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Northern Lights - A Short Story by Benjamin Ludwig


Northern Lights

From the year 2000 to 2006, I lived in Alaska. It’s a long story, and I’ll eventually tell it, here. But the experience of living in and on the Last Frontier changed me forever. Mostly it was the light, the direction of it. The intensity, too. And in winter, the utter lack.


The short-short posted below, titled Northern Lights, is one of one hundred works of flash fiction I wrote while living in The Great Land. It’s insanely short – just 379 words long – but it captures an important moment in my evolution as a person. My hope is that it begins to explain why I set my next book, Outside, in Alaska.


I’ll have more to say in my newsletter, which you can receive via email by filling out the form at the bottom of my home page (www.benjaminludwig.com).


NORTHERN LIGHTS


At night in winter when the newcomer took the dogs out one last time before going to bed, he would look up to see if the northern lights were out, and if they were he’d run back into the house, glasses instantly steamed from the rush of warmth, to tell his wife.  Then he’d head out into the yard to wait for her, watching through clearing lenses as the strange green lights began to open and fold in on themselves, slicing long slices across the fabric of night sky, then healing themselves up again.


         When his wife arrived they would stand together close with their heads back, watching.  They’d stand like that for a few minutes, and then with eyes fixed intently in the sky, their feet would come unmoored.  They would begin to wander through the yard, stepping through snow, each searching for a new point of light, the new curtain that would appear first as a thin crack, and would then spread like a pair of massive geometric wings, undulating and constricting in planes and curves tens of thousands of miles long. 


         Like a giant kite, the aurora borealis would move this way and that, propelled across the sky by solar winds.  And the newcomer and his wife, standing below, became like kites themselves, propelled this way and that across the yard.  It was clear that there was some sort of connection between the couple and the aurora, and secretly the husband and wife both felt as though they were attached to invisible kite strings which stretched into the sky.  But they could not fathom whether it was the aurora that held the strings, or if they were the ones holding the strings to it.  Or perhaps something else was holding a string to the kite which was the aurora, and they themselves were only like the kite’s tail.  Or maybe they were separate kites, all three of them together.


         Tethered on their strings, the two would maneuver through the yard in an elaborate waltz, feeling the weight of their bodies tug against the aurora.  And after they were both quite cold and ready for sleep, they’d go back into the house, certain, at the very least, that they’d been blown there by the same wind. 




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That was really a beautiful way to share your experience with us, the reader. I could see myself there, head tilted back, following the northern lights like the tail end of its kite string. Thank you for that.

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So glad you enjoyed it! Alaska has a way of getting under your skin, and the aurora draws out what's best in us. I hope everyone has a chance to go see it, someday.

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