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Prisoner of the Night

by Aathavi Thanges 4 months ago in Short Story · updated 4 months ago
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How long does it take for a good thing to go bad?

the woods

I’ve never liked being a light sleeper. A dash of sunlight peaks through my curtains at the crack of dawn. The subtle sense of warmth taunts my tired body. Humans are supposedly diurnal and operate best during the day, but I find that this isn’t always the case. How could humans resist the calm of the night? When the stars reflect the beauty of our universe, how can you withdraw from the world and not bask in the peace that accompanies darkness? It made me envious of barn owls, who strictly resided in the dark atmosphere of night. I find the contents of my mind bouncing from one end to another, refusing to find solitude in the sunlight. But alas, this is how the world chooses to operate. To live in it is to escape your mind and find a community. Part of me enjoys my position on the outside, looking in on all the people who’ve discovered the meaning of normal.

I live in a quiet neighbourhood surrounded by woods and valleys. Most of the adults in our town escape to the city for half of the day, leaving the children to wander around endlessly during the summer. Most of us don’t even choose to leave our houses anymore. There’s something about being confined to the walls of our home that’s comforting as much as it is isolating. I’ve remained inside for about a month now, only leaving to check the mail for my Mom. I’ll admit, it has its downsides. My skin has gotten pale, I hardly remember how sunlight feels on my skin anymore and I stare at a screen so often that my vision is reaching permanent damage. But it was during the day that I’d make up for all the sleep I’d lost the night before.

It began as a simple walk at night. I was having a hard time falling asleep, so I decided that my body would eventually tire itself out. Plus, the weather was perfect; The subtle warmth of the breeze complimented the natural cool of the night. The sun wasn’t around to give me a blistering headache and the world was fast asleep. Time went by slower at night. It felt like I could be out there for hours, and no time would’ve passed. There were only a few sources of light that guided me through the woods behind my house. Suddenly, everything had a gentle wakefulness to it. The sweet, mellow scent of fresh shrubs and thick fog eased my mind. It felt as if the trees were inviting me to stay. How could I refuse? I gently closed my eyes and took in my first real breath of fresh air. The ache in my chest melted away with the mist and I felt more alive than ever. I quickened my pace through the woods, feeling joy trace my every step. I saw the trees reach out for me, claiming me as their own. The moon smiled down as if I were returning home to where I belonged.

I began to realize how limiting our houses were. They’ve kept me from discovering these woods for so long. The design of each tree was unique and intriguing; Each line felt like a vein, engraved into their structure to give them life and meaning; The leaves cushioned the woods, as if it were trying to conceal itself from all the harm in the world. Each shrub felt like a protective barrier between me and the outdoors. The animals who sought refuge here crawled quietly throughout the night. I’d entered another dimension walking into these woods, and they’ve kept me up at night ever since.

One night, I chose to follow down a hidden stream that had the voice of an angel; Its never-ending music remained irresistible. It led me to discover a stray cat hiding under some bushes. I sympathized with the fear in her eyes as I tried to pet her. It took three nights before she finally warmed up to me. She was reluctant to let me touch her unless I was petting her wet nose, which made me feel like a walking tissue. But when her black fur glistened in the moonlight, it made it seem as if the stars were in my grasp, so I named her Stella. Her soft purs indicated that she needed a night-time companion as well. The more saturated our world got, the lonelier it began to feel. If these woods were an indication of anything, it was that escaping the world was more fulfilling than finding a place in it. Stella and I spent the remainder of our nights together, cooped up under the veil of leaves and branches.

The longer I stayed in these woods, the more I felt them become a part of me. I began to change with every night that passed. At first, it came after my eyes. I woke up to see that my pupils had dilated to the size of a grape. It didn’t take too long before the whites in my eyes were replaced by a bewitching black. My face became stunted, my brows began to furrow and the tip of my nose sharpened into a stout beak. I couldn’t show my face to anyone during the day without provoking concern and fear. But the less I showed my face, the faster I began to change. The entire structure of my body had shrunk to the size of a notebook and feathers began to extend down my arms. Sharp talons peered into my shoes and tore apart the sheets of my bed, leaving my room in shambles. Out of fear, I escaped to the woods for one last time to say goodbye. I desperately needed control over the changes that were happening to me. I spent my last night with Stella and the trees. The quiet night put me at ease, and with Stella sleeping under my wing, I felt irreplaceably connected to these woods. But when I opened my eyes again, the ground beneath my feet felt different. My damaged vision was replaced by a fine-tuned perception of my surroundings. The soft shuffle of the leaves now sounded more like a building under construction. The coldness in the air bit at my thin feathers. The sky was saturated with clouds and not a single star could be seen. I looked down and realized that Stella was nowhere to be found. When I tried lifting my arms, I was suspended by the limited motion of my fully-formed wings. My talons clawed at the dirt in an attempt to lift me higher, but I was too late. There I was, the same creature I once envied. I realized, right then and there, that the only place that would accept me now were the woods, and confined to these trees, I became a silent prisoner of the night.

Short Story

About the author

Aathavi Thanges

If only there were enough words in the world to convey all my thoughts.

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