Hearing rumors that black holes had been abolished and suspecting there was work to be done, the Doctor hurried back from her vacation in the hills. At home, she found the freed light brimming the cellars and the sewers, and it was eerie on that moonless night to see it all being itself this way, light without source rilling downhill and shushing fluidly in the low places, its shining surface rippling in a breeze.
News sites had forwarded the stories; now she heard directly of peril and virtue and the difficulty of detaching from one’s home, when one’s home was so massive that escape had been impossible for the fastest and lightest. Of course everyone had opened their doors, welcomed every shimmer out of the lonesome skies.
But even where no one was home, the light seeped in. It trickled through the tiniest cracks and filled all the dark small places and was still filling, rising all around, starting to brighten the undersides of furniture, casting half-familiar shadows on ceilings and walls.
By morning, the light had topped the curbs on the downtown streets and a line of sleepless children in knee-high boots stretched out the door of the Doctor’s acute pediatric clinic. Parents already murmured to each other about moving the light along. Yesterday they had done the right thing by the light, like any honest galactic citizen. But they were only being polite, and now they’d done it, they hoped it would be undone soon. Surely another planet could be found to house all this peculiar luminescence they didn’t really have room for, one where the mines were deep and open and the skies were covered over in blackest cloud.
The Doctor humored the parents, examined her patients. She said that all the children seemed all right. The light outside her office topped the parking meters without doing obvious harm.
In the middle school’s second floor theater draped with heavy curtains and with all the light switches duct-taped in the off position, the parents met that night. They talked about drilling and giant pumps and the Army Corps of Engineers. They talked about levees and federal relief and about the swimmers, mostly aged seven to thirteen, who weren’t there with them. Who were swimming in the light now without coming up for air any more than once in a hour, adapting quickly to the buoyancy of their new medium, no classes or chores, no need to chew and swallow one’s vegetables or assimilate knowledge amassed and passed on by progenitors.
The Doctor attended and listened acutely. The Doctor sucked her breath in when she breathed, and she thought how there is a kind of light that sits all day and night in its little pools, how it’s like still water in a hollow, with the trees so tall and the land so low and a permanent sense of intrusion, as though one is always walking in on a kiss. Walking in on a crime. Bewitching, of course, but no one right-minded wants to live there.
At home in an upstairs bedroom the Doctor lay on her bed. The grateful light was everywhere, lapping now just below the second story electrical sockets or leaping up to look outside the window. The Doctor rolled over and dipped her fingers into the beaming pool around her bed, feeling her fingers tingle for a moment before she withdrew them. She thought of her truncated vacation in the uplands, of her medical merits and long practice and the things she had earned and learned and of vistas she had meant to visit and never got round to. She dipped her fingers in again, and drops of light rolled up her wrists and greeted and bedewed her. She regretted little. She thought of long days and long voyages, of circumvention and circumnavigation, of event horizons and of noir fiction volumes a narrow as a bone. She wet her lips. She pulled herself so her face and shoulders hung off the edge of the mattress.
She plunged her head in, gulping.
Ezra Dan Feldman teaches English and Science and Technology Studies at Williams College. He is the author of Habitat of Stones (Tebot Bach), and his poems have most recently appeared in RHINO, Crazyhorse, Lambda Literary Review, CONSEQUENCE, and Columbia Journal.