Red Light

📅 Published on May 27, 2023

“Red Light”

Written by Dale Thompson
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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I want to wake up.  I truly do, but I cannot.  No matter how hard I try, regardless of my manifold tactics, I am sound asleep with the awareness of a man electrified.  I have no memory of ever being awake, yet I see and feel everything.  What sort of man am I?  My eyes are wide open.  There is light everywhere I look.  I taste the sweetness of honeysuckle in the air.  My tongue is alive.

Locked in the chains of darkness, my existence is a contradiction.  I hypothesize, for I know not what is true and what is a deception.  I refuse to accept I am dreaming, for if I were, I would be comatose. The belly of the beast has imprisoned me and stripped me of my identity.  I do not know what is expected of me.  What am I to believe?  In my nakedness, I feel no shame, but I am exposed, judged but not punished.

What would you like to know?  Who am I?  Do I have a name?  Has it been forgotten as well?  Where do I originate from?  Am I the original?  Who was before me?  Were there others?  Am I the first?  If not, where are the others now?

The possible is the impossible; how can this be possible?  I want to look outside.  Is there anything beyond these walls?  Shadows have been my reality.  Shadows do not exist without light.  Show me the light!  Prove to me I have a shadow, and I will know I am alive!

Have I chosen to forget?  Am I supposed to remember?  Should I remember?  I have dwelled in the darkest void, the deepest despair.  If I sound petulant, it is only because, for one as trivial as I seem to be, hardly as sufficient as a gnat among the fowls of the air, these thoughts clutter my mind.

I have been pressed hard like a flower between the pages of a closed book, shelved, forgotten, to remain out of sight, to dry and to become brittle.  I have been a ship lost at sea, broken compass under a starless sky whose moon has been swallowed by the nocturnal night.

The world has a natural volubility, but I have been made silent, invisible, inaccessible.  Is the need for regret something I should have known?  To repent, to understand remorse, an everlasting lament made, but to whom and what is my confession?  What is it I have missed?  What has gone by me at such speed that the acceleration was never made known to me?  Am I honestly so impercipient I have lost my way?  What else might I have lost?  Did I lose a treasure, time, innocence, a friend?  Did I give up territory, or was it my soul?

It is a devil of a thing in the face of all things honorable.  I am the one who is ashamed, and I do not know why.  As I disintegrate, evaporating, I no longer recognize myself.  How would I know that if I do not know what I am supposed to look like?  A weight of condemnation crushes me, and I know I am a mockery before God.  I resemble the nothingness.  Inwardly I am powerless without influence to steer my own destiny.  Nose down, I freefall, and my prayer is I have dragged no one down with me.

Anything I feel is a stark reminder I am not dead.  I know there is unimaginable anguish to come that I have not yet been exposed to.  Vacant are any pleasures and become mocking reminders of how I have been abandoned.  Hope is out of reach.

I can hear my voice as an invocation calling on the heavens with an expectation that I might be shown mercy and rescued by a legion of angels, but the perceptions of emancipation are mere illusions and possibly things were nothing as they appeared.  I no longer desire a single thing in the material world.  I am unable to touch the tangible.

I was praying for perfect lucidity, promising God I would be indulgent to the Word of God if he would free me, but God is not the sort to make deals, and he was silent when it came to bargaining.  So, I prayed for death.

Time for me is timeless.  I had carried on lengthy colloquies with the Almighty, but every conversation was one-sided.  My condition was much like a mesmeric state.  My mind is – was?  I am not sure even if I am in the present, past or have drifted into the future.  But my mind being transparently clear, I had nothing I knew of to add, and there are no subtractions.  My capabilities were being challenged.  I was leaning head-down over the precipice of thought, and my intellectual faculties were spilling out at an incomprehensible rate.  There was no way I was going to get out of this psychological drama.  Essentially, I rested at the mercy of unseen forces.  The horror of it all is I sensed a presence of something close to me, edging nearer, inching its way into my breathing space. I must be in Hell.  I figure in Hell, one has tremendous remorse.  I have remorse for things I cannot remember.

I hear a voice.  It is a woman’s voice calling a name.  It must be my name because there is a familiar ring to it.  Images are pushing their way through a curtain of white.  I see imprints of faces and hands as if there are people attempting to push through a spongy wall of cushion.  My eyes are struggling to focus, to recognize, to reveal what is taking place.  The cushion is dissolving rapidly.  The voices are much clearer now.  I am looking into a red light from an ornamental lamp.  I am sitting upright on a sofa.

I recognize my wife.

She says, “Mike, are you okay?  You turned white and zoned out on me.”

I answered, almost involuntarily, “Yes, I am fine.  I must have gotten lost in thought.”

My wife continued, “I was saying you should stay home from work today.  You do not look so well.”

Her name was Lori.  Yes, Lori is my wife.  We have two children, a 5-year-old we call Tommy and a 3-year-old girl who is Susie.  I can’t believe I completely had forgotten who I was.  I looked again at the red light, which was glowing in a soft red light so alluring it was hard not to stare at it.

“I might just rest today.  I am a little foggy.  Must be my allergies acting up,” I said to my wife.  My wife ventured off to work while I sat amazed, staring at the lamp with the red light.  I do not remember buying a red light.  In all likelihood, my wife bought it and forgot to tell me.  She likes the odd and peculiar.  It is strange.  It does not actually shine; rather, it glows.  I do not feel imperiled by it.  My ability to cope with this new awakening at first seemed ineffectual.  I could hardly decipher the facts of my life, and I would not dare share my peculiar realistic dream which disconnected me from any semblance of my humanity.

I had an argument but no one to bicker with.  My argument was although I believed I was awake, my head still swam like a pool of verdure.  The red light no longer looked clear.  It seemed fuzzy, as if it had the synthetic mass of a large tennis ball, except red.  With great exhortation, conjecture, and surmise, I worked to regain my presence of mind.  I finally had a steady assurance I had regained my right mind, but a shocking event instantly gave me cause to reconsider.  Strangely, I envisioned a melancholy demonic comportment that did not manifest itself but remained invisible to me.  This was ineffable proof I should be under medical observation.  The red light was growing in radiant light, morphing with greater intensity, drawing my eyes straight into it.  It was beautifully ghastly.  Undeniably, the red light had me transfixed.  It was not until that evening, when my wife returned from a full day’s work, that I was able to snap out of my hypnotic trance.

Lori’s voice broke the spell.  “Mike, are you okay?  You look like you have seen a ghost!”

I looked for the words in my head to answer when I heard the children rush in.  “Daddy, Daddy, look what Mom bought us!”

Uninterested because the light was still calling to me, I acknowledged the children and saw they each had a candy bar.  “Mom said we can have them after dinner.”

“Oh, that’s good, yes, after dinner,” I mundanely said.

“Would you like some water?  Have you been sitting here all day?”  My wife sounded concerned.

“Water would be nice.”  I realized I was parched.  Lori brought me a large glass of cold filtered water, which we kept in the refrigerator.  It was so cold it hurt as it ran down my throat, but I drank it all at once.

“Have you made a doctor’s appointment?” Lori asked, feeling my forehead for a fever.

“No, maybe I will tomorrow,” was my answer.

“Did you remember to call in sick to work?” she asked.

“No, I forgot,” was my answer.  I was tired of answering questions.

“I will call in for you.  I suppose you are too sick to go to work tomorrow?” she asked, knowing the answer simply by my slouching posture.

“We will be having dinner soon.  Are you going to feel like eating something?”

I looked up at her lubberly with miserable eyes.  “I might eat whatever is leftover later.  I think I need to lie down,” I said.

“The kids and I will be in the kitchen if you need anything.”

“Okay, dear, I will just stay here on the sofa.”  I did not want to leave the red light.

“Okay, where ever you are most comfortable,” she responded pleasantly.

I placed my head on one of the sofa pillows and stared at the red light still.  I wanted to figure it out. For hours I had become a slave to the red light.  I was not sure what I saw in it at first.  It was possible there was something I should not see.  Wildly interested, I was fascinated by its hypnotic glow.  Was it feasible to believe it was communicating, speaking with me, and I had not figured out its language yet?  The flashing must be signals; they had to be.  Maybe, it was my imagination, but I seemed to have conjured up an absurd face that loomed within the light’s glow.  The light itself had become fuzzy, practically blurred.  I scouted the room with my eyes, but nothing else seemed out of focus.  It was only the red light.

I had to consider the dangers, the privations, the misery this light could cause.  I considered I could invoke some sinister, undefined travesty.  These sophomoric thoughts were turgid nonsense, and would be hilarious except for the possible ramifications.  My thoughts were inert.  I could not think of anything else but the red light in which a face stared back at me, locking eyes, causing me to become incapacitated.

What a foolish thing I have done.  I have allowed this red light to cause a diminishment, a cruel diminution of my soul.  I was shrinking where I lay yet I had a glacial serenity imposed upon me like a muted tranquility.  The room burned with light; I wondered what might be beyond this immutable illumination.  I strained my teary eyes to penetrate the shine.  In my incorporeal state, undefined, the bile rose in my throat.  The respite of deliverance had abandoned me, and in this unequivocal state, I seemed to be dragged away again.

I did not want to be removed again by this unknown force, so I ensconced my position by fortifying my mind with thoughts of my wife and children.  I had 10 years with my wife.  I was not going to give that up because of some impulsive infatuation with a light.  How ridiculous.  Perversion; this was invading my heart.  As disarming as the fright was, I was now entangled with the room, became sepulchrally calm.  I minimized in the face of the diabolical, and I became ill at ease.  My temples involuntarily throbbed as anxiety bathed my will and washed me clean of my remaining courage.  A numbness of indescribable warmth dulled my senses and swelled my lips.

I must have passed out eventually, because the following morning I was still in the same position on the sofa with my wife shaking my shoulder waking me.

“You were really sleeping deeply,” she informed me.

I yawned and instantly focused my eyes on the lamp with the red light.  It was still glowing but with far less intensity.  I could not think of the right words to explain to my wife there was a demon in our lamp.  So, I said nothing, hoping she would recognize herself that the lamp was more befitting for Hell.  She said nothing, smiled sweetly at me and asked if I felt any better.

I could not explain this occult lore to her, so I just answered, “I am a little better, but I think I need one more day resting.”

“Well, if you are staying home another day, I will call in for you, but you got to promise to take a shower.  I do not want to be rude, but you are beginning to spoil,” she laughed.

I did smell bad.  I agreed I would clean up.  My hair actually hurt my scalp from not being conditioned.  My nails needed trimming, and I felt chafed in areas I need not mention.

My wife recapitulated before she left for me to shower, eat something, get some rest, and “If you are no better by the end of the day, I am making you go to the doctor.” She gave me a kiss on the forehead, the children hugged me, and they left for the day.

Left alone, the red light focused on me again, yet the lamp itself was out of focus.  I struggled mistily to an upright position in the extremity of terror.  It was with painful tenacity I approached the lamp. I was undeniably disturbed because I could not be sure if this was real or a psychological delusion.  I bravely decided to unplug the light.  I just wanted it to stop glowing.  When I looked behind the table where it sat, I was unutterably grief-stricken.  It was not plugged into the receptacle.  I was not dim-witted; I understood a light does not burn without electricity.  Obviously, something dubious was at work.  The demonic face reappeared like an embossed machination with damnable intentions.  Its malevolent eyes were unholy black, and now arms had appeared, reaching out from the shade of the lamp toward me.  It may sound ludicrous, but I was as stiff as a stone, unable to retreat.  I was caught no different than if I had stepped into a bear trap.  Cold arms or steel wrapped around my waist, locking in place, and began to pull me toward the red glow, which began to throb blindingly.  I dug my heels into the carpet, but I had no power to resist.  Methodically I was forced into the glow, which engulfed me in a red mist so thick I lost sight of my house.

Inside, the red light was not as threatening as first appeared on the outside.  The demonic figure I first saw at first was no longer this menacing creature; it was actually an angel who led me from the mist into the darkness.

The darkness took my breath, and I believed I was dead, yet when I opened my eyes, I found myself in a hospital bed with an IV in my arm and connected to a heart monitor.

This was when I knew nefarious transactions had occurred.

I reached up to touch my head, and it was bandaged.  I must have fallen at some point and possibly bumped my head.  What I was about to be told was probably reprehensible.  I waited a few moments to see if a nurse would come by.  I could hear voices in the hallway, monitors running, a vacuum machine from another room, even the occasional beeping sound, and the noise of something on wheels being rolled down the hallway.  Basically, it was a normal hospital with chaos and noise, a constant reminder that no one could rest easily while there.

I pinched myself to see if I could feel.  I could; that is when the pain in my head started up.  I was alive in the present, in the now.  Scouring the room, there was no sign of Lori.  I embarrassed myself with an unintended croak of laughter.  I let out a sigh and continued to analyze my surroundings.  It was absolutely a hospital; no red light, which was good and bad, I suppose.  I had no memory of how I got a sore head or what brought me here.  It must have been an accident, some sort of mishap. Inherent to my condition was the mystery as to how I ended up on my backside in a hospital.

I searched the bed for the nurse’s call button and found it slightly under my right hip.  I pushed the talk button, and quickly a nurse answered.  A few minutes later, a doctor accompanied by a nurse made a rapid knock on the door and entered.

This place was too pristine.  My mind protested.  “Curse this place,” I thought with its machines and practitioners.

“Hello, Michael, I am Doctor Kildare, and this is Nurse Thornberry.  We are part of the staff treating you after the assault.”

I contemplated, struggled to make his words make sense and asked, “I was attacked?”

“Yes, you were assaulted at the campus and sustained a major concussion.  We had to perform surgery.  You were suffering from hydrocephaly, and I performed a craniotomy with open surgery to reduce the swelling.  The good news is there is no bad news.  With some rehabilitation, you will make a full recovery.”  The doctor and nurse both smiled stupidly.

“My wife?  Was she injured in the assault?” I could not help but think the worst, but the worst was yet to come.

The doctor and the nurse looked at one another with concerned faces, and turning back to me, the doctor explained.  “Michael, you were attacked in an unprovoked attack on the University campus where you are a sophomore.  You are in your second year of college; you have no wife.”

Right at that moment, my world fell apart as if I had been disintegrated to dust and swept away to be scattered in every direction.

“There must be some kind of mistake.  I am not a college student.  I am married, with two kids.  I have a job at the…uh…”

I could not remember where I worked.  The name of the company to whom I had been employed for the past few years totally escaped my memory.

“Mike, you have no wife or children.  It is common with head injuries to suffer memory loss and, in some cases, to create memories until the brain is completely healed,” the nurse explained.

My heart hurt.  I racked my brain, trying to remember my past.  Fortuitously, much had faded from my memory upon awakening, but not remembering the most important things in my life caused me to protest confusedly.  I could not have been more disagreeable.

“Please, Mike, I know this is difficult for you to comprehend.  You just awoke after a severe injury. Confusion is part of it.  Hopefully, your memory loss will gradually return to you.  That is what the rehabilitation is for,” the doctor informed me.

“No, no, no, you are looking at the wrong charts.  I am 32 years old and work every day at… my wife is Lori!”  I became excited because I remembered her name.

“Mike, what are your children’s names?” asked the nurse kindly.

I had not a clue.  I could not even remember their faces.  The thought of them remained but not the intimate memories.

“Do you wear a wedding ring, Mike?” the doctor asked.

I looked at the ring finger on my left hand.  I had no ring.  My life had been erased upon waking. Nothing I knew existed.

The nurse handed me something.  It was my driver’s license.  The photo on the license read Mike Reed, and the face was a much younger me.  I gasped and recoiled and began to cry uncontrollably. Studiously I questioned them, and they had an answer for everything I asked; none of it sounded good.  I had lost everything.  I wept, I grieved, I mourned for the family I had, for the lives lost.  What sort of incipient nightmare had the red light drawn me into?

That was it!  I collected my emotions because I realized this was the dream.  Lori and my kids are real.  This is not real.  This was wholly plausible.  The doctor and nurse sounded convincing, but I knew undeniably with sudden revivification none of this, the doctor, the nurse, even this hospital was not real.  It was a trick of the red light.  I simply had to stop believing this was actually happening, and I was sure I would return to my old life and find myself back on my sofa in my own house, though terrifyingly, I could not recall my address.  This rigmarole left an effluvium in the air and a bitterness on my tongue which only went to serve my notion I was not actually here.  I convinced myself I was dreaming still.  I was fortified with indomitable will and demanded to be discharged from the hospital.

I was met with strong opposition, with the doctor reminding me, “You have a severe head injury. You could have died.  It is not safe for you to leave just yet.  You could cause complications which could lead to a stroke or even death.  I implore you to stay, rest, and allow your brain to heal.”

Instead of becoming unhinged and positively unmanageable, I decided for my own sake I would play their little game and met them with illiberal positivity.  I became all smiles and complacency.  They seemed to be satisfied with my submission.  I gave them no cause to believe they would have to subjugate or hold me against my will.

“If I am going to be here for a while, would you happen to have my belongings I came in with, and if so, did you find my cell phone?”

The nurse assured me she would immediately go to the storage locker and retrieve my things.  Both the doctor and nurse exited the room, and I waited for the nurse to return.  Once I had my phone, I would simply phone Lori to come and pick me up immediately.

The nurse returned with my belongings and waited around while I went through my pockets to locate my phone.  Once I found it, I turned it on and went to my address book.  I could not remember her number, but I knew I had it saved in the phone.  It was not under the “L,” so I scrolled to the “Ws,” and it was not there either.  The most concerning thing was I did not recognize a single name in my phone directory.  “How can this be?”

I blurted out, “Red light!”

The nurse looked puzzled, and after a split second, she responded to my extemporaneous outburst. “Did the doctor explain to you he performed a new procedure on you?  It is called a PBM, which is short for photobiomodulation.  It is a procedure of using a narrow spectrum of red and near-infrared light wavelengths, causing a cellular respiration process to happen.  In very simple layman’s terms, it is used to accelerate the healing process of cells and also reduces inflammation.  This is why you were not placed into an induced coma.  You were simply sleeping and breathing on your own after surgery.”

I thought, “Red light therapy?” I was even more perplexed.  I was stuck with doubt, and fear rose up so quickly in me that I had no defense for it.  Red light therapy?  Could it be I am delusional, caught up in some whimsical imagined plot concocted out of my own head?  My feelings for Lori remained. I was in love, and no one could not convince me otherwise.

I remained in the hospital for a further two weeks without a single visitor other than the doctor and a few different nurses who worked with me during what they called “memory sessions.”  Their treatment was embarrassingly primitive, I thought.  The team worked with me to address issues of my thinking, memory, spatial orientation, attention span and imagination, and in doing so, this was supposed to accelerate my healing, to recognize and separate these different facets of my working brain.  All it did was to drive me into a deep depression.  Eventually, because I was still diagnosed as a possible medical relapse, I was moved from the hospital to a care facility where the rehabilitation would continue until I hardly thought of my former life and Lori.  My thoughts were abstract, unorganized, mostly negative in content; in addition, I was losing hope.

I decided if I had forgotten those I loved, what real reason existed for me to continue on?  What purpose was I serving if I no longer served my family?  I had no interest in ‘returning to school’ as they suggested.  Another question that floated around in my mind was, where were my parents in all of this?  Did I have brothers, sisters?  I could not muster the question to ask it out loud.  Maybe I did not want to hear the answer.  What if they were all dead, and I was the only one who remained from my family?  “Red light.”

At the care facility, a psychiatrist was assigned to me, which meant I was intended to tell my story to a complete stranger.  I did not know what real or imagined qualifications he possessed, which made me very judgmental and suspect.  I did go along with the sessions relaying to him how I felt, memories I had, ‘real or imagined,’ and with his sapient insight, he had ten times more questions than answers.  He asked me if I had “had any thoughts of hurting myself.”  Self-harm?  What a joke.  I guess I was to have that moment of epiphany, and the answer to my life’s questions would soon dawn on me all at once, and I would be cured, capable of taking care of myself and leaving the facility for good.  I can share with you; it did not happen in that way.

The psychiatrist opted to play off my Red Light story, for he was convinced during my brain surgery that the red light therapy the surgeon used triggered a response that caused me to invent memories and to believe them real; thus, he said I had created a new reality which only existed in my mind.

Sitting across from me, he produced a red flashing light.  I was asked to focus on the light.  I did not have to stare at it until my eyes watered but to merely focus on the thing.  His attempt was to trigger real memories and erase the recurrence of false ones.  He hoped the memory distortion, the source misattribution or suggestibility could be manipulated to recover the true memories and to erase the old ones.  He claimed because of the trauma I had suffered, I had made myself vulnerable to false memories in order to cope with the injurious manner I was viciously attacked; thus, true memories were repressed and replaced with a more suitable and kinder reality.

The red light flashed, and I found myself locked into the pulsation of the light.  I was asked a series of questions, of which I answered all of them.  I saw Lori’s face and then Tommy’s face and Lori’s face.  I remembered their names.  I gazed at them in my dream state, wanting more than anything to reach out and touch them, to hold them, to love them.  I heard the psychiatrist asking me to leave them, to walk away, to forget.  My focus, attention and awareness were fixed on my family.

I entered through a veil to be with my family.  I heard the psychiatrist and a doctor speaking.  “I believe he is gone.”

“He has revived and preserved the false memories.  He has abandoned the monotonic function completely,” the doctor said convincingly.

“Counterintuitive, to say the least.  I think we have lost him.”

“He has gone to what is most familiar to him.”

“We have failed in our heuristic approach,” the psychiatrist exclaimed, disappointed.

“I am afraid you’re correct.”

“He is non-retrievable.”

“He has combined both verbatim and gist traces memory processes.  I think we are done here,” the psychiatrist concluded.

I did not understand a single word of their clinical verbiage.  Their conversation became a faint whimper as I followed the Red Light.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Dale Thompson
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Dale Thompson

Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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