The Absence of Light This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

November 3, 2010
If there had been any light, even a speck, you might have been able to glimpse the form of a boy sitting next to the refrigerator in the basement.

As it was, it was black as sin, and the hours stretched long. Time wastes away in the dark.

The boy had nothing to do except lean against the gently humming refrigerator and try to dream with his eyes open. But nothing came. So he stared at the darkness, his mind blank.

Darkness is subtle. It creeps. It crawls; fills in the lines, the wrinkles in the fabric of space. It is where the means meet the end, where everything stops, and where life begins. It collects in corners like dust, and is released like silent tsunamis with the flick of a switch.

It is death.

It is birth.

It is boredom.

The boy's eyes were dry. He had found quickly that crying in the dark just made him cry more.

In the dark, he couldn't tell how big the room was. He knew, of course. He had been down here before. It was his house.

He had hidden behind the furnace in the corner, though not too close to its heat. He had set up armies of toy soldiers on the floor. He had conquered Waterloo. Defeated the British at Yorktown. Stormed Iwo Jima.

All on the floor of the basement.

The basement was his friend, the darkness his enemy.

He remembered suddenly the rough hands of his parents, shaking him awake.

Hurry! Hurry! They had said. To the basement, quickly!

He followed them. Through the hallways. Down the stairs. The door was open, the steps led downward.

He turned on the light, only to have his dad quickly flick it off.

No! No light, he said.

But, the last word.

The last word he had spoken.

A conjunction, something told him, you learned that in school.

Not a complete sentence.

No main idea.

No action.

He went numbly down the stairs, turned and caught one last glimpse.

His father telling him, Stay down there until we come and get you.

Then, as an afterthought, only to himself, You'll be safe in the dark.

All this happened quickly. In a heartbeat. Like the tick of a grandfather clock, letting you know that hardly any time has passed, yet prolonged with a loud commanding tick.

His father glancing over his shoulder. Fear. Black, dark fear, resonating on his face. Like a shadow over the dark side of the moon.

The ten-year-old boy had never seen anything quite like the look on his father's face. More than fear.


Then the door slammed shut, and there was silence.

For a while.

For a long while.

But, with the tick of a grandfather clock, that changed.

From upstairs there came footsteps.

Clunk. Clunk. Clunk.


Clunk …

They were big, heavy footsteps.

He could hear the footsteps above his head, and in the darkness, the suffocating, claustrophobic darkness, he felt as if they were walking on him.

He hugged himself, and tried to draw into a tiny, round ball.

He heard the clunks become distant.

Then closer.





They stopped at the top of the basement stairs.

The door stayed closed. And in the darkness, he heard a sniffing sound. Like a large, shaggy dog was smelling the basement door, rubbing its big, sand-papery nose against the wooden panels.

Then it stopped.

Clunk. Clunk. Clunk.

The footsteps faded away, like the volume slowly being turned down on a radio.

He listened for a long





At least he thought it was. Time passes differently when you are scared, alone, and in the dark.

He wondered if he should feel his way upstairs. He wondered if he should yell for his parents. He felt like crying, but he couldn't. It was as if he had used up all his tears.

So, since all the crying he had done before had worn him out and because he had nothing better to do, he fell asleep.

It is so dark, he thought. I wonder if I will even have to close my eyes.

But he was asleep before he could find out.

He awoke suddenly, blinking.

The basement door was open.

From where he was sitting he couldn't see who was standing in the doorway. He couldn't see anything except the little bit of light, which seemed so bright to him.


The voice was spoken as if from the end of a tunnel.

Hey, I know you're down here!

The voice seemed friendly.

It's all right. It's safe now.

Breathe slowly.

Think quickly.

Come on …, the voice said coaxingly.

Slowly, cautiously, the boy stood up and walked toward the door.

He hesitated, looking at the silhouette in the doorway.

Then, his back to the darkness, he stepped into the light.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

Join the Discussion

This article has 24 comments. Post your own now!

HbkooyThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jul. 9, 2014 at 12:28 am
Unique, poetic, and grips onto the reader without letting go from the beginning. I loved it! Keep on writing!
kayla12 said...
Oct. 27, 2013 at 10:12 am
This was absolutely amazing! This reminded me of a child during the holocaust. The the fear, the loneliness, the supossed friendliness of whoever that was. It was all beautifully fightening. All in all, great story
toothfairy said...
Sept. 21, 2012 at 9:22 am
Very good story, gets me eager to know what happened to the boy, but I did not understand why the format was like it was but still the format was really good.
ClarinetPower said...
Jul. 6, 2012 at 5:08 pm
i want to know who it is!
ImJustAGuy said...
Mar. 26, 2012 at 12:29 am
this is great and i can relate so much too it!  keep up the lovely writing!  pleaseee check out some of my work, im a new and upcoming poet !
Just_Jill said...
Feb. 24, 2012 at 12:39 am
Definitely one of THE best I've read on here. I really liked the unique rhythm that the formatting gave the story, added a bit more drama that gave the story a sort of 'umph' if that makes any sense. If it doen't, then I'll just say, great job :) it was pretty awesome.
HannahBananah said...
Jun. 15, 2011 at 8:12 am
NavishJaved said...
Apr. 29, 2011 at 6:27 pm

Honest opinion: Woah, this was just great. This was really unique. I love how this piece of work limbos between an actual short story and a poem. Very neat! ;D

I love how you express the boy's emotions vividly. Good job!

PJD17 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 9, 2011 at 1:53 pm
this was pretty good im not crazy about the way that it was formated but i understand why you did it like that  i also like that the ending is left for the readers to decide   its a good story  nice work
TheCreepyNeighbor said...
Apr. 9, 2011 at 10:08 am

The flow was smooth and fast. I liked that the sentences were short but that really did impact the story.

I like that your ending left the reader to their own imaginations.

One thing - "Stay down there until we come and get you[.]" I don't think you need an exclamation point, because the dad wasn't yelling and it's nothing to be excited about.

You don't need the line "All this happened quickly." It kind of defeats the flow for a bit. Maybe if phrased differiently, or mayb... (more »)

Emmaline2 said...
Mar. 22, 2011 at 5:27 pm

this is really cool!! the first thing I noticed though was the style seemed very poetry-like....was it too long to be a poem?!? but it did remind be of like the Holocost for some how they had to hide away for what seemed like hours! very unique! I loved it! but just a question...what is he hiding from?!?



DaughterofEvil replied...
Oct. 1, 2011 at 2:00 am
My interpretation of this was that the boy's parents were protecting him from robbers/evil groups of people? and they were killed in the process. Who comes to save him would be either the nice and friendly citizens/police, or a falsely sweet voice coaxing the boy to his DOOOOM. 5/5
arsenictruffle said...
Mar. 22, 2011 at 12:15 pm

This is beautiful! This is a completely unique piece that is walking the fence between poetry and short-story form and n a modern Edgar Allen Poe-ish sort of way it really held my attention. It's clean, concise, and beautifully strung together. I want to see this published!

My only critique: "you might have been able to climpse the form of a boy sitting next to the refrigerator in the basement" in your opening line is very awkward. Perhaps you can split that sentence up a bit? It's a v... (more »)

EmilyGram said...
Mar. 19, 2011 at 9:38 pm
Wow wow wow wow wow.  Amazing!  I love your description of the dark!  You build such amazing suspense.  I was on the edge of my seat!  The only phrase that was somewhat confusing was "faded closer," so maybe pick a more appropriate verb.  This piece is amazing!  I can't say it enough.  I loved it!  And your ending is great, sort of like "The Lady or the Tiger" or like Inception the movie.  Really well done!  Could you please comment o... (more »)
Medina D. said...
Feb. 25, 2011 at 10:44 pm

this piece was written more like in a form of poetry then fiction. But it was mandatory, for it's great awesomeness (modern day word for BRILLIANCE) :D

^i think the above sentence says it all. This piece is GREATNESS (like practically legendary) and that says alot coming from a teenager (prodigy maybe...........? :))

What i really liked was that you didn't tell us the meaning behind it so it gives us a mystery to solve!

i think the point of it is that the little boy is le... (more »)

Annerdy said...
Feb. 25, 2011 at 5:10 pm
Your style of writing is really unique, almost poetic like there is a rhthym to the words. I liked how the readers were clueless in the beginning and you managed to build up suspense even with just the boy sitting in the dark. Slowly, you unraveled the details and the readers caught a glimpse of the situation. I love how the way you left the ending. Nicely done!
lucybrown2010 said...
Jan. 22, 2011 at 8:12 am

Like the people below me, I enjoyed the short sentences too, and I really liked the style you write in, building up suspense with every word.

The beginning is great too, and as soon as I started reading, I couldn't stop. 

Keep writing, this was great! 

AshTree said...
Jan. 7, 2011 at 12:29 pm

I LOVE this piece! I hate posting sentence-long love pieces because they don't help sooo...

I found one sentence where you must have missed the 't' on the keyboard. It doesn't detract from the story all that much: He wondered if he should feel his way upstairs.

I think you meant for it to be his but i think it sounds better as 'this'. also maybe 'would' would be better than should.


Usually, I love the most description possible and I chastise my friends about... (more »)

Hazel-daisy This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 7, 2011 at 11:42 am
i like the short sentences because i didnt get bored...i like the suspense aswel, i think it ends well too!!
Coffee said...
Jan. 3, 2011 at 12:49 pm
I really liked that! it was great, and had depth. Is there more, or this just a short?
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