Flash fiction: Light by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writers! This month’s prompt is to an unexpected phone call. Today’s tale comes to us from Val Muller, author of the Corgi Capers kid lit mystery series.

 

Light

By Val Muller

 

Her alarm went off again. Jenn reached her hand out from the warm covers. The cool air of the house was like a thousand pins against her skin as she hit the last of her allotted snoozes. The darkness of the room could have meant midnight or five in the morning, it could have meant early evening. Hell, it could have meant high noon in these doldrums.

 

Winter was like death. Like every day, fighting a slow death. How did no one else feel it? The cold, the darkness, the struggle just to do anything…She’d tried hot showers, she’d tried altering bedtime, she’d tried spending as much time outdoors as the measly light would allow. She had even tried those special bulbs that were supposed to mimic sunlight.

 

Laughable.

 

Halloween was always fun. Christmas was terrible, but at least the stress of pulling it off kept her busy, running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

 

I bet chickens hate winter, too.

 

After the holidays, there was a horrific lull that lasted until at least March, when the ground woke up. March snows were powerless, even the big ones. They might last a day or two, but the sun was mostly back by then. It was strong enough to counter the cold. Then April would follow, and as soon as the leaves were back…

 

There was a word for what she missed. Psithurism. The sound of leaves rustling in the breeze. Someone had loved that sound enough to make a word for it. Psithurism. That’s what she missed. Sometimes she would Google the word and listen to videos that people had made during the warm months, simply pointing their cameras up at the trees. The sound of the wind through the live green leaves brought her goosebumps, and for a few dream-like moments, she pretended it was summer.

 

But then she remembered she was under the covers, hiding from the dark, from the cold. There were no leaves on the trees. The only sound the wind offered was the clickety-clack of dry bones knocking against each other, against houses. The clack of death.

 

She shivered as her phone sounded again. But this was no alarm. This was the ringer. Who in the world would be calling this early?

 

She chuckled softly. Maybe it was a surprise snowstorm, and work was cancelled for the day. The only thing winter was good for.

 

One can hope…

 

It wasn’t work, but it was her coworker. Shane. An acquaintance more than a friend. They all programmed each other’s numbers into their phones in case they had to call out and seek replacements. But why would Shane be calling her now? If he had to call out, he surely would have seen her name was already on the schedule.

 

“Hello? Shane?”

 

“Jenn, are you outside?”

 

“Outside? Now? No, I…”

 

“Go now! Go.”

 

“Outside?”

 

“I’m out here walking my dog, and you have to see this.”

 

Jenn hopped out of bed, the adrenaline spike an armor against the cold.

“What are you—”

 

“You have to go now,” he said. “I remember what we talked about, with winter. I thought of you.”

 

“Shane, what?”

 

“Just go!”

 

The call ended.

 

Jenn grabbed a pair of sweatpants that were pooled on the floor and pulled them over her pajamas. Then a bathrobe. Downstairs, she pulled on boots and her coat. She hurried out the door, pulling on gloves and hat as she went. Out the front, the darkness still lingered, but the lighting was different. Rosy.

 

She hurried to the back of the apartment complex, where a splattering of clouds was painted pink and orange by a rising sun that had not yet met the horizon. Her amazed breath left in ghostly puffs, but the cold didn’t bother her. The wave of adrenaline took her as she jogged up the hill at the edge of the property.

 

The sun was peeking over the horizon now, just a little slice of an orange sitting on the hill. Incredibly, it rose by the second. It rose and rose and rose. It was telling her something. This planet was moving, increment by increment, it was bringing her closer to spring, to summer.

 

To psithurism.

 

The sun was impossibly orange. No, orange did not do justice to this glowing orb. Gold? Not even gold… it transcended color. She tried not to look at it too much. Couldn’t she blind herself?

 

To be safe, she took out her phone, swiped into camera mode, and watched the run rise through the screen, clicking pictures as it went. The splattering of clouds ignited from pale pink and orange to fiery orange, yellow, gold, red. Colors impossible to describe. Melted gold poured in the heavens.

 

This was not the white winter sun she had come to despise.

 

The sun danced through the clouds, a sole ballerina doing an arabesque against the sky, the clouds accentuating her reach. Now a quiet moment, a lull of color, but the sun wasn’t finished. She was just preparing. She reached her arms out again, but a thick cloud blocked her majesty for a moment. Jenn snuck a peek with her eyes, and just then, the sun rose an inch more, leaping over the offending cloud. In an impossible grand jeté, she leapt into the world as if she had no idea it was winter.

 

This was no pale sun, no sun that would tolerate snow. This was a summer sun allowing herself to perform on this cold January day. She was performing, and perhaps Jenn was her intended audience. Jenn snapped a few more pictures, but then she simply stood in awe. She watched the sun filter through the winter branches, but she concentrated even harder.

 

Her mind took her back to summertime, and the dead branches filled with greenery. The winter silence filled with the whisper of living leaves speaking to each other in a warm breeze. She inhaled, and the air felt impossibly warm. A bird chirped, and Jenn startled. This was not in her mind. Not three feet away, a bright red cardinal and his lady had landed in a branch, eating some of the berries left over from the fall. They sang to each other, or maybe they sang gratitude to the dancing sun as she reminded them that life thrived even in the winter’s gloom.

 

She snapped one last picture.

 

She couldn’t wait to show Shane.

 

* * *

 

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

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