When did the lights first appear? I guess it was about a week ago. I was sitting on the foot of my bed, looking out the window…
The night was warm. Too warm. Summer had taken full effect and the leaves were full and green. The pool that day had been in the nineties, and sunburn covered my neck and shoulders from when I went berry-picking. Most of the berries had dried up, anyways.
I had spent all day binging Netflix and now my mind felt like it had fallen off the train of my day and was left behind in the show. So I sat on the foot of my bed, stroking the cat, my mind buzzing too much to sleep. I wanted something more than the banality of life. That’s why I wrote. I would much rather talk about Inter-Realm anomalies than awful sunburn I got or how my day was going. My day was fine and perfect and utterly, utterly boring. All the stories I wrote about glorious deaths and true love and magic seemed so far away. I wish I could be in them, even if it meant a glorious death. Better a glorious death after seeing wonders than a life of sitting around in quarantine, unable to do anything worthwhile.
I wanted to be remembered. I wanted to create a story in real life.
The fan was churning up the air above me in its soothing rhythm, but it did nothing to clear the stifling heat. I considered getting out my headlamp and reading myself to sleep, but I dismissed the notion. It was too late already to start something.
The trees swayed outside. The sky was not quite black, but rather a deep, murky grey. The lights of the suburbs polluted the sky, blotching out the stars. The colossal silhouettes of the cottonwoods and my neighbor’s house stood out against the background. The dark figures of birds swooped through the air.
I let my eyes droop down, but before they closed there was a brilliant flash of light. My eyes flickered open. What was that?
It was gone before I could catch a proper glimpse. I didn’t know where it came from. I pushed the cat off my lap and pulled my blinds to a different angle. Peering through them, I couldn’t identify any source.
Heck. This was awesome! A mystery to solve, however small.
I scan the sky through the blinds to see if there’s another.
There it is again! It’s a brilliant flash that goes white, lighting up the sky and blinding me for a couple of seconds. It came from just past the treeline!
I gulped. Possibilities ran through my mind like a hamster racing its wheel. Could it be a thunderstorm?
“Alexa,” I whisper into the dark, quiet so as not to wake my brother. “What’s the weather like?”
“In California, there is an excessive heat warning until August nineteenth. Right now, it’s eighty-nine degrees Fahrenheit with clouds. Tonight, expect a high of eighty-six with intermittent clouds,” says in her monotonic tones.
Hmm. No thunderstorms, then. A sudden possibility occurred to me: Mother said she experienced flashers before a migraine. Were these flashers? Was I going to get one?
I wait and see another one flash by outside the window, out of the corner of my eye. No, if something was going on inside my head, it wouldn’t stay out the window.
Was it a meteor shower? That was possible.
“Alexa, when was the last meteor shower?”
“The last major meteor shower was the Perseids. It peaked last Wednesday, August twelfth.”
Well, it was possible.
But I had seen meteor showers before, and they weren’t like this.
This was strange, bright, beautiful light over the trees. I doubted this was a meteor shower.
It occurred to me it could be some kind of pattern. I should try counting between the flashes, see if it happened at a regular interval. I waited, sitting by the window, drowsiness leaking over me like a cracked egg over my forehead. The cat was back on my lap.
There it was. A bright white flash in the woods.
A thrill ran through me. Should I be scared? Was it something unnatural? Was it something dangerous? Then I laughed. If it was dangerous, good. Unnatural? Even better. Was it someone trying to signal for help? I leaned against the window, a fire of curiosity burning so bright I was surprised I didn’t burn the cat.
Aw, shizbuckets. I had forgotten to count!
I considered telling Mother. I got off the bed and to my doorway before I stopped. What-ifs ran through my mind. What if it was the end of the world? No, too far fetched. What if it was a ghost? What if it was aliens? No, all the possibilities were too far fetched. What if it was just nothing?
But one stuck with me.
What if this was my chance? My chance to have an adventure, discover wonders! Discover my story in real life! And if I died, if I got in trouble, if I got in danger, great! All the better for my story. Call me reckless, call me foolish. I had to go. I had to find out.
But I had to make a way for my story to live on if something happened. I scribbled a new entry into my journal and tucked my phone into my pocket, set on record mode.
I slipped downstairs, my socks muffling my footsteps on the carpet. At the foot of the stairs, I slip on lightly heeled boots and stepped lightly into the garage. I eased my bike off the wall and snatched my helmet from the handlebars. Then, as to avoid any unnecessary noise, I walked my bike out the side door rather than open the garage.
Mother and Father needed not to know. This was my adventure.
I slowly pushed open the side gate and mounted my bike. Speed was of the essence now. The longer I was gone, the higher chance I had of being caught. It was well past my curfew.
I said what was happening aloud for the sake of the video log. It was dark and my phone’s camera wasn’t exactly the best.
“Headed around the first corner,” I murmur. The light flashed white in the sky ahead of me. “There it is again, that’s like the sixth time.”
I rode through the night, my headlamp shining bright on my forehead, dim in comparison to the light in the sky. Riding my bike at night was not something I did often, and it reminded me of better times when I would go to the bike park in the evening, even though I was awful compared to the other teens at the park. I was always the only girl there, but I had fun.
I had always been somewhat of a tomboy. Going to the bike park when the other girls went to Target or Starbucks, playing a rough game of basketball with the boys instead of walking and chatting with the girls. My friends and I weren’t like other girls. On the rare occasions that we went to the store, we bought random ridiculous toys and sugary junk at the Dollar Tree. We joked about the popular girls who we knew were dissing us behind our backs. The only times I had been girly was in my writing, because I could be whoever I wanted to be when I wrote. There were no limits, no one to judge if I didn’t want them. I could become my character and mold myself to be however I wanted to be.
Now writing is my only escape from these times. Times where I can’t go out, can’t be a tomboy, can’t diss the other jerks.
Now my writing was coming to life. It flared again, brighter than ever, closer than ever. My sweet adventure.
I rode without hands, something I would always do on the way to the park with my brother and his friends. I turned half a dozen times, only the bright pulses of light to guide me as I lost myself in the endless twists of the trails and paths that led through the backwoods of the suburbs.
Owls cooed loudly, but I began to hear another sound. Like the rumbling of a thousand feet. A flicker of doubt shot through me like a canon. Maybe it was just a thunderstorm.
But as I get closer, that doubt fades. The light and sounds seemed to be coming from a clearing just ahead. I lower my bike to the ground and step off the path. I push through the undergrowth, carefully edging blackberry vines away from my cheek. The air was warm and humid, and I started sweating as I traipsed over the cotton blanketing the ground.
“That rumbling sound- I don’t know what it is. Sounds like some sort of cavalry, or thunder or something,” I whispered to my phone log. “Can you hear it?”
The light flared again. It came from high in the atmosphere and shot to the Earth at the speed of a freight train, blinding in its strange beauty.
“That’s the twentieth time. Is this going to go on all night?” I muttered, pointing my camera at the phenomenon. “They seem to be coming at hundred-second intervals.”
The light screeched to a halt at the clearing just in front of me and for a split second, it illuminated the outline of a creature definitely not from around here. It was spindly, long, and graceful, landing softly to touch on the grass of the clearing before flickering out of sight.
“That’s...well...it’s...it’s beautiful!” I gasped to my video log. I only got a glimpse, but it was enough to confirm that something was not right. A mysterious creature just came from the sky and turned invisible.
I looked around, hoping to find a better viewpoint to catch the next flare. A large cottonwood tree to my left looked like it would do fine. I swing myself up into its thick limbs, my height becoming quite the advantage. I push myself higher into the tree, cautious to make sure my phone wouldn’t fall out of my pocket.
The rumbling sound was also coming from the clearing. It circled the edge of the trees, like a stampede of rhinos. I inched myself further out onto one of the branches, holding my phone out to capture the next flare.
Seventy, seventy-one, seventy-two, seventy-three. I scooted closer in anticipation.
The branch snaps and falls away and I tumbled into the center of the clearing. Pain shoots into my knees. Blood drapes a red curtain over my legs and hands, and tiny cuts cover my skin. I groan and rise swaying to my feet. The rumbling was deafening, moving in a circle around me. The wind picked up, soaring joyously to sound. Invisible creatures moved around me. I could smell them: a scent so strange yet familiar, indescribable to any human. I could see their footprints trampling the grass.
Ninety-six, ninety-seven, ninety-eight, ninety-nine, one hundred.
A quiet humming filled the air. The flare appeared again in the sky above, bright white and blinding as ever. It hurdled towards me. I fall back into the grass, wiping blood out of my eyes. I scoot back, crab-walking on my hands and feet away from the circle and wiping blood off my cheek. The light landed on the ground in front of me in silence, taking the form of the spindly, long-legged creature I had seen earlier. It was so strange and bizarre and adventurous I almost cried.
I didn’t care if they were hostile. I had my adventure.
Dozens of more flashes lit up the clearing, and suddenly the creatures stampeding around me came into view.
“Are you getting this?” I whisper out of the corner of my bloody mouth to my phone.
The creature spoke in a foreign language. It was sweet and slipped gracefully over its tongue, like a cool river slipping over moss.
The creature paused.
Then it shifted, sweeping over itself, whirling its spindly limbs about until they shifted into something relatively human. It still had limbs twice as long as any true human, and its skin glowed pearly white. It had no eyes and only a wide, thin-lipped smile. It was completely bald and dressed in flowing, elegant robes of forest green.
The other spindly-legged creatures shifted- well shifted seemed too crude of a word. They merely flowed from one plane of existence to the next, until I was surrounded by tall, bald, glowing beings.
They were delicate, graceful beauties, only slightly creepy.
The being in the center of the circle smiled benevolently. I noticed that its lips were a pale green.
In a graceful, slipping tone, it asked, “Can you keep a secret?”