flash fictionissue 5

Illumination

Sarah McPherson

When I am fired, I take the angle-poise lamp from the edge of the desk. I am not sure why I do it, perhaps out of spite or some sense of entitlement. I have given the place so much of myself that I want to take something back.

I spin open the clamp that holds it to the table, not caring for all their stares. It takes longer than I expect, but once it is free I fold it down into a compressed zig-zag of itself, tuck it under my arm and walk out. Its joints creak and squeak beneath my elbow.

Goodbye, I say, to the people I won’t see again.

At home I fix the lamp onto the edge of my bookcase—clamp gripping tight—and position it to look down at me on the couch. The cable doesn’t reach the wall socket and I can’t find an extension but I don’t mind. I don’t need the light, I still don’t know why I took it.

The lamp looks like a long-necked animal, perhaps some sort of reptile. I imagine its head, its slender nose tilted inquisitively. I imagine its tongue tasting the air. I take to greeting it when I enter the room, and saying goodbye when I leave it.

Hello, I say, and; see you later.

I become suspicious that the lamp is moving in the dark. I sneak out from the bedroom in the night to catch it in the act but the lamp is too clever for that. It freezes at my creeping footsteps, almost-but-not-quite in the same position. When I leave I imagine it casts a puddle of light across the floor.

I see you, I say to the lamp.

The lamp stares back with its one clear eye. I don’t know what it wants from me. I zig-zag it up into itself, turn it away to face the wall. Later I feel bad and apologise, moving it back to its usual pose, head tilt and all. Its hinges creak a protest.

I’m sorry, I say.

Once I hear the tiny ting of a switch as I enter the room, and I swear the lamp’s bulb is warm to the touch, though its cable still dangles useless beside the books. The lamp stares at me. I blink and see the fizz of an after-image, a filament bright against my retinas. The lamp watches. The lamp knows why it’s here.

I see you, I say to the lamp, as though I believe it, I see you.

I fall asleep on the couch and wake to light on my face and spots on my vision. The lamp leans over me, long neck extended, head tilting, single eye open. A bright flicker; its tongue tastes me, its touch is electric. I fold myself up, joints creaking, compress myself to a zig-zag.

I see you, the lamp says.


Sarah McPherson is a Sheffield-based writer and poet, with work published in Ellipsis Zine, Splonk, STORGY, The Cabinet of Heed, and elsewhere. She has been long/shortlisted in various competitions, and had a story selected for Best Microfiction 2021. She tweets as @summer_moth and blogs at theleadedwindow.blogspot.com.