Worse than the cane, out came the dreaded phrase: “Illuminate me, please do,” along with the trademark condescending smile; Mr McGovern towered over the twelve-year-old me. Caught in the shadow of this self-proclaimed genius, I’d drawn attention to myself. I should’ve kept quiet like everyone else, not expressed my ‘radical’ political theories in class. The teacher known as ‘The Master’ liked nothing more than to crush young ideals. It worked. I crumbled. I withdrew. I am an idiot.
But I don’t forget.
Years later the Civil War began. Physical conflict favours the young. Out with the old.
The elderly McGovern awoke in darkness. Cold. Cheek pressed against glass. Gagged and unable to move, his limbs were bound, not together but spaced apart like a starfish. And he was face down.
In the night sky enemy aircraft rumbled. I switched the giant searchlight on.
Upon impending death we are told to look into the light. McGovern had no option; brilliant white, his sight lasted barely a second. Skin crisping and crackling. Acrid fumes billowed in the beam. He vaporised, no trace of genius, merely a burnt shadow.
As bombs dropped, I snickered, ‘ “Illuminate me”, who was the stupid one now?’
This piece won a competition to write a 200 word story prompted by one. That word was Illumination. For such a bright word my story is a tad dark.
I wrote several other different stories first but these attempts weren’t really happening. I was off-course, fumbling about in the dark. Eventually I had a lightbulb moment. Now I realise why the idea had taken so long to mature: it was an energy-efficient bulb and therefore took longer to achieve full brightness.