Listen, I've seen some stuff.
Nothing to do but watch, really. Not a lot of chances to get out and meet people. I'm really just kind of, you know, stuck here in this outlet.
I had a friend, for a while. Dan was his name. When he was little, I used to scare away the monsters under his bed and comfort him when he had a nightmare, and when he couldn't sleep, he would sit in the circle of faint blue light beneath me and color. Years later, he would curl up with a book down there. After that, countless nights watching him stay up way, way too late playing Xbox and messaging his friends. I'm gonna go ahead and skip over the things I saw him do in his teenage years. Then, I pretty much only got to see him in the summers. Then he took all his stuff and left. That was a stupid move. I was the only friend he had.
…Okay, I mean, not the only one. I mean, there were his parents. The dog probably counted. And those people who always came around to play Halo and drink Mountain Dew. Dan had a lot of friends, if I'm being honest.
…If I'm being really honest, he was my only friend.
Anyway, as I was saying, I spent a lot of time watching over Dan, seven or eight hours in a row sometimes, and I've seen some stuff, which means I've got a lot of secrets. Unfortunately, with Dan gone, there's no one to tell them to. I really miss that vinyl bobblehead of Darth Vader that used to sit on top of the dresser—that dude was a good listener. I guess maybe the Vader bobblehead was my second friend. Didn't say much, though.
Once Dan moved out, his mom turned this into a guest room with a vaguely nautical theme—wrought iron bed frame, navy blue sheets with a little white anchor pattern, distressed wood dresser with lots of sailboat knickknacks on it, and walls covered in something she kept calling 'shiplap'. Every clue that this room was once Dan's slowly disappeared as the nautical core took over—except me. I'm pretty unobtrusive in the daytime. I think she forgot I was here. Blue Canary, the last vestige of Dan's presence in the now-guest bedroom.
The room has no personality now. Sometimes I try to provoke a reaction out of it—spill one of my secrets, so to speak. I mean, I did see some pretty crazy stuff. "So one time," I'll announce to the anchor-shaped bedknobs, the ceramic mermaid on the dresser, the faux painting of a weathered old salt smoking a pipe, "one time, Dan was trying to catfish a girl, but he sucks at Photoshop, so he stole his mom's eyeliner to draw on a six pack, but it turns out he's also a terrible artist, and also the eyeliner was waterproof, so he spent three days with a deformed cartoon six pack drawn on his stomach in Revlon Chocolate Shimmer."
Nothing. No reaction at all. Not even a nod of acknowledgement. I really miss that Vader bobblehead.
I miss watching over Dan. I still light up the room every night as soon as I sense darkness, but the job rings kind of hollow now. My heart's not in it.
On the opposite wall, there's a picture of a lighthouse. Now THAT was a light with purpose: weathering time, tide, and typhoon to keep sailors from meeting a violent death on treacherous shores. I evolved from THAT, I'll sometimes remind myself. That light beaming from that beacon? That's the same light pouring from my plastic, avian-shaped casing. If my ancestors could keep fires burning bright through a squall, I could certainly suck it up and keep watch over an empty room. It's not like my life is hard.
…I could totally do that job, though.
(Who am I kidding? I could not do that job. I'd be fired from that job so fast. You can barely see my light from ten feet away, let alone from a boat through a hurricane. I'd probably screw up bad and accidentally kill some famous sailor.)
Are famous sailors a thing?
I'm wracking my brain trying to think of one, here.
I guess maybe that dude from the myths, the one that took twenty years to get home. What was that dude's name? Jason? And his…Argonauts? Wait, no, I think that was somebody else. Weren't they still sailors, though?
Wow, I think this room is starting to get to me.
Maybe…maybe it's time to turn off. There's nothing for me here, no one to watch over, no one to be my friend. No reason to keep the light on.
Once my eyes stop watering, I'll try to get used to this sudden brightness. Where is it—oh. It's the showoff in the ceiling. Jerk hardly works any more. I'm over here lighting up the room for nobody all night, every night, and that dude only puts in the effort when somebody—
Wait. Who turned him on?
There's a hand on the light switch.
I know that hand.
That's DAN'S hand.
Looks like he's got his arms full--A duffel bag, a couple boxes. I mean, I would put those down if I were him, but looks like he got distracted taking in the room.
He looks…less than thrilled with the concept of nautical core. Right there with ya, bud.
Okay, okay, so now we're unpacking, looks like we've got a laptop, there's the good old Xbox, toothbrush, razor…a couple of books…there's that trophy he won for coming in first place in bar trivia in college…lucky softball mitt…a couple pairs of shoes…
This…this looks like all his stuff.
Dan, are you back? Are you back for good?
He's putting his clothes in the drawers now. He seems...unreasonably angry about the sailboat knickknacks. Oh, wait, wait—whoa, buddy! I mean, I didn't like the smug grin on that ceramic mermaid's face either, but you didn't have to shove her to the floor like that!
Oh, man—he flopped on the bed. I have seen that flop on the bed before. I've been seeing it for decades. That is the flop of a man defeated. That is the flop of a man who has failed at life, who's lost all his points and is starting back at zero. He's started back at zero so many times, right here in this room. I've watched them all.
This time feels harder, though.
This time, his own room isn't even his own room any more.
Ope, I think he sees me.
Dan! Yeah, Dan! It's me! Blue Canary! I'm still here! Over here in the outlet! Listen—as long as I'm here, as long as I'm watching over you, this will always be your room!
He's smiling. That's a start, at least.
Okay, and he's back up. One last thing to take out of the duffel bag…
IT'S THE VADER BOBBLEHEAD!
He's putting it on the dresser, right in the spot where the ceramic mermaid used to be.
You may be starting from zero again, Dan, but whatever the problem is, you're ready for it now. You've got this.
We've both got this.
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A night lights perspective! So unique. I have read all three of your stories do you plan to submit more? If so I will be very excited to read them! I am new to reedsy and just submitted my own first short story to this week's contest.
That's awesome--congrats and welcome to the community! The holiday season was a little bit crazy, so I didn't have a lot of time to write. The next time one of the prompts sparks some inspiration, I will totally keep writing. And thank you so much for reading!
I thought you gave a living bird the ability to light up a room for a moment there. Lowkey forgot night lights exist. I love how you wrote this one in particular. I love the perspective, the plot and your style with it- chef's kiss.
Thanks. There are things I would change, since I wrote this about two hours before the contest deadline, but it was my first contest entry and I'm pretty proud of it.
It's a good one to be proud of. Especially with that time limit. I don't think I could manage that.
Omg! “Birdhouse in Your Soul” by TMBG of course!!!
The use of perspective and discovery added a neat dimension, and the bobblehead is a nice thread to pull the reader through and resolve the story. Your voice is clear to me here, nice work!
Loved the story! Quite different telling it from the night lite's perspective. Adorable. I really enjoyed reading it.
Bobblehead was the perfect solution! Great story.