Jessie Komala is currently studying psychology at Temple University Japan. Born and raised in Indonesia, she was lucky enough to grow up learning and speaking multiple languages, English being one of ... [+]

Image of Short Fiction Contest - 2020
Image of Short Story

Why is this light so bright?

I lower the brightness on my phone screen so I don’t blind myself while lying in bed, and I immediately have flashbacks to my mom telling me, how bright lights in the dark will make my eyesight worse. She was right, of course. 

There’s a voice in my head telling me to put my phone down and close my eyes, but I’m going to let myself strain my eyes more. Out of nowhere, my phone loses signal, cutting my sweet internet browsing time short. When restarting it didn’t fix the issue, I knew I would have to get that checked soon. Without social media to entertain me, I resort to looking through my photo gallery. As I’m scrolling, I reach my oldest video from a few years ago, a short clip of my friends joking around at a park, and play it.

I wonder if they remember this day as clearly as I do. Isn’t it interesting how all of us, as human beings, hold completely different and unique memories from each other? I exist in my friends’ minds and thoughts, just as they do in mine. And all those strangers in the background of the video, do they remember this day? They have their own friends who live in their thoughts too, right? And so do their friends, and the people in their thoughts, and—you know what, never mind that. Those people don’t really matter anyway. 

Oh, shoot... The video played through and I was barely even paying attention to it. Looking at the time, it’s 3:74am. Exasperated, I sigh, I guess that’s something I have to check out too. I’ll take this as a sign for me to put my phone down. But I can’t seem to shake away the thoughts I was having; I have this feeling that I need to dive deeper into them, and I have no clue why.

Gosh, I’m tired. But here I am, telling my poor brain it can’t stop thinking just yet. These thoughts are vexing more than anything, but I’ll never admit out loud that I’m afraid of spiralling down an existential hole. I close my eyes, hoping that I’ll magically drift into a peaceful slumber.

The moment I close them, though, they begin to feel like they’re being dragged to the bottom of the ocean. Actually, my entire body feels like it’s being dragged down, like I’m sinking into my covers.

All of a sudden, my body feels light, as if my bed had been taken out from under me, but instead of falling to the ground, I’m floating in mid-air. I open my eyes, and everything is black, void of all light. I’m surrounded by absolute nothingness and I have no control over my body.

I call out for someone, anyone, but I’m met with nothing, not even echoes of my voice.

My heart beats faster as anxiety starts to kick in, until I turn my head to the side and see flickers of a faint warm light. I couldn’t make out what they really looked like, but they resembled rays of sunlight from under water. The lights began to take shape of an orb, and I looked straight at it. Then almost immediately, my mind became empty, vacant of all my previous worries.

Why is this light so bright?

It was blinding, but my vision has never been clearer until now. I hear it calling to me somehow, it’s unnervingly inviting, urging me to come closer. My body turns upright, and my arm reaches out. I feel myself floating towards it, but I’m unsure if it did this on its own, or if I consciously made the decision to do so. As I approached it closer, my hand hovered over it, and I felt a jolt go up my spine. Then, something I can only describe to look like clouds formed around it, enveloping the light in metallic colours that I cannot name. The sparks of light were clashing within it, continuously in motion in a single spot, like a storm had been balled up.

Even without a face, I felt like it was staring into me, reaching into the darkest depths of the thoughts I’ve locked away, as if it wanted something, and it won’t let me leave until I figure it out. I’m scrambling for an emotion to feel and a thought to think, but I just can’t. I am face to face with an entity that I cannot comprehend. I am terrified. Stuck in a quandary, I question if this entity is good or evil, or if it just... is.

With a deep grumble, indistinguishable from anything I have ever heard, the orb began to expand and take over the ocean of black around us, but I could do nothing at all. It swallowed me and, like a whirlwind, spun me in circles, but I could do nothing at all. The light inside it blinded me and all I could see was white, but I could do nothing at all. It closed in on me, restricting my movements, but I could do nothing. Nothing, except come to the realisation that I was powerless and insignificant compared to this near cosmic entity, like my entire life had no weight in its considerations and priorities. This existential dread I’ve avoided is the only thing left for me to explore. I feel it hugging against my body tighter and I close my eyes, embracing the uncertainty of what may come next, and for a short moment, I feel entirely at peace. This serenity rarer than my trepidations of existence.

And suddenly, the entity sucks me in, and spits me right out just as fast. With a thud loud enough to be an explosion, I land back in my bed and sit straight up, sobbing and gasping for air. My eyesight was back. I was covered in not sweat, but a thin film that felt like oil. I check the time on my phone, 3:74am. Frantically, I look under my bed, inside my closet, desperately looking for a sign that could explain what had happened to me. 

Until, a loud crash of thunder turns my attention to the windows. I rip the curtains down, and outside, a storm raged. Slamming the windows open and stepping onto the balcony, I gaze at the scene hopelessly, screaming out at it to take me back.