Silence came in response to the question as the still of the night settled around the bedroom of 11-year old Archie Smith who lay asleep in his bed.
“Yes.” The answer finally came from another small voice, as the silence persisted as the night wore on.
The tiny voice asked the question that was on the minds of all the young watching Archie Smith. “Why are we just watching him?”
“Because we are to protect him.” replied one of the older voices.
They remained in the silence of the dark for a while longer.
“Come on,” said an older voice finally, “Let’s go.”
And the lights that were breaking the darkness of the night, left, leaving Archie Smith to finish his nights rest.
As the sun shone brightly into Archie Smith’s bedroom, Archie lay in his bed rubbing the sleep from his eyes. It was Saturday, and Archie couldn’t wait to spend his day reading and playing outside. But his first order of business was breakfast. Leaping towards his bedroom door, he ran down out of his room and down his stairs to get himself a bowl of cereal.
That night the lights came again. They stood watch over Archie as he slept. The night passed uneventfully and as the sun rose, the lights hid, but they did not leave.
“Why aren’t we leaving?” asked the tiny voice.
“Today we follow him.” came the reply, after a brief time of silence.
Archie awoke unaware that he was being watched. Heading downstairs, he began this Monday morning as he began all Monday’s that he had school, by eating a bowl of cereal with his mother.
As Archie left the house that morning, he kissed his mother goodbye and told her he loved her. He ran off to the bus stop, with the lights traveling behind him silently and just out of sight.
When Archie arrived at the bus stop, a few of the other students had already arrived.
“Hello everybody!” Archie said with a smile on his face.
The faces of the other students lit up as Archie made his way towards them.
Cries of “Archie!”, “How’s it going?”, and other cries of joy ushered forth from the gang of students, and not a single face was without a smile.
The bus arrived, and though Archie was nearest the door he moved aside so his friends and bus-mates would be able to get the prime-choice of seats. Sure there were places that he would like to sit, but he knew his classmates would be much happier during the day if they were allowed to choose their favorite seat. Archie enjoyed bringing smiles to their faces, and this was one little way that he could do just that.
After a few more stops and pick-ups, including Archie’s best friend Sarah Mills, the bus arrived at
“What took you so long?” she asked him. She had just jumped right up when the bus had stopped, cutting into the line instead of waiting as Archie had done.
“I was just waiting my turn.” he replied, unaware of how unusual that was.
The lights waited outside the school, hiding from sight by placing themselves behind the basketball hoop. They continued watching Archie in silence.
As Archie and Sarah approached the door of the school, Archie took a few quick steps to get slightly ahead of her, and opened the door. Instead of stepping through it however, he pulled it aside and then followed Sarah through.
“Archie,” she asked him, “why do you always do this stuff?”
“I don’t really know what you mean.” he said, “I guess it just seems like the right thing to do.”
The morning passed uneventfully, but then, after lunch, a boy named Jack did not have a pencil in math class. Jack always picked on Archie, and had a reputation around the school as being a bully. When Jack asked the class if anyone had a pencil, no one responded. No one that is, except Archie.
“I have an extra you can borrow.” Archie said as he handed the pencil to a stunned Jack. Never before had one of Jack’s victims shown him kindness in even the smallest manner such as loaning him a pencil.
“Tonight,” said a voice from the bushes outside the window, “some of us follow Jack.” The other lights silently agreed, from now on, Jack would be watched.
The rest of the day passed uneventfully. Similar events transpired on the bus ride home that had transpired on the ride to school, and when Archie went to bed that night, he was still watched over, but only by two lights.
The next few days continued on very similar to that Monday, and the lights were beginning to thin as they began to watch more and more of Archie’s classmates. Some that they watched were unlikely candidates, like Jack, but others, like Ralph and Sarah seemed perfect. The lights went to various houses to watch over their people at night, and met up again as a large group at the school. They never went to watch alone, they always traveled in pairs, a young light and an older light.
One night however, a few weeks later, a thunderstorm was raging outside. All of the lights were now in pairs watching over many different people.
“Why are we still doing this?” the tiny voice watching over Archie asked. “Every day is the same.”
“Every day is not the same, and when you understand that, you’ll understand that we’re here for nights like tonight.” replied the other voice.
As he said this, there was a great flash of lightning outside the window of Archie’s bedroom. The power went out, shutting off Archie’s alarm clock. Without his alarm clock, Archie would not rise on time for school. Without their alarm clock, his parents would not be up either to awaken him if he were to oversleep. Archie would be late for school and his perfect attendance would be ruined!
But early in the morning, around the time Archie would have normally arose on a school day; the older light began to wake him up.
“What are you doing?” asked the tiny voice in a panic.
“I’m waking him.” said the older voice calmly.
“But we’re not supposed to interfere!”
The older voice remained calm, as he said, “This isn’t interfering, this is our job; this is what we do.”
“What do you mean?” screamed the little voice, as Archie awoke, causing the two lights to flee into hiding.
Archie realized the power had gone out during the night and immediately went to wake his parents so that he could make sure they would make it to work on time.
“Why did we help him?” asked the tiny voice.
“Because my young friend,” replied the older voice, “as karmic forces, helping the righteous is what we do.”
This story was written based on the very first picture in the Chris Van Allsburg book, "The Mystery of Harris Burdick" on which I have based a writing challenge for myself. If you would like more information on this challenge let me know, and I can post it here. Also, I want as much feedback as you all will give me, be it positive or negative, about the obvious or the unobvious, any thought that enters your head while reading, if you're comfortable sharing it with me, I want to know it. Thank you all very much.