Low Light

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic

An excerpt of a larger tale, Low Light follows one night in the grim life of Ridley, a man wandering a post-apocalyptic Canada in search of shelter and food.

Submitted: February 25, 2018

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Submitted: February 25, 2018



The generator’s hum was a relieving heartbeat after the cacophonous falsetto it emitted prior to starting up. With a flicker, a warm glow slowly filled the room as electricity coursed like lifeblood through a string of old Christmas lights that dangled from the ceiling. Dust motes danced, tiny angels in the dimness, disturbed for the first time in what was probably years. A few repairs and a little bit of cleaning and the tiny house could be liveable. Unfortunately, time was no commodity, and Ridley didn't like to stay in any one place for long.

Like any other person, he was a creature of habit. Stay in one place, do the same chores, live the same way day after day and eventually one will become comfortable. In a world that had almost grasped immortality, comfort was the biggest killer of all. Comfort was throwing on a pair of blinders and running along the cliff's edge. It led to ignorance, and ignorance leads to mistakes. Mistakes were expensive, regardless of currency.

Ridley pulled his leather gloves over his fingers, hefted a roll of extension cord over his shoulder and followed the new illumination back to the staircase he had descended to reach the generator. Fresh billows of dust kicked up as his boots clapped on each step and the wooden stairs betrayed their age with creaks and groans. He left the basement door open when he moved into the kitchen to double check the chicken wire he had rolled across the windows earlier. The mesh’s shadow crosshatched his tanned and weathered face as the last few hours of sunlight poured through the window. Night would be coming soon, and he needed more cloth to block the windows before he even thought about preparing a meal.

The bedrooms had pillows with cases, but he didn't trust the fabric to prevent all light from passing through. He had already used a few blankets and what towels he could find to cover the upstairs windows, and the tablecloth in the kitchen was one of those tacky plastic ones that could be found in dollar stores when they used to be open. He glanced into the living room and noticed the large antique sofa in the center of the room. The upholstery was thick and woven, so he set about cutting squares of it with his knife. He grabbed some nails from a pouch that dangled from his belt and pulled his hammer from it's holster housed across the small of his spine. A few thumps later and, like a skin on a tanning rack, the couch canvas was stretched across the window. No light could get in, but, more importantly, none could escape.

The extension cord just reached the kitchen table, so he pulled a hot plate out of his travel pack and plugged it in. A small pot lay clean on the kitchen counter, so he filled it with water from his canteen and set it to boil. He pulled a blue box from his pack and read the instructions on the back while he waited for the water to boil, the very same instructions he had read for the past three nights since he had found the stash. Bring water to a boil. Add noodles, stirring occasionally until soft. Drain water and slowly stir in contents of cheese packet. Let cool 1 minute and enjoy. He mouthed the word 'enjoy’ a couple of times, letting it roll around his tongue like wet concrete, but not without a sense of longing, before sighing and dumping the box’s stale payload into the bubbling water.

When the noodles were cooked, he walked back into the living room, gathered the cotton that had spewed out from the cushions and laid them out under his bedroll. The padding would be a welcome change after many nights sleeping on the hard ground. He plopped down onto his bedroll and, as a cow chews its cud, set about masticating his bland dinner. The generator hummed away.

Night’s arrival was swift. Ridley slid his bowl into the sink and grabbed a candlestick from a wall-mounted holder by the counter. He shuffled hurriedly down the stairs and lit the candle with a matchstick before shutting down the generator. A din of silence dropped upon the room, and the only sound was Ridley’s breath fanning the flickering flame. He shuddered at the sudden stillness and plodded his way back up the stairs.

His tiny bed was warm and cozy, enough so that he could kick off most of his clothes and feel the warmth reverberate between his sleeping bag and his skin. His feet tingled with relief from the pressure of walking in his boots all day, and he couldn't help but grip his covers and rub them tightly against his chin. He fought sleep in an effort to enjoy his blissful relaxation, as he knew that it would be a long while before he would experience such a soft respite again. His efforts were futile, as sleep took victory in a matter of moments.

The shrieking began a few hours into the night and, like an old scab, peeled Ridley out of his sleep. His hand was on his machete faster than his back left the floor, and he was already on the far side of the room before his flashlight clicked on. Another shriek pierced the night, and he breathed a sigh of relief. It was coming from outside. He curled himself back in his sleeping bag and tried to focus on his thoughts instead of the screams.

Sometimes the fresher ones would recall memories from before they died, times when their emotions peaked and a memory would imbed itself in the brain. Times of pain and anguish. Moments of fear and sadness. All would surface in a jumbled mess of words. Sometimes they would scream for hours at a time, but suddenly stop and walk off as though nothing had happened. It was unnerving, to say the least.

Tonight it sounded like two were out there. They bantered back and forth, almost as if they were having a conversation, though not much of it made any sense.

“Where are you Jake? You sunova…”

“Shut up! Stop hurting me! You're hurting my ears!”

“No one ever loved you, anyway.”

“Put it down right now!”

And on it went. Ridley crossed his legs and pushed the sides of his feet together in circles to warm them up. He closed his eyes and focused on his breathing, attempting to catch his mind when it wandered to any other subject. Morning would come, and he would be on his way. Until then, he knew he had to get his rest.

The night grew silent and the screaming stopped. Ridley sighed in relief and prepared to let sleep take him.

Sleep was pushed away by the creaking of the basement stairs.

© Copyright 2018 Michael C.K.. All rights reserved.

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