Sunshine Brings the Darkness

Submitted into Contest #138 in response to: Set your story on a day when the sun never sets.... view prompt

13 comments

Science Fiction Thriller

It’s been 8 days since that freak electrical storm hit the town and left enough electrical ions in the atmosphere to keep the sun from setting. 8 days of around the clock sunshine. It sounded like a huge sonic boom coupled with a bit of a quake in the ground then nothing. Perfect stillness right in the middle of the day. Not even the birds could be heard chirping. It was kind of eerie.

Lainie remembers walking out of the post office when it happened and then only being able to see spots for the next two hours straight. It was a good thing it was her day off because the spots were so intense, she had to sit in the post office parking lot until they went away enough for her to drive home and check on her family.

Her husband was at work and the kids seemed unfazed by the strange phenomena. They were in the den playing games as usual while she was gone. The animals were definitely affected by the boom. The dogs were found cowering under the kid’s bed and it took her quite some time to get them to come out. She finally used their favorite treats to lure them into the den to be with the kids. The cats took her a bit longer to find where they were hiding. She found one in an empty box in the den, one on top of the kitchen cabinets near the ceiling, and two hiding in her closet which Lainie found intriguing because she always kept her door closed for the very reason of keeping animal hair out of her bedroom. She picked up the two in her closet and set them outside her bedroom door and went to the kitchen.

Lainie called her neighbors one by one. They all felt and told her the same thing. People were scared wondering if something catastrophic was about to happen or if they were going to wake up the next day with their skin melting off from radiation poisoning. The news didn’t offer anything more than a government agency reporting “a typical sonic boom and nothing to be concerned about. The remaining electrical ions should dissipate within the next 24 hours and everything will be back to normal.”

She remembers looking around and seeing all the clocks in her house blinking the time as if the power had gone out when the boom hit. And still the birds were quiet. Not a peep. Lainie pushed the growing apprehension in her gut aside, put on a brave face for her kids, and started making dinner. Things were never going back to normal she thought. Lainie wondered just how abnormal was it going to get?

The ions didn’t dissipate in 24 hours like the government said. Big surprise. The extra hours of sun seemed to give people a boost of energy which was kinda cool at first. Kids played outside longer as the adults hung out with friends on each other’s porches drinking beers and grilling hamburgers. It was like an extended summer and no one wanted to go to bed early.

After the first three days of 24-hour daylight; however, the effects began to show. Kids were running around acting like deranged over-stimulated little beasts alternating between moments of screaming “I hate you!” to anyone nearby and then asking the same person 5 minutes later, “You wanna play a game?” The adults weren’t much better. At least with the kids, one could understand their lack of ability to navigate their complex emotions on very little sleep and offer some sort of comfort or grace. The adults, on the other hand, just got on each other’s nerves much quicker with greater intensity. One minute, you’d be empathizing with your co-worker or neighbor about being tired and the next minute facing off with someone accusing you of stealing their lunch out of the communal fridge or berating you for leaving your garbage cans out on the street a day too long.

People tried to give each other grace but they were irritable from the lack of sleep. Their circadian sleep cycles had been disrupted and they didn’t know what to do. A local doctor theorized, somewhere along the fourth day, the extra electrical ions people absorbed while outside were actually charging their body’s energy sources which was preventing them from winding down at night for sleep. He suggested people hang blankets on their bedroom windows to block the light and spend more time indoors but it didn’t cure the sleep problem. They were still full of energy only now were lying in the darkened rooms unable to sleep. The doctor suggested melatonin supplements but even large doses wouldn’t calm anyone down enough to make a difference.

People took matters into their own hands and watched boring movies, read boring books, and exercised until they couldn’t stand anymore but none of it worked for long. They were fully recharged after just an hour of rest. Their minds couldn’t handle it. They needed the downtime and didn’t know how to get it. They began turning on each other. Verbal arguments soon became physical altercations. The police were called but they were irritable too so that didn’t help de-escalate anything. They eventually got so tired of not making any headway with people, they stopped answering calls and left people to fend for themselves. It didn’t take long for mass chaos in this small town.

Gone were the pleasantries. No more, “How are you today? Anything I can help you with?”

“I’m fine, thank you. How’s the family? I’ll take one of these pastries.”

“Oh, just fine. Thanks for asking. Here ya go. Have a nice day!”

“You too, say hello to your family for me.”

“Will do!”

Now it was, “What.”

“Gimmee that pastry there.”

“Hmph.”

Lainie’s household wasn’t much different than the rest of the people but she felt it was just too much to handle being out there in town. Her kids had come home from school a couple of days already looking like they had been beaten up. She decided to keep them home. She called into work and told her boss. He yelled some kind of profanities about no one coming to work and how he’d have to shut things down before Lainie hung up the phone. She didn’t know what she was going to do but she had to figure something out for the sake of her kids.

Her husband was especially feeling the repercussions of what was happening. He worked at the government facility who released the statement about it being a regular sonic boom and the electrical ions. Funny thing is, he didn’t seem affected physically by the ions. He slept soundly and deeply as usual and woke refreshed and ready to go for the day. He was tight lipped about what actually happened and would only say it was going to be over soon.

About 5 days ago, Lainie’s husband starting spending longer days at work and eventually stopped coming home altogether. She figured it was too hard for him to be around a bunch of irrational sleep deprived people when he felt perfectly fine. She didn’t think he was going to come back. She didn’t think this phenomenon was going to end. Lainie was angry at her husband for deserting her and the kids and for probably having something to do with this whole mess and leaving her to deal with it on her own. She knew she had to do something about it but her mind wasn’t thinking clearly and she didn’t want to do anything she would later regret or commit harm on someone.

Lainie made her kids some microwave pizza rolls, threw some cheese puffs in a bowl, and grabbed a half a dozen juice boxes. They were completely engulfed in playing their video game and barely noticed her as she set everything down on the coffee table in front of them in the den. She then grabbed a backpack from the hall closet and put in a flashlight, some dark gloves, a dark beanie, a water bottle, and a couple of protein bars. She didn’t know what she was going to do but at least she would blend in and wouldn’t go hungry or thirsty. She took a look at the family picture hanging on the wall near the front door and wondered how things went downhill so fast. It angered her to find out that she didn’t really know her husband and what he was capable of. With that in mind, she grabbed her keys from the hook next to the front door and her jacket and left the house.

The town was eerily quiet considering it was only about 7:30 at night. There were abandoned cars on the road where people had crashed into each other in fits of road rage. The tow companies refused to tow the cars after one of the truck operators got beat up trying to break up a fight between two motorists. She wore dark black sunglasses with an extra-large pair over them to make it less bright on her eyes and drove carefully through the deserted streets.

She made it to the gate of the facility and looked around. No one was tending the gatehouse which she thought was kind of weird. The gate itself was useless anyway due to being barricaded with barbed wire covered wood structures blocking the road way. Some people had gone up to the gate looking for answers and things got out of control. There was some gun fire, a couple people died, and the next day it was closed up. It was like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, no one was seen going in or coming out. Except there was no chocolate inside. Lainie realized her blood sugar was probably getting low making her think about candy so she sat in her car and ate one of the protein bars while figuring out her plan.

She still had the visitors badge in her glove compartment that she used to bring her husband his lunch when he forgot or just to visit for no reason. It had a bar code on the back which let her into certain unrestricted areas of the building. She figured the badge would still work since the facility figured most people would automatically turn back upon seeing the barricade. She wasn’t one of those people. She decided to turn her car around and park along the side of the gate in the event she needed to make a quick getaway. She put on her jacket, grabbed her backpack and the badge, and gingerly made her way around the spiky barricade.

The grounds had a weird ghost town feel to them. Weeds had already begun growing up between the cracks in the pavement of the parking lot and it looked deserted. As she approached the front door of the building, she hesitated. She tried looking through the darkened glass but couldn’t see anything. Finally, she grabbed the door and gave it a pull thinking it would be locked. It wasn’t and she almost fell backward from the momentum of pulling. Lainie corrected herself and peered inside. The lobby was dark and deserted. She entered and let the door close quietly behind her. She looked to her right and saw nothing. She looked to her left and saw nothing. She listened for any kind of noise and heard nothing. She stood there for a few minutes and no one came.

Lainie remembered there was a cafeteria to the left and conference rooms to the right. If there were people holding out in here, she would know just by seeing the condition of the cafeteria. She turned to the left and began walking quietly down the hall. As she approached the doors of the cafeteria, she could hear what sounded like a television show but without the laugh tracks, dramatic music, or commercials. She crept up closer to the doors and looked through the small window in the door.

The cafeteria hadn’t been cleaned lately. The tables had trays of plates with food still on them, cups, silverware, soda cans, and wrappers. She moved her head side to side in order to see more of the room and saw what looked like a wall of monitors with various scenes on each monitor. It was hard to see for sure what was on the screen but she thought she could make out some external areas of the town and some interiors of the businesses. There was certainly something going on here and Lainie was now convinced it wasn’t a regular sonic boom and those electrical ions were never going to go away. But why? And what did her husband have to do with it?

Just then she heard a toilet flush behind her. She spun around and looked for a place to hide. There wasn’t time to run back down the hall so she ducked into the cafeteria hoping the only person here was the one in the bathroom. She quickly glanced around, saw she was alone and sprinted toward the kitchen. She had just made it out of sight when she heard whoever it was enter the cafeteria and sit down at the table in front of the monitors. She slowly raised her head up and peeked through the small round window of the kitchen door and saw her husband was the one sitting at the table. He was unshaven, his clothes looked disheveled, and he appeared to be searching the screens frantically for something or someone.

Lainie looked around the kitchen. It was a mess. Dirty pots and pans were piled up in the sink. There were old dirty mop drag marks on the floor from the freezer door to the back of the kitchen where the loading docks were. She tip-toed to the walk-in freezer. Part of her was curious to see inside while the other part of her was screaming not to open the door. Of course, curiosity won and she carefully pried the freezer open as quietly as she could. She stopped to listen for any footsteps, didn’t hear any, and pulled the door opened enough to peer inside.

She eyes grew large when she saw the dead bodies stacked up along the far wall of the freezer. Her mouth opened to scream but no sound came out. Holding the door open, she turned her head toward the cafeteria and realized her husband is probably the one who did this. He murdered his co-workers. And he was going to murder her too if he found her here. She started to breath heavily and saw her breath in the cold freezer air. The panic began to well up inside her and she knew she had to get out of there. She closed the freezer door.

Then Lainie thought she should take a picture for evidence. As she grabbed her phone from her pocket, it slipped out of her hands and fell to the floor. Lainie froze looking toward the cafeteria. There were fewer places to hide in the kitchen and she wasn’t going into the freezer. Not with all those dead bodies. Plus, what if she gets stuck in there and freezes to death? She didn’t hear anything so she picked up the phone, opened the camera and then the freezer door, and took a couple of quick pictures. She closed the freezer and started making her way to the loading docks when she heard the door to the kitchen open behind her. She didn’t bother looking back. Lainie bolted toward the door and heard her husband call her name.

The doors to the loading docks were locked. Lainie was trapped with her murdering husband. She turned around and saw him walking toward her. She started to panic. As he got closer to her, she felt the room start to spin and became dizzy. Just as her husband reached out to her, Lainie felt her world go dark.

It would take years before the world would find out what actually happened in that small town. Mostly because the documents explaining everything were classified and the government wasn’t interested in the world knowing the details of their top-secret experiments. This particular experiment hadn’t been authorized and the rogue employee had been determined to have undergone a psychotic break unleashing the experimental electrical ions into the town’s atmosphere. The ions were meant to be used in warfare. The extra energy burning the enemy from within weakening their ability to organize and fight back.

Because the town was built to support the government facility and most of the inhabitants had either harmed themselves or one another within a two-week period, the roads to the town were blocked off, the survivors relocated to care facilities for recovery, and the town deserted.

The sun still never sets there. Those who venture past the barricades do not return with stories. They just don’t return at all. 

March 26, 2022 01:45

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

13 comments

Ravi Srivastava
11:43 Apr 05, 2022

A very well-written story. And frightening in the light of what is actually happening in the secret laboratories of the super powers. The gradual change in the behaviour of people , both children and adults, has been very realistically captured. Great work!

Reply

14:51 Apr 05, 2022

Thank you so much for reading it! So glad you liked it :) Yeah, just because you can, doesn't mean you should...

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Mickey Carroll
19:57 Apr 04, 2022

Cool sci-fi thriller piece with a governmental conspiracy twist (Sorry I’m not great at the constructive criticism part of this whole thing yet, lol). Personally i did enjoy the humor of the Charlie and the Chocolate factory line. And the cats being in the closet despite her having closed the door I found intriguing. Maybe a mini-story from the cat’s POV to flesh this out??

Reply

01:05 Apr 05, 2022

Cool! Thanks for reading it! LOL, the cats...I've had that happen before. They've slipped in when I, or someone else, left the door open for just a sec'. They're so stealthy...haha. The constructive part is hard for me too but I like to know what doesn't work and why so I can be mindful of it in future stories. So, if there's anything you find questionable or could use some work in my stories, feel free to let me know :)

Reply

Mickey Carroll
01:26 Apr 05, 2022

I assumed it was from personal experience LOL. I also get inspired to put those little real life moments into stories, even If they only amount to a line or two. And I certainly will! I know that is one of the more valuable aspects of this contest. Along with finding other cool writers!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
F.O. Morier
19:32 Apr 02, 2022

I’m definitely going to keep an eye on your work! Great work! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

Reply

19:36 Apr 02, 2022

Thank you! That means a lot :) So many claps... I'm humbled.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
04:32 Mar 31, 2022

So I have a few comments on your story. First, know that all of my criticisms come from me wanting to help you improve on your writing style and voice. It can be really discouraging to hear negative feedback on your own creative work, but I feel it is necessary if you are to mature as a writer and have a compelling style. That being said, I want to start by saying that the story concept is quite nice. I felt suspense and a sense of dread as the story unfolded, which is what I believe you were going for. The plot itself was easy to follow and...

Reply

18:29 Mar 31, 2022

Wow! Thank you for reading my story and taking the time to comment. Yeah, I'm new to writing short stories and could totally benefit from a second set of eyes which is what I like about the Reedsy community. I also really like being able to write on a short deadline with limited word count based on prompts I may have never considered. I don't strive for perfection here as just getting words on the page and submitted before the deadline is a feat of its own :) Thanks again!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Kendall Defoe
00:43 Mar 27, 2022

Excellent! A much more detailed view of this prompt than what I took, and yes, I am jealous...and I want more. Your style reminds me of Richard Matheson's work (you should check his work out if you can). Very interesting take. ;)

Reply

14:58 Mar 27, 2022

Wow! Thank you so much! I will check him out. I have a style...cool :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
18:57 Mar 27, 2022

Hey! I totally spaced out who Richard Matheson was until I googled him and realized he wrote Bid Time Return (Somewhere In Time). I haven't read the book but the film is one of my top favorites! I'm humbled to be considered even remotely in his vicinity of writing. Thank you :)

Reply

Kendall Defoe
03:30 Mar 28, 2022

No problem!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 2 replies