When The Sun Swells

Submitted into Contest #60 in response to: Write a post-apocalyptic story triggered by climate change.... view prompt

2 comments

Fantasy Mystery Science Fiction

In 2008, scientists predicted the earth had a few billion years before the sun swelled and swallowed it. Not to worry, they said, humanity would be gone by then. But Harry hardly cared about the solar system. After all, of what use was such information to a blind beggar on the street?

In 2016, the sun grew hotter and bigger. While this was noted in the daily newspaper, no one seemed to talk about it for longer than a day. Trust the scientists, Harry heard the masses say. The beggar was nothing short of amazed, how blindly his fellow men trusted astronomers.

People only began to show concern when the sun turned red in the year 2020. They weren't kept in the dark for long. By March, newspapers reported the first incident: Antarctica had been vaporized by a red giant that was once Earth's sun. Our planet had lost one continent. 

This time, Harry noted grimly, the news came to stay. The town was a panic station with people babbling about how quickly the sun had swallowed Mercury and Venus. "How come we weren't told sooner?" they said. "Would the sun devour Earth just as fast?" they said.

But the beggar's mind was on the lost continent. Harry knew what losing Antarctica meant; it was a major source of the world's water bodies. Without water constantly flowing in the hydrosphere, oceans, rivers and streams were bound to turn stagnant. Harry knew it before he heard it: the world lost clean water next. Then, humanity lost anything liquid. The masses knew not to expect rain.

The absence of night came as a shock though. Day after day, people wished for a moment of relief from the giant's heat. But the sun didn't set, and the heat only climbed, until Harry's skin began to feel like scales. Still, he couldn't care less if the earth were being destroyed. On the contrary, his major concern was food. With each passing day, he got less and less of it. Understandably, he thought. With the world going crazy, the blind beggar had become even less significant than he originally was. Harry was even surprised people still dropped things in his bowl, be it crusty slices of bread or shit.

By May, Earth lost its second continent: Australia. At this point, the sun was like a hungry lion randomly selecting parts of its food and devouring them. Now more than ever, people were confused. Some endlessly cursed the scientists for miscalculating, as if doing so would enable them find a solution faster. But blind Harry saw reality clearly: humanity was a sitting duck in the face of the swelling sun. 

By July, newspapers reported the astronomers were doing all they could to make Mars habitable for the remainder of the human race. How long would it be before the sun destroyed Mars too, people said. However, Harry was more interested in the sun's movement, so he eavesdropped on conversations that discussed it. Half of Asia was gone and natural disasters were prominent. He wasn't surprised to hear about drought (the world as a whole—somewhat whole—obviously suffered that.) The volcanic eruptions weren't a shocker either. What did people expect, with Earth's core heated?

By the end of August, the world lost two things: Europe and power supply. The glaring light from the used-to-be sun pressed harshly against Harry's eyelids, so he was sure no human being with functioning eyes needed an artificial source of light. However, he could imagine how bad a power outage was at this point. No doubt, the heat had burnt all wires; frankly, Harry was surprised they lasted that long. Regardless, wires burning at such high temperature meant conflagrations, and with fire (or anything flammable for that matter), explosions were bound to occur in houses, stations or random streets. 

What of the astronomers? Without their gadgets, how could they further their research? They simply couldn't. 

And when the world fell silent, Harry knew no newspapers were needed to tell the masses what was very obvious. It was over, they finally understood.

Eventually, crime dominated what was left of the world. If this was the end, why not do as you wish, became a recurring statement. There was nothing to loot, so people took to savagely killing themselves and one another. The worst of them took to rape. Over and over, Harry heard bones smash against metal or concrete, the sounds of wicked laughter as girls or boys screamed for help, and the sound of his shallow breathing as he slouched against the wall, helpless and of no help.

Harry couldn't recall the last time he'd eaten. He was sure he looked like a skeleton. Maybe that was why everyone ignored him; they thought he was only one of the many dead who couldn't take the sweltering heat. Harry didn't mind. After all, they weren't wrong. For as long as he could remember, he'd been dead to the world.

By September, all Harry could hear was a loud silence. The giant would have swallowed North America and its neighbour by now, the beggar thought. Harry wondered if everybody was dead. It wasn't that he missed hearing voices. The lack of conversation only had him wondering why he was still alive, why Africa wasn't swallowed first.

He counted the seconds until he lost count and began again. Such were his actions until the month he didn't recognize as December arrived. By then, what remained of Harry's skin resembled cracked soil and the outline of his ribcage was very much visible. Harry wasn't sure whether he was dead or alive, but he was a hundred percent certain he wanted to die. Literally.

A thought flashed across Harry's mind. What would he have done if the scientists had a rescue plan? Would he have joined the lifeboat, saving himself from the doom of the planet? Shaking his head, Harry attempted a smile. Of course he wouldn't have. If those who survived were taken to another planet, how long would it be before the wickedness of his fellow men drove them to trample on people like him? Harry preferred to die a beggar than save a life he wasn't living and wouldn't ever be living, even in another planet.

The red light shot through his dead optical cells first, then the heat of a thousand suns submerged Harry. 

And humans were really gone.

September 25, 2020 19:01

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2 comments

Martyna Kuklis
12:37 Oct 01, 2020

The plot is something that could inflict very serious fears in people. I liked how it progressed over time although somewhat unbelievably. I noticed a lot of passive words and tense but overall a nice submission.

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17:15 Oct 04, 2020

Thank you so much for your feedback! I appreciate. If it isn't too much to ask, can I know the passive words and tenses, and how to rephrase them so they sound better?

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