The Light Switch
You’re probably wondering why I’m sitting here – cowering, really – in a pool of my own urine. Well, I’ll tell you, and believe it or not – and I say that because you aren’t going to believe me – I’ll even tell you the truth. The truth is not particularly flattering to me personally, but quite frankly I need to tell someone, and I don’t think my dog has the full intellectual capacity to comprehend everything I have to say.
We have myself, a forty-five year old man, sat in a puddle of his own urine, and you, an unknowing Samaritan drawn here by my pained screams. I will add that I do not know how long I’ve been here, but I do believe I have a significant amount of adrenaline coursing through my body, so I don’t suspect it’s been terribly long because my heart would have exploded by now if it had. Been a while, I mean.
This is my brother’s house, you see. My much younger brother. If you sense contempt in my voice that’s because it is very much there. I detest my brother, but mother insists that I aid him whenever possible as he is not only insufferable but a complete idiot. He purchased this rundown hovel of a domicile not two weeks ago. He claims he acquired it for a steal, but I believe it was he who was robbed. He alleges that the couple that lived here previously were arrested by child protective services after the death of their child. This is an allegation that I fully believe. You see – according to my brother – the parents were arrested for neglecting their child, whose name my brother did not know, though he did know that the child was a girl of approximately five years of age. It seems that the parents were particularly inattentive, sometimes leaving the child alone for days to fend for herself. When they were home, the parents were extremely oppressive to her, insisting that she be entirely silent. In addition, the child was not allowed to use any electricity so as to keep the costs low. If even a single light were on upstairs she would be severely punished.
My involvement with this horrid affair begins with my brother phoning me up yesterday and asking me to come take a look at the electrical connection in this, his newest get-rich-quick scheme. He claims that he attempted to fix the electrical himself but was unable to – a claim I fully doubt. Oh, I don’t doubt that he couldn’t fix it, I doubt that he even tried. I arrived this evening shortly before dark, having procrastinated as much as possible before coming here. Predictably, my brother was not in, but left me a note to head on inside and quote get to work, end quote, because he had – of course – left the door unlocked.
I began flipping light switches and immediately isolated the problem to the second floor. All the switches on the first floor functioned perfectly. The peculiar problem was on the second floor. I would switch on a light and leave the room only to have it turn off less than a minute later. At first I didn’t realize it, but after a few minutes of flipping switches I realized that the power wasn’t cutting out, it was being cut by the switch. You see, each time I returned to a switch it would be in the off position, as if I had never turned it on. It was in this room – this very room where I sit fermenting in my own liquid waste – that I resolved to diagnose this bizarre electrical conundrum. You see, this room possesses a two-way switch, such that the same light can be turned on or off via two different switches on opposite sides of the room. I believed – quite incorrectly – that the entire upstairs was somehow wired into these switches and that is what was causing the electrical short.
Thus I flipped the lights on over there and proceeded over here to flip the switch above my head. I had barely reached this switch when the lights turned off. I turned them on again, this time keeping my hand on the switch and my eyes on the hallway and, by convenience of placement, the matching two-way switch. When the lights turned off again I – without a moment’s hesitation – switched them back on.
I do believe I cried just then. I am certain, given the physical evidence, that I urinated.
You see, that silhouette – that black outline of a pigtailed child desperately reaching for the light switch – that wasn’t there when I entered the room. I believe it remains there because I caught it. I believe it is frightened that I am going to punish it, so it – she – is not moving. That is why I haven’t blinked. I have been conscientiously winking one side and then the other so as to keep my eyes moist, but I swear to you that I will not close them both at the same time. I fear that she will move, and I will lose what little sanity I have left.