A Place in the Sun

Submitted into Contest #58 in response to: Write a story about someone feeling powerless.... view prompt

2 comments

Drama

A Place in the Sun

           It started gradually. A tiny spot, then another. Perfectly normal, according to the experts in the field. But when the spots multiplied instead of disappearing as they were supposed to do, the experts grew quiet. I was only an infant when the phenomenon began. As I grew, so did the sunspots until by the time I reached the age of twenty, the environment of the entire planet had changed, and no one worried about global warming anymore. Instead, we worried about the Great Darkness.

Higher latitudes were the first to experience the effects of the magnetic energy fields triggered by the sunspots. Eventually, the electrical grids no longer functioned normally. Our leaders addressed the anomaly by assuring us the interference from the sunspots was temporary. No need to worry. No need to move. Thousands of jobs were created to convert to alternate energy sources. We needed prosperity more than ever now that we had to import crops previously grown in the higher latitudes. Engineers shifted everything possible to nuclear energy until finally we could no longer cool the uranium cores, and it became too dangerous to run the nuclear energy plants.

Massive transport caravans were organized to move the population to lower latitudes where the sunspots had not yet impacted the environment, and agricultural efforts continued. Again, we were told not to be concerned. Astrophysicists assured us we were merely in a normal cycle that would revert over time. The capitol of our country and its leadership move from Washington, D.C. to Dallas. A temporary measure, we were told.

The government built new houses and apartments for the citizens who had been forced to move to parts of the country less affected by the sunspots. These buildings were not known for their beauty, though they were referred to as “Sun Cities”, a misnomer of gigantic proportion. The building of the new dwellings used up valuable land - land needed to grow more crops, not less, for the additional population squeezed into the lower part of the country. The power grids in the lower latitudes strained to keep up with increased demand, and families were urged to have only one child. Any family who did not comply with the population control edict was shunned by the rest of the people. Eventually, the government relocated non-compliant families to population camps with no electricity and restricted food for internees like me.

I was the second child, the one that caused my family’s banishment to the camp. I didn’t ask to be born, but I felt guilty anyway. If I hadn’t been born, my family would still be part of the society grappling with the ever enlarging sunspots. Instead, we were living in barracks on a barren stretch of land with families like ours. Like others in the camp, I am small for my age because of poor nutrition. I still live with my parents and my older brother because no one is allowed to leave the camp and rejoin the rest of society. We are separated from the general population by straits of unnavigable land, and guards are stationed along the borders to prevent us from escaping.

Trucks come once a month to deliver food and medical supplies for the small clinic here. No matter what their size, each family is allotted food for only three people, the mandated family size. We are a family of four now that Grandmother died. We watched her fade away as she insisted she wasn’t hungry and gave her share of the food to someone else. She denied herself food for so long, she eventually became unable to eat without being sick. We buried her in the expanding cemetery outside the camp.

“I heard they’re moving again,” my father announced as we divided food for three between the four of us and huddled around our one candle to eat.

“Will we go too?” I asked. This was a tantalizing prospect even if we only move to another camp.

“No,” he said with finality.

Mother looked at him. “The food trucks won’t come anymore, will they? What will we do?” she asked quietly.

“Eventually they will stop,” father agreed. “As the distance increases between the camps and the general population, it will be impossible for them to expend the fuel needed to bring food to us.” He didn’t answer Mother’s second question.

We stay outside in the dimmed sunlight as much as possible because inside the darkness envelopes us like a shroud. When night comes, we go to our beds early to make the candles last as long as possible. The camp is as quiet as the cemetery outside the camp’s walls. Sometimes I lie in the darkness and listen to the insects chirp around us and the call of an owl as it swoops overhead. The darkness has not bothered them…yet. In my mind, I compose symphonies with their sounds. My hearing and night vision have both improved.

There are fewer and fewer daylight hours, and we use them to try to coax anemic vegetables from the ground. The dimming light has affected photosynthesis, and we watch the green of the plant leaves fade more and more each day until they are more yellow than green. My father and brother hunt and set traps for animals to supplement our meager diets, but the animals are growing scarce. There are too many people hunting them, and now they sense the increasing darkness and instinctively head south.

My task each morning is to gather wood for the fire we use to heat our food or cook a rabbit or squirrel. I range farther and farther in my search, so that now it takes almost all day to gather enough wood for even a small fire. What we will do when winter comes, and I can’t find wood for the fire? As the hour of total darkness comes earlier and earlier, I worry I will be not be able to make it back to the camp before I lose the light. I have already told my parents that one day, I may not make it back before nightfall. They understand. We all understand. There is nothing we can do except adapt our lives to the way we must now live.

Word travels to camp that the cities closest to us are evacuating. Instead of settling in the southern most states, they will leapfrog to Central America and the islands in the Caribbean. The government will move from Dallas to work alongside the government of Honduras in Tegucigalpa. I don’t know where Tegucigalpa is. I am stunned by the fact I will no longer know where the government of my country is located. Am I still a citizen?

We ponder the news that the border guards evacuated with the cities. We have no trucks, and even if we did, there would be no fuel. One by one, families leave the camp to try to migrate south. Some leave in groups. Others choose to leave with just the family unit, not wanting to share their provisions with anyone else. My brother informs us he is leaving before the Great Darkness makes it more difficult to travel. My father refuses to leave, and I cannot abandon my family. I have salvaged one of the small limbs I collected to craft a fishing pole. The streams have been depleted, but if enough families leave, perhaps there will be enough fish.

I look overhead. Like the rest of the world, the sky is different now. The moon, as well as the sun, is visible all day, and as early nightfall approaches, they emit the same amount of light. Because of the permanent haze in the atmosphere, the sun is no longer a dependable timepiece. As the Great Darkness approaches, it becomes more difficult to determine day from night. Like time, I am helplessly suspended in a nebulous area between life and death, and I know the darkness will make the decision for me.

September 08, 2020 20:01

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

2 comments

Sruja G
21:49 Sep 16, 2020

This was just too good. Your thought process seemed very broad and serves a clear forewarning. The theme of powerlessness resonated all over. Like in different ways in different aspects. I could picture such a dystopian scenario. You managed it quite well within your limited words!! Do check out my story on this theme and leave your feedback!

Reply

Show 0 replies
☆ Ariadne ☆
20:37 Sep 13, 2020

This story gave me crazy Maze Runner vibes. I'm not sure if you intended it to be that way but I just thought it seemed pretty neat. I love the ending. It rings with perfect clarity and finality. The story is perfectly crafted with a hint of hopelessness as the family is forced to endure the coming of the inevitable Great Darkness. You captured the sense of family perfectly and the setting felt real. You are a talented author, keep writing! Please check out my story and leave a like/comment/review. It would make my day! :) Cheers, ...

Reply

Show 0 replies