67 Times

Short Fiction

Emmanuel Lomax
2 min readJan 27, 2022


Light Switch on White Wall
By Rebecca Lee on Unsplash

The rules were simple:

  1. The lights must be flicked on and off a total of 67 times or they both die.
  2. The process starts when the light is on, never when the light is off.
  3. It must be done every day before sleeping.
  4. Only the living room lights count, no other lights matter.

I’ve stuck to these rules since before I had the cognizance to recognize them as rules. The reason I wasn’t caught for so long was that; even though I didn’t have the rationale to not invoke this ritual, I somehow knew enough to hide the compulsion to enact it.

It was only recently — when I was caught, that I put together the list, first in words — with the therapist, then in writing per his instructions. I thought they were overexaggerating by sending me to Dr. Matthews, but I can only blame myself. Telling them if I stopped at 20 they would both die can’t have helped the already strange image of their son flickering their living room lights at 3:00am in the morning.

Frankly, I really shouldn’t have gotten caught, they both come home late, and I sleep in early — not because I want to, but because that’s the safest way. Only this time, they came home a lot earlier than usual, sleeping only at 2:50am. I was way too tired for the hour-long interrogation that came after but hey ho.

Apparently I have OCD, which of course stands for Obsessive Cleaning Disor — I mean Obsessive Compulsion Disorder. I always thought OCD was this niche description of people who like things clean or orderly, but the therapist threw around a few fancy-sounding words that kinda made sense.

I lost all respect for him near the end though, when he said he wanted me to start shaving off the number of times I flicked off the lights and see if it helps. I’m not so sure about this OCD thing and he sounds like a smart dude; but when the rules clearly state 67 times or my parents will die, even one number fewer isn’t an option. Idiot.



Emmanuel Lomax

Amateur writer with a love for discussion and languages. Currently learning and bettering myself. Slowly.