All Light is Temporary

"It's a simple concept, really," Janice said while steeping her teabag. A thin plume of smoke swirled up from the hot liquid. "I mean if you think about it the cosmos is lit by what?" Her eyes bore into her friend's.

Leanna looked away from the stare. It was only one of Janice's habits that annoyed her. Sometimes she wondered why they were friends at all.

"Well, Anna, what lights the universe?"

Anna, what an irritating play on her full name.

"I don't know, Janice, stars?"

"Yes, stars. They are the chief sources of light in the universe. I mean there are others of course, heated dust, explosions, etc., but stars, like our own sun, are the givers of light."

"So what's your point?"

"Anna, Anna, Anna," Janice replied after a dainty sip of her hot tea. "My point is that all light is temporary. Darkness is absolute; it always wins out in the end."

Leanna had to admit that Janice had an interesting point. She'd never really thought about it before.

It made her shudder.

"Take this room for example," Janice continued, oblivious to her friend's uneasiness. "During the night the only way to light it is to flip a switch on, or a flashlight, or maybe light a candle. Otherwise the room stays in its natural state: darkness." She set her cup of tea down on the coffee table. "So what would happen if something came along and took the ability for humans to artificially light a room?"

Leanna reached forward and picked up her own cup of tea. "I don't follow you." She attempted to take a sip but couldn't. It was still much too hot to drink.

"Anna," Janice continued while brushing aside a stray curl, "you can't be that dense." She held up her cup of tea. "You see how hot this is? Well, it's the same principle. Warmth is fleeting. The cosmos is infinitely cold, only sporadically punctuated by points of heat, which inevitably run out of energy and resort to their natural state: cold."

"I see," Leanna said with a forced smile. She was so weary of these philosophical discussions with her friend. She wondered why they couldn't talk about books, or movies, or clothes.

Janice raised her cup of tea to her mouth, and without so much as blowing on it, took a long swallow. Mostly-clear hot tea dribbled out either side of her mouth, lightly smearing her lipstick. Several small blisters formed on her lips.

Leanna stared in disbelief at her friend who seemed oblivious to her injuries.

A slight breeze with an unmistakable chill to it ruffled Leanna's hair then. There was an underlying aspect to it that pawed at her bare flesh like an insect nibbling away at a discarded piece of fruit.

"Do you feel a draft?"

Janice ignored the question. She continued sipping her tea.

Leanna glanced around the room. "Is there a window open?" Deep down she knew there wasn't but she still asked. And even if there were it was warm outside. The draft she felt was too cold to be coming from outdoors. It definitely had a tinge of winter chill to it, unlike the summer wind blowing through the trees.

"The energy is running out," Janice said. "They're using it up, and quickly too."

Leanna felt a knot form in her gut.

"Everything will go back to its natural state: dark and cold. Light and warmth are temporary." She looked up. "I was chosen to be a beacon for the arrival of their hunger."

"Are they aliens?" Leanna forced out. Despite the situation she still felt somewhat foolish for asking.

"It's all relative. To a species other than mankind we are the aliens."

"But how? How could you?"

Janice looked at her friend, an oily grin spreading across her pretty face. "Because I've been acclimated to see the truth. Didn't you hear what I've been saying? Light is temporary. Warmth is temporary. They are anomalies in a sea of natural order."

Leanna had heard enough. The draft she felt had evolved into a frosty chill. She could see her breath. And the light in the room was fading fast. A gradual darkness was seeping in, slowly (and no doubt deliberately) overtaking the daylight that lit the room just a moment before.

She jumped to her feet and flung her cup of tea at Janice. The hot liquid splashed across the woman's face, raising angry welts on her skin. But she didn't seem to care, merely continuing to smile through her reddened flesh.

"Anna! Sit down!"

Leanna sprinted toward the door. "My name's Leanna, not Anna!" she cried as she desperately tried to turn the handle.

It wouldn't budge.

"Let me out! Let me out now!"

Janice stood and casually sauntered over to her friend. Her face sported painful blisters; she didn't bother wiping away the tea. "Can't you see what's happening? They are turning everything back to the way it once was, to its natural state. It's how it should be. We'll grow cold together, Anna, you and I."

Leanna spun around and lunged for a lamp, narrowly dodging Janice's outstretched hands. She yanked its cord from the wall and held it above her head, wielding it like a weapon.

"You can't stop it, Anna. They're feeding, absorbing all the light, all the warmth. Earth is darkening, and soon you too will see as I do."

"No!"

"Yes. I resisted at first as well, but I came to embrace the cold and the dark like I used to the sunshine. It's all relative, as I said before, everything is relative."

Leanna dropped the lamp and stared at her friend. Cold was seeping into her pores and darkness wrapping itself around her body. "No! No..." The words trickled from her mouth, steadily losing their conviction until they were nothing more than gibberish. "I can't…no."

Then the words began to change, gradually shifting from rejection of what she was facing to acceptance and understanding. "I see now. Yes. Yes, now I know, now I understand."

Janice embraced Leanna. She was pleased that her friend had joined her in the cause. She knew that sooner or later everyone would learn Nature's truth, but was glad that Leanna was one of the early ones.

The room slid into darkness. Bitter cold followed, gradually seizing any residual warmth and swallowing it whole.

Janice and Leanna stood in the center of the room. They tried desperately to enjoy the unpleasant sensations they were feeling but found it impossible to do so. They had been taught to love darkness and cold, to revel in its natural state, but couldn't. It was simply too uncomfortable.

So when the light and warmth in their bodies began to dissipate they resisted. The instinct to survive dictated their actions and thoughts, overriding the control from the dark forces. But by then it was too late and they became frozen statues in a pitch-black void, the first victims of Earth's fate.