The Light Whispers

Alexis Washington

Hands filled with spider slime and paint, you scribbled on one of the living room walls.
You decorated the corner until the pale beige absorbed into the plastic spiders. Their feelers
twitched, as did their thoraxs as they feasted on the excess beige, turning it into webs. With one
hand, you pressed into the web. Your fingers broke through the strands, and you tumbled into a
world of familiar insanity. Where colors ascribed meaning from your intention, where each and
every misunderstood blob became known by the limitlessness of the mind and galaxy it defined.
Where nonsense made sense, and you liked it that way.

As you stumbled your way through scribbling, giddy, you fell back. Staring up at the
colors spreading across your vision, a piece of rigidness came into view. A white-marbled vase
stained your new world. However, you found “stained” too harsh a statement; another canvas
seemed better fitting. Unlike a wall, vases were natural art that could be put in museums and
seen by everyone. Maybe even loved by everyone; art was always well-liked in your house.

You smeared your hands with the spider slime, fully covered up to your wrists. With a
plastic spider resting in your palm, the vase was marked with the sign of your art. The spider legs
blended with the paint in the creases of your hands, creating a red handprint made whole only by
the blue spider. The bug twitched as you gazed at it. Excited and impatient, it began to scurry
around the vase. You followed like a game of tag, running round and round the stand until you
found the timing to catch it. You reached out your hand, ready to snatch the spider, and a yell
shocked it too far. The glass shattering felt like a whisper compared to the thumps approaching
from behind.

Only when they stopped were you able to focus on those fragile sounds, like your
quickening heartbeat. However, as the beast turned you around to her, the voice of a near-silent

jumble of chants unnerved you even more so. At first, the black ooze only dripped from her
mouth; the beast’s garbled spells were weak and restrained. But the crash of marble clay, like the
bell to Pavlov’s dogs, caused the ooze to dribble, and leak, and flood her lips. The darkness
flowed down the beast’s nightgown and over the glass like a shadow that created nothing out of
everything it touched except—no, especially you. Despite the fear, you let the ooze make its way
over your eyes, squinching your face so as to not internalize a lick of it. Then, a sudden tug on
your arms shocked your eyes open, and a pair of maddened bulbs loomed in the darkness. If it
was anyone else, the proper assumption was the ooze mutilated them into a horrific monster, but
you were incredibly familiar with that fearful sight.

Your mother’s angrily jumbled words continued, and your look of fear only worsened her
wails. She leaned closer to you, overwhelming your face with the weight of the ooze. It pressed
against your skin, slipping into your mouth and pores, scraping along every vulnerability in your
body until it found what it was looking for. Beneath her hands, you looked to see your veins
blackened all along your arms, and a sharp, thumping pain pierced your heart, suddenly stopping
along with your consciousness.

You could feel but not understand the heaviness in your chest suffocating even the
slightest breath. A bruise on the back of your head swelled with the overwhelming weight.
Bigger and bigger until a mighty crack rang throughout your skull, and your eyes sunk into an
inevitable darkness. A void of nothingness, even feeling lost in a pseudo-paralysis. You could do
nothing but lie and sink and listen. Far off from your body yet close in your mind, chants of
“Momma, Momma!” soared as a dim light towards your incorporeal mouth. Without a second
thought, you swallowed it, and your head turned up. The light burst like a supernova, pushing up
and slicing through your eyes into a million more dim lights. Blood from the burst dripped down

your throat and, as it chased away the accursed darkness, touched existence into your body. The
lights now shone radially on your rejuvenated form, but they wouldn’t dare move an inch.

Instead, they glistened one final chant as loud as thunder, “The cycle continues! Be reborn in
tears!” The blood from your eyes dripped down your face, the familiar darkness of your eyelids
waking you.

The familiar wails of your mother dripped into your ears, jumbled but not angry. The fear
and shock from what had just occurred left the words scattered in your mind, and all you could
make out was, “No. What—done. Sorry.” She leaned in close to your body, her forehead pressed
against yours. The droplets falling on your eyelids sputtered them open just to see the stream of
tears stop in awe of your awakening. She pulled back before rushing to smother you with kisses
and love. Her carefully placed tenderness attempted to blend and fade away the moment with a
memory of motherly ministration, but you could still feel the wounds.

Your stressed lungs forced out a heavy sigh. Instead of sensing your pain, she stopped her
kisses and scowled deep into the ungrateful nothingness that was your soul. The jumble of words
silenced into a calm air. She breathed it in and spoke a void into your true existence. A solemn
curse of worthlessness, forever damned to the insatiable words of everyone who knows their
place above you. Without the darkness, the truth behind her words was clearer than the tears that
dripped down her face. And though her tears seemed nothing more than wasted water, they
reflected the glitter of those dim lights sparkling on her tongue, dissolving like the memories of
this moment when your mother walked away.

At least her memories did, but when you went to bed, you stuffed your pillow with ice.
You had put too much in it, and the overwhelming chill numbed your skull. Still, you embraced
that numbness and wished you could do the same for the pain inside your body. The scratches

covering your heart stung like a million lemon-juiced paper cuts. No, the cuts felt sharper than
that, like she used the vase shards within her spell. You didn’t understand how your mother’s
magic could do so much harm or why the vase was worth such power, even over yourself. If you
were worth less than a shattered vase, then who could be lower? No one minds the broken glass
until it cuts them, but you were too dull. Perfect for trampling, like bugs or anything else that
crawls. Either way, they were your mom’s least favorite creatures.

That had never stopped you from enjoying them, though, and if you truly needed to,
you’d still love them then as your only joy in this. A bond understood only by wasteless deaths,
given meaning by tears salted by morality. If you were more than a crawly, your familiarity with
ooze would have led you to a swamp where every disgusting thing may live. Maybe in peace or a
cycle of predation, but there’d be no judgment for something of nature. However, if you were
more than a crawly, the ice on your head would be used for sweet tea, and your chest would feel
enlightened from the press of a real hug.

You leaped from the bed, speaking into existence a world where you were as human as
your mother. Where your magic could seep into her pours and show her an unusual, creepy-but-
not-crawley way of existing in beauty. Where spider-slime-stained vases were an extinguished
art form, and people lined up for miles to see and feel your work. You practiced your acceptance
speech with a mesh of princess waves and a kingly posture. The words melted into a podium at
your feet, a blur of faces with the loudest cheers and claps filling the auditorium. You stepped
forward. Your heartbeat turned violent as the moment arrived, and everything silenced for you.

“Thank you for this award.” The audience clapped. A smile crept on your face. “I like
painting. I like.” The audience continued to clap, increasing their volume just above yours. “I

want to–” Again, the volume increased, and your next words came as a yell, “I want to thank
my–!” The claps stopped, and the audience bowed to the floor.

They pounded their hands against the carpet. It bounced and flicked like a whip as the
vibrations unearthed the carpet and everything surrounding its path to the door. You ran as fast
as you could as your grounding cracked and faded like an old corpse. A darkness had rested
beneath the cracks until they sprouted, overwhelming your feet as you went. Once your hand
graced the doorknob, the lock melted in your hands. You grasped and twisted the knob, but it
slipped through your hands again and again as the darkness surrounded you.

Where the door used to be, a pounding force pushed you back. Your head slammed into
the ground, weakening but not breaking your healed crack. You turned on your stomach and
pushed yourself to your knees. The void wobbled with your body, nausea forcing your eyes to
the floor. Standing, you stumbled through the darkness as the pounding got louder. Louder.
Louder! as you jumped and found yourself on your bed.

You covered your head with the blankets and sheets, tucking under the mattress as you
created an air-tight tent. The pounding stopped. The door creaked. Your heart beat fast as your
eyes blinked slow with your deep, sluggish breaths. Pressure flooded your head as your lungs
clamored for release. A ringing silence invaded your ears, interrupted only by a whispering
chant, “The cycle continues! Be reborn.”

Alexis Washington is a 17-year-old senior from Chesterfield, Virginia, who attends Appomattox
Regional Governor’s School as a literary arts major. She likes to write about parent-child
dynamics using things she’s learned while researching child psychology. “The Light Whispers”
explores a physical manifestation of what strong emotions can feel like for young children,
demonstrating how breakdowns at that age can feel like literal death. It acknowledges that when
parents don’t consider that, their misplaced or misinterpreted anger can warp a child’s view of
their relationship with themselves, their parents, and their future.

"plastic spider" by Jessie Pearl is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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A magazine for teen writers—by teen writers. Under the Madness brings together student editors from across New Hampshire under the mentorship of the state poet laureate to focus on the experiences of teens from around the world. Whether you live in Berlin, NH, or Berlin, Germany—whether you wake up every day in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North or South America—we’re interested in reading you!