Light

There’s no light. I can’t see them, but I can hear them. I need to leave.

It was going to be another late night at the office, but the members of the Board, for once, simply agreed with each other. So I went home early thinking I would surprise Alice. Not with flowers, or chocolates. I would say, “Let’s go to dinner.” And she: “Oh god, we haven’t gone out in ages.” She would smile. I would smile.

But the house lights were all off — she wasn’t home. Alice couldn’t have been expecting me, so it was fair enough. My plans changed: I would cook dinner for her. Only the fridge had nothing but milk and mouldy cheese, the cupboards nothing but a box of oats. But then I was the only one of us who enjoyed cooking, and you can’t cook when you’re always working late.

I left for the shops.

The house lights were still off when I returned. I had enough groceries with me for a week of cooking now that my late nights were over. And Alice would be home soon, I was sure. I chopped and oiled the vegetables, turned the oven to 180°. My office clothes were uncomfortable for cooking in, but with the oven heating I had time to change.

My hand stopped on the our bedroom’s light switch. I could hear them. They were soft, so whisper soft, but I could hear. The lights were off. I left without turning them on.

Light

It’s finished, over and done with, completed. At times, I doubted that this moment would ever come, but the epic journey is now behind me. All of that doubt, frustration and uncertainty is behind me. Except that it isn’t.

First, there was emergence. It was time to bring the work into the light, the unforgiving light and to claim it as my own. Look what I have done, examine it and tell me my worth. As with Schroedinger’s box, darkness and uncertainty hold potential. While no-one saw the work, it could be anything. Its quality was unmeasured by external eyes, and mine were too closely entangled to judge.

Now, there is freedom. You must be so happy, people say. You must have a huge weight off your shoulders, feel lighter now. And look what you have accomplished. But it doesn’t work that way, at least not for me. All of those negative feelings were part of me. The weight on my shoulders cannot just be shrugged off and forgotten. I want to cut it away and fly, but I also want to crawl back into my safe, dark space, unconsidered by external minds, without expectations. I want to feel the weight of the familiar burdens that I know how to carry.

The ties that bind me to my safe box must be severed: I know this. I have been curled in its familiar space for too long. But each break hurts and the light that I am inching towards is so bright that I cannot look at it yet.

Light

The house is dark and silent when you’re the only one in it. Your feet move slowly, leaden; the world has a weight it didn’t have before, it presses in on you. You go through the motions of eating, but food sits in your stomach like stones. You can’t sleep with the space in the bed next to you, and the dark lies on your eyelids. In the world outside you stand shadowed and cumbersome while the chatter of others lifts and darts, like fireflies. You were warned about grief, but you didn’t expect this – this dense, tangible creature with the heavy feet.

Every morning you stand on the balcony in the cold twilight of dawn, and watch for the sun to rise. But it never does.

One day it will. You will be surprised to hear the ponderous tread ring lighter through the house. The dark, alone at night, will gradually cease to press, and will embrace you softly as it used to.  You will move out of the shadows and your words will tentatively gleam and whirl.

One day you will stand on the balcony in the cold twilight of dawn, and the sun will flood the sky with light. Your heels will lift from the stone, and you will spread your arms and rise, like the bubble of the sun, into the golden air. You are as light as nothing: you ride on the wind that blows through you. You may never stop going up.

The Gloom of Righteousness

The pain was gone at last. The rest was is easy, just head into the light and ignore the distractions of the world. Silently John congratulated himself on preparing so well. Slowly, savouring the moment, he opened his eyes.

“After all”, he thought, “you only get to die once.”

The light, the glowing doorway to eternity, was before him. John felt the warm satisfaction of being right. Jackson might have got that corner office, the girl and the BMW but one day he’ll be sitting here and know John was wise to invest in the spiritual.

As his eyes adjusted he saw Master Sighn sitting on the dirty maroon floor. Dressed, as always, in simple black cotton he looked, as always, utterly serene.

John looked up sharply and spoke, “You taught me all about the light and a place of eternal gloom but you never mentioned a maroon carpet. So you don’t know everything after all.”

“Moron,” Master Sighn uttered impassively.

“I studied at your feet for seven years; paid good money to learn to die – and you ripped me off – any idiot can walk into the light.”

“You’re an idiot,” replied Sighn, “what are you waiting for?”

This reply, delivered with such disinterest, irritated John.

“Did you ever teach me anything useful?”

“It seems I never taught you anything.”

This time Sighn’s gentle tone really upset John who snapped, “Well I might have missed some lessons but I read the book and it didn’t mention any smoky, red office cubicles.”

John sat snarling and considered all he had sacrificed: the steak he resisted; the hours of Zazen practice, endless fees and classes and the hours of practising detachment. He always hated that stuff with a passion.

Master Singh sighed quietly. He stood slowly. He walked away into the light – closing the door behind him.

The Colour Light

There are only a few of us left now.  Huddled together in the soft yellow light – the safe light.  Safe from the dark spreading out before us.  We can all see it, standing in the yellow light looking out, the heavy dark.  With its secrets.   We can’t see them but we know they are out there… Just there.  Like the cold…  The cold rolls into the yellow light relentlessly.  You can lose your eyes against the dark but the cold shatters all illusion.  But we can also see… the white light.  We see it moving in the dark.  Near, far, nearer still – every time the white light comes close, touching the yellow light, there is a moment… Who is next?  Who will leave with the white light?  Me?  The cold, the dark, the white light that leaves you behind, the waiting… But we know there is only one end – the white light.  We all know the white light will come for us but which white light will take one of us away from the safe yellow light and into the dark?  The cold, heavy dark.  With its secrets.  A white light comes closer and I know it is for me.  But I am ready…

I leave the yellow light of the office doorway and cross the white light of the car headlights to the passenger door – my lift home has arrived on this cold winter night.

Follow

12
You arrive at a crossroads. Dark clouds gather overhead, casting deep shadows. A low mist rolls over the moors that surround you to the East, South and North. To the West, the road leads up to a wind-battered inn. A wisp of smoke escapes the chimney and swirls into the fog.
In the East, over the marshes, a faint light flickers.
To enter the inn, go to 207.
To follow the light, go to 91.

91
The path twists and winds, avoiding invisible dangers. The light shimmers, more distant now. You are too slow.
Return to the crossroads? Go to 56.
Try and go on? Go to 314.

314
An old man emerges from the darkness. He carries a misshapen bundle which twitches and cries anxiously. “Do not follow the light”, he says. “That way madness lies.”
To ask about the bundle, go to 67.
To find out more about the light, go to 3.
Ignore the man and resume your chase: go to 202.

202
You are alone in the dark. The light has faded into the gloom. It is too dark to turn back; you will have to make your camp here.
Go to 159.

159
Your sleep is feverish and cold, filled with nightmares.
Suddenly, there is warmth. You sense a blue glow around you. You do not open your eyes. A small, hot hand rests on your cheek for a moment. Your dreams light up with alien beauty you will never describe.
You wake up.
A flickering light is speeding away across the marshes.

To follow the light, go to 12.

[really should have thought of a title]

I wake up with my head pounding. My eyeballs feel like hard-boiled eggs.
The bridge of my nose is sore, like it’s been squashed in a tiny vice.
A nose vice. For squashing noses.
God, I need a coffee…

I open my eyes to darkness. That’s odd.
I’m not sure where I am. I’m not at home. Or crashing on someone’s couch.
I reach out in the darkness for a switch, a lamp, something, but there’s just the floor. It’s cold and smooth.

I hear scratching and scuttling from somewhere above me. And… to the left?
Like a metal chair being dragged roughly across a freshly polished metal floor.
Now I hear some kind of whirring and clicking.
A thin beam of light appears a few metres away from me, floor to ceiling.
I sit up and look around. Dammit, I can’t see anything except the beam. Stupid beam.
My head and the ceiling have a meeting – apparently it’s quite low – so I Quasimodo my way over towards the light.

I can’t tell if it’s coming from the ceiling or the floor.
I reach out to touch it – it’s hot like a black coffee from Starbucks on a frosty morning.
I sniff my fingertips; they smell like matches.

More clicks, and another beam appears to my side.
Then another few in quick succession, circling around me.
They’re close together; I can’t get between. More whirs from above, and the circle tightens a little.

“Good, you’re awake. We can resume testing.”
Oh, this doesn’t sound good.