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Neon Night

by Sephy Atlas 11 months ago in Short Story
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In Between Life and Dream

Photo by Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com

When light flooded into my room at 1 o’clock in the morning, it was too intense to ignore. It was like a green star had suddenly materialized outside my house. I threw off the covers and stepped out of bed. Come on, I thought. A green light? Am I just destined to never get a good night’s sleep?

As I walked over to the window, my heart was pounding. In my whole 17 years living in this house, I’d never seen something like this. Shading my eyes with my hand, I opened the blinds, trying to see outside. I immediately saw the source of the light: it was coming from the house directly next to mine, from my neighbor’s window.

I knew exactly whose window it was, because I’d been in that room many times before. I was unable to see anything from the window except for the light, piercing through the blinds. As I stood there observing, it was like staring directly at the sun.

Moments later, though, the light vanished. The room, as far as I could tell, went completely dark. When I looked around my own room, everything seemed tinted green.

For a few minutes, I waited by the window just in case the light returned. It didn’t, however. I walked back to my bed and lay down, my body tense, my head whirling. What on earth could that light have been from?

I just couldn’t think of a reasonable explanation, especially considering how tired I was. All I knew was that the room belonged to Ryan, who I’d been friends with all throughout elementary school. As kids, being that we were the same age and lived right next to each other, we naturally became friends. But slowly, we grew apart. By the time we got to high school, we barely even talked. I couldn’t even remember the last time we’d spoken.

I knew what I was going to do: I’d ask Ryan about the light tomorrow, before school. It would probably be awkward, considering how distant we’d become, but I had to do it.

Before the flash of light happened, I’d been trying to fall asleep for hours with no luck. I was completely dreading my 6 o’clock alarm. After another hour of tossing and turning, I finally fell asleep.

***

When I woke up the next morning, I jolted out of bed, despite every muscle begging me to stay. I needed to catch up to Ryan this morning, before he started his morning walk to school. Whenever I drove to school, I’d always see him on the sidewalk; I knew he left extra early so he’d get there on time.

I brushed my teeth and threw on some jeans and a t-shirt. Then I made a piece of jelly toast and started eating it at the kitchen table, where I could get a decent view of the outside through the window. As soon as I caught a glimpse of Ryan, I grabbed my backpack and dashed out the door.

After leaving my house, I walked quickly but not too quickly, trying to catch up with him. I didn’t want to make it too obvious.

“Hey, Ryan,” I said, a few feet away now.

He turned around, glancing at me. His eyes widened.

“Oh, hey… Amanda.”

I jogged up to him, closing the distance.

“It’s been a long time since we talked, huh?”

“Yeah, sure has.”

“How’s school going for you?” I asked.

“It’s all right. I’m taking AP Biology this year, which is pretty cool,” he said. “You?”

We proceeded to catch up for several minutes, until it finally felt like a good time to bring up what I saw last night.

“So, this might sound kind of weird, but this green light flashed in my room last night. I was wondering if it might’ve come from your house.”

“Hmm, green light? No, I don’t know anything about that.”

“Oh… You don’t? That’s too bad. I don’t know where else it could have come from. It looked like it was coming from your bedroom window.”

“Nope, sorry. Got no clue what that could’ve been.”

“Oh, okay…”

The rest of the walk, we talked about what had changed since childhood, like who we hung out with now, what classes we were taking. But I was still preoccupied with the light and what could have caused it.

***

For the remainder of the school week, I kept running into Ryan, much more often than usual. Though we were in the same grade, all of our classes were different, so normally I never saw him. Whenever we crossed paths, I would notice him looking at me. Sometimes I’d smile or wave, but other times I’d just hold eye contact. Part of me hoped he’d approach me and say something, but he didn’t.

I began to wonder if the green light I saw was just some side effect of sleep deprivation. Maybe Ryan really didn’t know anything about it. Maybe he thought I was weird for even bringing it up.

But as much as I tried to forget the light, my curiosity still gnawed at me.

That curiosity made it even harder to sleep. Every night, I found myself lying on my bed for hours. I made a habit of putting my phone away at 9 o’clock and drinking a cup of chamomile tea before bed, anything to make it easier. Yet night after night, I fell asleep at 2 o’clock or later.

***

On Monday, I woke up, my eyes practically glued together, and got ready for school. While heading out to my car, I saw Ryan in his pajamas, walking slowly down his driveway, as if to check the mail.

I thought it was a bit strange, considering he usually took off walking before I even left my house. I tried to just shrug it off, since it wasn’t any of my business anyway, what Ryan did. I got inside my car and started driving to school.

When I was approaching the school, I noticed Ryan walking on the sidewalk, completely dressed. I had to do a double take, because it didn’t make any sense; there was no way he could’ve walked that fast.

I slowed my car so I could get a better look at him. He was wearing the same red hoodie as when I walked with him to school the previous week. His hood was covering his face, though, so I couldn’t tell for sure if it was him.

But then again, what did I know? I hardly ever got a good look at him, since we never talked anymore. Maybe it was just another kid with an identical hoodie. And an identical stature.

Even as I tried to explain it away, I had an incredible impulse to drive back, to see if Ryan was still near his house. Biting my lip, feeling compelled but also ridiculous, I turned my car around. I swung my head left and right as I drove, trying to spot Ryan, but I just saw a bunch of unfamiliar faces instead. I kept a slow, steady speed my entire drive back.

Eventually, as I pulled into my neighborhood, I noticed a figure standing in Ryan’s driveway. My heart pounded as I drove closer and closer, and soon it became unmistakable: it was him, still in his pajamas, simply standing there. His brown eyes looked blankly forward.

I pulled over my car and got out, my throat feeling dry and scratchy. As I approached him, he moved his gaze toward me and gave me a soft smile, an innocent smile, which reminded me of when we were kids.

I cleared my throat.

“Ryan?” I said.

“Hi,” he said. “It’s good to see you.”

“Good… to see you too. What are you doing out here? Aren’t you going to head to school?”

He looked down and furrowed his brows.

“Oh, right,” he said. “Yes, yes, I probably should… It’s been so long, hasn’t it? Since we last spoke.”

“Well, we did catch up a bit last week at least.”

“Last week?”

“Yeah… Don’t you remember?”

“No, uh, I guess my head’s been kind of foggy lately. It’s hard to remember much.”

“Foggy?”

I started to get worried. Could he have hit his head or something? He didn’t act anything like this last week.

Or was it me remembering wrong?

“Okay, well, I’ll see you later, Ryan. Take care of yourself.”

I looked at my phone to check the time; it was almost 7:00, meaning I was about to be late for class. My stomach churned; I knew I couldn’t drive back. It must be the sleep deprivation… I must have imagined the light, and then that conversation with Ryan the next morning too; maybe I’d even dreamt all of it.

I just needed to sleep. Sleeping would solve all of this. I went back inside my house. I went up the stairs to my bedroom, quietly, since my parents were still asleep. But as I was approaching my room, I heard a voice coming from behind the door.

It sounded strange, almost like grinding metal, but I could still make out the words.

“Yes, I’ll take care of it. She won’t bother you anymore. No, no, we don’t need to find another planet. This one should serve us just fine. Tell the others they can come now.”

I couldn’t believe it. Was I imagining this, too? Whatever it was, I needed to find out the truth. I flung open my bedroom door and ran inside, looking left and right, but I didn’t see anything.

“Hmm, I could get used to this.”

My stomach dropped. It wasn’t the metallic voice this time. It was my own voice, coming from behind me.

I spun around. No, no… this couldn't be real. What I saw before me made no sense—it was an exact clone of me. Everything matched: the eyes, the hair, the mouth.

I wanted to scream, but my throat felt so tight that I couldn’t. As she started walking closer to me, I backed up into my bed, falling down on it. Propping myself up on my elbows, I saw what she held in her hand: a sort of oversized pen, which she was pointing directly at me.

“Why, why are you doing this? Who are you?” I asked.

“Well, now, it looks like I’m you,” she said. “And now all that’s left to do is take your memories.”

A blinding green light erupted from the pen and filled the room—it was so bright that it burned my eyes, and I couldn’t see anything else. My head suddenly felt fuzzy, like it was filled with so much cotton. Then sleepiness stole over me; every muscle in my body relaxed, and I felt like I was melting into the bed. My eyelids grew so heavy they closed by themselves. Relinquishing my grip on reality, I drifted off to sleep.

Short Story

About the author

Sephy Atlas

Writer, passionate about poetry and storytelling.

Instagram: @sephy.atlas

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