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He took the glow, half-wracked in seaweed and beach detritus, and carried
it, cupped in his hands up the dunes.  The glow emanated warmth but not
heat.  He noticed that his feet, submerged half-way in sand, appeared
purple in the dusky light.

A sudden sense of urgency gripped him.  The glow didn't belong on the beach.
It belonged with the stars.  He felt an imperative to hold onto it, to raise
it above sea-level anyhow.   His feet worked the surface of the dunes,
scraping, sliding, and the urgency took root in his bladder.  A gaseous feeling
that made him feel that his inner self was floating, a capsule of matter and
corpuscles gathered in fistfuls in his organs, pieces of his soul splintered amongst
these disparate places.
 
The horizon was beginning to lighten. A faint yellow.  He felt the call of
the glow, as if all phosphorescence was a connected but diffuse fabric
of time and space, and light broken up was not the entrance of darkness, but
merely a transference of molecules from those that gave off light to those
that absorbed. Thus, darkness and light were no longer the beginning nor the
end, but rather reflective of a grander scheme of energy he could not
fathom.

The glow was warmer; its temperature had risen.  Around him, the houses
hulked in blue-dark shadows, and the night above winked indifferent with its
panorama of stars.  The wind had changed and he felt now its cold brushings
against his cheek.  It made him feel protective of the glow, and he hunched
over, sheltering it with one sleeve and elbow, with one side of his back, as
his ears tried to pick up the remaining sounds of life in the night.

Where did the glow come from? He didn't know.  He saw it on the beach, and
at first he thought it was dying sealife.  When he came closer and gently
edged the seaweed away, he gasped.  It was pure light.  Luminous and
perfectly round, just as he had drawn the moon when he was little, and
believed that the moon was where his father had gone.

No, the glow mustn't be left on the beach.  He looked up at his own house,
where all the lights were on and his mother's sisters were getting his
mother's body ready.  His mother, whose last breath he had just witnessed,
three last gasps of air before her chest just stopped moving, and he had
thought, so this was dying. He looked down at the glow and its pristine
light almost blinded him.  Once upon a time, his mother had shone a torch
into his face whenever he misbehaved.

The glow had become heavier. He felt he was running out of time.  He moved
faster, his feet mired in sand, but he pushed through to the reeds and
waving grass. From there, he suddenly made out the silhouette of the
gnarled cypress - the one that he had shimmied up every summer when
coming to the beach, the one that he had fallen from and broken his wrist, and
his mother had drawn the entire ocean along his cast, named the fishes, crabs,
the algae, the brushworms, the whelks and other molluscs.

He headed for the cypress.  The memories of it were funneling through,
unlocked by time, and yes, by the glow.  He saw himself again, the boy, the
boy who studied circadian rhythms because he wanted to determine the
shortest distance to the moon.  The boy who looked at the swath of celestial
night sky and imagined a dark blanket, vast and immortal, which simmered
with little bubbles of light, frothing, in continuous writhe.

At the foot of the cypress, he wondered if he was still capable of climbing
it.  His hand where the bone had broken tingled with phantom remembrance.
He looked back at the house.  He could see one of his aunts at a window
looking for him.

It was time to go back.  With one hand cradling the glow, his other hand
pulled at a sturdy branch to give himself hoist.  Strange, the effort was
almost weightless, as if the pull of gravity for this one night had shifted,
because all light had reduced itself to glow.

He limbered up to the next branch, then the next, then the next. The tree
took his weight, and up in its leafy bowers, he felt vast, omnipresent.  Just
him and the glow.  He would sit here until morning.  He could fall asleep
protecting the glow.

He sat atop a fork and gazed at the rapidly shading horizon.  Time had
arrived.  Time, ticking with little breaths of lassitude, had stolen all his
memories.  He held the glow tighter and it warmed his chest.  But it too
was getting hotter and hotter, and with a cry, he realized soon he wouldn't
be able to hold onto it, because it would burn him.
 
Still, he held on for dear life.


Elaine P. Chiew currently lives in Hong Kong. Her short stories have won the Bridport Prize (2008) and been selected by Dzanc Book s' Best of the Web (2008), Wigleaf's Top 50 Microfiction (2008), Storysouth's Million Writer's Award (Top Ten Winner, 2006) and the Per Contra Prize (Top Ten Winner, 2008). Her work has appeared in various literary journals such as Front
Porch, Pedestal, and Storyglossia, and most recently in Short Circuit: A Guide to the Art of the Short Story (ed. by Vanessa Gebbie) (Salt Publishing, London, 2009). She blogs at elainepchiew.blogspot.com.

     
 




 





  


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