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As night became day

von Lina-Fabienne Holste

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He never understood why his parents wouldn’t allow him to go outside. It had seemed weird at first, but he didn’t start actively questioning it until he saw other creatures outside. They appeared to be having a good time, running around, screaming, and laughing. And all he could do was watch from a small hole inside his wall. It was weird. Sometimes it would be bright when he looked outside, other times it would be pitch black. Once or twice, the light was so bright that it made his skin feel weird, and he got so scared that he quickly covered it up and went into the darkest part of his room for a while until he felt fine again. He didn’t understand why he only saw the others when it was bright. How could they stay there so long? Didn’t their skin feel weird too? They never saw him, but he liked watching them, despite all the questions that were floating in his head.

That was until his mother caught him one time. She had entered his room to bring him somenew candles, their only source of light in the house. He had never seen her so angry and scared before, and truth be told, he never wanted to again. That’s why he didn’t protest when his father nailed the hole shut; he just stood in the corner, silently saying goodbye to the outside world, and in all that turmoil, he didn’t think to ask why.

Over the years, there were times when he dared to ask about the incident, but his parents’ reaction was always the same. They’d freeze forjust a split second, then quickly compose themselves and tell him some half-arsed lie to promptly end the conversation. The house would feel different for the rest of the day; the quiet, somber air would hug him tightly as he sat in his room, regretting having asked.

It had been a long time since he'd seen his parents. They had left in a hurry after dinner one day. He'd silently watched from the bedroom door as they’d frantically packed light bags with some food and water. His mother had seen the troubled expression he’d desperately been trying to hide and walked across the room to hug him tightly. She’d put her hands on his cheeks and explained, "We’re out of candle ingredients, honey. The last batch took up all of our resources. Your father and I will be gone for a bit. You know the rules. Don’t-" He'd interrupted her with a big sigh and looked at the ground.

"Don’t go outside. Don’t light more candles than necessary. Don’t forget to lock the door behind you." He sighed again, deeper this time, and put his own hands on top of his mother’s while looking up."

We won’t be long, son. It’ll be a quick night trip into the woods and back. Shouldn’t take longer than four or five hours," his father had assured him. It always takes longer than that, he had thought grimly, though he didn’t dare say it out loud. 
Shortly after, his parents left, and just as he’d expected, the trip had taken longer than his father had estimated. Only now, it had been weeks since their parting, and he was sitting in front of the last candle. Looking at its dancing flame, he figured that he had an hour, maybe two, before it would die and drown everything in darkness. Looking around his room, he realized that he had no other choice but to leave. Staying inside without a single source of light just wasn’t an option.

But where would he go? He had never been outside. He didn’t know what would be waiting for him on the other side of his front door, and his parents certainly never told him. When was it smart to leave anyway? His father always took a tiny round thing with signs on it on their trips. What was it called again? A click? No, that’s not it. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but his father had made it seem incredibly important. He would always wait until the pointer thing was over a special sign, and then he’d announce that it was time to go.

Dammit, he was losing time and light walking down memory lane. It’s not like he’d magically understand how to read a clack, or whatever it was called. And even if he did, his father took it with him when he left. 
He sighed and began packing a small bag, just like his parents had done all those weeks ago. Mere seconds after he packed his last food ration, the small, pitiful flame died and he was left in the dark. It’s now or never, he thought as he manoeuvred his way to the front door. His hands were shaking as he lifted them towards the lock.

I can do this. I have to! He took a deep breath and undid the lock. Now all he had to do was open the door. The pounding in his ears was getting louder by the second. He knew that he needed to go now, but the uncertainty of what was on the other side was holding him back.

There’s a reason why I’m not allowed to leave. What if it’s dangerous?, he thought, but then he remembered the time when he saw some other creatures outside through the hole in his wall. If they could go outside, then why couldn’t he? What was it about him that was so different that he had to spend his entire life locked inside his house?

This ends now!
He took another deep breath, closed his eyes, and opened the door. Silence.
A small breeze stroked his cheek and he flinched. When he realized that nothing was hurting him, he dared to take a look. Darkness. It wasn't as dark as it had been in the house, but dark nonetheless. There was a shining circle in the sky that illuminated everything with a soft light.
He stepped outside and looked around. Nothing seemed dangerous in any way. Then why hadn’t he been allowed to leave all these years? Confused and timid, he walked forward in no particular direction, though with each step his confidence grew. His senses were overwhelmed with all the things he'd never seen, never smelt, never touched. He didn’t know where to go or look first. Had he been going in circles? Maybe, but it didn’t matter. All that mattered was the beauty of the outside world, and he would take it all in, appreciate everything, and make up for all those years that he had been deprived of this miracle.
Lost in his euphoria, he didn’t realize that it was slowly getting brighter. It wasn’t as dark now, and he could see more and more things that caught his attention. He didn’t notice the heavy feeling that was spreading through his body. His ability to move lessened by the second until he could hardly take another step. Shocked and confused by his paralysis, he mustered up the last of his strength, crouching down to look at something gorgeous growing out of the ground. It was colorful and fragile, swaying in a soft breeze. He recognized it as a flower. His mother always brought some back from their trips when he was a child. With tears now running down his cheeks, he thought of his parents. Did they meet the same fate? Did they get caught up by the light on their way back to him? Did it paralyse them the same way as it did him now? He raised his head as he felt a strange warmth on his skin. There was another shining circle appearing on the horizon, but this one was much brighter, and it hurt him to look directly at it. Then he felt another sensation and quickly looked down on himself. Devastated, he realized that the bright light was turning him to stone. The young troll closed his eyes and, as night became day, he started to understand the truth.