FLASH FICTION: Watching Over Us All

FIRST PUBLISHED: October 26th, 2015



By Alexandra Erin

The cold, pale, slightly irregularly-shaped orb that rose over the horizon that pivotal first morning was not the sun, not our sun at least.

It gave off enough light to be seen, but only just. It was nowhere near bright enough to blot out the stars, but they disappeared in its wake, just the same as if it were drawing a shade behind it as it traversed the sky. The moon was nowhere to be seen.

It had been getting smaller—farther away, astronomers said—for days before, lighting out for parts unknown. No one knew what was keeping the tides going. We’d have to rewrite the physics books entirely when we found out, assuming that anyone could and that anyone would be around to write it all down.

The temperatures plunged, but not as much as you would have expected. Things got chilly, but not icy. Plants kept growing, though they were observed to grow away from the pale new sun rather than towards it. Flowers that had once tracked old Sol’s progress across the sky now turned their faces away from his replacement.

The fire-and-brimstone preachers all screamed that they’d warned us, but as time went on with neither deliverance for them and their followers nor devastation for the world, they sort of settled down and found a new rhythm, a new routine. They said to anyone who’d listen that the end of the world was imminent, that all the signs and portents proved this, but they’d been saying that for as long as anyone could remember.

The really surprising thing was how quickly it all became normal. The government pushed through a lot of new travel restrictions and emergency regulations right away, supposedly to preserve readiness—readiness for what, no one knew—and prevent panic. Some of them were relaxed when no actual crisis materialized, some of them weren’t.

Habits changed more quickly than language, with idioms about daylight and sunshine maintaining their currency years after anyone had ever seen such things.

The world had changed. We just changed with it. Things had been scary for a while, but we came out the other side okay. If anything, it just went to show you how resilient we were, as a society. As a species.

Maybe that’s why there was as little reaction as there was, the day the pallid lid finally opened and we found out what the thing in the sky really was.