Last night the sun didn’t set. It fell. Our world was plunged into darkness. There was no moon to light their way. The starts were all extinguished leaving only inky black sky above their heads.
The first night was not the hardest. The morning when it didn’t come back up was much worse. The uncertainty gripped the quiet town.
“Caleb!” His mother screamed, “Where are you?”
Caleb rounded the corner. “What?”
“I thought I had lost you.” She sobbed.
Caleb had expected this, he knew once the sun fell it wasn’t coming back up. He had read the articles the government had released about the dangers of orbit alteration. Most of his small town had agreed with the corporations that there was no danger, it was just a myth.
“You know mom, we should really move out of here.” He told her.
“Our family has lived here for generations, why would we move?”
“Momma, you know we don’t have the supplies we need here. Who knows how long its going to take for the sun to come back up!” He knew how long it was going to take, exactly a year.
He could tell she knew it was true, but she still didn’t want to leave.
“Did you read the articles?” He asked knowing she hadn’t. “It’s going to be a long time before they get their Second Sun Initiative in place here. We won’t survive the drop in temperatures. Plus we don’t have enough food stored up to last more than a few months.”
She looked at him sadly. “Caleb I don’t think I can leave this place. I’ve got too many memories here.”
“Please mom, lets go.”
She shook her head.
“You know I can’t just leave you.”
“Jimmy next door will take care of me.” She said referring to their neighbor who lived a few miles away.
“Hes got his daughter to look after mom.” He crossed his arms.
“I’ll go talk to him.” His mother grabbed up a flashlight and headed out the door.
Caleb flicked through the radio stations, all the local ones were dead air. He came across one out of the big city. It was mostly commercials but the bits of news were interesting. The Moonshade Project was already up and running, it would help regulate the temperature of the areas under the sun. It had been installed decades ago to help combat global warming and they had been working on updating it to control the new problem.
His mother came back in a huff. “I guess you were right.”
“About what?” Caleb quipped he had been right about a lot of things recently.
“Jimmy is more concerned about his daughter. He did mention if you took her with you he might be able to help.”
“Why won’t you just come with me?”
“Caleb, I’m staying right here and that’s final. Maybe there are some other young people you could take with you. I would feel better if you weren’t alone.”
Sure, he thought. He was feeling defeated, there was no winning with his mother. He headed up the road to Jimmy’s place. There seemed to be a similar problem from the shouting inside. Caleb knocked.
“Hey kiddo.” Jimmy said opening the door wide. “Come on in.”
He was grateful, it was starting to get chilly outside.
“We have to get moving.” Jimmy’s daughter said. “The baby won’t stand a chance in the cold.”
“She’s staying here with me.” Jimmy said.
“Dad she’s going to die if you keep her here.”
“I’ll keep her safe you come back with the supplies.” He said “Caleb’s mother will be helping me.”
“You can’t all stay here!” She shouted. “You’ll die dad. Every single person who stays here is going to die.”
“We’ve survived everything else so far. We will survive this too.” Jimmy said.
“Samantha, let’s go…” Caleb said gently.
There was no convincing any of the older generation to join them. Most of their peers refused to budge too. A few promised to join them later once their families were safe. In the end it was just them traversing the wilderness between their land and the nearest city.
“Sam, do you really think all of them are going to die?” Caleb asked as they set up camp for the night.
She silently made the fire. The look on her face said yes. Caleb didn’t want to believe that, but he knew their chances were slim. He pulled his jacket closer feeling chill from more than just the air.
The rest of the night was silent. When they had both rested enough they trudged through the darkness. Snow started to fall.
“The sun shouldn’t be that far off…” Caleb’s teeth chartered as he spoke.
“With how fast it fell, who knows when the thrusters stopped misfiring. ” Sam replied, ever the optimist.
Caleb just wanted to be warm again. The snow started to accumulate. They could see animal tracks heading the same direction they were walking. “We must be going the right way.”
Sam nodded and they kept walking.
It seemed like forever before they saw the glimmer of sunlight. They were both nearly frozen and hardly moving when the sun peaked over the treeline. Hope flooded his veins he grabbed Sam’s hand and dragged her along. It got warmer the closer they got to the sunlight. Caleb felt his fingers defrost after days of bitter cold.
The next big city should be just on the edge of the sunlight. They reached it and it was empty.
“We have to keep going…” Caleb said.
“We can’t Caleb. There’s no where else… The city’s grid is down and it is going to take us another three days to cross the city alone not to mention make it to the next one.” Sam glanced down at her watch, “It’s still only forty degrees outside here. They wouldn’t stay in that.”
“We’ve stayed in worse.” Caleb reminded her. “Our families need us to keep going.”
“Our families are frozen popsicles in the houses right now. It’s negative ten and falling back home. Our houses weren’t built for that.”
The government had used the orbital and spin repositioning to redistribute the suns rays. It was the reason they were in this mess now.
“If we stay here we will freeze to death,” she said, “if we keep going we could freeze to death.”
“If we can get to a city with a grid everything will be okay.” Caleb said confidently.
“We can’t walk faster than the sun Caleb, the longer we walk the more tired we get, the slower we go…”
“You stay here then, I’m going to keep walking till we get to the next city.”
They started walking again, they made it through the city, then through the suburbs, past the farmland to the next city. This one was also off the grid. There was no way they were going to make it to where the evacuation was starting. They were too tired, too slow, too cold.
“Let’s stay here for a bit.” Sam said panting and shivering.
This city was still off the grid but was still warm.
“If we keep going we can make it.” Caleb said restocking their supplies.
“I’m so tired…. ” Sam moped.
“Just a little more…” Caleb said squeezing her hand tightly.
“We can.” He said dragging her along again.
The next city was in evacuation, still on grid. The cars worked, the phones worked, the lights worked. Elated they ran into the city joining the crush of people. Caleb held onto Sam’s hand trying not to lose her in the crowd.
They were shuffled around and eventually placed on a bus. The bus drove night and day on autopilot. Caleb saw the first glimpse of Moonshine. It was massive and solar powered out in space. He couldn’t even see the moon yet. It was starting to get very warm and they had to shed their many layers of clothes.
They were now in an area where life seemed to be continuing like normal.
“This is our chance to get help back home.” Caleb said dragging her towards the police station. He walked up to the desk and explained the situation.
He got understanding nods from the officer but not much else. Finally the officer broke him the news. There was no way to get help there until the Sun Prime reached there, Second Sun was no where near being finished.
“What about our families?” Caleb was near tears.
“We will do what we can when we get access to those areas again.” The officer explained. “Your families will have to wait.”
“Thank you sir.” Sam said dragging Caleb away. He clung to her, the last two people alive from their small town. His mother was gone, his friends were gone, Sam’s whole family was gone.
They followed the Sun for a year finally making it to their old home. The town had been cleared of bodies of people and animals before they got there. It was little more than a ghost town full of painful memories.
“They really are gone…” Caleb said.
“I told you when we left they weren’t going to survive…” She said looking around the town.
“You’re all I have left.” He said.
She squeezed his hand tightly and pulled him along.