Thursday, 26 April 2018

The Light - Short Story by Alita Kay

I take a long drag from the cigarette within my shaking fingers and breathe it out unsteadily where it hangs like a cloud in the windless night air. It’s bright tonight. A full moon hangs lowly in the sky and the stars and haze of the Milky Way are clear above. They reflect on the still ocean water like a doorway to a parallel universe. My legs dangle over the jetty and my toes skim the cool water, soothing me and giving me the desire to place my whole body in, as if the salty water could cleanse me, or something.

It’s awfully tempting; pushing myself off the wooden planks and swimming as far to the bottom as I can. Even I knew my present mindset after taking three and half pills this evening would make it difficult for my body to reach the surface alive again. I took another long draw of my cigarette before wiping at the water beneath my eyes.

I’m pathetic. I’m confused. I left a party at one in the morning and found myself wandering to the beach by myself yet being alone was the furthest thing from what I wanted to be. In my defence, those party goers weren’t exactly much company. I couldn’t talk to them. I don’t even know how I got involved with them in the first place, let alone living with them. No, I remember now. They were all I had. And how sad is that? The only people who were there for me were acquaintances who had sold me pills a few times while I had been out clubbing. They were the ones to take me in. Not my ‘friends’. Not my family.

The people I live with though, don’t get me wrong, are good people. I guess we found each other because we were all lost but yet we didn’t exactly want to be found either. They didn’t talk much but they didn’t have to for me to know they on some mild level understood. We weren’t cut out for this so called world. A full time job that eats at you piece by piece. At settling down. At thinking five years ahead every moment of everyday. Of conforming to the social norms of society. Of disappointment. It wasn’t for us. 

Therefore, I didn’t blame them for resulting to drugs at every opportunity they had. God knows I did the same. But it wasn’t enough anymore. The drugs didn’t distract me anymore. I couldn’t run from myself anymore.

I placed my cigarette butt back in the packet and lied down on my back upon the wooden planks. There was nothing and everything ahead of me. Nothing, yet the entire universe. I stretched my arms out to either side of me and raised them slightly. At the same moment a breeze came, whooshing the smell of salt in the air, giving me the sensation that I was flying. I smiled, staring at the infinite stars and endless possibilities. I felt almost weightless if it weren’t for an uneven plank stabbing me in my lower back. The breeze dropped and I followed suit with my hands, turning on my side, shifting so that I lied parallel with the jetty, my arm draped over the edge and my fingers grazing the black water.
If you asked me three years ago what I planned to do with my life, I would have given an undelayed answer of my very detailed five-year plan consisting of studying, moving to Sydney and putting a deposit on a house. Only that never happened. Shit changed. That plan doesn’t interest me in the slightest anymore. I don’t know, maybe I’m just lazy. But I don’t want to live that life at all anymore.

And my friends? They were too busy making something out of themselves, to have even a spare moment for me. I didn’t blame them though. If I had my shit together I wouldn’t want to involve myself with someone like me. I’d only be a dead weight, a negative energy draining the room. But I never used to be. I used to be the most positive. I had the ability to cheer someone up within moments. I was fun. I was funny. But then suddenly that wasn’t enough. Writing in my spare time wasn’t going to get me anywhere, everyone’s ideas of me changed and I became inadequate, lost, and earned the title of one of those people who were ‘going nowhere with their lives’.

That’s why he left too. “You’re almost twenty one years old and you haven’t nearly got your life figured out,” I replay his voice in my mind, and it hurts just as much as hearing it the first time and not actually the 1000th. “I’m busy figuring out myself,” I had argued back. I thought that was far more important; knowing who I am, not who I should be. He laughed and within days he left from my life, taking my heart and everything I was with him. I wasn’t myself for a long time. I’m perhaps still not.

My mother of all people though, was supposed to be there for me. She wasn’t. She snorted at the news. “You’re too much to deal with,” she had said, ignoring my swollen eyes and my internal pain that was so strong, I was sure anyone in a 100m radius could feel it. “I’m surprised he stuck around this long.”

And she had a point, though I’d hate to admit. I was too much. Too much of something.
Different perhaps. That was when I realised that the world had turned out to be nothing like I had hoped. And everything after that went spiralling downwards into a bottomless pit I feel like I can never climb out of.

I had turned to my mother for help again when things got worse. I told her how I felt. “You’re a teenager. What in the world do you know about depression? You haven’t experienced anything.” Then she waved me away with her hand and I never brought it up to her again. But I thought that was exactly the point. Teenagers haven’t experienced anything. They are hopeful and they have this optimistic perception of the world they know nothing about. They haven’t built themselves the walls that adults have to protect them and that makes them so much more vulnerable to life and the inevitable disappointment it would bring.  

A tear slid off the bridge of my nose and fell into the water, disappearing with the infinite other drops and sending ripples over the surface. I notice something bright from the corner of my eye, but I ignore it, assuming it to be the moon’s distorted twin. Then it flashes again or glows, I’m not sure but I glance into its direction and find a bright pale light in the water, similar to that of the moon; only the moon’s replica is further out in the horizon and not a metre away from me. I sit up, staring at the light, then glance up at the sky and find no bright stars worthy of that reflection from above. I return my gaze to the light and it has moved two metres away from me, but it continues to sit still. Perhaps the drugs are playing tricks on me.

I reach for the light, splashing my hand in the water fast in an attempt to startle it. The water is disrupted, ripples and small waves are sent in every direction, their edges glowing from the moonlight, and when it calms again, the light is gone. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed, so I continue to watch where the mysterious glow had been but see nothing. I consider slipping into the water again, but instead I pat the ocean surface as if bidding it farewell, when something grabs a hold of my wrist and pulls me into the water.

It took me several long moments to realise what had happened. My wrist is free and as I open my eyes, I notice the surface is metres away. I begin to swim for it, irrationally scared, when something grabs a hold of my ankle. I look down and find a giant forest of seaweed, reaching out from the dark bottom and one of the long thin stems has twisted itself around my ankle. I kick my foot free and attempt for the surface again, reaching for the oxygen my lungs have begun to crave but I’m not getting any closer, my ankles once again restrained.

I look down again into the darkness and see several stems attached to my legs. I claw at their slimy bodies and I can feel their residue beneath my nails. I am free again so I kick for the surface in panic, my lungs bursting. I aim for the moon I can see on the other side, its brightness giving me a sense of safety. My fingers reach the air and relief floods over me as my head takes its turn but I am dragged down by my legs, then my waist, much faster than before. The seaweed is alive and I scream, watching their fingers reach from every direction of the darkness, grabbing my wrist and curling itself around my neck.

The surface is so far away now. I have stopped kicking and fighting. This was the moment I had been hoping for after all. I let the salt water fill my lungs. I don’t fight it. Even when the small white light emerges through the forest of seaweed, glowing around a figures neck and hovers only inches away from me. My eyes close as I feel a comforting yet shocking sensation on my lips.

My last thought is that everything is going to be okay. Maybe I do belong somewhere. 

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