The unexplained vs. the rational. Light vs. darkness. The thought patterns of the protagonist telling their story. Hopefully a tense atmosphere has been created in this short piece.
Signals of Light
In the garden, we always had light, and the house was always in darkness, sharp corners folded up amongst the skyline. The frost which once patterned the ground has melted away into puddles, and the birds call from their satellite perches. We knew the house would not be forever ours, but the illusion I could always return to it has been driven away. It is someone else’s place to live now. The walls will be stripped of their wooden panelling, naked and vulnerable, whilst different flowers will be planted in the garden. I’ll miss what I used to know.
I’ll miss those nights; the nights where I could sit outside in the summer time with a pint of cider and a cigarette. I liked waiting for the stars, which were barely visible in the dense orange of streetlamps in the early evening, yet sharpening in a crescendo as the hours wore on. The night was for watching, but the watching could only be done outside. Inside, watching could mean seeing what others would rather not imagine was possible, nor can easily be described.
Instead, every warm summer’s dusk, I’d step through the back door into lightness, glass in hand and notebook in the other. I’d sit on a wooden bench, observe, collect; write out words which could be said by anyone, a mystery in their allocation. It seems invention was a safer place, though no less a space for living. I wanted to live it all, yet could not; and what could not be experienced had to be said by a disembodied voice. And that voice called impatiently, putting the syllables of its message out of sync. The voice rivalled the birds, which I knew were calling out from the cherry trees around the front of the house, yet seemed to come from a place further away.
I listened, the moon a shrinking satellite, half in shadow, the remaining crescent of it beaming. I listened, message on repeat, a series of numbers barely audible in their sequence. A meaning could not be discerned, but that did not matter. Others would have called it madness and disorder, entities speaking their soft song; and they were being projected onto the sheet of notes, sometimes sharp, sometimes flat. But it was all consuming, out of rhythm, outdated. It belonged in the 1940s. It would have looked great next to a rotary telephone I suppose.
Or on a side table in the hallway, where shadows gathered thickly in the corners, melting against the floor like black treacle. Each step I took between those walls was binding, the atmosphere dense, somehow suspended in Now – a moment which never seemed to arrive when it was supposed to. Now – a moment that clung to the parquet floors, to the Delft wooden panels on the walls. It lurked behind the cracked mirror opposite the porch door, a darkness which never quite found the strength to materialise fully, yet was always there on the periphery of vision.
The darkness could never be seen in its entirety; rather, it was felt or glimpsed in quick flashes. It might be here or there, a figure strolling through doorways or down the stairs, defined in outline, fleshed out and vanishing after a couple of seconds. But it was always lingering, cloaked in invisibility; and so I preferred the clearer air of the garden when I lived there, because I knew I would not feel the resonation of the unexplained, nor struggle to find an answer for it.
I preferred the simplicity of the soil, which was bare in winter and carpeted in flowers in spring, the trees yielding fruit. In autumn, the ground would be littered with apples, cherries and pears which we hadn’t managed to eat, tangled in the long grass of the summer gone past in an overripe constellation. I won’t see any of the seasons of those gardens anymore, not now I live elsewhere. But I do know, if I were to go back and visit the house again and look through one of the single-glazed leaded windows, the same old question would always be posed on the other side of the glass panes. And it would give me reason to wonder, ‘When I was home by myself, was I ever truly alone?’