Flash Fiction Friday: The Short Unhappy Life of a Neon Bar Sign
by Cornell R. Nichols
Waiting for dawn.
The layer of dead moths caking my tubes has darkened one of my letters. It’s a complete disaster.
I start to blink an S.O.S.
I realize there is no O in the name of the bar, but it’s too late to back out now. I desperately blink with whatever letters I can, writing messages on the canvas of the night.
U.P.E.R. X.E.R.E. X.E.L.P. S.E.
Over here! Help me!
I’ve been blinking and sparking like an Aldis lamp since yesterday, slowly losing power. Where there used to be a proud sign on my front saying SUPERLUX, now there are black, burnt-out letters: U, P, R, L and another U. Only three others are still operational.
Passersby stop to read my new message. For some reason, they like this version of me better. They gather around me like moths, in a flutter and all aflutter.
They enter the place aroused, eyes glowing as if filled with xenon.
When they exit, they’re strangely put out.
Some pissed-off jerk tried to break me today. He smacked me sucker-like straight in my S, so I sparked him silly till he started to sizzle. He’s caked all over my tubes now like the moth he was. He had it coming, the bastard. Is it my fault he misunderstood the sign?
All of my letters are out now except for a lonely X. I put all the juice in it and light it up like a searchlight, praying for my luck to change.
Who knows, maybe someone will come and fix me?
The place is crawling with pirates. Rum-guzzling and eyepatched, they’re mumbling something about X marking the spot. I’m quite flattered, to be honest. I’ve been hanging over this watering hole for what feels like years, and no one’s ever considered it to be the spot before.
The pirates have started to dig around the foundations. The owner protested a little, so the peg-legs took him to the roof and made him walk the plank. The protests have stopped momentarily, right around the sidewalk level.
I can hear the shovel blades scraping against the hard ground, shoulder-parrots squawking, quarrels ending in loud gunfights.
Oh, I hope they leave my power cables alone.
Blinking. Flashing. Barely working.
By evening, the pirates have uncovered a lost civilization, hiding under the Earth’s surface. The LED display from across the street is so thrilled about that, he’s been flashing the same message for hours now: “ARE THERE DINOSAURS? ARE THERE? HUH? I HAVE ALWAYS WANTED TO SEE A DIPLODOCUS!!!”
Unfortunately, there are no dinosaurs. Neither diplodocci nor T-Rexes.
There are, however, some giant mutant fireflies.
With next to no human resistance, the fireflies have managed to take over the Earth and establish their New Fiery Order. My LED-based acquaintance had been working with the rebels for a while, displaying slogans like “POWER TO THE PEOPLE!!!” ‘UNITED AGAINST THE BUGS,” or “ARE YOU WITH US?” but finally the militia apprehended him. He was tried as a dissident and smashed to pieces in the still of the night.
The current events leave me baffled. I keep blinking with my last joules of energy, not getting in anyone’s way, not taking sides. The New Fiery Order or human civilization—what’s the difference anyhow?
The important thing is to hang and glow, hang and glow. As long as you can.
The firefly Hive Mind has unanimously decided that my glowing is a mockery of their cultural heritage and that I have racist tendencies verging on fascism. Hence, they proceeded to sign my death warrant, smashed all my tubes and released the noble gas.
Now that I think about it, life is a fluttery, moth-like thing. One night you’re hanging and glowing—a healthy red plasma pulsing in your tubes—the next night you blink for the very last time and disappear in the wind, swallowed by the great un-glowing. The emptiness. The abyss that consumes us all when we die.
Although, on the other hand, who knows? Me, a haloed, hanging martyr, forced into a physical form, wrongfully sentenced to death… Maybe neon bar signs go to Heaven too?
Sometimes the only thing you can do is hope that the world will change for the better.
I am the light of the world.
Cornell R. Nichols usually writes in his native tongue, but words like “chrząszcz” and “gżegżółka” are slightly too extreme even for the bizarro crowd. His other abilities, apart from being able to talk to neon signs, include channeling dead animals, putting furniture to sleep and surviving on next to no income. Polish speakers can visit his alter ego’s site at kornelmikolajczyk.blogspot.com
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