the short story project


Gabrielle Johnson

A Message From Inky Grimm

I know what it’s like to see the sun. To be in the presence of it, to see the crispness of objects and the living without the aid of a lamp or candle. The sun doesn’t feel bad against your skin or make it feel like it’s been soaked in bleach too long or make it rough like old leather like Dr. Ebony told me it did. It felt warm, and while it still looked pale, my skin looked brighter and smoother, more lively. I knew I wasn’t supposed to be here, but not once did I feel unsafe.

When I first arrived, I was covered in dirt. The first thing I saw was a sky that was a rich blue, like the markers you see in elementary school classrooms. There was this stuff on the ground popping out of the soil that was a crisp, fresh green, and each piece of it was thick and dewy. I saw animals up in the air soaring around thick, white clouds, pure and puffy. Were they bats? With beaks? What a weird species of bat.

I tried to bask in all the vivid color as long as I could, as I didn’t know if I could ever experience this again, but I knew I had to return back home before my family became too concerned. I crawled back into the hole that took days for me to dig—the hole where I did not eat, barely slept, and risked my county finding out about my escape to see the unknown above the surface.

I have a genetic mutation that made life pretty unbearable for me if I didn’t take my medicine every day. I caught colds easily and spiked fevers and my body would be cloaked with lethargy to the point where I needed to be hospitalized if I didn’t take my pill every 48 hours. The day I saw the sun I didn’t take my pill. I didn’t think I needed it.  The ancient proverb “a blind man doesn’t miss much, but a deaf man misses everything” that I heard in folktales and storybooks no longer made sense to me. I had never been so grateful for vision than I was then.

When I returned to my hometown, I checked my watch. It was early afternoon. However, the roads were nearly pitch black and not illuminated by the usual fluorescent headlights of busy people’s cars. I felt my throat tense but ignored it as I headed home. I made it back to my house without seeing any lights besides those of ambulances. My heart began to race when I noticed my house looked abandoned. Something told me I had to visit the hospital. Dr. Ebony probably had some answers for this.

With my flashlight I received for my eighteenth birthday to guide me, I arrived at the emergency room to find crowds of sickly-looking people. There were some sitting in the waiting room filled with faces of panic and shock, but most were on stretchers being steered by nurses who looked like they’ve never gotten through over an hour of shut-eye. I frantically pushed through the hordes of sickly patients and arrogant medical assistants who tried to stop me. I knew in my gut what was happening. I was right all along. Dr. Ebony specialized in this stuff. She had to still be around; there was an extremely high chance that she was on duty, but I thought it was worth a shot to seek her where I knew where to find her all my life.

I finally arrived to her office. The blinds were shut and it was dark inside like the rest of the cubicles, but there was a faint beam of light from her office lamp that shone against a couple of the flaps of the dusty shades. I banged my knuckles against the door.

“Come in…” a voice croaked.

Wincing, I quickly pulled down the long knob and entered the office to see the back of Dr. Ebony in her big, comfy leather chair. Her telephone sat with the wire dangling, unplugged from the jack. She spun around slowly to reveal her sickly, blanched face, her thick, black hair pulled back loosely in a ponytail with flyaways.

“Inky…I know what you did,” she stated weakly.

“I…what’s happening?” My heart sunk from her knowing my secret, but I was too shocked by current events to react.

“They tracked you. The police,” Dr. Ebony went on, her voice monotone. “You’re supposed to be in trouble. But everyone is so sick…everyone had to focus on other things.”

“It’s because…” I mumbled.

“Yes, our bodies aren’t equipped to live like this,” Dr. Ebony said. We finally made eye contact, her grayish-blue eyes pale and lifeless. Her body was frail and shivering. All this time, I thought my body was weak. Everyone else could handle our world without ultraviolet rays except for me. “I would have preferred that you never returned. But I knew you were going to come here, so I waited for you, despite constantly being called for backup.”

I rushed to hug her. The woman who took care of me my whole life and made sure I had the right combination of chemicals in my body to wake up to another day of life was now in my arms. I held her, feeling her bones against me. She brushed my arm lightly with her thin, veiny hands that she still kept perfectly manicured with French tips. She had no idea where it was, but Dr. Ebony always wanted to visit France.

“You did the right thing, Inky,” she said softly. “Please…go now.”

I knew she didn’t have much longer. “No, I can’t leave you here alone.”

“They know your face. Go, go back, before they find your path,” Dr. Ebony croaked.

I stayed with her anyway. She protested adamantly until she was no longer able to speak. After she passed, I held her lifeless body for a few moments, shedding some tears yet still trying to plan my encore escape.


I made my way back above the ground safely.

I had to forget everything. My family, my friends, my pets, my lifestyle. The food and customs took some time to get used to.

Thankfully, everything was a lot less expensive on the sunny side. I managed to find my way to France. I write this message as I sit in front of the Eiffel Tower. I know Dr. Ebony would be proud.

I don’t know if a culture and society like mine will ever be created again. But if so, and you’re one of the ones who feel the need to escape, this is for you. I know what it’s like to see the sun, and you should too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *