The Lights of Ember Vale – a 900 Club Short Story

The 900 Club has posted its latest short stories. The chosen genre was Magical Realism and the two word phrase was “never forget”. If you haven’t already, please do check it out, you’ll find a diverse and original collection of short stories and there are brand new stories posted on the last day of every month. Below is my latest effort.

The Lights of Ember Vale

by Martin Bolton

Samuel gazed across a moonlit sea of leaves. The view from the observatory, high in that lonely house, took in all of Ember Vale. Since he’d been alone he had spent every night there, waiting intently for the vision he saw so often in his dreams. The lights.

Rumours about what happened to his father, Professor George Bukowski, had circulated in the nearby town of Ember. Since his father’s disappearance, Samuel had ventured away from Ember Vale less and less, until eventually he became a complete recluse. Now the place was shunned altogether by the townsfolk, and he was left alone, waiting for his time. He knew it would come soon, his dreams grew more intense, and yet his memories of them remained frustratingly vague. He remembered the feeling well enough. It was a feeling of home, of peace, of completeness. A feeling of belonging. Something he had never experienced in his waking hours.

It was the vision that eluded him when he woke, as though what he saw in his unconscious did not translate into the sights and sounds of this world. As though he saw them with different eyes. The only things he could remember were the lights, out there in the woods, beckoning.

His father was a Professor of Astronomy, and this had been his observatory before the night when he walked silently from the house and vanished. He had been well respected in the community. Educated at Ember University, he had lectured there before buying the house in the middle of Ember Vale to set up his observatory. It was the perfect spot, away from the bright lights of the town, to watch the stars. It was also the dream location for Professor Bukowski to start a family, or so he thought.

Samuel was fifteen when his mother disappeared without a trace. The search of the surrounding countryside found nothing. She had been at home, Samuel was in his room and his father was in the observatory. There were no signs of a break in, she had apparently left the house without even her shoes and wandered into the forest never to be seen again. It was a night he would never forget, not because it was the last time he saw his mother, but because it was the night Professor George Bukowski stopped watching the sky and started watching the woods. And the first night Samuel dreamed of the lights.

Samuel had always been a misfit, and was only interested in reading alone in his room or wandering the woods, deep in his own thoughts. After his mother’s disappearance his father had confined himself to his observatory, that was five years previously. A year ago his father had left the house one night and walked into the woods. He too had left no trace, not even a footprint. It was then Samuel went to the observatory and found his father’s journal.

The journal began on the night his mother had disappeared. It was the first night Professor George Bukowski, whilst searching for lights in the sky, instead saw them in the woods. The professor’s journal began with various scientific theories as to what he might have seen, gradually he began to connect these theories with the disappearance of his wife. After a few pages the journal descended into incoherent ramblings about parallel dimensions and an overwhelming sense of longing for something he couldn’t describe.

Samuel’s father had become increasingly distant since his mother vanished. He had locked himself in the observatory and rarely emerged. When he did he was gaunt, his eyes sunken hollows, his skin a pale grey, as though he had died but his soul somehow still inhabited his body, waiting for its time to leave. Samuel felt the same way, as though he belonged elsewhere. He had seen the lights again in his dreams the night his father disappeared, and the next day he took the professor’s place in the observatory.

This time there was no search, no news stories, no rumours, he told no one of the professor’s disappearance. The man had been locked away from the outside world for so long it had moved on and forgotten him. Samuel knew the knowledge of what happened to his parents was buried deep within his subconscious, a distant memory that would not reveal itself until he was ready. And there he waited, day after day, for the vision to return in his conscious state. For the tantalising calling that remained just beyond his grasp, in the fleeting glimpses that so far confined themselves to the misty plains of his unconscious mind.

As he watched the distant trees, Samuel’s sleep deprived mind conjured indescribable shapes and colours, a kaleidoscope of swirling patterns danced before his eyes. He wondered if he slept, or if he was in some other, hitherto unknown state of consciousness. He tried to blink, to clear his vision, to be ready for his calling, but everything was foggy and indistinct. Soon the shimmering patterns shrank, until they were painfully bright lights in the blackness. He could no longer see the moonlight on the leaves, or the stars in the sky, just the lights in the woods.

Samuel rose from where he sat, exultant. Slowly he left the observatory for the last time, and walked bare-foot into the woods, to join the lights.


Dream #5: Doughnut Baby

I haven’t posted a new dream for a while, not because I haven’t had any lucid enough to write up, but because this is the first one that wasn’t too sick and disturbing to repeat in writing. I had this dream last night and it is still really clear in my head, there are so many striking and symbolic images in it I woke up wondering what it all means. Needless to say, I have no idea.

I was in a big house with my mum and a man. I don’t know who the man was but he was a middle-aged bloke and was just sitting down quietly. Outside a storm was raging. Rain came down in sheets, it hammered on the windows, rattling the frames and threatening to break the glass. The wind howled.

The man had two children, both boys. One was about four years old. The other was a chubby baby, not yet crawling properly. They were playing with four or five other young children.

The chubby baby boy had a hole through his middle the size of my fist, and I could see his shiny, colourful innards, though the boy was oblivious and just giggled while the other children poked and prodded at his internal organs. I was a bit concerned about this, and I told the man I could see his son’s guts and I didn’t like the way other kids were playing in them. He wasn’t bothered at all. I felt decidedly uneasy.

The next thing I know one of the kids has actually squeezed himself into the baby’s cavity, and the baby continued to giggle as the other kid squelched about inside him.

“They’re playing in his guts!” I shouted at the man, but he didn’t care. I was furious but he wouldn’t do anything about it.

The next thing I know we are all somewhere in the middle east – me, my mum, this bloke and his two children. We were in a dusty ruined street in a war zone, there were a lot of people there, all facing the same direction down the street, like in a news report from a street battle. Some were hiding behind crumbling walls. There was a bloke on a chair over the road with a massive machine gun on a tripod and he was firing it in the direction everyone was facing. I could hear a lot of gun fire and there were a lot of men with AK47’s running about.

I turned away from the battle and faced a patch of waste ground.

The “doughnut baby” was old enough to run around now, and he chased his older brother, the wind blew dust into his exposed innards. I wondered why his dad didn’t at least put a top on him to cover the hole, it was getting filthy. I followed the children, worried about what harm might come to them in this hostile place.

As I followed them I saw more friendly faces and there was a more community feel. Locals played a game of 5-a-side, I asked if I could join in. They were friendly but said they already had ten players and smiled apologetically. I continued to follow the children as they ran further into the neighbourhood.

The doughnut baby and his brother ran towards a huge crater filled with filthy water.

“Don’t go in that water!” I shouted at them, I didn’t want doughnut baby to get poisonous water in his hole. But the little bastards ignored me and jumped in. Then I realised there was a crane about to cover the hole over with a huge slab of concrete. I ran shouting and waving my arms.

“Get out of the water, you’ll drown!” I screamed at the boys, who were splashing about having loads of fun, oblivious of their impending doom. To my relief the crane operator stopped, and the two boys climbed out of the water.
At this point I decided to assert some authority and grabbed hold of doughnut baby’s hand. I marched him back the way we had come. His guts were all grimy and caked in dirt. As I walked back past the 5-a-side game, one the guys watching walked with me. He was friendly and kept me talking while his friend came up behind me and picked my pocket.

I knew he was doing it, even though I couldn’t feel his fingers taking my wallet. But he didn’t steel anything, he just started re-arranging my pockets without me feeling a thing. My wallet would disappear from my trouser pocket and suddenly appear in my breast pocket, then it was gone again, only to appear in my back pocket or my inside pocket. His slight of hand was impressive. We all laughed when my mobile phone suddenly appeared on top of my head.

Then I said goodbye and took doughnut baby back to his dad. As I walked away I checked my wallet. All my money was still in there, it was some foreign currency and reminded of Egyptian pounds (the only currency I’ve seen from that part of the world). The guy whose friend had re-arranged my pockets smiled and assured me they had stolen and nothing and just to prove he meant no harm he gave me a five pound note. I frowned at him and asked where he got a five pound note from when we were thousands of miles from England. It looked out of place in my wallet.

Then I woke up.