Sunrise of a Lifetime

Submitted into Contest #39 in response to: One day, the sun rose in the west and set in the east.... view prompt

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Fantasy Bedtime

One day, the sun rose in the west and set in the east.

“It was a momentous occasion. It was the very first sign of what would come.”

 

“Keep going, Grandma!” You encourage.

She manages a weak smile, and in a few minutes, continues;

 

“And absolutely nobody noticed.”

“What!?”

Grandma grins.

 

“I suppose i’m stretching the truth. Quite a lot of people noticed, but for the first few hours, nobody spoke up. See, the sun didn’t just decide to come back up the other way, it took a few days. First, they noticed the sun began to shift in it’s position that morning. NASA and other organizations were scrambling, trying to find out what happened, and about 40% of people were still asleep! By the time ten thirty am rolled around, the world was in chaos. Riots and rituals were taking place all over the globe, and very few people showed up for work. Those that did, like news reporters, couldn’t make heads or tails out of what was going on. The internet was on fire-”

 

“What’s the internet? Was it an animal? Or building? Did the fire burn it down?” 

Grandma looks up at you, her face awakens for a moment, as if reliving a happy memory.

“So many questions! Just like your mother. No, child, the internet was something much more powerful and chaotic. And it wasn’t literally on fire.”

 

“Then why did you say it was?!” You groan, frustrated. It drove you crazy sometimes, how Grandma would say something but mean something else. “Patience, Roshan.” Her wrinkled hand finds your own. The reassuring presence of her hand on your own calms you. 

 

Grandma answers,” The internet was a way to communicate back when I was a girl. You would type your message into a computer or a phone, and it would share to your friends, your teacher, or maybe the world, depending on what app you were using,”

 

“Huh. Wow.” You’re not quite sure what to make of that. 

 

“What happened next?” You ask. 

 

“Well, after all the scientists and physicists realised the Earth was spinning the wrong way, they were pretty confused!” She says this humorously, and you smile. But then her face darkens, and you know she’s about to start a serious and solemn part of the story. “In their models and simulations, the Earth was pretty much destroyed by this point. But the Earth wasn’t-”

 

“Obviously!” You gesture all around the room, out the windows.

 

“The Earth wasn’t destroyed yet, Roshan. Yet.”

 

“Wait, what? I don’t get it.”

 

“The Earth didn’t split in two, but it was destroyed.”

 

“How?!” You ask excitedly, hoping she’s about to get to the cool part.

 

"Unfortunately, there are no explosions just yet. We'll get there soon. After all, I love a good BOOM!"

 

You manage to reign in your disappointment, and console yourself with the thought of future explosions.

 

“The governments were surprisingly adept at getting a majority of their citizens to nuclear bomb shelters, and providing supplies. The governments flew millions of citizens into designated shelters. There were countless selfless acts performed that day, people sacrificing everything to help others. But not everyone was safe when the sun set. It was the sunset of a lifetime. And almost all of humankind that would survive the next year missed it. More than half of all the civilized countries huddled underground. They had been expecting a war for a while now, they waited for the other shoe to drop. And it did. But not in mushroom clouds, in something much worse.”

 

“You see, there was a sense of urgency, of deceptive peace, like the calm before a storm. Almost all top scientists agreed, something bad was about to happen. But the scientists opinions didn’t really matter. They didn’t know more than anyone else did!”

 

You nod, thinking about that last sentence for a second longer. 

 

“If all of what they thought would happen didn’t, how did everyone know something bad was about to happen?” 

 

Grandma smiles. “This is terribly cliche of me, but it was a feeling in the air. Human instinct, I suppose.”

 

You mull this idea around in your head for a few minutes before asking,”When’s the destruction part?” 

 

Grandma’s grin widens a small amount.

 

“Give me a minute! Don’t worry, you won’t need to wait long.” She pauses, forming her sentences before she says them out loud.

 

“Some thought it was the great flood all over again, God punishing mankind. Some thought it was Satan, intent on taking the world from God and making even more chaos and destruction. Some thought it was the gods, choose a pantheon, Greek, Hindu, Maya, it doesn’t matter, angry over being forgotten and abandoned, destroying the world out of spite. Most thought Norse, because of the similarities to Ragnarok. But no matter what you thought, the world as they knew ended that day.”

 

“Wow.” The word escapes your lips quietly, breathlessly.

 

Grandma starts talking a little slower, and softer, and you’re not sure if it’s for dramatic purposes or not.

“Close your eyes.”

 

You comply. 

 

“Now, imagine what I say next in your head. Ready?”

 

You take a deep breath, and clear your mind, grateful you know how to meditate.

 

“Ready.”

 

“It started with sand.”

 

Your eyes almost, almost fly open, but you shut them tight. You can’t help but smile at the bizarreness of it.

 

“Why sand?”

 

“Why not sand?” She counters.

 

“It’s coarse, it’s rough, it’s irritating, and it gets everywhere!”

 

She laughs, but instead of her usual hearty chuckle, it’s weaker, and becomes a coughing fit.

 

Grandma soon regains control of her lungs and smiles up at you. You feel a surge of affection for her in that moment. “I see your parents have wasted no time in introducing you to very old movies!”

 

She takes a deep breath and continues her story.

 

“The sands turned to glass. The waters ran red. And it went on, and on, and on, year, after year, after year.”

 

“Next, came the winters.” She says sadly,” The winter wasn’t a natural disaster, it was a human one.”

 

“How?” You are interested, and a little confused. Nobody you knew could control weather!

 

“The bombs.” She says gravely. “While the rest of the world was holed up underground, slowly running out of supplies, there was one person, a former scientist who became a doomsday prepper.”

 

You are about to ask what that is, but you decide to stay silent.

 

“After working on an incredibly powerful weapon, he was paranoid it would be used for the wrong purposes. So he secretly sabotaged the bomb, resigned from his job, and disappeared into the wilderness, certain the end of the world was coming.”

 

“He was right, in a way. The people he worked for were not good people. He saved lives.”

 

“He designed and built a shelter that could survive almost anything and last at least a few decades. But the years alone in isolation were not easy on him. He already wasn’t in the best state of mind, but it only got worse.” 

 

You feel a little uncomfortable and a shiver creeps down your spine.

 

“He set off the bombs, didn’t he? And he… died.” Saying the last word feels… final, somehow. You feel cold to the bone. 

 

Grandma nods quietly. She gives the man a moment of silence before continuing,” He doomed the world with his actions, sentenced them to 10 years of nuclear winter.”

 

“The ash, soot, and sheer power of the blast blocked out the sun. The temperatures dropped and most of the world became a frozen wasteland. And during that ten years, most of the government shelters were reduced to ruin. They just couldn’t stand the isolation, rationing, and this new world they were forced to adjust to. It was catastrophic.”

 

“Above ground, things weren’t much better. The first three years of winter were brutal. It bit at eyes until they teared. The second three years bit at cheeks until they bled. The next three years bit at the survivors until they gave up hope. The last year of winter was the worst. It devoured everyone and everything.”

 

“There was no summer, no growth, no hope, no one left on the surface. It was just winter blowing into winter, blowing into winter, one enormous nightmare of death and decay buried in ice under a frozen wasteland that had once been a ball of water, full of life. But not anymore. The remnants gone, all that was left was storms and ice.”

 

“But the world began to thaw. It was still uninhabitable and annihilated, but ever so slowly, ice melted and temperatures crawled up, rising by fractions of degrees.”

 

“The world didn’t return to normal though. Not yet. Storms shook the planet, Tsunamis wiped all that was left away, and Earthquakes destroyed the remains, breaking up the world again.”

 

“There were only a few colonies left at this point. Some thought the worst might be past, but sadly, they were mistaken.”

 

“What happened next is called ‘The Last Battle of Ragnarök ‘ The Earth shook, as if trembling in fear. And then all the little bits of life, of hope that had come back, burst. In one single moment, everything exploded.”

 

“The winds tore savagely through the world. Nature ran free once more, as the winds shrieked and screamed in victory and rage. The water of tsunamis swept it all away again. Then the fire rose, crackling flames and heat screeching and sizzling and scratching the Earth.”

 

“While the elements fought for domination above, the people ran wild below. The last of humankind and the remains of life were utterly eradicated.”

 

“Over the years, the carnage of the great battle decayed. The winds quieted, the water calmed, the fires hissed as they burned out. And in the stillness, it was clear, everything was gone.

 

Grandma was silent, looking pale and sickly. She could barely keep her eyes open, let alone finish her story.

 

And still you urge her on, holding her tan, leathery hand in your small hands. 

 

“But Grandma,” You whisper. “That can’t be the end, remember? Someone survives, because we’re here, aren’t we?” 

 

“Yes, yes Roshan. We’re here.” She croaks out, her voice wobbling.

 

“The-there was on-only water left, sprink-sprinkled with small chunks of land.” Grandma is shaking, her words quivering in the air.

 

You squeeze her hand lightly, whispering, ”Come on, Grandma. Please? I know you can do it.”

 

“In thossse chunks, s-s-something had survived.” Her voice strengthens. “Battered and dilapidated, but just holding on. It was the wreck of the only surviving shelter of humanity.”

 

“A woman named Audrey Lifthrasir and her husband John Lifthrasir were the leaders of the two hundred something survivors, and our ancestors. They resettled and repopulated the world, creating life and restoring nature.”

 

“Ragnarok had been the end. They would be the beginning, the rebirth. It was the cycle, the way of nature.”

 

She looks up at you, her eyes watering. “One day, the sun rose in the west and set in the east.”

 

Your eyes are watering too as you look down at her figure, shuddering and shivering under a cloth blanket. She looks so small, so weak, you can barely bear it.

 

You stare at her frail body, resting on a cot. She looks disant, unfocused. 

 

Your voice cracks as you respond, ”Ye-yeah, Grandma. Since Ragnarok, the sun rises in the west and sets in the east.” You’re worried about her mental health.

 

Grandma cracks a small, sly smile. You can barely hear her say, “But today, the sun rises in the east and will set in the west.”

 

And those are her last words. You can’t move, can’t breathe, can’t see through the tears.

 

And you cry for a while. Remembering cherished moments with Grandma, nearly crushed by the weight of grief.

 

But you break free. She wouldn’t want you to be motionless, useless, weak, she would want you to live, breathe, be strong for her.

 

You dry your tears and wipe your eyes, staring at the ceiling for a full minute.

 

You bring your head and eyes back down to the window.

 

And you freeze all over again.

 

Because the window faces the east. It’s 5:50 a.m. 

 

There shouldn’t be yellows, reds, and oranges peeking out from behind an emerging ball of fire.

 

One day, the sun rose in the west and set in the east.

 

And over a hundred years later, the sun rose in the east and set in the west.

 

A fragment of Grandma’s story comes back to you.

 

Sunset of a lifetime.

 

‘Sunrise of a lifetime.’ You think, as the sun climbs over the horizon.

 

May 01, 2020 03:39

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