3:33 and a flickering light.

Submitted into Contest #149 in response to: Start your story with the flickering of a light.... view prompt


Suspense Creative Nonfiction Mystery

    A newborn baby lays quietly in a crib. The moon shines bright and nearly full, casting a ghostly glow through the gap between the sheer curtains in the window. There is a slight chill in the air; it is the middle of winter afterall. The babe looks all around, arms and legs moving. One breath, then another. There is a second, warmer light coming from a nightlight plugged into the wall.

     Suddenly, the light flickers and a different light is seen. This light moves and floats around the room, a blue orb of sparking energy. It begins to expand and grow, sparking brighter yet muted at the same time. An energy source with a feminine feel hovers above the baby. The baby gurgles with delight at the sight. This is no ordinary baby and the orb is no ordinary light. The baby knew she had been reborn into this strange new place. Everything felt so new, fresh, and she had a vague remembrance of where and who she had been immediately before the birth process. 

   Home. Sophie. 

   Yes. The orb responded without a sound.

   But soon you will forget and all that was before will fade, as it is meant in this existence. 

   Is that the sun?  The babe feels the response.

   No, that is Luna, the Moon.

   Ahh, Luna!  The babe sighs. 

   You are so beautiful! And you? The baby cooed.

    Iriel, sounds like Ariel. The orb brightened.

    And the other? 

    Electric light. And the nightlight flickered. It was then understood the signal would be a flickering light. With that, the babe closed her eyes and went to sleep. The orb shrank to a pinpoint and floated away. The clock on the wall lit up by the moon reads 3:33.

     The lights flickered …

     It had been 3 days. The wind howled, driving the rain against the glass. The lights dim, then glow super bright as the power surges again.

   “One more big push!” said the doctor.  The woman took a deep breath, bore down and pushed as hard as she could. The lights flickered and dimmed again as new life sprang forth, seemingly surrounded by a pale blue light.

   The lights surged bright again as a hush fell over the delivery room and every person knew they had been witness to something special - something none of them would ever talk about - or experience ever again. The time read 3:33 a.m..

     It all began with a flickering light …

     The little girl woke with a start. She still remembered the dream and was surprised by the darkness that surrounded her. She could feel her heartbeat quicken and she paused to listen. What pulled her back so fast? Was it a sound? Everything was very quiet and she hadn't had a nightmare. She heard the click of her mom's clock that was by the bed. The fine glow of light let her see the time, 3:33 was on the display.

   As her eyes were adjusting to the dim light, she thought she saw her nightlight flicker out of the corner of her eye. She looked right at it. It started to glow brighter but to her left, a light did flicker, like a candle light. 

   Hmmm, how odd, she thought. Naturally curious and unafraid, she got out of bed and tiptoed quietly through the bedroom door and into the living room.

     The big brown house across the street was casting ominous shadows across the yard. The streetlight flickered, then went dark. Another strange light caught the girl's eye, much higher than the streetlight. High up on the brown house, in a window she had never noticed before, she could see the profile of a man's face lit up by the glow of a candle. Something about what she was seeing felt oddly strange and she shivered a little as she felt the tingly prickles of the hairs rising on the back of her neck.

   She blinked a couple of times as her eyes began to sting. A shadow on the driveway appeared to move. What she thought appeared to be a man with a wide brimmed hat and long coat moved toward the door of the house. The streetlight flashed on and the shadowman disappeared behind the bushes in the front yard. Something about the shadowman felt wrong and terrifying all at once. It looked like the man was trying to break into the house! The girl remembered her adults talking about intruders breaking into people's homes in the middle of the night. Was that what she heard? Was that what she was seeing? All this went through her mind in an instant. She looked again as a low light, like a small flashlight moved behind the bushes across the street. The girl screamed.

     The bedroom door opened, light streamed in and the little girl's mother was immediately there, beside the bed, to hold the girl and comfort her. The time on the clock beside the bed clicked to display the time, 3:33 a.m..

   In the morning the girl tried to tell her mom about the dream. Her mom was in a hurry, her mom was always in a hurry.

   “It was just a dream, Sweetie,” says her mom before she left for the day.

   The girl went across the carport to her grandparents house like she did every morning. 

   “I hear you had a bit of a rough night”, says Grandpa from behind the morning newspaper at the breakfast table.

   “Yeah, I guess so”, says the girl with a half shrug. Grandpa lowers the paper and raises one eyebrow, looking into his granddaughter’s face.

   “Scary monsters chasing you again?” asks Grandpa.

   “No,” says the girl. “This was different."

     “Do you want to talk about it?” asks Grandma as she sets a bowl of cereal down in front of the girl for breakfast. The girl pauses for a moment, tilts her head to the side, looks hard at her grandparents and asks them, “Will you really listen to my dream?”

     Her grandparents look at each other, then back at their grandaughter and nod their heads. 

   “Yes, we're all ears,” says Grandpa, folding his newspaper and placing it on the table.

     As the girl finished telling her grandparents about her dream, the lights overhead flickered. Once again, Grandma and Grandpa shared a quick look. Brrring!  The telephone ring made them all jump as it's seemingly overloud ring shattered the moment of silence.

   “I'll get it, Mother,” says Grandpa, already rising to answer the phone.  “It's probably the office.”

   “Hello?!” says Grandpa into the telephone reciever. He listens for a moment or two, frowns slightly, then says, “Why of course I can. Be right over,” and hangs up the phone.

   “Be back in a few minutes, Mother,” says Grandpa to Grandma as he heads out the front door and walks across the street to the big brown house. Grandma clears away the dishes from breakfast and pours herself another cup of coffee. In comes Grandpa a few minutes later.

     “The old gal was up getting a drink of water in the middle of the night and thought she heard a noise. Looks like a basement window was broken. I'm going to board it up for them until they can get it fixed," says Grandpa.

     This time the flourescent lights in the kitchen and the lights over the kitchen table flicker at the same time.

     “What time is it, Grandma?” 

     The little girl's grandmother glances at the clock then her watch. 

     “It's 9:33 a.m. dear.”  The fluourescent light surged bright overhead, then went out.

     The girl was playing in the front yard of her house, pretending to garden, smelling all the flowers. Every now and then, she glanced across the street at the big brown house. Something was different but she couldn't figure out what it was. Somehow the house seemed smaller than it had the night before. She knew the moon wasn't as bright and shadows could play tricks on the eyes, making things look bigger or different than in the much brighter light of the sun.

     The old woman who lived in the house was in her garden and noticed the girl sizing up her house with a puzzled look on her face. The woman waved to the girl and the girl smiled and waved back. The woman motioned for the girl to come across the street to her garden.

     “You seem a bit puzzled, dear. Anything wrong?” The woman asked the girl. The girl told the woman she'd had a dream about the big house. Intrigued, the woman said to the girl, “I would like to hear about this dream of yours, go ask your grandmother if you can come in for a tea or cocoa and a cookie as long as it won't spoil your lunch.”

     Quick as she could, the girl ran back over to her grandparents house to get permission. Grandma telephoned over to double-check and was assured the invitation was genuine.

     The old woman delighted in showing the young girl some of her favorite treasures and the girl was fascinated by them. Once the cocoa and tea were ready, the woman lit a tealight that sat under her teapot to keep her tea warm. The girl and the woman settled at the table and the woman said to the girl, “Now, tell me all about this dream you had, as much of it as you can remember.”

   Once the girl was finished telling the woman about her dream, the woman had a ponderous look on her face, her lips were pursed and her index finger slowly tapped her lips. The incandescent bulb in the kitchen flickered, then surged brighter than it had before.

   “Now I understand the puzzlement I saw on your face, child. The window you described no longer exists. Many years ago, there was a fire on that floor, in the room where you saw the man's face. Rather than rebuild the whole floor and roof, we closed it off, made the house a bit smaller. You dreamed of a time past". The woman showed the girl an older photograph of the house. Sure enough, right where she had seen it in her dream was the window. And in front of the house, hands in his pockets of his pants was the shadowman she had seen from her dream.

   "That was the shadowman I saw, too!" exclaimed the girl. 

   "What? Where?" asked the woman.

    "Right there, in front of the house in the driveway beside the car!" And the girl pointed to the spot where she could clearly see the man standing. The old woman insisted there was no man in the photograph. The girl insisted there was.

    "Describe this man you say you see!" demanded the woman. The girl gave a detailed description of the man; his hat, the pinstripes on his suit, the wingtipped shoes and overcoat.

    "My, what an imagination you have, dear. There is no one in this photograph!" said the woman. Then she raised the photograph to put it back in the drawer. As she did so, the photo was lit from behind, and a very shadowy figure, like a double exposed image appeared right where the girl pointed, precisely as she had described. The woman gasped and nearly dropped the photograph. She began to shake and in a whisper told the girl it was time for her to go.

     The woman needed to lay down. She had looked at that photograph many times before. She thought back to the very day the photograph had been taken as she had been the one to take the picture. She checked some of the other pictures of that day. The same shadowy figure appeared in several of them when she KNEW no one had been there. He was only visible in the pictures where the sun was behind the clouds, and he wasn't always in the same place, which was most disturbing of all. The woman also knew it hadn't been an overexposure mistake as she had developed the film herself in the dark room at the high school.

     Terrified of the implications, the woman moved in a robotic fashion, very pale, trembling hands, insides quaking. With one hand clasped around the gold cross she wore around her neck, she kept repeating in barely a whisper, over and over

    "There's no such thing as ghosts! There's no such thing as ghosts! There's no such thing as ghosts!" The incandescent bulb flickered again, and the tealight keeping the teapot warm wavered as if in a breeze then went out altogether.

     The day was gloomy and thick fog obliterated the sun; the air felt wet and heavy - the best day for harvesting some rhubarb to stew for pies and topping on vanilla ice cream. Streetlights had been on all day, casting strange shadows making it impossible to tell what the time was from the position of the sun.

     The old woman in the brown house seemed to have gotten over her "excitable state" as her grandfather called it. Others whispered about nerves and mental conditions. Neither concerned the girl, she just knew the woman wasn't quite as friendly as she had been before, so she was surprised when the woman had called to her and waved her over to gather some rhubarb.

   "Break off the leaves like this, and I'll fetch you a bag to carry it home so your grandmother can bake a pie or stew up the rhubarb." Before the girl could respond, the woman turned on her heel and quickly went into the house, leaving the girl to contend with the pile of rhubarb. The girl didn't mind and she knew where to put the leaves as she had helped the woman with this before. 

   The girl was daydreaming about pies, ice cream and stewed rhubarb, already able to taste the sweet tartness of the fruit so she didn't notice the streetlights at either end of the block as they surged brighter, then snapped off. Nor did she notice the boy across the street, watching her. He had noticed the streetlights and had a front row view of the garden from his hiding spot under the current bushes behind her house and across the street.

   The crunch of gravel and the streetlight snapping off at the same time made the girl jump, startling her out if her daydreaming. She looked up to see the shadowman perched on a garbage can, right beside the compost pile where she had been dumping the leaves. The sight made her stop in her tracks. Her arm hairs prickled and what felt like an icy hand on the back of her neck made her whole body shiver. She almost felt like she was going to pee her pants. She shut her eyes and turned around, but when she opened them again, the shadow man from her dream was still there. She didn't know what to do, so she pretended he wasn't there, kept her distance, and dumped her load of leaves on the pile.

   She felt more than heard the man speak her name. That startled the girl more than anything.

   "Who are you, what do you want and how do you know my name?" The girl could feel herself start to tremble, but she wasn't going to give in to fear, nor was she going to run. Instead, she stamped her foot in a show of anger.

   "I'm not s'posed to talk to strangers, you don't belong here and I, uh, something about you doesn't feel right." The girl's voice rose higher with each word until she was nearly squeeking.

   "Simmer down, l'il lady, I'm not here to hurt you or cause trouble. In fact, I'm here to help you, watch over you and in extreme cases, protect you from harm that may befall you." Again, it was more like feeling the words and sound of a strong masculine voice than it was hearing it.

   "The name's Jophiel, but you can call me Mr. J until you feel comfortable with calling me Jay. I wanted to check in with you, introduce myself and let you know I'll be around. Very few people can see me or even know anything about me and I kinda like it that way, if you don't mind. It makes my job a lot easier, the less questions asked in the beginning. The old lady is coming in a second, so I need to disappear, but I will see you soon."

   With that, he put his hat back on and vanished in a shimmer. Overhead, the streetlights clicked back on, one at a time, just like they had never gone out.

    The boy no one noticed had seen and heard it all from his hiding spot.

June 11, 2022 03:19

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Ashley Paige
16:59 Jun 11, 2022

Loved your story Dionne. I found this line toward the end especially spooky: "It makes my job a lot easier, the less questions asked in the beginning. The old lady is coming in a second, so I need to disappear, but I will see you soon."


Dionne Nichols
21:23 Jun 11, 2022

Thank you so much, Ashley. I am really glad you liked it. This story was born out of memories - I was 5 when it happened. Truth is, I have only ever seen trailers for Stranger Things, never needed to watch it because I lived it.


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