The Street Lamp

“The lines are blurry”, he said, for when he had come back he had his face white as fine paper, all the blood drained from him like water from a foam sponge, and he looked like he might die from lack of air. I took off his shirt and bade him to lie on the carpet with all the doors and windows thrown wide open. He revived slowly and yet I do not know what he saw.

“The lines are blurry”, he cried to me, for when he had gone to search the streets he found them all deserted, with no soul, save for the disembodied sounds that came from the trees, the street lamps, and the dark corners.

“The lines are blurry”, he called out, for when he had returned from scouting the streets, he said he had seen nothing, nothing that was worth reporting anyway, except I wanted him to report seeing leaves being blown about and dust creating fine shapes under the influence of the street lamps. For a reason I do not know, I beseeched him to report all these.

“The lines are blurry”, he shouted to me, for he ran up the stairs like a crazed fellow, like he had a massive dose of adrenaline shot up his spine and into his mind. He would have pulled me and ripped me from the floor had I not held firmly to the banister. Then he held the banister also, shaking like he’d had ice cubes for lunch.

“The lines are blurry”! “The lines are blurry”! “The lines are blurry”! He chanted and for a moment I thought he’d gone mad. He didn’t say what lines were blurry or what made the lines blurry, yet there was a sense of definition in his manner and a certain presence of mind to all his chants. I could feel it in his grip on the banister as he shook with each chant of “the lines are blurry”, and there was no making him say what or why.

I went out to see for myself what lines he had seen, and what lines had gone blurry, and perhaps what had made them go so. I grabbed my coat, head warmer and gloves, for it was quite a chilly night and the wind blew cold and bitter against the skin. As I reached the door, I remembered the manner with which he brought the report and the disposition I’d just left him in, and a dread began to creep. I began to see all sorts of images waiting to pounce on me should I open the door, I hesitated for a brief moment. I tried to breathe and collect my thoughts together, for I considered myself a man of reason.

As I opened the door I was greeted with a draught of wind sucking into the room, taking me back two steps. I descended the stairs and out into the streets to see for myself what lines had gone blurry for my friend in the room. I hoped I would be disappointed and not see anything and I hoped I would not be disappointed and see something significant. The fact that I’d had dual thoughts on the same subject amused me but my amusement was not to be for long.

Just a little way down the street was a chair that sat no person. It was an empty chair just under a street lamp with no building behind it. I was drawn to the chair like a part of me had seen someone that my eyes had not yet seen . It was the feeling of being drawn to something curious, strange but irresistible. I walked towards the chair, while I got kicked mentally by what was remaining of whatever reason I had in the first place.

It was a wooden chair that looked haphazardly built with no care for design or beauty. The streetlamp stood directly above it, casting a bright yellow glow on the chair- from where I stood I could see a halo right over the chair- making it look more revered than a chair should normally look. There was an ominous presence about the chair too, with its lonely situation in the cold dark street, and its streetlamp being the only lighted streetlamp in the street. As I got closer, it seemed lifelike, like there was something alive about the chair and the streetlamp. Or perhaps the light was playing tricks on my eyes with the darkness all around me; there was no way I could tell.

Closer and closer still I went on to the chair, and I couldn’t tell which was attracting me- the chair, the light, or the streetlamp. I quickly discarded the streetlamp as I thought I couldn’t be attracted by a long standing metal structure. Clearly it was either the light or the chair; perhaps it was the glow upon the chair and not necessarily the light or the chair. My mind assumed a scattered thinking mess as I tried to make sense of my movement. The mess was soon to clear, for when I had gotten within ten paces from the chair my mind suddenly became clear, very clear. There were no thoughts to think anymore, nothing to ponder upon, no reasons to consider for my movement. I was blank and peaceful, like a pipe had been dipped into my mind and all thoughts and concerns siphoned out.

The chair had a peaceful air about it, as it sat there apparently undisturbed through the many years it had been there- I could tell it had been through many years by the weather-beaten look about it. I could tell it was black, or at least it was once black, but now the black was of different shades. Or perhaps it was once brown, and much humidity had reduced it to wet black. Yet, it was peaceful, undisturbed, its only company being the glow of the lamp, and the leaves landing gracefully at the end of a well executed routine. Then I noticed something else.

As I got to the chair, it seemed alive, or rather, it came alive.

Several images began to form in my head, and I thought it was just the light playing well planned tricks with the fine dust, until I started felling woozy. This too, I readily explained as having inhaled too much of the dust in the night air. But I noticed also that I was short of breath; I realised that I had stopped breathing as I focused rather intently on the images taking shape in the streetlamp’s glow. Each one seeming more vivid than the previous until they started rolling before me like a slideshow. The lack of oxygen did not help, or perhaps it did, as the images reduced to flickering lights, specks of bright colours dancing before my eyes and then arranging themselves in queer shapes, the way clouds form shapes every time you look at them.

Reason came to me slowly, I began to see what he meant when the cried “the lines are blurry,” and before long I couldn’t tell whether I was I standing in a dream or standing in the street. I put my hand in my coat as if to reassure myself of my reality and I felt something sharp prick my finger.

I had a pin in my pocket for only God knows what reason and the pain made me wince. I put my now bleeding finger to my mouth and licked the blood off the wound; I winced again. It tasted somewhat salty- this could have been from my sweaty finger- and another flavor I couldn’t quite place, like it was kept in a distant, locked up memory.

I got my eyes to look at the chair, willed my legs to move and with much trouble, took my first step. This struck me as strange. I was rooted to the spot and couldn’t move. I didn’t know whether to be scared as several thoughts ran through my head as quickly as the sweat dripping from my forehead. I reached into my coat to take my handkerchief but my hands were stiff at my sides. I was standing as straight as the streetlamp in front of me, only that in my case there was light burning in my head. As if the evening couldn’t get any weirder.

The light took on a shape I could not decipher and split into two. It began to rotate like a centrifuge, and indeed I could see something form in its midst; that too I could not decipher, at least not yet. There was something stranger about the lights; they seemed alive, like they were not just rotating like a centrifuge. It looked like that children’s game where they hold hands and turn around in circles and one child tries to join in amidst the turning. So from the two rotating lights a third one appeared, then a fourth, and fifth and they stopped turning. The first light- I can’t say for sure now- then stepped forward, and the remaining four arranged in a semi circle around it- or him?- and I swear I thought I heard them speak.

I was still rooted to the ground with my hands stiff at my sides. Suddenly it became grey around them, like a shroud had been cast over them such that I could not see them clearly anymore. I thought they did this to cover themselves from me, and I wondered at the idea, like I wanted to see any of this in the first place. Now I really wanted to see.

I think they heard my unspoken desire to partake in whatever ceremony was going on, and I found myself inside the grey shroud, now privy to the proceedings. The leader light turned and looked at me; if there was a face he could look with, and beckoned me over. The others turned and each beckoned me over, with exactly the same movements as the leader, head tipping sharply down almost like a human nod, and I was in the middle, standing with the leader. If I was going to be scared to be in the middle of strange lights, it wasn’t time yet. Everything was wordless, the rotation of the lights, the other lights joining in, the beckoning, till it spoke. It was time. It called my name, and the voice was soft, almost endearing, like it knew I was scared and sought to soothe me with a calm voice. Then it began to sing, and on cue the rest joined in, five voices soft and somewhat sombre, yet sweet-

“Now in the void something wakes,

Quivering voices, err’thing quakes.

Precious whom it seeks to take,

Strength be please, or they will break.

In covers dark they take their flight,

With muffled speech and whispers tight.

Silent pleas they pray the night,

Pray they ‘scape, ‘fore morning light.

And for chance that they be caught,

A sorrier fate was never sought.

For nigh doomed ones will be this sort,

Upon their heads, great misery wrought.

Those who chase should all go blind,

Hold them safe with peace in mind.

Safe and fast from hunting kind,

Their journey’s end we hope they find.”

When they had finished singing, I was back outside the circle and my eyes were still closed. I still felt the emotions of the song as pictures flashed through my head; people trying to escape from something in the middle of the night when they had their best cover. They wished silently that the moon would stay hidden, making their journey by starlight. Then I saw figures looming overhead, gliding on the winds of the night, searching this way and that way with arms extended like a hawk preparing to swoop down on its prey. I hoped they made it safely out of danger.

I opened my eyes and they were gone, the lights. All was dark and cold, as it was when I got to the street. Slowly everything came into focus and I saw myself standing in front of the streetlamp casting its glow on the wooden chair. My legs had come free, so had my arms. I reached into my coat to get my handkerchief to wipe my forehead. I needed to process what had just happened, so I went forward and sat on the chair, having the streetlamp cast its golden glow on me. I looked up, the dust still danced in the air, forming some sort of halo over me which I found strangely amusing. I got up to leave, dusted the back of my coat and made my way back home. After about ten paces away, I turned to have one last look at the streetlamp and the chair, but they were gone, leaving that spot dark as the rest of the street. Then I knew one thing for sure- I will never look at a streetlamp the same way again.

Categories Fiction, Short StoriesTags , , ,

2 thoughts on “The Street Lamp

  1. I’m in awe of your writing ❤️

    Like

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