A story that begins in darkness and ends in light

Darkness. Asleep kids wake up it’s light.

‘What if the past is a currency I can spend?’ I thought. “Oh, good idea for a story.” I really should reach for my phone, but I can’t. I can’t muster the energy. I think to myself, ‘remember, remember that idea.’ I never do.

It’s dark. The room is cold. The tip of my nose is a little numb and I need a wee. Not badly. Just enough to irritate. Besides I’d need to be busting to move. I’m stuck.

Why is this so hard? I have to push through. I have to escape this darkness. Or do I? I can embrace it. I can become the darkness. Well, no I can’t, I’ve got a meeting with the boss at 9am. The alarm hasn’t gone off yet. Maybe it’s still really early. Maybe I’ve got a few more hours of sleep. If so I should really do that wee. If not, then I’ve got to get out of bed.

Another story idea pops into my head, ‘We need to have mysteries in our lives as kids otherwise we grow up thinking there are simple solutions to all of life’s problems.’ Goddamn it. Why now? And what was the other idea? The one I had to remember. It was about the past too. Hang on. What was the idea I just had?

Now I’m awake. The drowsiness is fleeing my body. Nerve endings wake up. My toes are a little cold. I actually do need to pee. Still, I can tell it’s cold. Why is it so cold? The oil heater isn’t on. Why not? I pause, take a deep breath and check in on my body. It’s heavy. Full of sand. Then it hits me, our six-year-old boy had a bad dream last night. He came into the bedroom screaming. He snuggled in with my partner and I. I fell back to sleep. He should still be here. I roll slightly, not wanting to lose any warmth on my head so perfectly snuggled into my pillow. He’s not here.

My eyes open. Where is he? Why is the oil heater not on?

I brace myself. It’s time to get up. I want to reach for my phone write down my ideas, but I’ve got to find my son first. More importantly I’ve got to find out what destruction he might have brought upon the house as a sleepy free agent.

I reach for my phone and hesitate for a second over my notes app, and open up the smart light bulb app instead. A soft red-light beams under the crack in the bedroom door. The living room light is on. I shiver. It’s an ice box in here. Still haven’t got around to building a pelmet and my ‘thermal’ curtains I bought in a sale are about as useful as a dog on a windy day.

My dressing gown is at the bottom of the bed, in case of 3am wake up calls to the kids room. I take a deep breath before the plunge.

 And I’m up, it’s colder than I thought. I reach for the dressing gown. It’s not there. I fumble about for a few more seconds. Just cold jeans and a pair of socks. I whip off the covers, open the wardrobe and throw on the first t-shirt I find, a pair of jeans, and a jumper, which I put on back to font. I don’t care.  Now I’ve disturbed my partner, they are rolling in bed, groaning weakly.

I exit the room in one swift movement and close the door softly behind me. Now I’m hot. I’d not noticed the sound of the split system whirring away. I’ve never figured out the timer on that thing. My boy. It’s another breadcrumb to follow. I take my jumper off. The remote for the split system is on the floor. It’s set to 29 degrees. Looking forward to that power bill, I switch it off and move on.

Then an intense pain shoots through my foot. It’s the type of pain that overwhelms. Four years ago I tore my ACL in my knee and had surgery where a length of hamstring is snipped out and threaded through my knee. That was followed by 6 months of physio. That was not as painful as this. It’s a unique pain in the human experience, one that not everyone suffers, and I feel a pang of nostalgia for days where I didn’t experience this pain at least once a week. It’s the pain of unexpectedly stepping, barefoot, on Lego.

I’m on my knees now. Eyes tightly closed as if that will help focus my attention away from my foot. Then as fast as it comes and overtakes every sensation in the body it’s gone again. All that is left is a mild frustration that my child can’t tidy up despite years of teaching them to do so. Maybe I’m failing as a parent. Maybe they’ll end up being a drug dealer because their Dad couldn’t master the basics of parenting.

I get back to my feet. The living room leads to the kitchen, it’s a little cooler in here. I see a carton of milk on the bench which leads to a river of spilt milk, and breakfast cereals scattered everywhere. The floor, the bench, the sink, there’s some on top of the kettle. I round the corner on the island bench and there on the floor, curled up on my dressing gown, is my son. The light of my life. The terror of my night.

He half opens an eye.

“Daddy cuddle?”

I laydown next to him and he hugs me tight.

“What happened?” I asked.

“Well, I wanted you to sleep. You always tell me you sleep better when I’m in my bed. But my bed had monsters.”

“You can always stay in my bed if you have a nightmare mate.” I kiss his forehead.

“But it was cold in the living room, so I turned off your heater so I could turn on the other heater, so we don’t waste our money. But then I was hungry, so I had breakfast. Is that okay?”

“Everything is okay. In fact, everything is perfect.”

I take a deep breath in. The love I have for him overwhelms me. I faintly remember I had an idea for a story I had to write down. I don’t care anymore. This is way better, laying on the kitchen floor under a red light next to a lake of milk and cereal and the most beautiful little human being in the world.

Also, I REALLY have to pee.

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