LIGHTS IN THE NIGHT
Sammy let herself in through the front door. She wondered if her mum was back from her night out. Hopefully she was in bed asleep already. She’d kill Sammy if she found out she’d walked home alone from her dad’s.
At the top of the stairs, she took a right into her bedroom, ditched her rucksack, put on her pyjamas and left her bedroom again. She’d climb into bed with Mama. After Dad left, mum had always appreciated the company and never told her to go back to her own room.
Back on the landing, she noticed a faint green glow radiating from the gaps around her mum’s bedroom door. She’d forgotten to switch the telly off again. Sammy put the hall light on, crept to her mum’s bedroom door and pushed it open.
Light from the hall threw a tapered rectangle into the room, coming to rest over her mum’s sleeping figure. A zigzagging clothes trail ran from door to bed. Her mum’s too-mini miniskirt laid closest to the door, then past that a sequined top, then underwear, stockings and high heels. Crossing the room in a straight line had been a struggle.
The red digits of the bedside clock displayed 11:54. Her mum was home early. She must’ve had a skinful and hadn’t made it to the club this time. Sammy could jump up and down on the bed while playing AC/DC and it wouldn’t wake her now. That wasn’t such a bad thing; her mum would often keep her awake wittering on about how things with her father were ‘complicated’ and about how much she loved Sammy. Which was fine, but then she’d get
emotional and talk about being lonely, which wasn’t so good. She preferred it when Mama didn’t drink. If alcohol gave you superpowers or some heightened sense of reality, then she could understand. But all it did was make her dad angry and her mum depressed.
She pushed the door closed behind her. As the room grew dark, the green light returned.
Sammy stiffened as an eerie dread permeated her flesh.
The TV wasn’t on. The light was coming from under the bed, flickering. She needed to calm down, think rationally. Early Christmas present? The light could be coming from the lightsaber replica she’d asked for. She actually wanted Obi-Wan’s blue lightsaber, but she supposed she could live with a green one as long as it was Luke’s from Return of the Jedi and not Yoda’s from Attack of the Clones. Sammy’s excitement faded. It was months before Christmas, and would her mum really have switched it on? She hated sci-fi, fantasy, anything like that, and she’d told Sammy numerous times that sixteen-year-olds shouldn’t be playing with toys. Even though the lightsaber was a replica. Not a toy. Besides, there wasn’t the buzzing hum that she would have expected to accompany the weapon.
She wanted to climb into bed and ignore the light, but that would be the sort of behaviour her dad would call cowardly.
A corner of the duvet hung over the edge of the bed, obscuring the mystery beneath. She knelt by the bedside, rubbed her sweaty palms on her pyjamas. She was ready to whisk up the duvet, but stopped herself.
It might be an alien.
It wasn’t an alien. She was making excuses. She glanced at the red display on the bedside clock again as the time flicked to 11:56.
Without thinking, she flung up the duvet.
And nothing. Nothing jumped out, anyway. The green light remained, quietly flowing over her stomach in waves as she knelt there. She got down on her belly and crawled under the bed,
commando style. Whatever was producing the light was behind a pile of clothes. With a swift breaststroke motion, she parted the blockage. The light dazzled her for a moment and she rubbed her eyes.
It was the Emerald Dial bracelet. Not an alien. The light was coming from the jewel on the front. She let out the breath she’d been holding and crawled closer. Something in the gemstone was creating the rippling wave effect. Wriggling shapes deep inside swaying back and forth like long reeds. It was strangely hypnotic to look at and time seemed to slip away as she watched. She snapped out of her trance and shuffled back a little way to get a better look. The dial’s hands were pointing straight out to the left and right, still set at a quarter to three, which was clearly the wrong time. It was closer to midnight now. For the briefest of moments, Sammy imagined the ancient text around the setting shimmering.
Raise your hands to the skies
on the tone of midnight.
On the bedside table, the time flicked to 11:59. If Sammy raised both clock hands to the top, the dial would display the correct time. Esther had told her not to work the mechanism herself, but it’s not like she was going to break it. She’d be careful.
Sammy clutched the bracelet between her palms and used her thumbs to push the hands upward. They each shifted a little, but the mechanism was stiff and they stuck.
The reeds in the emerald swayed faster. Sammy pushed the hands again, but nothing happened. She shifted closer to the bracelet, until only her legs protruded from under the bed. Her face was now right up against the emerald and she had an elbow on the floor on either side of it. She took a deep breath and pushed. Both clock hands flew up with a snap. They locked together at the top and the emerald began humming, starting low but getting louder and higher.
Sammy scrabbled backwards, but too late. The emerald exploded in white-green light. Dazzling and brilliant, consuming everything around her, as the world melted to black.