The Illumination

Alex no longer feared the darkness: it was the only thing that didn't abandon her. Yet a new discovery will melt the numbness gnawing at her heart.
*Entry for the Dark Light writing competition: write a backstory/history for Alex*


1. The Illumination

A scowl was etched into the haggard face of a child: she wore a silence screaming to be heard.

Waves of laughter echoed in the distance, the wind waiting to absorb the children’s noises of ecstasy before they could even spill passed their lips. Her eyes strained on the figures that bobbed and dipped like the head of the doll she’d broken in a fit of anger. Dampness bit at her fingertips as she grasped the window ledge, a raw fury creeping through her flesh as the wind whipped at her skin. The white dress that clung to her had greyed from years of use, dampness constantly biting. She swore she could almost hear each tiny footstep although she was miles away, could hear the grass crackling beneath each toe and the parents’ praise floating towards their children. Giggling. Dancing. Singing.

The bittersweet scent of candyfloss drifted towards her and she slammed the window shut, peeling her eyes from the view in the distance. Bubbling and fizzing, ripples of chilled warmth pulsed through her blood. She hated them, she realised. She hated the children she could never be, the happiness that possessed them whilst she was stuck in a breaking house with a broken mother and a shattered life. The moon was clawed back by a cloud and she was left in darkness, the confines of the loft engulfing her tiny figure. She used to hate the dark, hate the way it made everything around her form grotesque shapes that she didn’t recognise. When she was younger she used to beg her mum to tuck her in, plead at her skirt as the woman that gave birth to her stared out of the window, drowning her sorrows in the bottle, abandoning her. With time, with every day that passed that she was left alone, the girl came to love darkness: it was the only thing that never left her. It might be gone for a day but it would always come back, even if it terrified her, even if its company made her skin prickle in fear. Anything was better than the loneliness.

In the closed window she could see the child that stared back, lines of pain already etched into the face of a girl who was yet to turn eight. The girl that was her. The girl whose name had been an afterthought. Alex. She whispered the word at her reflection, remembering how she’d once pressed her fingers against the glass in an attempt to wipe the tears from the other girl’s face.

In the room downstairs she could hear her mother fumbling around, a curse as she crashed into a table. Alex was immune to the smell of vodka that pervaded the house when her mum came home after work. She’d taught herself to become numb to the anguish, to the fear, to the pain. She’d taught herself to feel nothing. It was beginning to consume her.

I hate them, Alex whispered, her tiny fingers punching the glass, cracking the reflection she’d once tried to console. I hate them all. Crack. It began to rain, tears of blood hissing from a gash in the crimson sky. The trees before her rose like pitchforks to pierce the reddening clouds, the corpse of the moon returning to illuminate the scene below. The little white figures continued their frenzied games- utterly oblivious- unaware that they were playing amongst tears of blood.

But the rain wasn’t enough to stop the fire. Nothing was.

At first it was a flicker in the distance, a flicker amongst the trees. The low rumble that followed rattled the windowpane. Alex stood startled yet intrigued. But then it was building in increasing brilliance, the white light surrounding her like a blanket, almost comforting. Alex looked on wide-eyed, in awe. She’d never seen anything like it, the way the brightness devoured anything that blocked it, the merciless crackling across the trees. The loft was the perfect height for her to be embraced by its reassuring warmth. And then in a flash it came again, this time even closer. It was the only thing she’d ever seen destroy darkness in such a way. It began to melt the numbness that she didn’t realise was weighing down her soul, the numbness that came from a child sitting alone too long in the dark. It was elating. It was exhilarating. It was electrifying.

As the warmth wrapped its fingers around her cold flesh in embrace, bliss burned through her body. It was so overwhelming that she barely remembered her mum stumbling in and grabbing her arm, dragging her down the stairs, cutting her from this new taste of comfort. She only really remembered the light burning in her vision, the flames heating her cheeks, the crackle as wood burnt into smoke.

From that point she knew.

Flames would burn through the darkness numbing her. Fire would be her treasured weapon. She’d spent her life shrouded in darkness- this was the moment that she discovered light. Her moment. A fiery smile carved into the skeletal contours of Alex’s face: she was no longer a silence screaming to be heard.

She’d be the scream they were desperate to silence.

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