fireworksflies (a Broken World story)
She put her hand on the doorknob but made no attempt to turn it.
She needed to know what was inside the house but she knew she shouldn’t be there. Not like this. She wanted the door to be unlocked and she was terrified it would be.
What’s inside could break the case wide open or end her career. Or both.
She saw a reflection of a firefly in the front window.
She heard the fireworks again.
When she was a little girl she lived in a house that backed onto the woods. The trees were a hundred feet tall if they were a foot. She had neighboring houses on either side but once it got dark they seemed to just melt away. She would sit out back on a swing and watch the light fade away until it was dark enough to see the fireflies. When she was older she would read Robert Frost to them;
“Here come real stars to fill the upper skies,
And here on earth come emulating flies,
That though they never equal stars in size,
(And they were never really stars at heart)
Achieve at times a very star-like start.
Only, of course, they can’t sustain the part.”
She loved them and disliked the kids that would catch them and put them in jars. She felt safe whenever they were in view. A million sparkly protectors.
Then one July 4th she was sitting in her usual spot when she heard fireworks start. The trees were too tall to actually see any of them going off but she could hear every hiss and explosion.
And then she saw the fireflies and they became the fireworksflies and every time they flickered their little lights she would hear the fireworks until they became perfectly synched up.
She sat on the swing and watched the greatest show that these woods had ever or would ever produce.
She took a deep breath. She couldn’t bring herself to try the doorknob. It was pitch black and the neighborhood slept and the house would remain empty until she either turned the knob or didn’t. The house would remain empty whether the door was locked or unlocked.
The house didn’t care.
She loved what she did but she hated the way that the same laws that she had sworn to uphold also handcuffed her. She knew what was inside. Suspected anyway.
She loved and hated what she did and didn’t do. Standing there in the darkness, feeling like the last stand against the growing darkness. A growing pressure pushing down on her. To be a light.
Would she turn the knob?
The day after that 4th of July she sat out on her swing and saw the fireflies again and waited for the booms. There was nothing but silence. Nothing but little bugs engaging in bioluminescence as they ‘d been doing since the first time she wandered out into the night and squealed her approval all those years ago. This time though, the oxygen combining with calcium, adenosine triphosphate and the chemical luciferin in the presence of luciferase, a bioluminescent enzyme, left her feeling a little flat.
Fireflies were never the same.
Somewhere in the distance a car drove by, no doubt filled with either innocent victims or hardened criminals.
Well, maybe there was a little doubt. Somewhere in her head there was still a little doubt. Thankfully.
Then a firework.
A single pop.
Through the door of the not-as-empty-as-she-would-have-liked house and into her chest. She fell and stared up at the night sky.
Dizzy and then sleepy and then came the fireflies.
“Even then I found the word fitting, soothing.
― Rin Chupeco, The Girl from the Well
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