5 Minute Read: Light Play

R1 Gr 93: Mystery; A Changing Room; A Remote Control;
I sure hope the judges are okay with my out of the box thinking!!!

Light Play

As the room around him changes, so too does the artist. When a mysterious red eye catches his own, does it mean the end of everything?

Sometimes he plays games with the shadows, at times guessing at their real shape; right now, he is looking for ‘castles in the clouds’.

The cannula itches, but he can’t raise a hand to adjust it. Instead he lies prostrate, observing the shadows chasing across the walls. Trapped in his own body since the accident, all he has is this ever-revolving landscape, rooms within a room. An artist’s muse must find an outlet, and his is the ever-changing light. His own imagination and the infinite patterns of shadow and light are his canvas now. He might as well make the most of it.

Day after day, he watches the ephemeral shades crawl out from their hiding place in the full sun, stretching until they cover the room completely at dusk. This continuous sweep of light and dark, east to west, leaves the room with an otherworldly sheen. First the clock, glowing in gold. Time passing in plain view, then shadowy fingers steal across it and it’s gone, replaced instead by the adjacent dresser as first the shafts of sunlight hit it and again fade away. Now he sees the mirror, a blinding light, gone too in a flash.

The visions flow from glowing jewel to a strange and murky gloom. A bright, large and inviting space in the morning lifts his heart, full of sunlight, blanking out the thoughts of ending it all. At night, the room becomes claustrophobic, sinister even, reflecting his pain.

He wants to burrow away from it, pull the covers up around his ears and shut it out. Frozen as he is, instead his spirit petrifies, his heart races until the nurse bustles in to turn on the lights.

Today, as dusk falls, something completely different appears. Motes of dust swirl in a shaft of crimson light that pierces the shadow. A baleful red eye staring at him. Unable to turn his head and look directly at it, his mind stretches out toward the glow instead. In all the changes he has witnessed, he can’t recall seeing this light before. With all its tricks and sleights, the fading sunlight is not responsible for this curiosity. Under the constraint of darkness, his imagination runs wild. Its symbolism disproportionate, his muse insatiable, an all-consuming red eye.

A nurse enters. He doesn’t know their name.

“Well Mr. Owens, let’s get you settled for the evening,” they hit the light switch, chasing away the nightmare eye. “Do you want the TV on? It’ll make you feel better. Why don’t you try physiotherapy tomorrow?”

Owens grunts a negative. Why watch things he can no longer do. As for trying them, pointless! The shadows in his mind were adamant and self serving.

Still, a spark of real interest flares. A dash of inexplicable colour! He has a puzzle to solve. Whose eye is observing him? Has he finally cracked, his mind betraying him like his body did months ago? Red was a symbol of warning, of blood, of terror to come. Was the vision trying to tell him something?

His eyes rove around the room, now returned to its tawdry clinical appearance. The clock, the dresser, the mirror, all stare at him with the dull sheen of reflected incandescence, no longer magical. Where is the eye now? Will it be back? What did it mean? He drifts off into a morphine laden slumber.


As he wakes to full darkness, he can clearly see the red eye staring at him. Unblinking. He stares back at it. What are you? Red for danger? Red for death? Was that it? Was it time? Perhaps he would sleep one final time. He drifts back off to nightmarish images of the room closing in on him, the red eye growing closer and larger.


When he next awakens, the red eye is gone. Whoever is watching perhaps considers their message received and understood. But has he understood it correctly? Is death lingering nearby? His muse, protecting him, protests. He isn’t ready. The darkness closes in.


Daybreak brings fresh bright colours to the room as he stirs awake, alive! Daylight has chased the red eye completely from the room. Perhaps he only imagined it. His muse is uninspired this morning. Is it fear of the red eye? Was he wrong about its meaning? But what if the eye returns? Perhaps the nurse is right. Perhaps having the TV on would make a change. It would keep his mind off the eye.


A nurse arrives. He doesn’t know their name.

“Well Mr. Owens, how are we today? Would you like the TV on?”

Owens says nothing.

The nurse stares at him in surprise. “Yes?”

He blinks slowly twice.

“Are we feeling better today?” the nurse continues to look at him curiously.

When he grunts a negative, the nurse relaxes as if all is normal in the world once more. “Okay, well, I’ll just get the remote control.” They scuttle to the bedside and move a book, retrieving the control from the side of the bed. Presses it a few times and nothing happens.

“I think that book must have been resting on it, it seems to have flat batteries. I’ll just pop and get some new ones.”

Slowly, Owens starts to vibrate, a strange cough coming from him. The nurse, startled, rushes to his side, grabs his wrist to take his pulse. It’s a moment before they realize that he is laughing. His body shudders from the unaccustomed breathing. He laughs from embarrassment, he laughs at the ridiculous hopelessness he feels, he laughs at his fear of the red eye of the remote, the mystery uncovered, and something inside him shifts.

The nurse shakes their head in confusion and asks the question they ask every day. “Do you think you might like to try physiotherapy today?”

And for once, the trapped shadows don’t hold him back. He blinks slowly twice. And suddenly the room changes again, from a prison to a lifeboat.