This is a flash fiction I wrote a few weeks ago in the middle of my Western Lit II class, inspired by a random prompt in an old screenshot on my Kindle. I’m pretty sure part of it was also influenced by the depressing modern and postmodern literature I had to read for the class; but you can decide that for yourself.
Also, random note, but I realized a lot of my stories involve little kids. For my fellow writers – do any of you have that tendency? Why do you think it is?
Anyhow, enjoy the story! Featured image via.
The dirt road was drenched in midnight.
Shadows fell from the clear cavernous sky like rain; the little boy could feel them dripping down his back, see them sliding off his older brother’s coat and pooling in the hollows at his feet. Or rather, he couldn’t; and that was the problem, as he kept stumbling in the holes.
Knife slashes in the dark curtain above coalesced into bare branches of trees. It was winter, and that made everything look bare and dark; but especially the trees.
They were walking home from evening church. And his older brother was talking about philosophy, of course; but the little boy didn’t consider himself obliged to listen.
Instead, he let his mind wander to the service they’d just left. It wasn’t like it had been that morning; there was no thundering sermon, no hell fires raging under the floor, no pianist with fingers flying while the plate was passed through the pews. Just a little room, and the preacher talking about God.
The little boy didn’t hear many people talk about God that way; the preacher said in heaven they would be with God forever, and when he said it, even the harps didn’t sound boring. They had knelt to pray, and the little boy had felt it was quite solemn and important; they should kneel, it was only right.
His older brother seemed to find his philosophy quite interesting. Was this Plato? Or that other guy, the one whose name started with D?
He looked up at the sky in contemplation. It was just as dark as the well out back, the one he’d always been scared of falling into since he was little. No, it was darker, actually. The well at least reflected the moon.
His brother was still talking. Someone named Marx had said something important a long time ago. It sounded an awful lot like when Father and Uncle discussed politics; and it was just about as interesting.
Where was the moon, anyway? He should have been able to see it.
He looked closer. There weren’t any clouds. And the sky was dark, darker than it had ever been. He turned, asked his brother why the moon wasn’t there. His brother didn’t hear.
Marx was intelligent, a very intelligent man. But he had failed to account for the volatility of the masses…
But why is the moon gone?
Maybe there was a tree in the way. He stepped back and forth, craning his neck. Still, nothing. And, he realized, the road shouldn’t even be this dark. They walked this way every Sunday night and there was always light on the path. The pale shadow of a silver lamp at their feet.
Where did the moon go?
His brother was becoming passionate about his politics. Or philosophy. Or whatever it was. The Enlightenment philosophers, they had it right. They had paved the path to the progress of humanity itself. Of course, sometimes they misunderstood human nature, but that was just a mistake, just a slight error…
Yes, but the moon isn’t there. Don’t you see how dark it is?
The stars were gone, too. How had he not realized until now? Orion should be just there, with his sword belt.
And the Enlightenment had been the great awakening of the west. That was where we began to understand the world.
The starless, moonless night fell down around the two brothers, freezing cold and washing over them like the Styx.
But there, up ahead. Something had changed. There was less black; a little more color.
Look. What’s that?
His brother hadn’t stopped talking. Kant, Hume, Voltaire, Locke – they changed the world. They brought us out of the dark ages.
The sky up ahead, at the end of the long dirt road, was blushing pink. A gentle flame was licking up from the horizon. The trees spread their brittle branches in sillhouette against the resurrected dawn.
Look. Look! The sun is coming up! Why is it coming up now, in the middle of the night? Isn’t it pretty?
His brother was still talking about the philosophers. He walked on down the dirt road, gesticulating to himself, oblivious to the light that engulfed him.
And now the sun itself had risen, and its great golden eye bathed the barren landscape in unexpected morning. The little boy had stopped in the middle of the road, staring in wonder at the marvelous light.
Slowly and carefully he dropped to his knees. Bowing his head, he let the rising sun embrace him, and the sea of light washed away every drop of darkness.
Look. Look. Isn’t it beautiful?