The luminous blue digits of his bedside clock flashed 6:40am. An alarm began to pulse: faintly at first before these early, gentle invitations to rise were replaced by more insistent, inconsiderate buzzes that echoed noisily around the room. From deep within the folds of the duvet Professor Ward groaned as he began to uncoil his barely awake body from that of the still sleeping Mrs Ward. A brisk walk across the cold, bare boards of his bedroom floor soon had the Professor approaching the window. Rubbing sleep from his eyes he pulled wide the curtains, bracing for the first assault of morning sunlight; expecting the warm dawn glow of what was forecast to be another scorcher of a summer’s day. Instead there was nothing but darkness.
The phone on the dressing table was already rocking and chiming with messages. Switching on the television he dressed quickly amid confusing reports of blackouts all over the globe. Leaving the house he was shocked by the sharp, bitter coldness biting at his fingers. A thick layer of frost wrapped itself around the cars in his street; ice crystals instantly formed in the warm air that the Professor exhaled from his body. It was July – it felt and looked like the middle of winter.
Driving to work he watched as people shuffled along pavements dusted in snow. Everybody wrapped against the unexpected chill. Ahead an accident as a car had skidded into a roadside tree. A bloodied, confused driver just stood staring by his mangled vehicle. Headlights dazzled in the gloom. Streets remained unlit as lamps stayed locked in their summer schedule. The world wasn’t ready for this; there was chaos everywhere he looked.
‘What the hell is going on?’ the Professor asked, as he finally reached his desk at the institute.
‘The sun. It’s disappeared. Gone, Professor.’
‘That’s impossible. Give me a sensible answer!’ he demanded.
‘Here look for yourself!’ replied his suddenly indignant research assistant.
Disbelieving, the blood curdled through the Professor’s veins. Image after image of emptiness. Where once sat the flaming, yellow ball which provide light and heat for billions, there was now nothing.
‘It must be there. It must be. Look harder,’ the Professor insisted.
A lone, maverick scientist in Zurich was first to make the claim that shocked the shivering world: the sun was still where it had always been – it had simply gone out. It’s light and heat extinguished; the seasons it provided now threatening to merge into one long, dark, cold void.
‘We need to tell people. They need to know what’s going on,’ said the Professor.
‘I don’t think that’s a good idea,’ his colleagues replied, in suspicious unison.
‘We have to say something. The fucking sun has gone out. How the hell can we cover that one up. Come on, tell me.’
‘The situation will be managed,’ injected a previously unheard voice.
Looking up a man in a shiny, grey suit stood in the Professor’s doorway.
‘What do you mean managed?’ barked the Professor. Reaching for the phone he began to dial. As he did so the receiver was grabbed violently from his hand.
‘Don’t do that Professor!’
Before he could continue his protests two other men in grey suits appeared. Theirs didn’t shine as much. Their faces more sinister.
‘Take him,’ they were ordered.
An alarm suddenly buzzed. Blaring, deafening – nobody else seemed to hear it. His arms were being held: he was helpless to cover his aching ears. The sound was excruciating. He began to lapse in and out of consciousness. Everyone else in the room was now laughing. Pointing. Staring. Ridiculing.
He thinks the sun has gone out!
The Professor has lost it!
Lock him up!
Hysterical laughter grew louder. Sardonic smiles became even more cruel, more mocking. His pleading voice deserted him: agonisingly powerless to reply.
The alarm pulsed gently. The clock face flashing 6:40am. Today was the day of the conference. He only hoped his fellow scientists were ready to be told that more dark spots had been found in the surface of the sun. Thinking about telling the world this news had given him endless weeks of worry and stress. However, he knew people needed to be told. The world had to be ready for the worst. To be ready to act before it is too late – before the nightmare becomes a reality.
These words form my first ever entry into the speakeasy writing challenge. I hope you like them!
Much to my delight, as well as polling third in the voting, this story was chosen as the ‘Editor’s Pick‘. Thanks to everyone who either read, voted for, commented on or simply liked my story.