There Goes The Sun
It started off just like any other normal Thursday. Nothing out of the ordinary. Except for the fact I was carrying a folded cot with me. I don’t usually bring that with me to work, but I today was unusual, right off the bat. Not just because I had to dig through my under the stairs storage to find the old musty cot for a co-worker who had the great idea to try ‘glamping’ in the middle of the Scottish summer, where it is more rain than anything else. Which would possibly explain why my cot was a bit musty. None the less, I was being a good co-worker and bringing said cot into work. Now people who know me would laugh if they saw me walk into work with a cot strapped to my back like some kind of over-enthusiastic hiker. Me, hiking? I’d be laughed out of the office! My scrawny pale and pasty chicken legs hadn’t seen hide nor hair of sun or outdoor activity in a long time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m an active guy, but I’m more of a gym rat…or mole, I guess you could say. I’m the guy who keeps to himself in the corner of the gym, hoping other people won’t notice I’m there. In any case, going to the gym is good, because it meant I had brought a change of clothes with me that morning on the train, in a sack, folded neatly at the bottom of the old canvas sack of a backpack I used every day. Not very professional of me, I know.
Along with my usual items I always had with me: my SPF 15 lip balm that was permanently attached to my keychain that also handily doubled as a little mini-flashlight – helpful for those nights when you get home late, and can’t see the keyhole to open the door; a worn and well used riddle book I used to pass the time on the commute to and from work, to save me from looking out on the dreary grey upon grey landscape that flew past. I had used that morning’s Daily Herald I picked up to actually read on the train as a makeshift umbrella, as the heavens opened up. By the time I got on the train, the paper was a soggy mess, unreadable, the pages sticking together and tearing like tissue. It wasn’t the end of the world, though, even though my disposable umbrella cost me almost 2 quid for ten minutes.
Because it was Thursday, and that meant sushi for lunch. But it wasn’t even 9am and I was already starving. My single cup of coffee wasn’t doing the trick. I took out the rectangle of pre-packaged sushi roll from my bag and grabbed the chop sticks I’d taken from where I put all spare chopsticks –next to the utensils in the drawer. Except…it wasn’t chopsticks. I peeled back the paper wrapper to find a purple straw. A straw! You can’t eat sushi with a single straw! I stabbed a piece of California roll with it, in the hopes of spearing it, but instead it just pushed all that imitation crab goodness out, and I was left with a ring of rice hanging on the straw.
But not being able to sample my sushi lunch on my transit in was the least of my worries. In fact, it was the last normal part of my normal Thursday. After that, things began to get weird. And I mean weirder than eating sushi skewered on a straw.
The sky had been dark and grey outside, and threatening to rain, again, which is nothing unusual in itself, of course. But then it got really dark. As in the sun has gone behind a cloud, and all the streetlights have gone out. Like everything went black. At first I thought it was the windows of the train that some curtain had been pulled down over them. But then I saw the faint outline of trees, still zooming past, dark amorphous blobs in the blackness. And that’s when the screaming started, shortly after the squealing of train wheels on metal tracks. Suddenly the train had stopped, and a dull blaring alarm sounded. The doors of the train slid open and seconds later the lights went out.
That’s when I was thankful for my trusty key-hole finder keychain flashlight. I twisted it and a small dot of light lead me out like a will-o-wisp onto…well, not a platform. I had to jump down out of the train onto the ground, and push my way through lost, confused and shocked passengers who were milling about aimlessly. I followed my dot of light, like a firefly leading me to…well, not safety, but at least out of the claustrophobic mass of people. Did I mention I’m not a huge people person?
I glanced up at the sky. It was as if someone had just turned off a giant light bulb, and you were left in pitch blackness. There was the stars and moon of course, but it felt different from night time. Because you knew it wasn’t. It was 8:30 on Thursday morning, according to my watch. I shouldered my way through the confused crowd, thankful for the cot strapped to my back giving me more leverage.
Thank god for street lights. I made my way towards the comforting glow of civilization, leaving everyone else to fend for themselves. I never said I was a nice guy. My foot had just hit pavement when someone grabbed my arm. “What-?” I said instinctively, pulling away and suddenly wishing I had my chopsticks on me instead of a straw.
And then I stopped and relaxed. It was just a young boy. I thought he was going to ask for help, because we were quite far from the centre of the city, but thankfully on the outskirts. I glanced at my watch impatiently. I was going to definitely be late for work! And then I remembered the more immediate problem that probably meant that everyone in my office wouldn’t be doing much work anyway – that’s if they even noticed anything was wrong. People who worked in the IT world like me usually didn’t give the outside world much thought. Another reason why I preferred to squirrel myself away in the gym instead of going outdoors for exercise.
I felt another urgent tug on my arm. “What?” I said irritably now, not having had my morning coffee yet.
“I know who you are,” the boy said.
“What?” I repeated. It seemed like it was all I was all I could say. “I’m sorry, you’re mistaken. I’m-”. I was going to say no one, but what the boy said next froze the words in my mouth.
“I can tell from your eyes,” he said.
What?! This time I thought the word, instead of spoke it. “What do you mean you can tell from my eyes?” I stared at the boy. “How do you know who I am?” I looked down at the front of my shirt. Was I wearing my work pass that had my name and job on it, with a badly lit portrait of yours truly? No.
“Well, I guess I mean, I know what you are,” the boy clarified.
I continued to stare, mouth hanging open. “You can tell I work in IT by my eyes?” I was confused, and it must have shown on my face. No one else had ever guessed where I worked. I mean besides the unkempt clothes and super heroes from the 80’s t-shirts. I didn’t even wear glasses. “I’m sorry kid, I don’t follow.” I was suddenly very self-conscious about my eyes and then I realized it was pretty much dark as night and you could hardly see my eyes, let alone much else.
“I know you’re a god,” the boy replied.
I thought I could feel my mouth fall open further.
“I’m God?” What kind of drugs is this kid on? I echoed what was in my head.
The boy laughed. “No, not God. You’re a god.”
“A god?” I emphasized the singular like he had. “You mean a god of war, love, like the ancient Greeks had?”
The boy nodded.
That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Even though this Thursday started off weird, but this was just insane! I thought my brain would spill those thoughts out of my mouth, but instead it surprised me when I said, “How do you know?”
The boy smiled with a mouthful of slightly crooked teeth. “’Cuz I’m one too. That’s how I know, and I can spot others like us.”
My desire to continue to find an alternate way to work disappeared in light of this strange bit of news.
“You are a god?” I couldn’t keep the incredulity out of my voice. “Of what? Video games?” A slightly hysterical laugh burst from me.
The boy smiled at me in a way that said he was humouring me “I’m the god of Pestilence. But I’m also who tracks down ones like you, who don’t know who, or what, they are, and…” he punctuated this with a shrug, “tells them. Usually before anything like this happens.” He shrugged again and had the decency to look sheepish.
If my mouth could’ve opened any wider, it would have. I looked him up and down. He couldn’t weigh more than 90 pounds soaking wet, and he wore normal clothes that any teenage boy would – baggy jeans, and a t-shirt of what I assumed was some band I’d never heard of.
If you’re the god of Pestilence then I’m the fucking Queen of England. Instead, I kept my manners and said, “Anything like what happens?”
The boy pointed up.
I followed his finger. There was nothing up-… and then it dawned on me.
I could feel my eyes grow wide. “I’m the god of the Sun?” I realized I’d raised my voice when I saw a few shadowed figures turn in my direction. “Really?” I whispered. I looked down again at my clothes, that were similar to the kids, in fact, but just a bit bigger. I didn’t look, or feel, very god-like.
“Yep,” the boy confirmed, rather nonchalantly. “I should’ve told you before now, obviously, but I didn’t think this,” he waved his hand lazily around, taking in the darkness that was punctuated by street lights and stars, “would happen. But,” he looked me up and down, “you look fairly old-“
“Hey!” I bristled. “I’m only thirty-four!” Where was that straw when you needed it?
The boy shrugged again. “That’s thirty-four years that you haven’t been doing your job. Thirty-four years the sun hasn’t had any help…”
“Help? The sun needs help…being the sun?”
The boy nodded. “Uh huh. Otherwise…” he trailed off and I finished his sentence for him.
“Otherwise it goes out.”
He pointed his finger at me. “Exactly.”
“So this is all my fault?” I said. Suddenly my normal 9 to 5 job didn’t seem all that important.
“Well, a bit of mine too. I should’ve tracked you down before this. But finding a single person on the whole planet is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Plus, my own job keeps me quite busy.”
“Yeah, causing diseases all over the place.” I instinctively took a step back, as if I would catch the plague from…the causer of plagues.
The god of Pestilence glanced at his watch. “C’mon, we better get this fixed. You can’t have a planet to infect with disease for very long if there isn’t the sun to keep everyone alive and happy.” He turned and started to walk away.
I jogged to catch up. “So where are we going? Mount Olympus or something?”
The boy laughed. “That’s just a myth. We’re going down.”
“Inside the earth. That’s where we live.”
I gripped the purple straw, a better weapon that nothing. This Thursday was just getting weirder and weirder.