Failure Is Instructive is an occasional series where I take unpublished/unpublishable stories and reexamine them. They are often very old and not representative of my current work. Notes on the story are in bold italics.
Underground Lights came about during an idea session four or five years ago. I had a week off work and mapped out several stories on whiteboards and easel pads. Other story ideas during that time: a middle aged woman in an empty house with the ghost of an old professor, a child who dies trying to scale a batting cage, a sci-fi story about masked aliens.
I sent it out to a few places, although it had been completed for almost a year. Rejections all around, but it wasn’t submitted widely. I then lost any ambition for it, having turned my attention to more promising work.
The inhabitants of the area underground don’t expect to see the sun. They exist without expectations, without contentment or desire. They live most of their lives like moths drawn to a flame, chasing their little lights around. (It starts off kind of pretentious. The moth to the flame image, the repetition of the words underground and without. It’s too self-consciously arty. Also, the first sentence is unjustifiably stilted — it chucks the reader into the world.)
Occasionally, one will receive the notion that something is missing (The word “one” shouldn’t be used as the subject of a sentence except in case of emergency. It’s particularly confusing in this case. Who is the one? Are they an inhabitant of the area? If you can be more specific you should.) . He will look around the darkness, possessed by a memory, not of light, but of an absence of darkness. The walker will then shake the idea from his skull and walk away.