flip the switch

There was a switch on the wall of his bedroom.  His parents called it a light switch because if it was flipped up the light would turn on and if it was flipped down the light would turn off.  Up, on.  Down, off.  Up, on.  Down, off.

The idea had been drilled into him from an early age.  First it had been a lesson on how things work in the world.  Up, on.  Down, off.  And then it had also become a lesson in energy conservation.  When you leave the room, turn the light off!  Up, on.  Down, off.

His hands new the drill, the routine, the simple gesture one way or the other so completely that it had become second nature, not only in his own bedroom, but in every other room of the house.  Up, on.  Down, off.  But, the switch in his bedroom didn’t always work in such simplicities.

On three occasions, when he entered his room and flipped the switch the light didn’t come on.

It wasn’t a blown bulb, or bad wiring.  It wasn’t any mechanical failings in the switch.  The circuit was turned over, the electricity was allowed to course through the wires buried in the wall and reach the light bulb, and the filament in the light bulb was ready and willing to course into brilliant burning life just like normal.  But in those rare instances when the light didn’t turn on it was because the switch was doing so much more than just turning on a light.

The first time it happened, he freaked out, cried out in alarm and stepped backwards out of the room.  His hand automatically flipped the light switch off.  It was ingrained, it was what his body knew to do when he left the room, and the cry caught in his throat as the world swimming in front of his eyes returned to the semi-darkened bedroom he had thought he was about to enter the moment before.  Up, on.  Down, off.

He hadn’t returned to his room again that night until his mom had gone in to check his bookshelf for a missing library book.  When he saw her switch on the light, and saw his room exactly as it was supposed to be, he dashed in behind her.  And there he stayed the rest of the evening.  He intentionally fell asleep with the light still on, and when he woke the next morning the light was off.  One of his parents must have turned it off for him after he had entered the realm of sleep.

The second time it happened, with the knowledge that all he had to do was step backwards and flip the switch off he didn’t cry out with alarm, he didn’t immediately step backwards, he didn’t turn off the world in front of his eyes.  But, he didn’t step any further into the room either.

He stood mesmerized by the vibrant colors of the forest floor and canopy.  The lush greens.  The brilliant oranges and purples.  The harsh browns of the tree trunks pushing up against the tangle of limbs and leaves above.  It was beautiful and he felt silly for having been afraid the first time he had seen his room transformed into the jungle.  Then the brackish caw of a bird calling out and the thumping of wings beating at the air for purchase startled him out of his revelry and he stepped backward.  Up, on.  Down, off.  The vision vanished, and the grayscale template of his room appeared again.

He cursed himself for a fool for having scared so easily and stepped forward and flipped the switch again.  The white light from the bulb overhead purred into life and illuminated the bed, desk, bookshelf, and dresser (a matching oak set) of his room.  Up, on.  Down, off.  Up, on.  Down, off.  Up, on.  Down, off.  He repeated the process until he heard the call of his dad from the living room to knock it off or he’d be sorry.

The third time his magnificent jungle sprang into view he boldly stepped forward.  The soft carpet of his room was replaced by the even softer soil of the forest floor.  He could feel the instant temperature change as he stepped out of the air controlled climate of his house and into the humidity.  A quick glance over his shoulder ensured that the door, the wall, and the switch remained intact.  He took another step forward, and then another, and then another…

The bird he had heard before called out again and this time he did more than hear it flying through the trees, he saws its reds and yellows and greens blur overhead as it swooped across his vision.  His mouth formed in an O of delight but no sound escaped his lips.  It was all too much, all too unbelievable.  He didn’t want to disturb this new world in any way and make it disappear.

Mesmerized, unable to move any further, he stood still for a long time, drinking in the jungle.  He ponder the magic of it.  He felt his chest swell with pride that he had such an amazing room, an amazing light switch.  The bird called out again and he swiveled his head to track its progress through the tangle of limbs.  Then he heard his mother’s voice as if from a great distance, quiet, strained, and turned to look towards the door again.

She stood framed in the doorway, backlit by the lights on in the house behind her.  He heard her say something about that kid always living lights on and knew she couldn’t be talking about him because he knew up, on and down, off better than anyone else in the house.  A moment’s panic seized him when he saw her reach for the switch and he tried to call out for her to stop, but he was too late.  Up, on.  Down, off.

The ground and trees and bird vanished as the world crashed into darkness around him.  He knew he was still in the jungle though, he could feel it on his skin, he could smell.  And, most terrifying, he could hear it.

The soft padding of feet near him, and the scraping of a large body through the underbrush startled him out of his silence with a whelp.  A low growl was received in response.  He found the strength and determination to move again and went scrambling through the darkness.

The sound followed…


Thank you Rara for providing the idea for this with your ForThePromptless series:

prompts for the promptless, forthepromptless, rarasaur

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The 11th Possibility is the idea that, regardless of data to the contrary, something unexpected and outside the realm of ordinary thought is always potentially around the corner.

“A coin is flipped 10 times, and in each instance lands on either heads or tails.  But even after the normalcy displayed by the first 10 flips, the result of the next flip is still unknown.  The coin could turn into a bird and fly away.  The coin could land perfectly on its ridged edge.  The coin could dissolve upon landing.  It could defy gravity and remain stuck in the air.  This is the 11th Possibility.”

39 thoughts on “flip the switch

  1. Magical and frightening! I love this 11th possibility, it’s fantastical, wondrous, and terrifying all at once. 😀 Great story, great writing– thanks for participating in Prompts for the Promptless!

  2. Oh. My. Word!!!
    This had me at the edge of my seat – almost fell off straining to reach the switch before mom could do what moms do so well!!
    Brilliant story young man 😉

  3. what a great story! It had hints of “Where the Wild Things Are”, Sliders, and Primeval, but was unique too (to me anyway!). I was reaching out to stop her turning out the light 🙂

    • If only he’d had a voice to call out to her… Or, would that have even mattered? It’s such an automatic response could she have stopped her hand before flipping the switch off? Or would it have gone off, and she would have heard his voice and tried to immediately turn it back on only to shine a light on an empty room…

  4. One of the greatest gifts I think a person can have is an active and vibrant imagination. This was fantastic, you captured the feeling that I think most people can relate to, of having an active imagination as a kid. Loved the up is on, down is off as well. (the father threatening to cut it out, have you met my dad? Because that is him.) Awesome enjoyment reading this.

  5. So much more begs to be written here. I admit though, I love the stories that leave you hanging. The possibilities are endless here. Great post!

    • Thank you! I will probably try to write a follow-up sometime this week… it may end with further cliff hangers (as is my way) but I’ll try to wrap up the current situation at least.

  6. Nice! I was just thinking about how probability is a bunch of BS since the probability of anything happening is always 50/50. It happens or it doesn’t. Fun reading.

      • Never have but it comes from general philosophy, something to do with what’s his name’s theory of induction where he questions humanity’s expectation that the past is a predictor of the future. Probability is a human construct that is used very practically, to the extent that it’s really not BS, unless it is. Ah s*** I don’t know, hard to explain. It’s like in science, where there’s never any real proof of anything. You can’t prove that a piece of chalk will fall to the ground if you let go of it, until you let go of it and it falls to the ground. And then you can’t prove that it will happen again. You can believe it will and build a theory on it, but you can’t really prove it without letting go, and then after that you can’t prove it will happen again. And so on. Maybe I will expand on it, it’s pretty fun.

  7. And there you have it, a budding author in the making. Poetic words that drew me in to the story. Young Sir dj, you have a talent, don’t let it go to waste. 😉

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