Don’t you dare touch my chickens! I’m going back inside.”
I didn’t wait to see if it said anything back. I whipped around and bolted for the door.
As I grasped the handle, I froze. My mind was whirling and I was gasping for air. I don’t know why I stopped. I mean, I kind of do in a sense. I can barely hear myself think over the rain and rumble of thunder.
There was another flash of lightning. Then an almost simultaneous blast of thunder. That means that the storm was right above me.
I checked my watch. 11:59 PM. One minute till midnight.
There was another crash of thunder. Another blitz of bright light. The individual blots of falling water each captured a dash of light, fracturing it into millions of bits.
The light fell into the dirt, and I fell with them.
I opened my eyes. I checked my watch. The rain was a light drizzle. It was 12:01 AM. My essay was overdue.