Ashtore felt lost among the other jars. The massive room he lived in housed a myriad of shelves that held dozens of jars each. Most of the jars contained everyday things: useful things like paperclips, sweet things like jams, sour things like pickles, things for fixing other things, and so on. Some very pretty-looking jars held fancy things, like glitter or rhinestones; a few even contained precious metals or gems. Occasionally Ashtore saw a jar that filled itself with things he preferred not to think about, like maggots, or worse. He couldn’t understand why anyone would keep such stuff around, but there they were nonetheless, among all the useful and pretty jars.
The jars were not particularly organized. “Clustered” described their arrangement better. Once a jar filled itself up with its chosen items, many of the jars around it filled themselves up with similar things. Ashtore found himself emptying his contents just to change them for something comparable to whatever the jars nearest him currently held more frequently than he liked. Once, he changed rubber bands for rubber cement, and then dumped the rubber cement for rubber balls in a single week to keep up with the fashion of his particular cluster. After that, he made up his mind to give any new fashion a little while to sit before he decided to hold the same things.
What Ashtore really wanted to hold was light. The room the jars sat in lacked windows and light fixtures. Without the rare, light-filled jars scattered here and there throughout the room, Ashtore would never have known whether he sat next to a lovely jar of pearls or a squirmy collection of roaches. Indeed, Ashtore never looked at some corners of the room because their oppressive shadows seemed to reach toward him. Fortunately for him, he sat within the glow cast by a brilliantly shining jar. He liked to look at it. It’s blues and greens streamed out from it with such intensity that even the jars on the wall across from it could never hide their contents even if they wanted to. Down the wall, another light-jar beamed out bright yellows and oranges. No two of the light-jars cast quite the same hue around themselves, but all shone beautifully, and all gave light to the jars around it. More than anything, Ashtore wanted to hold his own dazzling colors and shine on the jars around him.
After a straight month of putting up with the froofy potpourri currently in fashion in his cluster, Ashtore made up his mind to be a jar of light. He emptied out the potpourri and looked around for something sort of luminous that he might be able to fan into a bright flame. He started with diamonds. They sparkled and Ashtore felt very grand, but try as he might, the sparkles never gathered themselves into a flame. He tried water because it reflected the light, but it never became the light itself. He tried a phosphorescent mushroom, but it stank and rotted into something a lot more like darkness than light. He even tried a little flock of lightning bugs. That ended in a disaster. Exhausted with emptying and refilling himself, Ashtore shouted in the direction of the aqua glow sent out by the nearest light jar, “What must I do to be filled with light?”
Ashtore jiggled to settle his current load of gold, thinking it must have muddled his hearing somehow, and shouted back, “I’m sorry. It sounded like you said ‘be empty.’”
“That’s right. You -”
Ashtore ignored the rest. Empty? Surely the light in that particular jar fried it’s brain. Empty meant dust would settle inside instead of just outside. Empty meant loss of identity. Empty meant not even good enough to be called ordinary, much less unique. Empty meant nothing Ashtore ever held in the past mattered. Empty meant as good as shattered.
Ashtore turned away from the light and hid as much of himself as he could from it. He saw many jars doing the same thing, some with great success. At first, looking into the dark felt good. If he squinted hard enough, he could see all the unpleasant things in the jars skulking further from the light than himself. For the first time, seeing all those nauseating things satisfied Ashtore. He felt important with the heavy gold inside him when he saw fungus creeping out of other jars. Eventually, though, the gratification died out. The gold inside him grew cold and weighed more than its value. The nasty things in the deeper shadows no longer lent him superiority. Instead, they reminded him that none of them could be near the light. Some of them contained things with the ability to creep toward him. Slime from one jar he once tried to convince to fill itself with gold, like him, oozed a little closer each day. Ashtore wanted light. Ashtore needed light. That slime-filled jar needed light near it, so it could see the decay that filled it.
So he emptied himself. The gold plunked loudly on the floor below. Immediately, a radiant hand scooped Ashtore up. The owner of the hand shone with a light so bright, so purely white, that it blinded Ashtore so he saw nothing more than the hand that grasped him. Instead, Ashtore felt His smile as He said, “Ah, at last! I am the Light-Giver. I’m so glad you finally decided to join my little lights.” In the grasp of His illuminating hand, Ashtore saw the years of dust collected on and, to his disgust, inside him. He felt the heavy shame of it all, but the Light-Giver only plunged him into a warm liquid and washed the grime away. When he was clean, the Light-Giver took a part of Himself, a part of His blinding, beautiful light, and put it into Ashtore. As He did so he whispered to Ashtore, “I think we need some reds along this wall, don’t you?” Before the Light-Giver finished speaking, His pure light radiated through Ashtore, casting ruby and carnelian light in every direction. “Now that you are filled with Me,” sang the Light-Giver, “everyone can see who you really are.”