As I stand towards the East, I feel strangely unperturbed. Death will come soon, but what does it matter? I’ve lost all I loved. And now the sun in blood-red glory will take me to the end.
“Why?” you ask. “Why do you say you will die?”
Because my skin will burn today and so will yours.
As for why, perhaps I’ll tell you, after all we’re in this together. None will survive.
When it began, the sun was as dull and red as ever. Hilda and Hyas were heads together, whispering in the sand. I looked out the window at them. They were full of their conversation. I inserted my card in the hidden slot. The drawer shot out. I gazed at the picture lying inside: a green-eyed woman with kindness in her mouth. Abigael was dead.
There came a sound. A piercing sound. No, two sounds. In terrible unison. Two painful screams. The screams of my children. I raced outside to find silence. Silence. I called their names, I shouted, I raved. I stood and strained to hear…nothing. I trudged back inside. Was it a game of theirs? They liked to play games. I turned to close the drawer. I looked down at the picture, but there was nothing there, no last evidence of her existence. I screamed my grief. Down from the open drawer fluttered a slip of paper that had not been there before.
I picked it up. We have the children. Meet us by the Willow Oak. Come now.
A mad calm overtook me. I clutched the paper and exited the house from the back. I stepped through the yard to the tree. The wind disappeared. Nothing moved except me and my heart.
I reached the tree. Nothing there, nothing came. Then, a Voice, half within a pounding silence. A familiar Voice from a distant past.
We have the children.
I peered around the tree, but there was nothing to be seen.
“Abigael?” It was her voice; I was sure of it. Yet it was different, deeper, rustier.
No, said the Voice. Just a part of her. The part contained in a picture. We have the picture. We have the children. We will use you.
“What are you?” I cried.
We are. We have no bounds and few limitations.
“Where are my children?” I asked the air, for I saw no physical form.
We will give you back your children. But you must do something for us.
“What do you want me to do?”
Go to sleep. Wake just before sunrise tomorrow. Face the East, spread your arms out towards the sky. Then call out these words: “Amatar sol. Zetar sol. Tima sol. Fine sol.” Will you do this?
“What will these words do?”
Will you do this?
“You will give me back my children if I say these words?”
“Then I will do as you ask.” Silence. Silence settled heavily upon me, and I crumpled to the ground asleep.
I awoke the next morning just before sunrise, as the Voice had foretold. I stood disheveled under the Oak. Everything was unnaturally clear that—this—morning. The air was too quiet. The birds were too loud. The grass was too wet. It pressed underfoot as I walked to the East.
I could bear it no longer.
“Amatar sol! Zetar sol! Tima sol! Fine sol!” In an anguished frenzy I flung out my arms. The sun erupted in front of me, showering red sparks. It loomed, as it does now over us, much bigger than before. I could feel its tension as it spread in front of me. It was almost ready to burst, to explode into red froth, to spew its remnants back to the Galaxy.
As I watched the sun, two small figures raced out of its heart towards me. I could hear them screaming. They were two children. My children. And they were burning with the flames of the sun. They ran to me, and I found I was screaming as well. They collapsed at my feet. The flames surrounding their bodies slowly extinguished themselves.
I pounded the earth until my hands were raw and bleeding.
The Voice spoke to me once more in the cruel, changed voice of Abigael.
You have been useful. Because of you, the human race will burn this day. You words have triggered the sun’s end. And, you understand, when the sun ends, your kind ends.
“But I didn’t know!”
It was still your choice.
“You took my children!”
We have returned your children, as we agreed. You spoke the words. They would have died anyways. Here is the picture; we have no use for it now. So you see, we are not so unfair.
The picture, my old, treasured picture of my wife, my Abigael, fell out of the air and into my hands. The Voice was gone, replaced by empty stillness. Until you came along. And all this while, I have been clutching the picture recently dropped into my hands. You see it? My last shred of evidence that I ever had a family.
I buried my children’s charcoal bones right where they lay. In fact, just where we’re standing now: I on Hyas and you on Hilda.
“It cannot be true,” you say.
But it is.
“The sun is not due to end even in our lifetimes,” you persist.
It will end today. You will see. Or perhaps not…you will be dead.
Image Source: “Half Down” fs999 https://www.flickr.com/photos/fs999/