The People Went About Their Day Under the Sun
Andy Cashmore | Mike S. Young
She woke up in her bed like every morning to the stone wall room: a light-bulb hanging in the middle of the room, a mirror framed with cobwebs, and dirty plates left to be collected by the people dressed in fine robes that never said a word. The girl started her day as she always did by trying to pull open the hatch that kept the window concealed. When her arms got tired she dragged a small stool under the light-bulb and started to read her book. It was a simple story and the only one she had ever known, but one line near the beginning always fascinated her. The people went about their day under the sun.
It was normally after she read the book for the first time in the day, and before her afternoon daydreams about the book, the people in fine robes would collect the dirty plates and bring her a basic meal of meat, vegetables and water. The girl, wanting to be polite like one of the characters in the book, always stood by the door to greet her guests despite knowing they wouldn’t reply. However she was pleasantly surprised to see not a robed man at the door but a man in scratched armour. His head was pulled down by his heavy beard, revealing scars lining his bald head.
The man held a plate in his hand with a large roast chicken, numerous green and red vegetables, potatoes and gravy almost overflowing onto his arm. It wasn’t until he put the plate down that the girl noticed he had a rope in his other hand. The man looked at the girl; a thin pretty thing.
‘When three nights have passed you will die,’ the man said. The girl didn’t flinch, much to the gruff voiced man’s surprise. ‘I know many things but there is much I don’t want to recall. I will answer one question a day.’
The girl saw how the man trembled. She took a step toward him but the man backed away.
‘What is the sun?’ the girl asked.
The man took a deep breath as if relieved. He looked around the room avoiding eye contact with the girl.
‘The sun is like a light-bulb in the sky we can’t turn off that lights up the world,’ he said.
After that he put the rope down in front of him and closed the door. Once the girl had eaten her giant meal, she took the rope and imagined the people going about their day under the giant light-bulb in the sky. She shaped the rope on the floor into a person lying under the light-bulb and lay down next to it.
The next day she awoke from a dream where her and the rope man had been lying under the sun, but the world around them was shrouded in darkness and haunted by echoes of banging.
There was a knock on the door so the girl took her standing position as the man walked in, still in his armour, with a new plate of food. This time there was only an apple and some bread with a slither of meat on it. The man saw the rope on the floor and in his frustration threw the sword in his other hand, cutting the rope in half. He stood by the door and waited for the girl’s question.
‘How much of the world does the sun show?’
‘Everything,’ he said and left the girl to smile to herself.
This time after she had eaten her smaller meal she used the sword to cut the rope into small pieces, making wristbands and a hairband to tie her hair back like she had seen on one of the robed people. The thick rope felt constricting against her hair and wrists but she liked how they made her look in her mirror. She used the rest of the rope to cover the blade of the sword which she left on her desk.
That night the girl dreamed of lying under the sun in a world completely illuminated filled with rope men standing around doing nothing. The banging was still in her dream, but the girl couldn’t see what was making the noise.
The girl was once again awoken by the knocking on the door. She stood by the door and watched the man put down a plate of rice at her desk, next to the covered sword. His fist clenched. He turned to the girl as if he was about to tell her something, but the words were lost between his mind and his mouth. Instead he placed a gun gently on the desk and looked at the girl.
‘What do people do under the sun?’ the girl asked.
‘They fire guns at one another,’ the man said and glanced at the weapon on the table. He drifted toward the door, leaving the girl to look at the weapon in excitement.
She quickly ate her tiny meal and began to analyse the weapon. She stroked the barrel and wrapped her palm around the grip. She pulled her thumb down against the hammer and scared herself when it clicked into place. She posed in front of the mirror with the gun and jolted it towards her reflection. To her shock the gun went off, cracking and breaking the glass. There was ringing and then her breathing, loud and exhilarating. Her heart thumped. She hadn’t felt that since the first time she read her book.
The evening brought a dream of her shooting rope men under the sun as their bodies cracked and collapsed to the floor. While she shot she couldn’t hear the banging anymore until the knock on the door woke her up with the gun in her hand.
She stood by the door with her hands behind her back and watched the man walk in. Instead of armour he was in a suit, holding nothing in either hand. He looked the girl in her eyes, large black pupils that almost eclipsed her blue irises. She was still, he was shaking.
‘You have one more question,’ he said.
‘Why am I going to die today?’ she asked.
He exhaled, as loud as the girl had when she first read her favourite line from her book.
‘Because I love you,’ he said.
The girl, seeing how much he meant what he said, wished to show her appreciation. She pulled the gun out from behind her and shot the man, like the people did under the sun. The man fell on his front, dying quietly, happy he was dying and unhappy she was not.
The girl saw the door was open. She dropped the gun, stepped over the man and walked out of the room, down a long dark flight of circular stairs lit by dim lights. After what seemed like a couple of minutes she opened a thick wooden door and entered into a room with numerous doors. Only one of them was open which smelt like cooked chicken and spices but was empty. The only other door that was different was the one directly opposite the stairs which let in a tiny bright light through the bottom crack. The girl pressed her hand against the handle, briefly reminding her of the feel of the gun’s grip and opened the door.
She saw the world for a second: a desert savannah stained with bloody bodies holding guns and filled with bullet made holes, two men in black suits walking towards her with bats, and then the sun, which she stared at before her world went black forever.
She slammed the door shut hoping that would bring her vision back. She pressed her head into her knees and as the banging on the door from her dark dreams began she pressed her hands to her ears. Someone had to help her. But no one would. The people went about their day under the sun.