The Day the Sun Went Out

The 6 am man.

He would wake up like he wakes up 6 out of the 7 days a week, to a shrill beeping from his bedside table, the only light in the room emanating from his glowing red clock. 6am. He rises stiffly, like he does every morning. He would crack his back and sit at the edge of the bed for a moment, and he would listen to his alarm. Then when he felt ready to stand up, he would turn off the alarm and shuffle to the shower. it would all seem normal: he would eat the same breakfast, drink the same coffee, get into the same 1994 honda as any other day. But by now it is 6:32, and there would be no sign of the sun. No glimmer on the horizon. He would register this only subconsciously, a minor throb in the pit of his stomach would try to tell him that something was very, very wrong. But he wouldn’t notice, not yet. He’d get in the car and turn to his station, where a chirpy morning DJ would tell him about a song he’d just missed hearing. He’d head toward the freeway, headlights on, glancing at the cloudy sky above him. Still no sign of the sun. Still no true feelings of dread, but the beginnings are there. He would have made it to the freeway by now, into the sea of headlights and taillights, all on their way to respective fluorescent offices. It’s now 7:03 am, and there should definitely be sun by now. He would have, by now, gotten out his sunglasses to protect his eyes from sunrise. But there is nothing. Only dark clouds that were there at sunset yesterday evening. What does one do in this situation? How would you cope? 6 am man, our first example, would carry on to his office. Fight the traffic in his commute. Because he thrives on routine, he lives for the ritual of each day. When he’d get to his office, some sort of law firm or maybe a marketing company, people would be frantically making calls. Huddled around the TV news station, the glare of the news caster the only comfort in a world cloaked in darkness. Scientists would pop up, emails would fly in to the news station. Some people would be praying. Someone would probably just be crying, another person comforting. But 6am man would most likely open up his email, get a cup of coffee from the break room, and try to carry on as normal. He’d be wearing a green tie, one his ex-wife had bought him but he had liked enough to keep after the divorce. He would sit in his office chair, and try not to look out the windows into the blackness. He’d have very few people to call. And what would there be to say? “Hello. Yes. It’s dark here too”? Not comforting words. Not a helpful conversation. The 6am man would not waste his time with these calls. Perhaps his son would call him, a 19-year-old in his second year of college, but probably not. He would most likely call his mother. The 6am man drinks a second cup of coffee. He’d read memos, catch up on projects. Try to carry on. Perhaps it was all a bad dream, he would think, even though thinking that was of course completely cliche. He would do work until 5pm. Everyone else would have left by this point, they would have gone home to their children, to their pets, to a boyfriend or roommate or someone, and rehashed their theories. They would try to figure this thing out. But the 6am man might not. He would go home and do what he did every day — He would sit in front of the TV with a glass of cranberry juice, a drink he enjoyed ever since he gave up alcohol. He would flip through the channels, trying to avoid anything to do with the darkness outside. He would settle for some re-runs of an old show he didn’t enjoy the first time around, and he would get up to close the curtains. He would sit in his chair and try not to think about it. He would try to focus on the inane jokes, the laugh track, and the trite problems of the sitcom people in front of him. Would he call his ex-wife? Would he try to figure out the solution, googling, as so many people had that day, “where is the sun” and “what happened to the sun” and “is the world going to end now”. The physicists would be clueless. NASA would shrug, panic, then pack their bags and head for home. The masses would demand an answer that no one could give them, but the 6am man would try to ignore it. He could live without the sun, couldn’t he? Couldn’t the world? He would turn up his heater, set his alarm, and wake up to another sunless morning the next day.

The 10am girl.

She would sleep through her mother’s frantic phone calls to her father and her little brother, who would be away at baseball camp during early June. She would sleep through the meetings with the neighbors, her mother answering the door with a worried “What is happening?” each time, and receiving no reassuring answers. She would sleep through her mother turning on the news, and when that failed, resorting to stress-vacuuming the living room, even though she had done it yesterday. She would sleep through all of these things for two reasons: the first, which I already mentioned, would be because she’s a teenager. But the second, and more biological answer, is that it’s dark out. Her body would tell her to keep sleeping. It’s still night. But finally her mother would not be able to take it anymore and she would come up the stairs to wake up her daughter. She would hesitate on the threshold of her daughter’s room, seeing her sleeping peacefully, unaware of the panic that had gripped the earth. But her mother would need someone else to talk about it with, having exhausted her list of friends and neighbors. She would walk toward her daughter, sprawled face-down. The 10am girl would be wearing flannel pants, and a tank top. Her mother would try to be gentle, but her voice would quaver a bit and betray her worry. The 10am girl would wake up, and look at her mother in confusion as she tried to explain that the sun was gone. She would look out the window, and see the inexplicable blackness. Her face would crumble from confusion into horror, and she would back away from her mother into her bed, and press the comforter to her mouth. Her mother would follow her onto the bed, wrap her in her arms, and start to rock back and forth. As she listened to her daughter’s sobbing, she would start to quietly cry herself, for the second or third time in that short, dark morning. After a while, by the time it was 10:17am, the 10am girl would start to ask questions. Where had it gone? Was it still up there? Had it gone out? Was the earth still in orbit? Her mother would try to answer these questions, fumbling with words she had heard on the news and only half-listened to. The daughter would pull out her phone and look it up: “what’s wrong with the sun”? google would prove unhelpful. yahoo answers would be full of wild conspiracy theories. The clouds would persist. The 10am girl would call all of her friends: the ones who lived right around the corner, and the ones she had met at summer camp last year who lived in Beijing. Yes, they would say, it’s dark here too. Yeah, the weird clouds. They seem so close, don’t they? So is the sun gone forever? She would have this conversation a hundred times. She would go outside, and stare at the blackness. She would alternate in mood between morbid, ravenous curiosity and crushing hopelessness. She would look up things like “What do we need the sun for?” and spend a few minutes curled up in a ball on her bed, sobbing at the answer: too much. Her mother would pace around the house, simultaneously wanting to do something and never wanting to leave the light-filled home. By then it would be 12:30pm or so, and both 10am girl and her mother would run out of energy. They would eat something, or just go take a nap. They would run out of phrases to type into the search bar. They would run out of ways to be worried. After lunch and a nap, they would probably sit together on the living room couch, watching the news with unseeing eyes and unhearing ears.

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