Short Story Contest Winner: Honorable Mention, Shriharshita Venkat Chakravadhanula

A Bulb's Perspective by Shriharshita Venkat Chakravadhanula

Today, I may look old and bald and resemble Einstein. But back in the day, I was a handsome make of glass and metal, held together in fiery solidarity. I had within me the hotheadedness of a youth, disguised in the body of an elegant case. Well, not for long, for ironically enough, this was my best quality. I could throw my beams all day, if asked. It was, however, quite unfortunate, that I was never asked. They found purpose for me, instead, out in the open, during the night.

Ah well, at least I’ll be noticed now, I thought.

In this quiet corner above the world, amidst a strange amalgamation of man’s buildings and nature’s breath, I was plugged in, and ready to go. I had thought, a sophisticated bulb such as myself should light the night for intellectual conversations in an evening party, or aid those wearing a suit. And instead, I got the most unsophisticated of mankind: a nine-year-old child. Man, in general seemed below me, both in dignity and position. But when I first saw her, this girl was barely tall enough to see the ground from the terrace. Try as she might, no amount of bopping pigtails and hopping legs would help her accomplish this insurmountable task. She had a fascination with mud, and spent much of her time rolling in it from the patch of plants.

Ugh, children.

This would happen almost every day, and I’d see it through my sleepy eyes, realize it wasn’t worth my attention, and save my 60 watts for another time. (well, I guess I was inquisitive that way…)

But as evening drew nearer, she would come back. This time, with a full-grown man, and a book.

A book! I knew it was my time to shine.

A large chair would be perched right below me, as I got ready to provide my warm, curious light. The man would sit with the child on one lap, and the book and is arm on another. And off they would go, into stories of the wild, and the past, of lands near, and faraway, till the child was asleep. And then, I’d be turned off, and the night would swallow them.

The next day, it would happen all over again. Night and night again, I’d see the same thing, until I suddenly realized, that while showing her the knights in my light, I had grown a little fond of her.

As time progressed, the nightly visits grew fewer and fewer, until they stopped completely. I thought, maybe she’d grown too old for me. For a while, that’s how it was. But then, as if to remind me, she’d come back. This time, however, she was alone. I think she’d only remember me when the lights of the house were forbidden from serving her. In fact, I’m pretty sure she was supposed to be asleep, but I was happy to be her partner in crime. Now, she’d read books of her own, but I didn’t get to hear these stories. Although some part of me was sad about this, ultimately, I decided I didn’t want to know what girls in their teenage read about.

Even this routine didn’t last forever, though. Turns out, my sophistication rubbed off on her, cause now she was an artist, painting the night sky with my help. Gone were the days of supervision, now it was her and the brushes. The paintings were terrible to begin with, but gradually, they got better. But these vanished as suddenly as they had appeared.

Then came words, along with contemplative sighs. I wonder how much contemplation 14-year-olds go through, but from the sights of it, quite a bit. And that’s when I realized, just how much had changed. From reading children’s books, to children writing in books.

And then, all of a sudden, this gradual undulating curve became a steep fall. For a few days, I was not used at all, and I kept wondering where all the angst went, when I saw a few workers taking out the tiles of the ground! I saw so much that summer, and heard so much more. But my biggest complaint was, that I was not used at all! Workers only came during the day, and I was all alone during the night. I thought, how much worse can it get? I’m only rusting away. Turns out, quite a lot.

One of the days, while putting the tiles back in place, there came a splatter of substance, all over me! I was furious, but I couldn’t even dissipate my energy. Dust, I was used to by now. But this! This was humiliation of a new degree. My smooth and transparent body was now, by part, rugged and impenetrable. I used to be a symbol of elegant innovation, but now I was the face of decay.

As I lay there, unable to wipe it off, waiting for it to solidify and become a part of me, I realised, that I would never see the girl again. I was an abandoned bulb, and one unable to commit to its job. The light that once shone within my soul with the brightness of the sun, now dimmed. I closed my eyes indefinitely.

And just when I thought all the light within me had drained out, the stars brought some more. While I slept, the terrace was completely done again, and one night, out of nowhere, I was awoken from this deep slumber. Unable to keep my eyes open for too long, though, I blinked several times, and then squinted, to see the familiar face of the girl, this time, much older. I was unable to contain my happiness, until I realized, I must. She had left me here, to my own devices. My face was so crusty, I didn’t want her to see me either.

But just then, I saw her face. I knew that expression. I realized; my indignity didn’t seem to upset her. Instead, it she was fascinated by it. The cement left a scar, which morphed into shadows. Shadows, in which she saw stories. Well, I guess there wasn’t much else I could expect from a girl who thought mud was interesting. Cement is a kind of mud, isn’t it?

Old age, however, got me. As much as I tried to resist it, my insides buzzed with a sound, and I knew I wouldn’t last long. At last, I was taken down. I had prepared myself to be cast away, when the girl did something that made me forgive her completely. She took off my rusty metal, and put me into a box. Here I met magnets, wires, and glass lenses. Ah well, retirement homes are swell.

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