32. Darkening of the light
Updated: Dec 18, 2020
The people gathered in the valley to watch the planet’s sun extinguish itself. The valley, cut through a desert, had been blasted by sand-laden winds over the centuries. Men clambered into the crevices dug by the action of the wind and hugged themselves close to the rock. The sun had turned mauve. Centuries ago, scientists had documented how the sun would die. Those reports were mere myth and memory now. The people had assembled here because the priests knew that this was the end time. What would happen during the end time was not clear; some said all would be gathered up into the hands of the gods, and others maintained that the planet itself would die. A few, the sceptics, men who retained the last vestiges of a sort of pseudo-scientific thought, were in the city talking among themselves and laughing at the mob.
Everyone was agreed that an end was coming, and everybody agreed that the end concerned the sun. Beyond that, there was uncertainty. A few people had already flung themselves from the top of the valley. Their shattered bodies had not been touched, though the scavenging birds still showed an interest. Would there be a burial? Perhaps, a few men talked of it; so it seemed that the oldest rituals would continue, even as everything was extinguished.
The sun turned to blackness. It was still outlined in the sky; a sun does not die completely, it was still a hot ember. The people, now in darkness, realised what had come to pass. There was no great panic. There was a murmur. The masses began to talk through the implications. In the city, the sceptics began to work out justifications for why everything had gone wrong with reasoning. After a few hours, the crowd began to move back to the city. It was, after all, just a normal night. Night had come earlier today, but night had still come and there was nothing to be overly distressed about for now. The women asked what would happen and their men said all would be well. The religiously inclined began to develop justifications for what had gone wrong and why the gods had not come. Their justifications resembled those given by the rational men in the city.
All was well in the city that night. There was a slight uncanny feeling in the streets. The cats did not walk with their customary confidence and flocks of owls appeared, often resting on balconies. The next morning, people woke at the normal time and lit their lamps and went about their business. Children rejoiced. The city seemed wrapped in magic. The old complained that they could not sleep as well as they did in the days of light.
By the end of the first week, the difference between dream and reality had blurred. There were many more mad men in the city, and the asylum overflowed. The children talked about fluorescent butterflies that chased them through the city park, and the carriage drivers found their buggies smashing into statues and fountains as their horses jerked to some waking dream.
By the end of the first month, half the city had died. They died because their dreams had escaped their sleep and, trapped in dreamless sleep, they could no longer live. The bodies went unburied. The mad men broke from the asylum and set fires about the city. The children had gone blind, but nobody knew why.
By the end of the third month, all but two people in the city had died. They sat on a roof, a blind man and a young girl, and ate dates. The girl could see the faint outline of the sun and she called to it, asking it to return. The sun remained dark. The city was very cold now. Snow was heaped up on the streets, and so the blind man and the young girl clambered down into the building and lit a fire from the city’s old treasury books.