Fiction Science Fiction Urban Fantasy

She would take a day off. 

For truly, when was the last time that she’d had a break? She couldn’t think of a single afternoon, a few minutes even, when she hadn’t been at work. ‘The Golden Girl’, shining bright. Born and raised into stardom. Watched. Adored. Famous the Earth over. 

She was exhausted by it. 

Her time - her life, it seemed - belonged to others. And now she wanted some for herself. Just 24 hours. Without the gaze of the world upon her. “Perhaps it might do them good to miss me for once?” she thought. For hadn’t they been a little less adoring of late? Begun to take her for granted?

Yes. She would take a day off. She would taste what it is to be a normal girl. Among the mortals. Wear jeans. Maybe she’d try a milkshake. A hot dog! Yes. A hot dog. From a street vendor with a cart and a jaunty umbrella. And a sign saying CHILLI CHEESE DOG $3. She would go to New York. There was steam, wasn’t there? From the subway vents. Rising into the road. Or was that in winter? It was spring. There would be flowers then, in Central Park. Cherry blossom. And horses. Pulling carriages. She would take a ride. Visit Tiffany's. Walk through the doors of Saks Fifth Avenue. Try pizza. 

She had 4 minutes. 

They wouldn’t notice for 8.

The golden girl arrived on Brooklyn Bridge at 3.25pm. Unobserved. Among a crowd of hundreds, all looking up, with funny cardboard glasses, at the total absence of the sun. There was a carnival atmosphere. “Oohs”, and “aaaahs”. The thrill of the night in the day. Men and women, children, dogs. Some tall, some barely reaching her ribs. And they were warm and soft and smelt and were so very alive. Did they know? How lucky? How absolutely unlikely it was that they existed, here, in this moment? Yet here they were, as though it was the most normal thing in the univer… “IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD, LADY.” 

The man was in her face. Cigarette and hot fish breath. Stubbled. Round of stature. “GATHER YOUR SINS AND PRAY”. He rang a bell. Stepped closer.

“Dude, have a beer and chill out.” The young man was tanned, with an easy smile. He offered the preacher a cold beer. Who recoiled, as though threatened with Excalibur itself, and wandered off, muttering, “the damned will be punished,” into the crowd.

“Sip?” The young man turned to her, holding out the can. Who knew that a knight could come, not in armour, but a plaid shirt and Nike high tops? He was, she thought, the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. The golden girl had never tasted beer before. Nor had she spoken to a man. And now she found herself too shy and could only bow her head and turn red. The man watched her go. She was, he thought, the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. He closed his eyes. Blinked. Blinked again. There was a dot in his eye - a blind spot - right in the centre of his vision where she had been. Seared into the world before him. 

The girl began to press her way through bodies. The crowd would change soon. When they realised. She would get out before the mood altered. In the distance she could just make out the Statue of Liberty, lit from below, flame alight. Did she feel the same as her? Did she long to leave? Watching the world without being able to join it? 

The lights of New York reflected in the Hudson. White, gold, marble blue. And now she was amongst the skyscrapers. She’d known they were tall. Of course they were. But to see them up close. To stand and look up at the sheer vast solid human-made weight of them… For the first time in her life she felt small. Trivial. Utterly insignificant. And she had never felt so happy. There, on a Manhattan street, the golden girl stopped and inhaled the sheer joy of her own brief irrelevance. Happiness smelt of fatty street food, car fumes, and sea salt on the air from Battery Park, cheap coffee and blossom and trash. 

But it was still dark. It had begun to dawn on people now. They stopped in the street. Murmured. Checked phones. How long does an eclipse last? 

The temperature was dropping as she reached the Flatiron. The birds had stopped singing, thinking it night. In the park on Madison Square the tulips had begun to die. Icicles were beginning to form at the three tiers of the fountain.

As she reached Saks, the power failed. A dog ran into the road. Hit a taxi. A truck ran into the taxi. Shouting. People were panicking now. Backup generators failing. Every light in the city disappearing. Not even the light of the moon could save them. The moon reflects the sun. And there was no sun. 

She had always wanted to walk through the doors of Saks. To mooch between the makeup counters and jewellery displays. To see diamonds and emeralds mounted in 24 carat gold. But it was almost pitch black inside. Not even the fire scape signs were illuminated. More like a warehouse than a glittering department store. 

At the Chanel counter a salesgirl was crying. “But where’s it gone?”

“The phones are down. I need to get hold of my mom,” said another. 

The golden girl ran her fingers across the cosmetics. Picked up a gold lipstick. Put it in her pocket. 

She would have liked to have breakfast at Tiffany’s. To have stood outside with a pretzel (what did they taste like?), but she couldn’t even see through the window. A thick frost had formed. Across the glass. The stone facade. The sidewalk. 

At the entrance to Central Park, on the corner of 5th and 59th, the horses had bolted. A handler lay on the ground, a hoof shaped hole stamped into his skull. The blood had frozen at the temple, before it had had time to pool. Dead petals blew across his body like silent snow. And there, behind him, like a miracle…

… a hot dog cart. Blue and yellow umbrella fluttering in the breeze of a street vent.

“I’d like a chilli cheese dog please,” said the golden girl. 

The vendor was somewhat shocked to see a customer at the Armageddon. He took a moment to pull himself together. But soon he loaded up a bun and passed it to her, warm in its grease paper. 

“That’s three dollars.” 

Shit. “I don’t have any money.”

Even in the Apocalypse, a Big Apple street dog seller will call bullshit. “Well guess what, looks like I don’t have any dogs.”

And she knew then. That it was over. Not even two hours into her grand escape. Central Park was too dark to enter. Cave mouth pitch black. A few blocks over, people were screaming. Helicopters had arrived overhead. Tannoys calling. “This is a national emergency. Please return to your homes and await further information. This is a national emergency. Please return to your homes…” From somewhere a gunshot. More gunshots. In a few more minutes planes would start to fall from the sky. People’s eyeballs would freeze. 

And so she returned. Surya. Amaterasu. Ra. Inti. To her place in the sky. To calm them. To return the world to normal. To maintain. As was her job. As it had been and always would be.

But by now the Earth had left its axis, and no matter how strong she shone, her pull was not enough to bring it back. 

She had made a mistake. 

Soon the Blue Planet would be gone for good. 

Lost in the vast darkness of space. 

And she would shine for no one. 

April 10, 2024 12:36

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