It was a Thursday night and outside was the coziest thunderstorm. Perched where the great woods met a cliff overlooking an ocean was an old house, taller than it was wide. Sitting inside this house, a woman, in her favorite wingback chair, enjoying the comfy storm. Unlike most in her current situation, she wasn’t reading, or listening to music, or doing anything particularly entertaining. She was simply sitting, staring at her crackling fire and thinking. Of what she was thinking we may never know, but one could almost be certain she was thinking. The house was dark–it always was this time of night–but the storm had cut what little electricity the old house had. But she had lit a candle, and that was all she needed. The thunder boomed.
She was staring; you couldn’t verify if she was thinking, but one look would confirm that she was very much staring. At one point it seemed that she was staring so hard she forgot exactly what she was staring at, for in the blink of an eye she realized that she was not in her chair by the fire, but in the hallway upstairs. Looking at a wall. She wondered how she had found herself in this predicament–she didn’t remember moving at all, and even if she had, why had she gone here? As she turned her head, she heard a child’s laugh coming from the bedroom door. Strange, her daughter had grown up and moved out long ago. She went back to her chair.
As she sat in her chair she heard crackling, the crackling of a radio tuned to a channel with no signal. A voice cleared the crackles, and the old sound of a 1920s vocalist flooded the room. The woman by now was most likely deep in thought, perhaps she was thinking of how strange it is that a radio with no source of power that has not worked for 6 years would suddenly turn on. But it was a lovely tune, so she stayed put. Or perhaps, she was thinking about a child’s laugh coming from an empty room. Or maybe not.
She was sitting, staring, and listening–listening to the rain and the song. She closed her eyes and listened, listened until she heard a new sound: water. She opened her eyes to find she was no longer in her chair–she was sitting on the edge of her bed. She sat staring, not at a fire, but rather out of an ocean-view window. Yet the water she was hearing was not the ocean, it was the sound of the sink in her bathroom, the sink with the spout that never turned on. She was glad that it was finally working. She walked back downstairs.
When she sat back in her chair she could see the fire, and through a window she could see the ocean. Through that same window, she could also see the light falling of snow. It’s on cold winter nights that one loves to sit by the fire and think; although for the woman it was getting increasingly hard to think, with the radio and the fire, not to mention the buzzing and flickering of the table lamp’s bulb. She considered turning off the lamp but decided she needed the light. As the musical stylings of 20s swing faded into 40s jazz, she decided that she needed something to drink. She walked across the room and grabbed a mug out of the cupboard. The particular mug she grabbed was found at the very back of the cupboard and read “World’s Best Dad” on the front; it was the only one clean. She rinsed out the dust and made some hot chocolate. She sat back down and relaxed into the music. During one song a noise piqued her ears. It was the sound of a bell, the kind you would put on a house cat. It sounded identical to the one she had put on her old pet. After a rather loud meow, she felt her cat walk across her feet and settle on the chair beside her. Anyone else in this moment might have been perplexed: why, after 24 years of being missing, had her cat finally come back? I suppose she was just happy her cat had returned.
She sat listening to the radio, the ocean waves, and Edith the cat purring softly in her sleep. After finishing her drink, she returned to her staring, the light of the fire consuming her attention. As she stared, she felt a gust of wind brush her cheek. She was standing at the edge of the cliff and looking at the water. This was not unusual, although she usually enjoyed being here when the weather was nice. Tonight was very foggy with a slight breeze–not ideal conditions if you are looking to view anything. Light wasn’t an issue, not even in the dead of night; the moon shines so brightly here it could pass for a second sun. But due to the fog, the only thing she could see was the gleam of a lighthouse on a distant shore. Until the ray from the lighthouse went out. Now tell me why, in the middle of the night, when the earth was nothing but fog, did a lighthouse go out? Conceivably, the only notion she held at the moment was that she now had to go back inside.
She turned and started to wander towards her house. About halfway there, an intense beam of light engulfed her sight. The beam came from the woods and stayed on her for a second or an hour, or what could have been any amount of time, then disappeared. She lightly shook her head in an attempt to clear the floaters from her eyes and walked to the front door. As she was walking, she hoped that whoever was holding that flashlight escaped the foggy woods and got home safely. But she wasn’t too worried, after all, Edith made it back. When she had settled back into her chair, she listened to Edith’s bell slowly make its way down the stairs and into her lap.
She got lost in thought for a little while, but when she returned, she determined that not too much time had passed; it certainly wasn’t morning, and the hailstorm was still going as strong as it was in the late evening. Her cat had moved back to her separate chair and fallen asleep. At some point, the radio had stopped playing tunes and reduced itself back to crackling, and the old lamp bulb had finally given out. The one thing that grasped her consciousness most urgently was the fire, which had gone out. The house was nothing but a pit of darkness, light coming only from the moon. She was paralyzed with fear, her mind consumed with the sound of hail striking the walls, a broken radio crackling, and a dead cat purring. And then she heard it: a pounding. This wasn’t hail, this was the front door. And as she slowly turned around to face the door, it happened. She finally stopped thinking.
Avery Sauber is an eighth-grade student at Centennial Middle School in Minnesota. When she’s not doing schoolwork, she can often be found playing lacrosse, taking naps, or updating her personal book index -complete with title, page number, and publication date. She hopes to continue with her writing pursuits in the future.