Liquid Sun

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A liquid sun slides down the sky.

Dusk envelopes a small, empty cabin.

Fowl return to their nests and cover their young, while crickets tune up for the evening’s performance. An owl hoots in the distance as the last orange ripples slip over the horizon.

Night has fallen upon the woods.

A low, quiet rumble as something approaches.

Seemingly out of thin air, a door opens two feet above the ground spilling light across the road. A hooded man jumps down from it, clutching a bag tight.

He latches the door of the blacked out carriage and with a quick thanks runs towards the cabin.

He bursts inside, quickly slamming shut and barring the door.

Knowing the layout he makes his way through the dark to another door. This opens upon a set of descending stairs which, after shutting and barring this one, too, he takes to the basement.

Now concealed, he finds a small lantern in the corner and turns up the wick. The light reveals a small workshop adorned with tools and items. Some familiar. Some strange.

He rushes across the room pulling the bag from his shoulder and sets it upon a workbench. Pushing his hood back, he reveals a young, stubbled face. He opens the bag, removing an unseen item.

Tossing the bag aside, eyes on its former contents, a look of excited urgency spreads across his face. He grabs some tools and begins to work. 

The clock on the far wall reads a quarter of ten.

•••

At half past one he appears spent.

His look of excitement has been replaced with one of worry. It’s not coming together as fast as hoped.

He spreads out some tattered plans, moving the lantern closer. Brown and worn with age, they show something spherical with crisscrossing bands. The lettering is foreign, symbols of some kind.

Looking from the plans to the object then back to the plans, he sees the problem.

•••

He’s still tinkering when the clock strikes three.

The urgency resurfaces, mingled with a healthy dose of panic. He quickly grabs the clock’s chimes, cutting off their extended ring, and listens.

One minute passes. He’s still clutching the chimes.

A sigh of relief as he hurries back to the workbench. He grabs a tool and reaches for the object.

Upstairs the bar thumps to the floor. He looks towards the sound with a start and listens.

A long creak as the front door eases open.

He looks up the stairs and sees the knob twisting slowly back and forth, before something large begins slamming itself into the door, over and over.  

Quickly turning back to the object, he tries to finish before it’s too late. The slamming continues, now emphasized with a guttural growl upon each and every impact.

He fumbles tools and pieces, struggling to maintain control as panic begins slamming against a similar door in his brain.

Something finally clicks into place on the object. He grabs the last remaining piece off the bench and tries to force it home.

The door at the top of the stairs splinters, cracks. A plume of blackness pours through the growing opening and begins concentrating itself around the bar.

He fumbles the items, hands slick with sweat.

He quickly wipes them and regains the object.

The beast resumes the attack. Wood groans, snaps.

Blackness lifts the bar from its slots and hurls it down the stairs. It slams into the wall above, startling him, before dropping to the bench.  

He turns and looks at the door as the beast’s red eye peers through the giant cracks. They make eye contact, and for one eternal second everything seems to stop.

The beast seems to grin and resumes beating the door.

He turns back to the object, forcing the piece.  

The door bursts open, hinges give way.

The man grabs the bar and slams it against the piece like a hammer.

It slips into place.

The beast charges down the stairs, trailing blackness.

Light illuminates the man’s face. The object swirls inside with an electric orange.

The beast leaps, jaws open, claws extend.

The man grabs the object and spins.

Panic overcomes the beast as the sphere releases a bolt of plasma. Surging forward it connects with a thunderclap.

Windows explode outward as the beast launches through the roof in a beam of orange light.

The beam extinguishes.

A smoldering pile of melted fur lands nearby.

The man slowly exits the cabin, approaching the pile. He stares at it, taking it in.

Looking to the moon he sighs, relieved. He begins to turn, a crack in the distance stops him.

He stares into the murky black.

Nothing.

Everything.

This night is far from over. He turns for the cabin, recharging the object.

A legion of red eyes glare from the shadows.

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Blackness.

A lone bird chirped distantly.

The wind rose and something rustled.

Tom opened his eyes.

The world was initially blinding until his pupils adjusted.

Clouds, motionless, appeared to be painted on a fading sky.

Sitting up, he found himself in a field, wearing a baseball shirt and jeans.

He tugged at the shirt, trying to read it. It seemed vaguely familiar, but he couldn’t place why.

He’d been here before. He’d been gone a while.

It seemed so recent, yet so long ago…whatever “it” had been.

He took in his surroundings.

It was late evening by the sun’s position, right above the horizon.

Trees off to the east. A lake to the south. Some thickening brush to the north. Hills to the west.

He rose, and after a moment’s deliberation, headed west.

It just felt right.

He couldn’t explain it if he tried, but it felt like he was supposed to head for the setting sun.

Like he belonged there.

He’d only gone a few paces before noticing a baseball glove lying on the ground.

Stooping, he picked it up, and immediately put it in his back waistband.

The entire motion was involuntary.

Once again, it just felt right and he hadn’t a clue why.

•••

What seemed like an hour and roughly four miles later, Tom found himself at an abrupt edge to the field.

The lake still glistened in the south.

Farther ahead, in a wide stretch of desolate, desert-like terrain lay a small, motionless war.

Upon arrival, he discovered it to be a battalion of life-sized G.I. Joes opposite the Cobra Command. The latter appeared to be decidedly losing. The toys were massive, as tall as him.

But for Tom this seemed normal. He didn’t question it.

A sound began to grow.

Similar to wind, but not quite.

Tom looked down as the earth shuddered slightly beneath his feet.

Turning to the north he saw a tsunami rapidly approaching. He hadn’t time to react and was gathered up in a swirl of oversized plastic jeeps and futuristic aircraft.

•••

He awakened, wet and muddy, on the shoreline of the lake.

A giant plastic missile floated nearby, a Joe’s arm purposefully wrapped around it.

Pressing himself up, he tried to make heads or tails of what just happened.

But again, that odd familiarity filled the moment.

A few barks in the distance grabbed his attention. They came from further west, stopping as soon as they began.

The sun flickered.

It was only for a split second. Had he blinked he would have missed it.

He rubbed his eyes and squinted at the sun, waiting to catch it again.

It dawned on him that although he’d been walking for over an hour, not to mention the unknown amount of time he’d been unconscious, the sun hadn’t dropped an inch.

He considered for a moment the change in terrain, landmarks, and his positioning.

None of them added up.

The sun was definitely in the same spot.

Another bark, even further.

He pressed on, leaving the toys behind in the muddy shallows.

•••

Hours passed as he continued walking toward the motionless, although larger, sun.

It had flickered three more times, in quick succession, but that was over an hour ago. Or what felt like an hour anyway.

Without a way to track time it could have been five hours for all he knew.

He had left the desert terrain and entered another field, almost identical to the first.

It was then he had another realization:  He wasn’t tired.

He’d been walking for miles now, for an undetermined amount of time, and he wasn’t exhausted. He wasn’t even short of breath. He had no thirst or hunger for that matter.

Suddenly, a small dog burst from the brush to his right, barking wildly as it tore into the distance.

Tom jumped, startled. “…Jack?…Jack!”

The dog skittered to a stop and jerked around, searching for the source of its name as if it hadn’t heard it in years.

Spotting Tom it padded up slowly, suspiciously, coming to a stop some four feet away.

Tom knelt down and reached out a hand, beckoning the dog.

After some tentative sniffing, snorts, and questioning looks, the dog seemed satisfied.

It began to wag its tail, barking loudly as it ran around Tom in a few circles before heading off in the distance again.

Smiling as the dog ran away, he noticed a blue Jeep Wrangler nearby, with giant floodlights on the roll bar and an oddly placed center steering wheel in front of one giant bench seat.

Approaching it, he saw keys hanging from the ignition. He hopped in and felt something press against his back.

Pulling out the glove, he noticed a baseball in the small trunk space. He tossed the glove in with the ball.

It felt involuntary again, familiar again.

He turned the ignition. The key clicked in the slot, turning in circles.

This brought a fleeting memory, gone before he could catch it.

Pressing lightly the accelerator, a high pitched whine began as the Jeep eased forward a few feet.

He released the pedal and the Jeep stopped. Gathering it was electric, he floored it, resuming his trek towards the sun.

•••

Cruising along in the electric Jeep he made much better time. Or so it felt.

He’d passed through miles of gravel.

The Jeep got stuck a few times in the thicker areas. It was while digging himself out he noticed the wheels were made of plastic.

This seemed off, yet perfectly reasonable.

He’d begun to accept these double feelings.

•••

A few more hours and he was out of the gravel. The sun had quadrupled in size and flickered at least once per minute now.

As he pulled around some more brush the Jeep’s familiar whine began to drone down. As it lowered the power dropped in step. A few minutes later it came to a halt.

Releasing and pressing the pedal only got a few lurches, then eventually nothing.

Tom stepped from the Jeep and continued on foot.

•••

The sun appeared to grow larger now with each step.

It also appeared to be changing shape.

With each flicker he thought he saw shadows pass across the surface.

•••

Another hour had passed.

The sun was visibly a square in shape, and the brightness that once flashed from it seemed more ambient now.

The closer Tom got, the shadows looked more and more like people.

•••

Hours since he first awoke in the field, or days for all he knew, Tom finally reached the sun.

It was still square in shape, and spanned about ten feet across. It was some kind of plastic, translucent, like a giant, semi-frosted window hanging in the air.

He could see his reflection. The reflection of a young man.

Cupping his hands around his face he pressed against it, and could see the vague outlines of people on the other side.

He yelled out for them. No response.

He beat against it. The plastic rippled, but still gained no response.

Turning away, frustrated, he started.

Behind him was a power wheel Jeep with ball and glove in the back, a pothole filled with gravel, his dog, Jack, some G.I Joes floating in a small puddle created by a running hose, and a small patch of grass beyond which spidered around everything.

Turning back to the window, his reflection was one of a child in muddy clothes.

A female voice sing-songed “Say cheese!” and the sun exploded in a brilliant, white light.

•••

In a well-kept kitchen, a college aged Tom digs through a refrigerator, sandwich in one hand.

On the freezer door above him, a magnet holds a photo of a 4 year old Tom with Jack and his power wheel nearby, as he happily drowns a pile of G. I. Joes with a garden hose.

Multiple other photos of Tom, from differing ages, surround this one.

An older woman approaches, notices the photo of young Tom and smiles. She pulls it from the door lovingly.

Tom finds what he’s looking for, closes the refrigerator, takes a bite from his sandwich.

The woman holds the photo up. “I remember this. So long ago…but seems like yesterday. Do you? That day when you decided to flood my yard?”

“…Not really,” he mumbles through a full mouth.

Her smile returns. “Well I do…I love these…”

She replaces the photo on the door.

“They’re like little moments of you I get to keep forever.”

•••

“A good snapshot keeps a moment from running away.”                                                                                     – Eudora Welty