So Bright We Quit Our Shadows by Christopher David DiCicco

On the first day—we noticed the beach seemed brighter. Not hotter. Only more painful to look at. Sara said, “It’s going to be a scorcher today.”

But it wasn’t.

Off of the sand, on the first day, it wasn’t much better. We had to make decisions, decide quickly on what we needed to see. The gold wedding band on my wife’s finger?

Was it worth the pain of the glare? The six-inch step in front of me? Painful spots would follow. Sara’s wink? We had to consider. We had to know—was it worth seeing, worth the blindness that followed after. A glance at the curb cost us. A look to see who stood behind me made us wince. It was a little unreal, so we laughed. Sara bought ice cream. I looked at her face, noticed freckles.

On the second day—Sara shielded her eyes, said, “It’s getting hotter.”

“Not really. It’s something else,” I told her, “like there aren’t enough clouds.”

We argued, got off the beach, took our towels in our hands, wrapped them around our heads, made hoods to protect the eyes. Beeping came from the street. Drivers parked where they stopped, left vehicles on the road, walked to shelter. Indoors, emergency loudspeakers warned, “The glare is dangerous. Ocean County recommends all residents stay inside until the phenomenon has passed.”

We wore hoods, saw what we could, kept the blinds pulled. Sara said, “If you close your eyes, it’s not so bad.” With our eyes shut, the sun came through the lids bringing spots, little flashes of bright uncontrollable color, fireworks of the mind. It wasn’t long until closing our eyes didn’t matter, until it didn’t stop the sun from blinding us. It wasn’t long until the loudspeakers announced, “Sunglasses are mandatory.” It wasn’t
long.

It wasn’t dark.

Except for night.

It wasn’t long because it was bright.

On the fourth day—people stopped going outside. Sunglasses were no longer enough. The light came through the leaves and we started to fear it might come through the walls. People stayed inside, waited for answers. Scientists said, “Beats me,” and we waited for it to get worse. When it did, it wasn’t what we expected. Sara said, “Wake up, I can’t see. It’s coming through the ceiling. It’s coming through the ceiling. It’s coming.”

“Shut up. Shut up. Shut up.” But it didn’t matter. Yelling at Sara did nothing to stop it, the light. We felt our way down to the basement, to where we hid underneath the bricked floor of our kitchen, a stone ceiling above us keeping the Sun away.

“Will it come through? Will it shine all the way down here?” Sara asked.

“underground” (image via Flickr user Gioia De Antoniis)

On the sixth day—I stared at Sara, touched the dark outline of her figure, wished for a brighter lightbulb, thought of the irony, wondered how long we’d have electricity, if it would matter.

On the last day—everything washed out underneath the Sun’s glare. No shadows, dark outlines or edges. When we peeked out from underneath whatever stone, steel, cement enclosure we hid, the brightness glared, blinded, washed it all out in a whiteness so bright we looked away, held our hands to our faces, covered our eyes, cried until we turned back to the darkness, praying for night.

On the last day, I thought about the last night, about what I should have seen, what we should have done within the range of a sixty-watt bulb.

On the last day, I walked past Sara toward the stairwell of our basement, the steps once carpeting planks of cedar, now a single column of light pouring through a basement door. I stared at the purity of the beam. It illuminated, washed out its surroundings with its brightness. The light struck against the floor, shining onto the dirt of the Earth, not through the core, not out the other side, not yet. I thought about whether or not there would be night, about how long until the glare came through the rock, how long it would matter, how long until it went straight through to the other side, until there was nothing to stop it, until there was no night.

I walked into the brightness, stepped into the glare where the Sun lived, where it white-washed everything with its true beams. I turned, saw Sara standing beneath the stone mortar of our kitchen floor. I watched her in the dark there, watched the streams of concentrated light begin to poke through over her blonde head. Her freckles now dots of light sprinkled over her, through her, gone. The sunlight went through the stone above her, penetrating. I stood in it, called over to her.

“Is it coming through me?” I asked.

After that we stopped counting. After that we stopped caring—we quit thinking about the days or what we saw. When the Sun came through, it came through us. It took days; it took color; it took the night. It was so bright; Sara cried somewhere.

Christopher David DiCicco loves his wife and children—not writing minimalist stories. But he does. Work in Superstition Review, Litro Magazine, WhiskeyPaper, Bartleby Snopes, and other fine publications. Visit www.cddicicco.com for more story pubs.