People Of The Sun

“I was there the day that the sun came out in the middle of the night.” An old man lies in a bed made of blankets. His white hair matted to the sides of his head from all the days he has spent in this bed.  His granddaughter sits on the floor next to his bed listening to every word the old man has to say. Her name is Anna and she likes to hear stories. Especially the ones her grandfather likes to tell. The old man’s beard flaps with every word he says in the way that is only entertaining to a child. “I was with my family and we were driving back from my grandparent’s house when it happened.” The little girl fidgets as if she has a question, but she is old enough to know that now is not the time for questions.  “It was so dark that night that my father could barely see anything even with the headlights on. We lived in upstate New York at that time and no matter what the time of year you always had to be cautious of deer. They would jump out in front of the cars if they were afraid or they felt it was their turn to cross the road. So, my father had my mother and I on deer watch and if we saw a deer we were supposed to shout out where it is that we saw them. My little sister Sylvia loved to deer watch, but she was much too young to be any good at it. Your mother is named after my little sister. I don’t know if you knew that or not?” The little girl nodes her head no and stares at her grandfather with the same eyes that once belonged to his wife. He fights back his sadness. The little girl came to hear a story not watch her grandfather cry. He was always really good at fighting back his emotions and being the rock in the middle of an ocean.

“Well anyways there we were driving on the old country roads heading home looking for deer when I saw it. At first the sky just looked as if there were a million lightning bugs trapped in the clouds. It wasn’t bright right away like some might expect it was more like if someone had just dimmed the lights a little bit in a room. The darkness of the night started to disappear and it was no longer hard to see the forest around us. The forest was covered in snow and it began to catch the light of the sun. My father, my family was in awe of what we were seeing. He decided to pull over just as we began to pass a small little farm. No one had ever seen anything like what we saw that night. No one had ever seen the sun rise when it shouldn’t have. We had heard stories of places in Alaska where there was sunlight all day long, but sunlight in New York at night? Never had such a thing been seen. Even if it only appeared to be that way it was too much for us all. My mother unhooked my little sister from her car seat as my father pulled over. By then the sun had looked to only just peeked over the horizon and was nothing more than a sliver of warmth in the coldest winter New York had seen in years. The warmth felt so good against the skin of my face and hand and that is when we realized we weren’t the only thing feeling the warmth. The snow began to melt all around us mountains of snow disappearing as if they were trapped in July. The light kept getting closer and closer, little by little, and as it did it got just a little bit warmer. Before we even realized it the temperature had raised forty degrees in only a matter of seconds and it showed no signs of slowing down.

In fear my father ordered us to get back in the car. My mom said no if it is the bomb than we are as good as dead in that metal car. Time was running out in my mother’s eyes if this was truly the bomb she had imagined then we didn’t have minutes, but seconds to find something to shield are selves.  I don’t know how she saw it, but she did. My mother spotted a water run off not even twenty yards from where we stood. It wasn’t a big run off one might see in a city. It looked barely big enough for one us to get in, but it was our only chance she said. She told me to run for it. Don’t look back just run and when you get there crawl as deep in as you can, you got it? She kissed my forehead and away I went. You can’t tell from how I look right now, but I was fast. Fast like the wind they use to say. Running was in my blood and it’s in yours as well. I went as fast as my legs could take me. The heat by now had gotten to nearly a hundred degrees and felt even hotter in a winter jacket so I threw it on the ground and kept going.

Twenty yards is only sixty feet, but in a hundred degree heat and climbing it was the longest sixty feet of my life.  Just before I made it to the underground run off I saw the ground and as my feet were moving I watched it turn from green to brown. The temperature had gotten so hot so fast the grass began to turn to mud even as I ran to save my life. The sun was about half way up when I made it into the little tunnel. There was still a little bit of water left in the tunnel from the melted snow as I forced my way through the dark tunnel. I didn’t know how far deep I should go in and I had no clue just how deep I did go in. I just did as my mother had said until I could no longer move. The tunnel was just barely big enough for me to fit into and there was barely any room to breathe. It felt more like a tomb than a safe haven from the sun. I couldn’t hear anything from inside the tunnel except for a strange crackling noise of a wood inside a fire-place. It was at this time that I begin to be very scared. I cried out for my mom, for my father, for Sylvia, but no one and nothing called back to me. I begin to cry inside my tomb and to worry that this is where my life would end. The heat from outside the tunnel had finally reached inside and I began to sweat. The heat was so hot it felt as if I had put my face into a fire and it wasn’t long after that, that I passed out from the heat.

I woke up in the tunnel hours later, but felt like days. Like I said I couldn’t turn around inside my little tunnel. Afraid that I would be stuck here forever I tried to move backwards. I was met with resistance at first, but little by little I found myself moving. It took everything I had left to work my way out of the tunnel or so I thought. Once out of the tunnel I quickly realized it was going to take a lot more of me to survive than to get out of the tunnel. As my feet touched the ground I pushed one last time from inside the tunnel. I fell to the ground and just laid there inhaling the dust and ashes that would now make up our world. I was so tired I just laid there and I felt like laying there forever. Then it hit me all at once like a ton of bricks falling from outer space. Everything and everyone I loved was now gone. My family, my friends, my home, my school, everything I knew was gone only to be replaced with strangers and a strange land. Tears began to stream from my face causing the ash and dirt all around my face to turn to mud. Mud I wouldn’t wipe away for days, for weeks even. I was only fifteen when the sun attacked in the middle of the night and I was only a child, but the next day I was expected to be a man.

I lay in the dirt for a long time. I didn’t know what to do or where to go. Hours after my rebirth from my tomb I finally got up to look around. It was cold once again and the darkness had settled back in. The only light that could be seen was that of the smoldering trees in the far distance. The forest that had once been part of the landscape was now a mountain of ash and the trees that had survived the sun were now burning along joining their brothers and sisters in the ash. I slowly made my way back to the road trying to make my way back to the family car. All I found was an empty shell that was more or less part of the road now. I never saw my families bodies and part of me still hoped that was a good sign, but they too had joined the trees in the ash. I was lost and for the first time there was no one there to guide me. I started to make my way down what was left of the road. I would later find out that the events of that night were caused by a solar flare and not the actual sun coming out at night, but time and minds always find a way to call something by a name they truly aren’t. That is what happened the day the sun came out at night.”

The little girl’s mom walks into the room, “And that is where we are ending your history lesson for tonight.” The little girl begins to protest, but her mother gives her a stern look and the child puts her arms down. “Sylvia must she go to bed now? I still have many stories to tell,” the old man says to his only daughter. “There will be plenty of nights to tell your stories father, but the rest of the night is for sleep. Anna go brush your teeth and get ready for bed.” Little Anna gets up from the spot beside her grandfather’s bed. She leans in to give him a hug and the old man tries his best to get his arms around the small child, but he is still much too weak. Anna skips out of the small room on her way to the well to brush her teeth. The old man begins to cough and becomes winded from the actions. Sylvia runs over to his side taking the wash cloth from off her shoulder. She wipes the little bits of blood from around the old man’s mouth, “You are over doing it father. We agreed that you would rest.” “I have been resting,” the old man tells his daughter. “No, you have been telling stories all day and checking up on us. Don’t think I haven’t noticed those blue eyes looking out at me.” “I get lonely here in my room. I’m dying Sylvia and the loneliness is making it worse.” Sylvia pretends to not her what her father has said about his death like she has for the last few months.

“You need to rest father and everything will get better.” “You and I both know that there is no getting better, and the sooner you come to terms with it Sylvia the sooner.” “The sooner what?” His daughter interrupts. “I’ve already lost my husband, my mother, and that is all there seems to be is loss. What is even the point of living father? What is the point of going through life just to die?” The old man looks away from his daughter, “There is no solution or answer I can give to you. We are humans and it is a fact of life that we will all die someday, and the fact that we lived is all we have. Nothing has been easy for you your whole life and it never will be, but you must keep on living even after everyone and everything is gone.” “But why,” his daughter begs from his bed side? “Because it is the way of the People of the Sun.”

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