The Brightness, Part 1

A New Short Story

Installments to come every other day until completion.

The closet that Paul’s mother locked him in smelled like dust and rotten mint. He smelled it after he was done screaming, crying, begging his mother to open the door; after that, his nose sharpened in the way the non-visual senses did for a blind man. It took about two minutes for his eyes to become accustomed to the dark, and when they did, he figured the odor probably came from old mothballs that had long lost their potency. Sometimes when he was inside, he imagined that the tingling he felt on his fingertips, on his arms, were the feathery wings of moths brushing against his skin.

But Paul couldn’t tell, because it was too dark. All that was left for him to do was to heave some sobs–his throat had long given way to hoarseness–and wait for the door, the light, to open his eyes again. He swore from early on that he would NOT think about whatever Bad Thing it was that supposedly landed him there–coming home late from school, a bad report card on penmanship, the teaching calling again to say that he wasn’t doing the exercises in PE but playing with a ball by himself. It was the last one again this time. She had told him to think about what he had done. And again, he would refuse.

The dark still scared him, but he was used to it. He waited for a while.

Paul stood up. He felt the sleeves of shirts and coats stroke his arms. He could tell by the touch of the fabric that on his left were his mother’s old, probably moth-eaten silk blouses, and on his right were the fake fur coats that she wore during the winter, made of a harsh, spindly synthetic fur that stung his skin. One day he had wandered into the closet, when his mother hadn’t come home yet from work and he was by himself, and looked at his constant companions in the light. Now, he tried to imagine seeing them in the dark. There were the two buttons on the shirt–right, there, he had them between his fingers. There was the pocket of the fake fur coat–he dug his right hand into it, finding nothing. He knew most of the other clothes beside them too, even though none of them belonged to him.

He squeezed his eyes shut, and then opened them. It made no difference. He reached impulsively for the knob of the closet door. He missed and banged his fingers on the door, sending a loud knock in the closet.

“Ten more minutes!” his mother shouted. She sounded like she was in the next room. Somewhere far away.

Paul felt the tears welling up in his eyes again. The air felt oppressive and suffocating in this darkness. He tried to reach for a light cord hanging down from the ceiling, even though he knew he couldn’t reach it with his 8-year-old height, yearning to be able to somehow find one box that he could stand on even though he knew there wasn’t one, longing for somehow, magically, a light–

A faint flicker danced in front of his eyes for less than a second. It looked like an elongated white spark, a tiny white thread that flashed just above his outstretched fingers. He knew it was light and not his eyes, because in that dazzling moment, he saw the buttons on the blouse he had touched a moment ago. He stretched out his fingers again. This time, a longer strand of white light appeared, hovering in the cup of his hand. It stayed there for about two seconds before it flickered out, enough time for him to turn around and see the fake fur coat.

He knew instinctively that something was happening–I can make light!–and he dropped his right arm to his side and then, with a spasm of his elbow, jerked his outstretched hand upward. A thread as bright as a halogen bulb materialized into view. It burned steadily and hovered in the air, even after he dropped his arm. The light’s bloom illuminated the entire closet. He saw the rows of clothes on their racks and the ceiling and the dirty brown carpet under his feet.

Gingerly, Paul reached out his hand and touched the thread. It gave way to his poke and bent its contour around his finger, like rubber. It was not hot, like he had feared. Breathing heavily, Paul pinched the thread between his thumb and his forefinger. It felt solid, but nearly weightless, like the touch of the silk of his mother’s blouse and as thin as a guitar string.

He tugged at it. It moved in the direction he commanded. He grabbed the whole thread and brought it forward to examine it. Now his chest, his hands, were plainly visible. His skin seemed to glow in the thread’s brightness.

To be continued…

3 thoughts on “The Brightness, Part 1

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