Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Lights - a short story

Henry came home after work. He went into the kitchen to get the daily newspaper and then walked over to the living room light switch. When he flicked the switch, there was a brief flash and a pop as the light burnt out.

"Martha, could you get me a light bulb. This one in the living room just went out."

"I'm sorry, dear, but there aren't any left in the house. I had four extras but this is the fifth light bulb to go out this week. I should have bought some more at the store but I thought that after four bulbs in one week, we wouldn't need any more for a while."

Henry grumbled as he looked around for another place to read the paper. He finally settled in the dining room. Just as he settled down to read, there was another pop. One of the lights in the chandelier had died. Fortunately for Henry's temper, there was still enough light to read by.

The next day at work, Henry found the light in his office had gone out. He called the maintenance department, who promised to come right over and replace the bulb. It took two hours for maintenence to come and the office was too dark during that time for Henry to read any of the reports on his desk. Finally, there was a knock on his door, and a voice said, "Maintenance."

"What took you so long? I called your office three times, trying to find out where you were, and all I was told was that you were on your way." "Well sir, we had go out and buy lights, and we've spent the rest of the morning trying to catch up on replacing them. I don't know why but we never just have one light go out. It's always a lot of lights, and we never seem to keep enough extra bulbs in stock."

Henry thought about the coincidence of lights burning out, but soon he forgot about it. At lunchtime, down in the cafeteria, he run into Thomas Chambers, one of the company's best research and development men. He decided to pull Thomas's leg a little.

"Hey, Tom, I have a little problem for you to work on. Why is it that light bulbs always burn out in clusters?"

Tom chuckled, "Is this one of this new cosmic problems caused by the invasion of earth? Henry, you're going to have to do better then that if you want me to believe you. Next thing, you'll be telling me about a guy in a red suit, and a bunny that delivers eggs." They talked about other things while they finished their lunch and both of them forgot about light bulbs.

Tom's lab was working on an automatically fastening seatbelt. The work had just progressed to the final testing stage when the lab was hit by a plague of lights burning out during critical moments. First, there was the light over his desk, then the one one over the scaled down model of their new belt, then the light right over the full scale seat belt fastener just as they were trying to test it.

"Henry may have been just joking around last week but he may just have a point." Tom did a few quick calculations on his computer. “Definitely, the odds against a coincidence are almost astronomical."

Tom set up an experiment in his lab which had a series of ten lights automatically turned on and off, four times every hour. There were five cameras set up to film the lights. The cameras took a picture once every minute.

After a week, Tom developed the film. At first, the only thing he noticed about the lights was when one of them would burn out, another would go out within two more on/off cycles. Then he noticed an odd blur on one picture just before a light burned out. That blurry spot was far too small to be human and there were no animals allowed in the lab.

Tom replaced one of the cameras with a high speed movie film. This was set up to take pictures just before the light was due to come on. On this film, Tom got an image of a small creature that appeared just before the light burnt out. He spent the afternoon making a still picture from the film. He rang Henry on the office telephone. "Met me at the pub on the corner, after work. I've got something to show you."

Tom had been served a drink by the time Henry arrived at the bar. "Drink up," said Tom, "I think you'll need one before I show you what I brought." Henry ordered his drink and waited until he was half through before he spoke.

"Well, what's this about? I can't spend long here, Martha hates it when I'm late."

"Remember the problem about lights you talked about a couple of weeks ago?"

"Are you trying to get even for that simple joke?" "No, I found the answer. There is a reason why lights always burn out in groups." He handed Henry the picture he had developed that afternoon.

Henry stared at the picture. There was a small furry beast, standing on the ceiling of a room, doing something to a light. It had large hands and eyes. "Good fake. How did you do it, put a light on the floor done up like the ceiling?"

"It's real, I swear. Hard to believe but true."

"What is it? I've never seen anything like that before."

"You remember in world war II when a plane went wrong, they would blame gremlins? As far as I can tell, that's what this is. My theory is that they consume power, and after the war, they decided to go after the most common appliance they could find."

The men stared glumly at the picture. "What hurts is that I don't ever dare tell anyone about this. I'd never be believed again. But I've put traps around all the lights in the lab. Maybe, someday...when I've caught a specimen to show people."

"Yeh, but if they were easy to catch, wouldn't someone have done it by now."


  1. Couldn't he show the photos to people though?

    1. Wait, someone read it? What is the world coming to?

      Perhaps that would be logical. I wrote this years and years ago - no editing, just posted it.