The sun vanished long ago. A dim street lamp revealed through our blinds what little solace I found in a world of horror. The gleam bled between every crevice, creating a radiance rippling across the face of my beloved. Light. Dark. And Light again. The same pattern every time, I knew I shouldn’t search too deeply for meaning behind the phenomenon, but it was hard not to. To fall asleep unsure of which end of the dichotomy would greet me the following morning, tell me, wouldn’t that frighten you?
Well, it shouldn’t. Not in 1911, where the levels of brightness never mattered. 1911 served as a safe haven, barricaded to repel any misery lingering in the Outer. From what I knew, my beloved and I were the remnants of humanity. No matter the chaos in 1911, the animosity between us, we recognized our roles: Two people destined to get over it, for the Outer would consume us if we didn’t.
Including the Outer, the world was composed of three additional elements—the Light, the Dark, and the Amalgam—1911 resting at its origin.
The Light manifested merriment. Shared laughs. Compromise. Love. Veneration of what slight shimmer endured. 1911 harbored much of the Light that couldn’t be located in the Outer, with an exception to the one street lamp.
Second, the Dark: confinement. Insecurities. Fights. In a room of utter darkness, the blinds completely shut—we had learned to welcome gloom. It never failed to seep into the pores of the living, regardless.
Next, the Amalgam: Or the common fate—a blend of both the aforementioned elements, analogous to mixing light and dark liquor. Sickening. Yet, all-encompassing. If someone didn’t plunge into depravity, succumbed to the dreads of the Outer, then they were probably stuck in the Amalgam.
And, the Outer: or everything encompassing 1911. Deception. Corruption. Plague. Monsters. Genocide. If the worst of 1911 seemed grim, the realities of the Outer appeared similar to falling into perdition. Wicked creatures stormed the planes of the Outer, and only the toughest of humankind could withstand them.
* * *
I awoke in the Outer. The muscles around my eyes had grown strong. Without them, I would’ve lost the ability to distinguish between realities or dreams, in a realm of absolute darkness.
I sojourned in the Outer for years. Accustomed to 1911, I nearly forgot how to survive on my own, to hold on to a nullifying humanity while the many Outer entities tried to strip it away.
The vulnerable were prey. ‘Build resilience’, recluses used to say, ‘it’s the only way to persevere.’
Not only were the entities dwelling the Outer ravenous for blood, but they also yearned for a mere glimmer. They’d encircle 1911, so I kept my distance, but it was my time to return. I could feel it, to see my beloved again, even though it was them who exiled me to begin with.
Nevertheless, I’ve proven to withstand the afflictions of the Outer. Surviving with or without my beloved was no longer the concern. I sought only one more day in 1911. That’s all I desired. Only one, and for it, I’d give up more than the sun. And it wouldn’t be the first time.
* * *
Bypassing the creatures was easy, at the sacrifice of the remaining light. I smashed the bulb invigorating the street lamp, and in 1911 I breached.
Expecting an overwhelming Dark, I discovered a truth much more agonizing: my beloved gone, as well as the last of luster. Around me, 1911 dissipated, much like panoply sizzling from my body. I’ve never felt so bare. And empty. The Outer won, darkness looming like an immensely virulent pestilence. Hearing the nearby menacing growls, I fell to my knees, with no hope in sight.
Then, a profound luminance penetrated the Outer hills, unveiling the fiendish creatures, scorching their skin as the light strengthened. I experienced a resurgence of a sun I once discarded, simply because I let go of what coincided with the penumbra. Since I destroyed the street lamp.
From then on, I lamented—at a loss. Stuck in a new kind of Amalgam, no matter how prominently the sun shined. My beloved—the vivacity emanated by our single street lamp, it was more than enough.
Delvon T. Mattingly, who also goes by D.T. Mattingly, is an emerging fiction writer and an incoming Epidemiology PhD student at the University of Michigan. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in The Fiction Pool, Scrutiny Journal, Corvus Review, MoonPark Review, and elsewhere. He currently lives in Louisville, Kentucky.