Writers find new ways to break an old cliche. The following stories retell the “light at the end of the tunnel.”
Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.
Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.
Wish Upon a Star by Luccia Gray
We were trapped.
Heavy snow covered the city, jamming doors and roads.
Soon it would reach our windows and block our view of the static sea.
“Mum, why did the moon disappear?”
Thirty, twelve-hour days had passed since the moon exploded and vanished.
“I want to go home.”
Asteroids were crashing all over the planet, causing tidal waves and earthquakes.
Archie pointed to the gigantic stars lighting up the sky. “I wish one of them would come and be our moon!”
“Who needs a moon when hundreds of stars are shining brighter than ever?” I said, hugging my son.
Clean Fingernails Make Me Jittery by Alexander (Zander) De
Clean fingernails make me jittery
digging weeds with my bare hands
covering over them…
well, that part, covering over them,
that makes me sorta jittery, too
sometimes I pull back the soil
just to be sure they are
and still okay
the air is there
but I need dirt under my fingernails
because when they are clean
after the collapse
when there was no air
well, not much, anyway
the way I clawed my way
to that beam above
me, just a little
no green sprouts
Stuck Again 🙄 by Simon
I was flying, I was that close to the light at the end of the tunnel.
Hey! wait a minute, where am I? why is everyone crying?
Is she crying too? Yes! my wife is crying too, All these years I tried to escape from you? I’m sorry!
Oh I can’t see her crying, oh my heart is breaking!
Needles?? No!!! don’t inject on my chest NOOOOO!!!
I woke up.
I was flying I said to her.
She said ‘I’ll kill you if you scare me next time’
That look on my eyes, feeling stuck with her, again.
Seeing the Light by FloridaBorne
“Hope clings to you like cat hair,” Rhoda said.
“When all you got is a light dancin’ in the highway, it might be what saves ya,” Gina Mae replied.
“Damned rednecks,” Rhoda mumbled.
After stopping next to Rhoda’s car, a man jumped from the back of a pickup truck. “Hey, sis!”
“You was late,” he said, tipping his hat to the ladies. “I got worried.”
“Some asshole stole my car.”
Rhoda watched as Toby changed her tire, and then he bent over the engine to fix another problem. Tall, magnificent, so gentle with women…
Her eyes danced.
My Light Was Peggy by kathy70
Walking down a big city street at night seems like a scary prospect. Peggy was a night person and thought this was the best time to test yourself and/or your friends. We just didn’t know it was a test.
One night at a local bar she was cajoled into a drinking match of shots with the guys. Next thing I’m being dragged onto the dance floor. She whispered, “dancing to sober up.” Becoming an accomplice to her not losing the bet was a test and certainly shed a light on our friendship for many more years. She never lost.
Going Home by Joanne Fisher
Kaylee was beginning to see the world clearly again, not just in the dull grey colours that had clouded her vision. She didn’t know how long she had been here, but it had been some time since she had been found in the warm bath with her wrists cut open. They had stitched her up and sent her here.
Today the doctor said he was pleased with the progress she’d made. She hoped she would eventually get out of here and return home. She knew now this would happen, that she would be whole again, that she would survive.
Life Reel by Goldie
“Your whole life flashes before your eyes,” people say when describing near-death experiences.
It didn’t when that Ford rammed into my Nissan.
Instead, my brain focused on the auditory stimuli around me.
The sound of music on the radio disappeared, replaced by a bang from nowhere, and the crunching of metal.
“Fuck!” I just had my car fixed up.
“Are you bleeding?” one of the five people outside my window asked.
“Where did they come from?”
“No,” I answered without checking.
Today, I took my first step. It’s a long way to go, but I’m on the right path.
Light by Anita Dawes
How about total darkness where the light is meant to be?
You see, I recently died.
My son drove me to the hospital barely breathing
I died in the nurse’s arms, getting me out of the car
I can tell you, for me, there was no light at the end of the tunnel.
no wise grandmother telling me it wasn’t my time, go back.
I almost felt disappointed
As if I had been cheated out of something
The thought of my grandmother telling me
I had a purpose, is missing.
I have this empty feeling, wondering why I returned…
A New Day by Donna Matthews
The hot tears have finally let up. She’s still feeling the sting of his rejection, but a resignation has fallen over her. This is her life now…alone, discarded, worthless.
Earlier in the evening, he texted. Of course, he texted…little on talk, big on sex. Always about the sex.
She’d thrown her phone against the wall and stormed out into the woods behind her house. It’s been hours now, sitting under her favorite tree, but then a birdsong, and then another. She turns her tear-streaked face toward the east and sees the first of a sunrise. Okay, maybe not worthless.
Sunrise over the Pyramids by Anne Goodwin
The sun god poked his head between the pyramids: an egg yolk; an amber traffic light; courage. At fifteen, I’d seen too many dawns abandon me to darkness. Cairo promised a signal change.
Sunrise on the pyramids is a tourist cliché. For those free to holiday abroad. For thirty years I was indifferent. I knew the glare could blind me. The heat could sear my defences clean away.
Simon’s invitation shimmers like a heat haze. If I accept, will his lustre dim? Or will it highlight every blemish? Dare I chance it? At fifteen, I watched the sunrise alone.
Blight at the Bend of the Funnel by Bill Engleson
“And so, my friends, I pray that we will soon see the light at…”
“Careening cliches, Blurt Man, he’s doing it again… gotta cover my ears…”
“Charlie, you’re too tough on him. The People understand what it means. It’s what they’re expecting.”
“Fifty times a day? A hundred? Kinda loses it’s punch.”
“You think you can do any better?”
“Mebbe. Let’s see. Glow worm at the end of the hook?”
“Nah. Don’t think so.”
“Okay. How about streetlight on a foggy London night?”
“Nose to the grindstone, then.”
“You have got your work cut out for you.”
The Promised Light by Charli Mills
Copper reminded Jess of Christmas caramels, all smooshed and clinging to the bedrock. After Pa died, the mine captain told Ma, “Send a son or get out of the company’s house.” Jess was built stronger than her brother with weak lungs. When she chopped her hair and changed clothes, no one said a word. Not even Ma.
Mostly, Jess fetched for the men or hauled buckets of copper caramels to the ore carts. Not much longer. Ma was cooking a plan to remarry another miner. Climbing nineteen stories of ladders, Jess thought the sun was the Star of Bethlehem.
Where Am I? by Joanne Fisher
Helena was lost. It was only a small forest, and yet she had no idea where she was. At the top of a hill she looked around. All she could see was endless forest in every direction. She felt confused.
When darkness fell, she saw a single light and made for that. To her surprise she came to an inn. When she walked in, there were strange creatures looking at her inquisitively.
“You lost miss?” asked the innkeeper.
“Somehow you crossed a gate into Faerie. In the morning I’ll send someone with you to help get you home.”
A Breakthrough by Sue Spitulnik
Clare, Michael’s physical therapist, nicknamed Clarice, was relentless. “Sergeant, there is absolutely no reason you can’t learn to walk on prosthetic legs other than your own stubbornness! Put them on and get out of that wheelchair.”
To her surprise, he said, “Yes, ma’am. Hand them here.”
She stared at him a few seconds. “You’ve been making excuses for weeks. What’s changed?”
Michael grinned. “My prayers have been answered. Heard from home that my high school sweetheart’s leaving her husband. Now I have a reason to want to walk out of here, the sooner the better.”
“That’s a new one.”
Push by Ritu Bhathal
“That’s it, babe, we’re nearly there!”
Becky took one look at her boyfriend, Jake, standing there at the other end, camera poised.
Dear God, if only she was able to get up, she’d have grabbed the camera, flung it in the bin and clouted him, one, before getting on with the job in hand.
Another wave of pain.
“Yes, babe! Nearly at the finish line. Come on, one more push and-”
She pushed, she delivered, she smiled, as her prize was handed to her.
Another grin as she saw Jake sprawled on the floor.
Silly git fainted, didn’t he.
Finding Light From The Darkness by Judy Marshall (Miss Judy)
My dearest Emily,
Meet me Friday, 12 February, the Royal York Hotel, Toronto, 6 pm.
I love you.
A year since he said those words, since he walked out with no explanation, now he comes back? Does he think he can walk out and then just walk back in.
As the train raced along, Emily sat with her thoughts, dreams, memories, questioning herself. Now happy with a good job and enjoying her independence, it hadn’t been easy. Does she want him back in her life? Could they find light from the darkness? Could she now find the answers?
Tunnel Vision? by JulesPaige
who can fathom what cataract eyes see
familiarity with one’s surroundings
makes up for some of the details
ghost memories who walked where
the spouse no longer in the house
with the years of age piling high
who can guess what dreams
the old sailor envisions on the screens
on the backs of those ancient baggy eyelids
that won’t open before two in the afternoon
how short is that road that will
reunite husband with wife –
the old sailor refuses to leave his ship –
refuses to recognize the rising bilge water
that is slowly draining his own life away
Life In the Old Cliche by Geoff Le Pard
‘I think there’s some light at the end of the tunnel.’
‘British Airways are now digging a tunnel under the Atlantic?’
‘Ha ha, Logan. They’ve found a replacement plane and are preparing it. The engineers are prepping it and we should be good to go. Soon.’
‘Today? This week? Sometime before this diet of airport food fills me so full of chemicals I grow a third buttock?’
‘They hope today.’
‘You know, that wasn’t the light at the end of the tunnel.’
‘No, that was a British Airways numpty with a torch looking for somewhere to hide.’
North Star by Kerry E.B. Black
They hunkered beneath evergreen foliage, the terrified mother and her two young children, grateful for the man who’d led off the hunting dogs. They could still remember ferocious howls, but with water between them and the good hiding spot, maybe they could hope.
Freedom. The mere word brought tears to their hearts, a concept for which they’d risked their very lives. With little more than their clothes, they fled their enslavers, following Grandma Moses’ instructions. Soon, in the night sky, they’d see it – the drinking gourd with its constant star. It would guide them north, away from slavery’s reach.
ShoeShining Optimism by Jack Keaton
Looking through the Pennysaver, Jack found the shop where he used to have his shoes repaired before COVID-19 turned his city into a ghost town had reopened.
Besides shoe repairs, Ben, the owner, was back to shining shoes! Wouldn’t it be nice to step up on the shoeshine stand and have Ben shine his oxfords?
Jack usually shined his shoes. These days, working from home, slippers were the office footwear, but today, he would dress for work and visit Ben. The shop’s reopening was a sign of brighter times ahead, and Jack wasn’t going to ignore this auspicious moment.
Light at the End of the Tunnel by Kate
Abby flipped the switch to off and began removing the prongs from her patient’s nose.
“Good news, Mr. Scarlatti, no more oxygen tubes today,” she said and handed him a cup of water.
“Does that mean I can go home tomorrow?”
“Let’s see how you do today and then we’ll talk.”
“But I am strong,” he said, hacking out a boisterous cough.
“Knowing you, we’ll have you walking out of the hospitalꟷ”
“And into your arms?”
“Then into the caressing and loving arms of my beautiful Maria. How about the day after tomorrow?”
Abby laughed. “Let’s hope so.”
The Self-importance of Being Ernest by Doug Jacquier
Ernest had heard that, in their dying moments, people see an incandescent light. He took that with a grain of salt, believing that, according to Murphy’s Law, when the lights are out there’s nobody home and to suggest otherwise was grasping at straws. He longed to rattle the cages of these speculators and suggest they’d fallen asleep at the wheel while putting lipstick on a pig. He didn’t want to act like a bull in a china shop but, to make a long story short, he thought this theory was about as useful as an ashtray on a motorcycle.
Coming In (Part I) by D. Avery
Skipper. Always a corncob pipe stuck in his mouth, puffin’ away like that’s what powered the boat. Remember one time we got caught out in a bad nor’easter. That corncob grew cold but he kept it clenched in his teeth as he steered through the troughs and waves, me shivering scared in the cuddy cabin. I didn’t believe we’d weather that one. Then somehow Skipper had a free hand to relight his pipe under the brim of his oilskin hat. The storm was still pounding wild, but that round glow chipping at the dark told me we’d come through.
Coming In (Part II) by D. Avery
His hands at his chest clutching the blanket edge reminds me of him at the helm that night, our lives depending on his firm and determined grip. Now the electronic machines cast steady waves of green light, marking ebb and flow. If it were a depth finder I could read it. His breath wheezes like the gurgling stem of that corncob pipe. That tube in his throat, does he think that’s his pipe? Aren’t his lips moving, champing at the familiar bit? I want to believe he’ll weather this one. I watch his hands. Light your damn pipe, Skipper.
En Garde! by Saifun Hassam
Aboard her fast clipper Azores, Captain Zenobia kept watch. Ominous towering clouds revealed no starlight, winds moaning and shifting. Two sailors disappeared silently from their night watch. She closed her mind to the gagging stench of shark bait.
She tensed. Ghostly blue St Elmo’s fire lit tall masts and vanished. She saw the sea vampire. Knew the vampire saw her.
The shapeshifting creature lunged towards her, circling, menacing, lightsabre in its claws!
Zenobia’s saber blazed with St. Elmo’s fire. The creature howled.
Zenobia plunged her saber into the shapeshifter. It sank into the eternal Stygian darkness of the sea.
Lost by Rebecca Glaessner
The man took his eyes off his son for a moment, vision filled with the semi-transparent, augmented display of his son’s latest medical assessment.
They still didn’t know what was in his son’s head. What had changed him.
Then his son was taken.
The man looked away for only one, single moment.
Years passed. Labelled as grief-stricken, helpless, the man never stopped searching.
Not for one day. Not ever.
Then a woman came to see him, with her own daughter, and an air of hope surrounded them.
“My daughter’s been changed too,” the woman said, “she’s heard your son.”
Leave the Lights On by Heather Gonzalez
We used to think there was nothing to be afraid of in the dark, but not since they appeared. So many killed before we knew what was actually happening. Now we keep the lights on at night.
Ollie and I always left the lights on of course, but we also had a battery powered lantern that hung above our bed. When the electricity went out that night, we could hear screams echoing through the neighborhood.
As the battery started to fade with a flicker of the light, I noticed the sun was beginning to rise. We would survive tonight.
Light At the End of the Tunnel by Liz Husebye Hartmann
Dipping her paddle expertly, Sara struggled against the increasingly muscular pull of the current. The sun rose, set, and rose again; unnoticed under the moss-choked cypress trees that canopied the dark creek.
Pa’d gotten home from just one night of gambling away the dole; she’d hoped for a week, time enough to get herself free and clear. He must have been unlucky with the cards. No matter. He’d almost killed her last time; she had to go.
Now, having joined the river, Sarah knew that if she kept paddling upstream, she’d find clear waters and an anonymous city.
Justice in a Cave by Charley Lyman
Justice Ranes was lost. Spelunking! he thought. He considered his predicament. “Lost in a fucking cave is what I call it.” His words bounced off rock walls pressing in. He picked a direction. His torch would hold an hour at best. The way seemed familiar.
A turn unremembered. Back track? Determination overcame reason. He pressed on.
Ahead shadows. Switching off his light he detected a faint glow. Stepping forward the light increased. At the mouth he stopped. The sought for entrance was instead a cavern. He was doomed.
Justice was undone by a fallacious bioluminescence lurking beyond the passage.
With a Little Help from My Friends by Norah Colvin
“Can I help?”
The two girls dug side by side. Then D. broke the silence, “What’re we digging?”
“Charli wants to come down too. We can’t use the zipline anymore. Anyways, going through a tunnel’s quicker’n going round.”
“Looks jes like a hole to me.”
“Tunnels always start as holes.”
They continued digging. The pile of dirt grew higher as the hole got deeper.
“Look. We can stand in it now,” said Norah.
“How will we know when we get there?”
“Easy. Charli’s waiting, holding a light to show us the way.”
Where It Led by D. Avery
“Pal, did’cha read this week’s post? This phrasin’ always strikes me: ‘out east’. Shorty’s got it bass ackwards. Where I come from it’s ‘out west’ an’ ‘back east’.”
“Where’d ya come from?”
“‘That ‘splains yer per-petchull greenhorn status, but it don’t ‘splain yer overdone dialect whut drives spellchuck crazy.”
“Must be yer constint jabberin’ at me’s effected my speech. But ain’t ever’one out west from back east ‘rigin’ly?”
“No! Fer one, indigenous people, first folks; fer two, buckaroos. What brought ya here from out east?”
“Was where the prompt led. Followed it west ta carrot-colored campfire light.”
So much emotion in this week’s submissions! Finding the light at the end of the tunnel has evoked powerful imagery. Thanks for sharing everyone and for keeping this space so welcoming, Charli and the Ranch team.
You’re right, Rebecca — lots of evocative stories. It shows us that cliches often signal powerful feelings, which is why we understand them, but when we rewrite the cliche as a story or phrase, we can pack a punch.
There it is! Here we all are! In good company. Thank you Charli.
The finished product! It began in good company, too.
Looks like we’re all searching for that light…
Flash and a bit of imagination fits the bill until the real thing comes along. Fingers crossed!
That light holds meanings and hope. We can always hold on.
What a cornucopia of treats this time round. Special bounty from Simon, Anne, Bill, Charli, Ritu, Jules (vey special), D (two very special Comings In) and Liz and an Honorable Gobstopper for Geoff’s invention of the third buttock.
Delectable! Oh, but the Honorable Gobstopper takes the cake, Doug.
You might have missed one. 🙂
Oops! Sorry about that, Joelle.
It happens. 🙂 The day I’m perfect, I’ll have room to complain.
Powerful stories this week!
Absolutely, Charli 😳
Awesome collection again everyone!
I missed reading each individual story as it was posted so this collection is a gift. Thank you for sharing all the lights. Well done.
And another weekly blog hop is complete.
A round of applause to all that keep coming back for more every week.
[…] Find the full compilation here. […]