The Stuart household was a model household. Living in a downtrodden area, and sharing a neighborhood with drug addicts, failed musicians (and artists), and has-been washed-out Hollywood stars, the Stuarts looked like they had their lives figured out.
The young teenage twins, Marty and Martha Stuart, had a hundred percent attendance at school, a good chance in an Ivy, and probably a bright future ahead. All planned for them by their parents ofcourse. Now Mr. Stuart, their dad, had seen some rough days in his youth but had made his career as a real estate dealer. Which was, in hindsight, a great promotion from being a drug dealer. How he climbed out of that hole is a story for another time. Mrs. Stuart was a school teacher. Perhaps, she has the most normal background story in the neighborhood. Born to a middle class family, she had lived out her life exactly as she had planned it. Perhaps, finding her husband was the only spontaneous unplanned event in her life; one she never grew to regret at all. For Mr. Stuart, it was the best drug deal of his life. One that made him quit the business, and invest in legitimate ventures.
As a family, they worked harmoniously. Every hour was planned and every activity scheduled. It was said that if an addict crossing the house peeked in through the window, the absolute meticulousness and hardworking values would shine out and inspire the aforementioned addict to quit the addiction. Perhaps, the house was the only beacon of light in a dull and bleak world.
It was a very unpleasant and unwelcome surprise when, one day, the sun didn’t come up. Ofcourse, Mrs. Stuart hated it the most, but everyone else wasn’t exactly pleased as well. It was an inconveniently life altering event, but an event nonetheless.
The alarm clock had begun beeping like it always did. Mrs. Stuart was the first one to wake up. She had noticed the unusually dimly lit room despite the window shutters being open. She assumed that the cloud cover was thicker than usual. Carrying on with the schedule, she woke the kids up and prepared breakfast. Mr. Stuart, as always, decided that the bed was too comfortable to get out of. Hence, he stayed in. Becoming one with the bundle of blankets and pillows, he did not notice that the darkness had remained the same. He wasn’t the one to complain, all it did was help him sleep better.
The twins did realize that night had not completely gone away at all. It still lingered around, outstaying its welcome. They were the first ones to protest.
“It’s still dark, I wanna sleep more!”, complained Marty. Martha nodded in agreement.
“It’s just clouds and It’s gonna rain today. We have to get you two to school before that happens”, replied Mrs. Stuart. She had come in armed with logical replies and effective counterarguments.
The twins complied. Their arsenal of replies was short in supply and weak in impact. It was an unusual morning. It had never been this dark before. Mrs. Stuart headed off to the kitchen to fetch their cereal, while the twins readied themselves for breakfast. Breakfast conversations were hushed and brief. If Mr. Stuart was awake, there would be a large influx of irrelevant news and developments that the twins often yawned at. Mrs. Stuart, on the other hand, did show a mild interest that was often limited to a few raises of the eyebrows and distinct “Oh”s.
The three of them sat on a round table and ate their breakfast calmly. Perhaps, it was providence, a divine miracle or something completely random, but Marty decided that he wanted to watch T.V while having breakfast. That proposal had never been made and was therefore very improbable to be accepted.
“I want to watch news in the morning like dad does. I want to know more about the world!”, he reasoned. His chain of thought was impressive.
“T.V hours are in the evening, love.”, their mom replied robotically. This was unplanned and spontaneous. If there was one thing, Mrs. Stuart hated, it was spontaneity. Her day had to be planned, and everyone had to comply. The element of choice was nonexistent and so were chances of unproductivity.
His argument was tempting. Morning news was a good source of information. But news ran every hour of every day. Surely, Marty could watch in the evening. Thus, this request was also shot down by a simple yet meaningful “No”.
Marty had tried to deviate from his predetermined life and had marvelously failed. Yet the greatest deviation was already in play. The sunlight simply hadn’t streamed through their kitchen window throughout the whole breakfast. It was still as dark as night. Perhaps even darker. Mrs. Stuart did seem a little concerned. The sun was the greatest punctual thing she had ever had the pleasure of knowing about and now it was slacking off like Mr. Stuart upstairs in the bedroom. If she could, she would scold the sun like she did her children. Even the sun would be embarrassed after that fiasco. The stars, in their billions of years of life, would never ever let the sun live down that embarrassment of being abominably late.
It couldn’t be the sun. It had always been the bastion of responsibility. It had foresaw the evolution of life throughout the billion years the Earth had existed and played a massive role in allowing that to that to happen. Instead, It had to be the clouds. Ruining perfect days by interrupting glorious sunlight.
Mr. Stuart came down finally. He was yawning and stretching, and stuttering and stumbling down the stairs, but he made it down nonetheless. Mr. Stuart was the utter antithesis of Mrs. Stuart. If Mrs. Stuart was determinism, he was existentialism. If she was ying, he was yang. If she was the order, he was the disorder. They still got along like the north pole and south pole of a magnet. Mrs. Stuart secretly admired his carelessness, and he openly admired her carefulness. It was an interesting dynamic for the children and even themselves.
“Quite a dim morning!”, he said with a tone not warmed from waking up.
“I suppose so. Still did not mean that you had to sleep for an extra half an hour, Stu”, she said looking away.
Mr. Stuart, in the consequent ordeal, received a cold shoulder as well as a cold breakfast. He knew something else was bothering her. Something that lingered in the back of his mind as well. Why was it this dark? He had peeked out from the window, and there were simply no clouds. Instead, the stars shined brighter than they had ever before. Did the sun disappear overnight? He dared not speak that out loud at the table. He knew he would be ridiculed by everyone.
“Umm, I have a few clients that are going to swing by today. So, umm, I may pick you guys up a little late”, he announced.
“I am taking the car today, Stu. You go ahead, take the bus”, she replied.
“Ummm, alright”, he said, spinning the spoon in the cereal bowl.
The ice was extra thin today, one wrong step and he would crack the surface. And no one dared crack the surface.
Mrs. Stuart kept looking out of the window. She had been staring at the stars for a while now. They were the brightest they had ever been. She traced a constellation which she had never seen before. This was new. Unplanned. Spontaneous. Undesirable.
Suddenly, she saw a shadow run across the window. She jerked up in her seat, and refocused her eyes on the street. Everybody at the table had noticed the unease in her. In unison, they all looked out.
Multiple shadows seemed visible running down the street. Almost as if the addicts had suddenly found purpose in life and unbarred the doors from the junkie house. Mr. Stuart recognized Georgie, an old customer, walking up the street, coming closer to their house. He held a sign which was illegible from the distance. As he drew near, the sign became more visible. It was illuminated by the overhead street lamp.
GOD TERNED THE LIGHTS OF!
Poor Georgie, he had never received formal education and it showed. Mrs. Stuart, being an English teacher, was more disturbed by the spellings than the content.
A sudden panic overcame the family. Mr. Stuart, without seeking permission, turned the T.V on. What followed was a strange mix of horror and astonishment.
He changed it to the first news channel.
“Sources throughout the country have stated that night hours have extended beyond normal. The sun has not been sighted from the eastern horizon”, the anchor announced.
Mr. Stuart changed it to the next channel.
“The Chinese have conspired to hide the sun from us. We must reclaim the sun for ourselves!”, shouted a theorist.
“What’s on channel 55?”, asked Marty.
They quickly switched to channel 55 upon his request.
Thankfully enough the upcoming rapture had not discouraged channel 55 from running their scheduled episodes of the Shadow Warriors. Marty breathed a sigh of relief. His father seemed amused.
Martha had her own theory of why the sun didn’t come up. She was not afraid to discuss it.
“Mom. I think I know why the sun didn’t come up”, she said blankly looking at the screen.
“Why?” asked Mrs. Stuart. Her role as a school teacher had made her empathetic to the perspective of children. Hearing the opinions of children encouraged them to have brighter ideas and connect more links.
“It’s simple. We have taken the sun for granted for so long! It’s not appreciated enough! Think about it, it used to come up all the time when old civilizations worshipped it! People got sacrificed for the sun! Then they stopped appreciating it! We have the rain dance, but not the sun dance. Why? The sun doesn’t like us anymore. That’s why it hasn’t come up!” she said.
Mrs. Stuart thought Martha was brighter than this. Mr. Stuart, on the other hand, was very impressed.
“I think, the sun is tired. It has always been coming up since the beginning. Now, it’s just a lazy old star who’s tired of working 24/7!”, chimed in Marty. He could not let Martha take the upper hand in this subtle battle of wits.
“We are doomed.”, gasped Mrs. Stuart and clasped her hands around her face. This was the beginning of the end.
Mr. Stuart kept on watching T.V in the hope that someone out there had found a solution to the sun not coming up. He switched to the next channel.
“Scientists are currently unable to completely find out the exact reason the sun has not risen. Earlier sources claimed it was due to a heavy cloud cover but upon seeing stars the consensus shifted. Doomsayers are crowding the streets and blaming huge corporations”
“New sources have revealed that the sun is in fact right at the position it should be. However, it has, for some reason, been extinguished. Scientists are terming this event as the “The Great Extinguishing”. Further information will be given in the following hours.”
The Great Extinguishing was an awesome term. Some very smart scientist probably came up with that while looking through a telescope and observing the cold dead sun. However, that person was surely not smart enough to devise a solution.
Mr. Stuart had noticed the fall in temperature. He turned the heater on and sat back on the chair. It was a quarter past eight, and the kids were surely late for school. Mr. Stuart offered to take them to school.
“Umm, hon, why don’t I do the school duty today?”, he asked politely.
Mrs. Stuart was in awe. They were going to die. However, school was undoubtedly important. Whether hail, sleet, snow or the Great Extinguishing, their attendance was spotless and it had to be kept that way.
“Alright. You go. And the shopping list is on the counter. On second thought, bring some extra supplies.”, she mumbled.
“Umm okay. Sure, hon”, said Mr. Stuart and then grabbed the list. The children got ready for school. They seemed to be very excited. There were bound to be some interesting discussions in recess. Their first night recess.
“Ummm, I think, umm, maybe you can take a day off?”, he said, treading on ice again.
“Stu”, she opened her mouth to say something, but didn’t. Her arsenal of replies had vanished with the fire of the sun.
Stu looked out from the window. Opposite to them was the house of the failed artist, Joe. In a world where art was considered subjective to each and every individual human being, Joe’s art was objectively bad. He had managed to stay afloat with side jobs, but never gave up on his passion for art. At least, he had a passion for something, unlike the addicts that had now become the doomsayers. Jumping from one insanity to the next.
He had opened his garage door and piled up his canvasses. He seemed to be pretty cheerful than usual. In the next moment, he poured gasoline on top and set his paintings alight. It would be insignificant and inconsequential against the falling global temperature but at least, he was doing his part.
Everybody seemed to have their own coping mechanisms to impending death. The Stuart family seemed a little bothered but ultimately had clung to routine despite a few deviations.
In the next couple of hours, the T.V had gone silent. Before that, Mrs. Stuart had managed to scoop up as much tidbits of information as she could.
EU had announced a reverse climate change deal in light of recent events. That would ensure global warming at a higher rate, and stop the last heat from completely escaping the planet. It was hard to hate this one. Somewhere in Canada, people had made an artificial sun but it had crashed back causing a massive fire and multiple lawsuits.
One thing was certain, life would not be the same anymore. She leaned back in her chair. “What the hell. I’ll take a day off.”