Gloria walked in light. Wherever she walked, the street lights flared bright and blinding and magnificent, and it terrified people. Gloria walked with a delighted smile on her face, immune to the glare from headlights glowing fiercely in passing vehicles, phone screens going wild with brightness, televisions losing all colour as the screen turned white.
She never had company. That was her rule. She could not afford to keep company when company required the dimming of lights. She was twenty three, and she had never been on a date. She had no friends to speak of. She had no family who would speak to her. She still walked with a smile on her face.
She was used to the quiet and the brightness. She was used to candles becoming a fire hazard. She was used to sleeping with her curtains open to stop the nearby streetlights straining to shed some light on her skin. She was used to the sunny weather.
Gloria was not used to being followed.
The lights were just beginning to fade in her favourite coffee shop in London. She had left five minutes ago, but she couldn’t bring herself to go any further than the bookshop across the road. The staff were beginning to get uncomfortable at the sudden brightness of their lights and the screens on their computers.
Outside the coffee shop, standing with a cigarette in his mouth – unlit – was a man who had gotten up to leave the coffee shop immediately after her. He had not followed her across the road, but she knew he was looking at her.
Silently, she left the bookshop, a cheap classic under her arm, and was immediately followed by the stranger. He seemed to follow the brightening street lights as she walked as quickly as she could away from him. She could not hide. She could not run. She could only improvise.
Gloria did not smoke, but she always carried a lighter with her. She imagined it would be useful in case her body was starved of light. No battery. No bulb. Just a flame, and about three minutes to find a street light before she burned the lighter dry. She could feel this lighter in her hand now, held by instinct as she tucked into an alley.
Each end of the alley was immediately lit up as her body entered the darkness. Behind her, the man came to a stop, blocking one exit from the alley. His cigarette remained unlit in his mouth. It had been her deadly inspiration.
“Who are you?” he asked her.
“Who are you?” she snapped, clutching the lighter tightly in her right hand. “Why are you following me? What do you want with me?”
“I have to know who you are,” he replied simply. “I have to know what you are.”
She glared at him, and the light behind him flared intensely. “Human,” she said firmly. “Human, and pissed off.” She held up her recent purchase in her hand. “Sorry Gatsby,” she muttered, tearing the pages from the spine. She wondered, for a moment, at the weakness of the book, before whipping the lighter from her pocket. “Last chance,” she told her follower. “Why are you following me?”
“I need to know what you are!” he exclaimed. She could see a panic in his eyes, and a wild, uncertain determination on his face. He scared her, and she would admit that to anyone. Fear was her guide. Fear kept her out of the dark and walking safely in the light.
Gloria took a deep breath, and lit the corner of the pages. She threw them into the air, the pages scattering and the flames spreading, throwing heat in every direction. A gust caught the sheets and blew them towards Gloria’s follower. She knew, before the flames reached him – the flames that burned greater still to help brighten her world – that he didn’t stand a chance.
She felt oddly okay with it.
Within seconds, the alley was filled with a tormented scream. Gloria ran from the source of the sound, a man burning brighter and brighter as he followed her. He chased her across the road, the flames twice his height. She ran into a park, and he followed her. The trees lit up, burning branches like fingers reaching for her.
Everything was caught in a blaze. The light had to reach her. The light had to touch her, to bury itself within her. She could feel the man’s screams in her chest. She could feel his pain, his torment, and his will to catch her. She knew from his scream that he wanted answers. She knew he wanted revenge. She knew too much about this overly determined man, the one who needed to know what she was, this girl that called light to herself, and it made her cry.
Tears streamed down her face as the man began to draw close. Her tears dried as the park burned up around her, the fire dancing ahead of her in a desperate attempt to make contact. She needed the man to stop running. She needed the park to burn to the ground. She needed families to get away from the area before it was too late for them to escape.
Part of her needed to die, and that made Gloria think she would never smile again.
She wanted darkness. She wanted street lights to go out. She wanted televisions to show only black. She wanted the fire to run from her. Gloria wanted the night. She wanted bad first dates. She wanted friends. She wanted to hide between her parents under their duvet, in their bed, like she did as a child when there was a lightning storm.
Gloria ran into traffic, and the street went dark. She heard cars beeping and tyres screeching, and flames crackling to death, and even though he was no longer following her, she could hear her follower screaming as London fell into darkness.
Photo prompt for this story: http://writingpromptphotos.tumblr.com/post/74420576310/suburban-street-lights-dublin-photo-copyright