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Originally appeared in Issue No. 6

 
  

 
    
  
 
     
    
  
 

Light, by C.T. Lawrence
 
by C.T. Lawrence
  

In the late 1980s, scientists discovered a hole in the ozone layer.  At certain times of the year it appears over the south pole, at other times over Patagonia.
 

My twelve-year old daughter sleepwalks in the light, and I, her father, stand watching under the stone-bright afternoon sun.  There is too much light.  It is everywhere:  so strong it makes a black outline around the nightgowned figure my daughter is, turns the grass she walks on a fluorescent green.  Her closed-eyed face turns toward me, and it is white, a pebble in the stream.

My daughter says it comes and takes her by the hand.  So she climbs to the flat top of a cliff by the sea and lies down in the grass and waits.  She says the light comes in clearest up here;  I go with her and watch.  First she lies down, arms and legs stretched out like she has been flung down by some giant hand, then she stands and tilts her head back, her face lifted to the sky.  She says the light would never let her walk off a cliff, but I don't trust it with my only child.  I stand between her and the sea, my arms open wide.

Spiderwebs of hair lift off my daughter's head.  She tilts it to one side as though she is looking up into a lover's face.  And her hand is held out, fingers curled around a handful of air as she walks circles in the wind.

We live in a country at the end of the world.  The television shows us maps of the hole in the sky.  They say it is coming again.  And the next day the light changes, pounds down on us so hard we can feel the heat on the tops of our heads, the backs of our hands.  Our shadows stretch at sunset, turning us into stick figures.

The doctors on TV say wear sunglasses, wear hats, don't go outside.  The farmers say their sheep are going blind.  The drugstores get cases and cases of sunscreen from America.  It sells out in a week.

I ask my daughter, who do you see when you go up there?  She says there is so much light coming out of his face.

In our country sometimes the sun doesn't set for a month.  We crave the cool of our houses so we can go in and bathe our hot, itchy skin.  We crave darkness so we can rest our eyes.  We want this long day to end.  My wife sleeps for eighteen hours and only gets up to light the gas under the kettle when we come home.  Inside, everything smells like dust;  even our tea tastes dry.  We sit at the kitchen table and close all the blinds, the shade cooling us down.  Our daughter blinks with her pink-rimmed eyes and, in a voice that sounds like it is someone else's, tells my wife and me what the light as said.  Her skin peels and peels.  There are circles under her eyes.  Neighborhood boys light firecrackers in the street;  she speaks to us over far away pops and crackles.  My daughter says it tells her that we will be delivered, we are safe, we have nothing at all to fear.  The light says that it has a message for the people of my country, and that my daughter is the one to speak.  The light says our time of rest is coming:  that night will be falling soon.

  

Dr. C.T. Lawrence is assistant professor of English at Bloomsburg University.  She has published fiction, poetry, essays, and criticism in numerous journals and has recently completed her first novel, The Life of a Saint.

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