It's been years, since I wrote this short story. It has a disturbing quality about it.
"Wake up, Daddy"
Frank stirred and slowly came awake.
"Wake up, Daddy. I need you to help me."
Opening his eye, Frank saw his daughter, Sylvia, shaking his arm.
"Wake up. I need you to help me."
"Help, you do what?"
"Help the shiny people."
Three years of memories flashed through Frank's mind in an instant. For the last few weeks, he thought maybe he would get a break, but Sylvia just shattered his hope.
It started when Sylvia was two years old. Her mother withdrew, refused to participate in life and eventually killed herself. Nothing Frank did helped and the doctors never found a physical problem. Before they could arrange a visit to a psychiatrist, she spent a day taking pain pills and drinking vodka. The rope she tied around her chest guaranteed she would suffocate when she slumped forward in the chair. One month she was fine; the next, she was gone.
Frank remembered the note she left: "It's all so important, but I can't tell what they want me to do. God forgive me."
Sylvia never really understood, although she knew her mother was dead. Counseling helped them both, but within six months of the death, Sylvia started talking about the shiny people.
At first, Frank was at a loss, but a counselor explained it was probably a reaction to the suicide. They cautioned Frank on his reactions and advised he give Sylvia time to work through her problems. Frank was patient, and the last three years had shown improvement, although Sylvia still talked about the shiny people.
Frank asked what they looked like. Sylvia explained the looked like people, except they were shiny. Further questioning yielded little more information, until late one autumn evening.
While at the park, Sylvia spent some time staring at the small lake. The low sun reflection shimmered from the small ripples caused by the light breeze. After her inspection, she exclaimed: "That's what they look like, Daddy."
Not knowing what she was talking about, Frank asked: "That's what "what" looks like?"
"The shiny people."
Franks blood chilled at her remark. Not knowing what to say, he just stared at the rippling reflection and wondered if his daughter would ever be well.
Sylvia would draw pictures of the shiny people with her crayons. Yellow and silver were her choice of colors. Like most children, there were houses, trees, animals and people, but Sylvia added the shiny people; that were superimposed over the other subjects of her drawings. They appeared like apparitions and there were geometric shapes she would add by their hands.
Frank had asked what they shapes were. Sylvia answered: "They draw with their hands, Daddy."
Frank continued his questioning and asked: "What do they draw on?"
"They draw in the air. I can see what they draw, but it disappears. It's almost like smoke, but shiny."
Some of the symbols seemed familiar, but Frank couldn't determine why and never really spent much time in examination. They weren't important. What was important was healing his daughter.
Frank was apprehensive when Sylvia started kindergarten. He wondered how she would cope and he feared she would mention the shiny people. After the first week, he finally asked Sylvia if the shiny people were at school. Concentrating on a television show, she only said: "Mrs. Peterson told them to leave."
"Told them to leave?"
I was talking to them and Mrs. Peterson said they couldn't stay, so they left."
Afraid to add more, Frank digested the information and wondered if the same approach could help with all "visits" bey the shiny people. A call to Sylvia's counselor gave Frank hope, when they explained they would research medical journals and see what they could find. That was last month and he hadn't heard from the counselor. He'd discuss it with the counselor in a month at the next visit.
"Hurry daddy. We need to hurry."
When he stood, Sylvia immediately started tugging at his arm and pulling him toward the kitchen.
"They're this way."
Reaching for the light switch brought an immediate response from Sylvia: "No, Daddy. Don't turn on the light."
Not knowing what to do, Frank grabbed the flashlight plugged into the wall and started following Sylvia as she tugged him to the kitchen."
"They're in the garage."
Suddenly fearful, Frank spoke to Sylvia: "Wait by the door. I'll go first."
Stepping into the garage didn't reveal anything. Startled, Frank jumped when Sylvia spoke from right behind: "They're by that little door, Daddy."
Frank looked where she was pointing and realized it was the main breaker box for the house.
"They're trying to open it, but they can't. Hurry; they want you to hurry"
Opening the cover didn't reveal anything, but Sylvia soon spoke again: "They're pulling at that big knob. Hurry, pull that knob."
Frank hesitated, which brought a tearful outburst from Sylvia, who now was hugging his leg: "Please hurry, Daddy. Oh, please, please hurry."
Frank shut off the main breaker, which caused the freezer in the corner to become silent. Before the silence could envelope the room, Frank heard a loud pop from outside; then another and another. Before he could determine what caused the sound, he heard a huge thump, like a firework display. Instantly, the street light in front glowed brightly, which brought deep shadows on the garage wall. Within seconds, the garage became as dark as a cave.
Trying to sort his thoughts, he barely paid attention when Sylvia whispered: "You did it, Daddy."
Standing in silence, Frank put his hand on Sylvia's head. "It's okay, honey. Everything's okay"
Opening the side door, Frank looked out at the darkened neighborhood. Someone was walking around next door. Examining the person, he realized it was his neighbor, who was shining a flashlight on the transformer vault at the curb. Smoke rose from the vents and the acrid smell of burnt insulation filled the damp night air.
"Are you okay, Harry?"
"Is that you Frank?"
Frank could only ask: "What happened?"
Harry replied: "Damned if I know. I think all the transformers exploded. I was watching t.v. when the damned thing shorted out and all the lights got bright. Next thing I know, I hear pops and an explosion. It must be something with that substation around the corner."
An approaching siren broke the quiet. Within a minute, a fire truck pulled onto their cul de sac and stopped at the first house on the corner. The firefighters jumped from the truck and started dragging out hoses. The owner was standing at the curb and staring at the front, where smoke was billowing from the open door. The fireman soon disappeared into the house, only to reappear within a few minutes. Water poured from the front door as the fireman started around the house with flashlights; examining the eves and the roof.
Frank and Harry stared quietly and digested the scene. Sylvia had one arm around Frank's leg and stared in fascination.
"Are you folks okay.?"
Frank was surprised by the question. He never saw the fireman approach.
Harry was the first to speak: "I think so, but I'd still like you to check. Something's wrong with the wiring in my house."
The fireman replied: "Something went wrong at the substation. It looks like you folks lost all your power and it will be awhile before it's back on. Let's go look at your house, Sir"
When Harry and the fireman went into the house, Frank went back to watching the scene. The firefighters wandering through the neighborhood only added to surreal atmosphere of drifting smoke, loud diesel engines and the red strobes, which were almost mesmerizing. A power company truck soon arrived and added more noise. The bright amber strobes only accentuated the already bizarre event.
Frank heard Harry and the firefighter approaching: "It looks like your breaker panel is history. I'd have an electrician check it out before you do anything."
"What about you, Sir?"
Frank turned to the firefighter with a questioning look.
"Are you ready to go check out your house?"
"I think we're okay."
"Humor me. I'd feel much better if I have a look."
"Let's go look."
As they wandered through the house, the firefighter examined all the wall sockets, the lights and the appliances. He stopped at the breaker panel and leaned in for a closer look.
"Your main is thrown."
Suddenly, what happened before the power went out returned to Frank's thoughts. Uncertain on what to say, he replied: "That's strange."
"I can't see any damage, but I'd still have electrician take a look, if I was you."
"That's a good idea. I have a feeling the power company will be glad to make sure my wiring is okay."
Returning to the front yard, Frank found Harry by the transformer vault with a member of the line crew.
"Damndest thing I've ever seen. My lights were twice as bright before they went out."
The lineman only nodded and examined the charred transformer in the vault. Frank could see he was concentrating on the damage and knew the crew had some tough days ahead.
"Do you need a place to stay, Harry? I have an extra bedroom."
"Nah. My sister lives across town. She'll put up with me for awhile. What about you?"
"We'll stay here tonight. I'll make arrangements tomorrow."
Looking down, Frank realized Sylvia hadn't let go of his leg since before he turned off the breaker. He, also, realized the night air was chilly. He was only wearing a t-shirt and sweat pants, which were now damp where they dragged through the dew covered grass. Sylvia was wearing her nightgown and her robe. He immediately picked up Sylvia and hugged her.
"Are you okay, Baby?"
Sylvia only hugged him tighter and put her head on his shoulder.
"Let's go inside. We need to get some sleep."
After a month, things had nearly returned to normal. The neighbors were still dealing with the repair work, but Frank was back on line and the electrician could only shake his head after making a thorough examination of his house. He did change the main, which he stated was probably faulty.
"Thank you, Daddy."
"For what, Baby?"
"For getting me the word book."
"You mean the dictionary."
Sylvia nodded and went back to practicing writing simple words on the piece of paper. She'd placed the dictionary next to her work on the kitchen table and was concentrating on examining both as she worked. She'd write a word, then hunt through the dictionary until she found it.
"What are these words, Daddy?"
Frank looked at what she wrote, and was confused for a moment. He'd glanced through her books and didn't recognize the words. To add to his confusion, the words seemed beyond her school level.
"Those are some big words. Did the teacher give you those?"
Sylvia giggled and replied: "No, the shiny people did."
The hair stood up on Frank's neck as he examined the words again. For a moment, he felt as though the air was sucked from the room and almost felt dizzy. The simple block letters, and childish handwriting, only made it more chilling: