A soft, bright blue glow hung silently in the window of Johni’s bedroom. Like clockwork for the past several weeks, the light had awakened him from his sleep. It was a pleasant glow, but tonight, he began to realize that it was robbing him of some much-needed rest. Johni was unable to discern just what the glow was, but in his bones, he knew it belonged to something alive.
Every night he would get out of bed and walk toward the window. As he got closer, the light backed away from the window. Tonight was no different. Johni rose from the bed, slipped his feet into his purple bunny slippers his daughter gave him for his birthday last year, and sleepily strolled over the window. As he expected, the light responded in kind and increased its distance. When he was closer enough to place his hand on the window, the glow disappeared, and once again, the room grew dark. Johni rubbed his eyes, yawned loudly, and made his way back to bed.
The light of dawn shined through the window, and Johni rose again for the second time that day. He gathered his work belt and tools and headed for the construction site. He passed by a few of his co-workers, greeted them quickly, and went to check-in by the foreman’s desk.
“Morning, Johni,” Khalil said.
“Morning, foreman,” Johni responded in kind as he placed his finger on the print reader to clock in.
“You’re early today. Everything all right?”
“Yep, everything is A-ok,” Johni said. Wanting to avoid conversation with Khalil as much as possible.
“Good! Because you look like shit. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were on that stuff!” Khalil said with a slight chuckle.
“Very funny, KJ,” Johni responded.
Johni left the trailer and headed to his workspace, and was promptly followed by Khalil, who, presumably had some sort of meeting in mind. They stopped underneath several steel beams that had been placed atop one another. The view from above would have made it look like an asterisk. The team below cared very little what it looked like; they only cared that it got done and got done quickly.
“Alright, guys. We’ve got a few months left to install this “art installation,” Khalil said, making air quotes around the last bit of his sentence. “And my husband is expecting that I come home with a fat check to celebrate the completion of this work. So get it done as fast and as accurately as possible. Any and all questions or concerns with this project can be submitted to the newly cemented workplace suggestion box, that I will empty and discard every morning,” Khalil said with another laugh. “I’m just kidding, guys. But in all seriousness, you see any violations of code, anything that might put this team in danger, or something just not going to plan, let me know, and I’ll review it.” With that, Khalil left the group, and Johni and his co-workers Tommy, Sari, Atticus, and Shamari, got to work.
They worked until a bit after dark when they finally decided that enough was enough. Weeks ago, Khalil had given the entire site free rein of overtime and urged them to work as much as they wanted. The project was something of a priority. It was apparently commissioned by some reclusive billionaire somewhere in the world; Khalil was a bit short on the details.
Johni wished his co-workers well and headed back to his house just a few blocks away. He stepped through the threshold of the blue wooden door that stood out amongst the pale white paint of the rest of his house. He turned and locked the door, careful to pull and twist and ensure the lock held. He went upstairs, removed his clothing, and laid down in the bed. It was times like this that he missed his ex-wife and daughter. He would have loved to come home to a house full of love and laughter, but Cherie, his ex-wife, wouldn’t have it. He loved Cherie, but she was always convinced that he would cheat on her. Being bisexual, it seemed, was a no-go for her, even though she married him knowing that.
So, a thousand miles away, on the coast of Georgia, Cherie and their daughter Thomasina lived with little to no contact with him. Thoughts of them kept him up until the late hours. Midnight turned to 1 AM, then to 2AM. Suddenly, the familiar soft, blue glow appeared. He had spent many a night awake and worried, consumed with his thoughts of his former family, and never before had the blue glow made itself so plainly obvious.
Johni rose from his bed. He made his way towards the window in his purple bunny slippers, shuffling his feet across the plush carpet. The light didn’t move this time. Instead, it held its ground. Johni inched closer. As he reached the window and placed a hand on the glass, the glow blinked out of existence. Johni thought that strange, but he didn’t spend much time wondering about the strange light that night. Instead, he made his way back to bed for a peaceful, uninterrupted night of sleep.
Dawn arrived, and once again, Johni completed his personal grooming, grabbed his tool belt, and began to make his way to the construction site. When he arrived downstairs, the front door to the house was wide open. Johni had been sure to lock the door, as he had done every night. Despite his meticulousness, the door had been flung to the absolute limits of its hinges, exposing Johni’s house to the neighborhood.
Johni did a quick once-over of the house and didn’t see anything to be missing. He resigned himself to check again once he returned from work, but for now, Johni knew that he had to be at work. He closed the door, verified that it was locked, and left the vicinity of his house. He raced down the block, dedicated to making it on time. He arrived with one minute to spare. Khalil said nothing as he entered the trailer. Johni, placed his finger on the scanner, confirming his identity.
“Shamari hasn’t shown up yet, so, if he doesn’t eventually show, I’m just warning you that you, Atticus, Sari, and Tommy will definitely need to put in some overtime,” Khalil said. Johni could tell that Khalil was none too happy with Shamari’s absence. Shamari’s disdain showed, as he frowned his face and rubbed his thick, black beard while scrolling through his cellphone.
Johni made his way to his team. Sari, Tommy, and Atticus were seemingly waiting for him to arrive before they began. They were huddled like a group of football players discussing their next play.
“Morning, Johni,” Sari said. “We were worried you wouldn’t show up,” she said as she looked at Tommy and Atticus for validation of her statement. They shook their heads in agreement.
“Well, you don’t ever need to worry about that. I’ll make it here come hell or high-water. This place pays me too damn well to even think about taking an unscheduled day off,” Johni said as he rolled his eyes.
The group laughed at the facetiousness of Johni’s statement and began to put themselves to work on various parts of the building. Day turned to night, and Johni started to make his way home. He was exhausted, his muscles hurt, and he was sweating as if he just ran a marathon.
His blue door was still closed, he noticed, as he neared his home. Johni placed the key in the lock and stepped inside. Everything still seemed normal, so he began to prepare himself for bed. He removed his shirt and pants, dropped them near the living room couch, and made his way upstairs.
Then his phone rang. He silently cursed to himself, then almost immediately, he regretted it. Johni knew who was calling, and he was eager to talk to her. It had been a few weeks since he last heard Thomasina’s voice.
He tapped the green icon on the screen and quickly lifted the phone to his ear.
“Dad?” Thomasina said.
“Yeah, honey? How’s is everything there?”
“Thomasina, who are they? What are you talking about?” Johni said. He sat up in the bed, prepared to hop online and purchase the first flight out to Georgia.
“The-,” Thomasina began to speak, and suddenly, Cherie’s breathy voice sounded through the speakers.
“Everything is fine, Johni. She’s been having night terrors lately and doing the strangest things.”
“Are you sure everything is alright? I can fly down there to see her and –“
“Yes, everything is quite alright. I’ll talk to you soon,” Cherie said as she abruptly ended the call.
Johni was suspicious, but despite the issues that he and Cherie had, he believed with all his heart that she was a capable and competent caregiver. He laid back down, covered himself under his bedsheets, and slept.
The glow did not appear that night, and for the first time in weeks, Johni had a full night of uninterrupted sleep. He woke up in the morning completely refreshed and ready to tackle whatever was going to be thrown at him that day, or at least he thought he would be prepared. As he neared the worksite, his phone rang. An unknown number flashed on his phone screen.
“Hey, Johni. It’s Sari. If you’re on your way to the site, don’t bother. Nobody showed up except Khalil and me. I’m sure you know we can’t really run a construction site like that so, Khalil canceled the day. He’s still at the site, but I was wondering if you maybe wanted to meet me at the little breakfast spot near the worksite: Annie Crepes. You know it?”
“Sure, Sari. I’ll be there in a minute. That work?”
Johni strolled down the street. On the one hand, he was delighted to have a surprise day off; on the other hand, he was worried about what was going on. Was there some strike he wasn’t made aware of? Were his co-workers okay? He didn’t have the answers, and if they didn’t come back, he wasn’t sure he’d get them.
Before Johni could step inside the restaurant, Sari came rushing out. She grabbed him by the wrist and dragged him into the alley nearby.
“Something seriously messed up is going on, and I don’t know what. There was this glow last night at my window. It seemed like the same glow that Tommy and Atticus told me about a few days ago, so I got up and left my house. I spent the night in a hotel room last night.”
“A glow? Are you sure?” Johni said.
Sari looked at him incredulously, as if she couldn’t believe he was questioning her senses in a time like this.
“I’m absolutely positive, man.”
“Sari, I’ve been seeing that weird glow for weeks.”
“Sari’s already large eyes seemed to grow bigger. We need to figure out what’s going on.”
“No, we don’t. Whatever is going on, I want no part of it. I just want to go down to Georgia and make sure my daughter is okay.”
Sari began to speak, but seemingly, the sound would not escape her lips. Tiny blue lights began to float down from the sky as Sari was lifted in the air. Johni saw her struggling in the air, grasping at the blue lights around her, to no avail. In moments, she was gone. Seemingly just teleported away. Finally, Johni gathered his senses and ran. He didn’t know where to run, or what exactly he was running from, but he figured that standing there was not a good idea.
He made it halfway down the street before the blue lights revealed themselves to him. He befell the same fate as Sari. He was lifted into the air, as the muscles he had attained over years of construction work were rendered useless against his luminous foes.
In seconds, he found himself blinded. Not because his vision didn’t work, but because his surroundings were so dark that his eyes could not register where he was. He realized he was no longer in the clutches of the light, and that he was standing on solid ground and so he tried to feel his way around. He walked in the darkness until his hands felt dry, dusty concrete. Then, a bright blue light began to shine brightly in front of him. This time, the glow that, for weeks had kept its distance, got closer and closer to him.
“What do you want with me?” Johni yelled at it. The light floated around him like a dragonfly. It darted quickly and stopped, only to dart to another location in his vicinity.
“You hear me? Answer me! What do you want with me!”
“We want nothing with you,” a high pitched mechanical voice responded. “We simply want you.”
Bright fluorescent lights began to turn on one by one, illuminating the bodies of his co-workers on black gurneys. They had been sliced open and were seemingly left with empty caverns where their organs once were.
“No,” was Johni’s last words as his vision faded to black.