A Bright White Light
Brittle and Chorb were out searching the mud bog for mouth spiders when the dust fog rolled in. They’d been gathering for hours, losing sight of their limbs in a low cloud when they bent over, submerging them into the mud. Chorb’s tentacle was tickling the back of a plump morsel when the light shockingly beamed in their direction. The dust fog was alive and bright, a billion critters swirled in the thick particle whisps searching for a host. They’d probably only collected twenty mouth spiders each before the sudden pull towards the electromagnetic glow.
It was a white light, the kind to be avoided, to look away from, to not go towards. They’d heard the stories, had themselves imagined yelling the words to others in moments of peril. And yet on they seemed to slide towards it, Chorb because he had no legs to begin with, and Brittle because his waist seemed to lead the way, he barely lifted his legs other than to raise his feet from the thick mud below. Tree shapes crawled across their faces like fingers and claws reaching out for them. The mouth spiders spun furious webs inside the pillowcase-sacks they used to catch them, chasing the shadows like they were something to hold onto.
Brittle thought about the loose thread holding his forehead skin together, thought about wasting a mouth spider on himself, letting it crawl around his brain and patch the gaps with its nature-caulk. But his hands were fixed to his sides, his feet the only part of his body moving. Plus the payment they’d get for twenty was a lot more than what they’d each get for nineteen. Nobody liked an ugly number at the latch factory.
Chorb laid a green layer of slick ooze over the mud bog. The glow of his slime trail submerged slowly into the mud forming ground stars that twinkled beneath the fog. Before they disappeared the skittle beetles chased the twinkles like drunken thirsties, itching for a nip. Chorb noticed a new inability to close his mouth. He could feel stray beetles sneaking their way onto his tongue and draining it of its moisture.
Brittle’s face too had begun to freeze in place, which led the corners of his mouth to stretch, his eyes to widen, his pupils to dilate to their tiniest selves. He tried to motion to Chorb by lifting his arm, but all he could manage was a single thumb joint wiggle that went unseen. The light sucked them in closer to whatever its center was. Chorb’’s tentacle seemed frozen in place around his oldest friend’s arm.
They are both thinking about the eerie similarity between feeling frozen in this magnetic light with a conversation they were having in the latch factory two days prior. Chorb was pulling his lever while Brittle pulled his lever, next to one another on line eleven, like always. They enjoyed pulling their levers simultaneously, to add their element to each latch in unison and place them into their pneumatic tube so that the air made one perfectly timed suction pull as both their canisters disappeared up in a race skyward.
Standing next to each other they laughed at the idea that if they were to perform this action (which they worked to perfect daily, and were often milliseconds off in their execution) absolutely flawlessly that their tubes would break, that maybe actual time in the world would stop. Their eyes widened at the idea of this, time stopping, and them crawling through a frozen landscape of the living, far away from levers.
The dust fog thins as the bright white light’s heat intensifies. They are now very near to the source. The two old friends are frozen in a state of fear, making the faces of two upright things omitting loud screams, yet all the sound left are the beetles wings as the insects dart between the gaping mouths. Larger than either Chorb or Brittle, the shape of the light up close is wide and circular. Though neither can confirm it, the light seems to now lift them fully out of the muck.
As sudden as an eyelid flick the two friends find themselves floating, within the light. Around them everywhere is the bright white, there is no tether or pull, no entryway or exit, blank, nothingness. A neon green drip lifts off of Chorb’s tail and it too just hovers among their bodies, a part of whatever the nothingness and everything they are now apart of.
Are we the shadows of the trees? Are we the trees? Can you hear me? Yes, I can hear everything? Everything you are thinking, I am thinking to. Hey, you just moved your mouth. You just moved your mouth too! Did you speak? No did you? No. We are together. We are lucky to be together. I should smile. I should smile. It feels good. It is good. Are we dead? I cannot say. What is the feeling? Where are the mouth spiders? Your skin is coming undone. Of course. Oh. Oh. Release the mouth spiders. Yes! Let them form a web. Yes! That is like the beginning. Yes! Yes! The web will be how it begins. This is how we begin in the light!