This short story “Light” was written by my daughter, as a homework at her summer school ‘Advanced Academy’. I rarely read her piece, but was very impressed after reading this one, and decide to post it with her permisison.
By Stacy T.
Based on “Bread” by Margaret Atwood
Imagine a light bulb. You don’t have to imagine it, it’s right here in your room, on the ceiling, covered by a dome ceiling light cover. The sun hasn’t even touched the horizon yet, but there are gray shadows in the room, and you flip the light switch without a second thought. You don’t even look up as the light comes on, casting a bright glare on the white walls. The light bulb is the new CFL light bulb that your mother bought last week after reading an article online titled “GREEN LIVING”. Your dad had worked through half a weekend replacing all the old, round light bulbs with this new, energy efficient, spiral-shaped light bulb. You sit down at the desk, trying to get your mind to concentrate on homework. With an exasperated sigh, you lean your head back and stare at the ceiling, absent-mindedly fixing your eyes on the florescent light bulb. You’re still sitting there, day-dreaming, as the sky outside turns from a bright blue to a dim navy, but you’re unaware of this change until you see the red numbers of the digital clock change to 8:47.
Imagine pure darkness. Now imagine a light bulb. Both of these things are real but you happen to be in the same room with only one of them. Put yourself into a different room, that’s what the mind is for. You are now crouched against a cold, stone wall, sweating. Your breath, no matter how soft you try to make it, seems loud in the hot silence. The little moonlight that comes through the hole that acts as a window falls upon the yellow pages of a battered book you had stolen from the schoolhouse. You do not know of artificial light, or of any electricity except the truck that comes in every week to deliver food and clothes. To you, this truck is an almighty god that keeps life going. To you, this silent night and strip of moonlight is the only luxury you enjoy. You dream that someday, you’ll be able to go to a good school and escape the village. You hope that you can earn money somewhere else so that your family does not have to endure the hardships anymore. So you continue to read and study in the dark, hoping for change in the future.
Imagine a warzone. You are used to waking up to gunshots and shouting, but it never becomes any less frightening. Today, it has been quiet, but that doesn’t lessen the fears that something will happen. Your entire family—your mother, two younger brothers, and yourself—has been forced to eat, sleep, and live in the small room in the center of the building for the last few months. The outer walls are weak and unsafe, and the glassless window brings in stray bullets too often. You share the only safe room in the building with another family whose house had been destroyed during the first few battles. They are only two: a mother and son. It is night, and the only light comes from a bare light bulb dangling from the ceiling. Somewhere, there is an explosion, and the ground shakes, but it isn’t close. It’s never close until it hits you. The light flickers ominously and threatens to go out. Feeling the trembling of one of your brothers as he leans against you and tries not to cry, you reach out to comfort him, but realize your own hand is shaking. You close your eyes and pray that your father is alive, is safe. You pray that someday, the war will be over, and things will change for the better. The war has gone on for too long. You’ve been living in fear for a year now. Fear of bombs and terrorists and kidnapping and losing someone. Fear of pain and death and knowing no other life but war. Fear of war. Another explosion rocks the building, jolting you violently, and you hear shouts, muffled by the thick walls. The room is thrown into darkness, and there is the sound of shattering glass. The light bulb is gone, and someone starts to sob. The fear is too much.
There was once upon a time a soldier who had no use at the end of war. The king had dismissed him, and he would receive no pay. He wandered the woods until night, where he saw a light, and came to a house wherein lived a witch. ‘Please give me one night’s lodging and a little to eat and drink, else I starve.’ She promised such in return for a day of laboring in the garden. He agreed, but with all his strength, could not finish the garden work the next day. Again, he stayed at her house, in return he would chop a day’s worth of wood. She convinced him to spend one more night. ‘Tomorrow, you shall only do me a very trifling piece of work. Behind my house, there is an old dry well, into which my light has fallen. A blue light that never goes out sits inside that well. Please retrieve it for me.’
Everybody knew what the blue light was.
This is a Brothers Grimm fairy tale.
The light bulb I have conjured for you floats about a foot below the ceiling. The ceiling is normal, there are no trap doors on it, but nor is there evidence that a light once hung from it. The ceiling light cover floats beneath the light bulb, and there are no strings attaching the cover to the light bulb or the light bulb to the ceiling or the floor or the cover, and you’ve proved it by standing onto a chair and passing your hand above and below. You didn’t touch the light bulb though. What stopped you? You don’t want to know whether the light bulb is real or whether it’s just a hallucination I’ve somehow duped you into seeing. There’s no doubt that you can see the light bulb, you can even feel the heat, heat that is much less compared to your old incandescent light bulb, and it looks solid enough, solid as the ceiling above. But can you trust it? How is it even powered without wires? Surely there isn’t a battery somewhere. Your hand moves to the light switch to see if it will turn off. But will the darkness be any better? You don’t want to know, imagine that.
This story, inspired by Margaret Atwood’s “Bread”, was a unique experience for me. It’s use of 2nd person point-of-view and various scenarios featuring a seemingly ordinary item sets this story apart from most things I have written before. Using the knowledge that I learned in class, this story turned out to be very different from what it would’ve been without this summer’s studies. Through imagery and anadiplosis and compound and complex sentences, I was able to add detail and increase interest to the story. Feedback from peers also allowed me to review the story and improve the weaker parts, taking this short story beyond what it was capable of being if I had written it alone.
Stacy is 14 and will be attending Clements High School in the fall. She live in Texas with her mother, father, and younger brother. In her free time, she enjoys reading, drawings, and spending time with friends. This work would not be possible without the help of her peers and teacher, Ms. Turner.