This One Time, 58

This one time, about six days into the massive solar flare-up, I was laying out up on the roof getting a moontan. Nobody knew how much worse it would get and we were all, in our own ways, trying to make the best of it. The reports we could get, what with the satellites all shut down, said the UV reflecting to earth from the full moon provided as much as the summer sun would ordinarily give us in half the time, so I figured I could, as pale as I was, give it maybe forty-five minutes per side.

I tried to bring a book to read, but the light was all wrong for reading. The pages were too bright, though just about right if I shaded them with something. That was too tiring, though. And all things considered, the tanning goggles were still a good idea anyway.

That wasn’t any kind of big deal. That was usually how it went out by the pool in the summer, too. Except it wasn’t summer, and it wasn’t daytime. I was terrified that I was doing something stupid, but I just couldn’t stay cooped up anymore. I needed some normal. I knew this wasn’t normal, but taking the opportunity on a day off to get a tan was normal. Even if it was November.

I’d take what I could get. And what I could get today — tonight — was an hour and a half of  beach blanket spread out on the roof deck.  Ten minutes into it I started crying and couldn’t stop because it was so strange, but I stayed the whole time. It was what I could get.

No one was a hundred percent sure what had pissed off the sun or how long it would continue, especially then. We were all pretty sure we were headed for crop failures and a mass extinction event. Probably there was a mad rush to go through old tree rings and antarctic ice cores and archaeological samples to see if this had happened before. To see whether it was survivable.

In the meanwhile, the power grid had been down pretty much for the duration. Metal everywhere was sparking like a fork in the microwave. The earth itself was starting to defend itself by filling the air with extra clouds. That blocked some of the direct radiation, but trapped some of the extra heat. We were in for some killer storms in upcoming months, they said. And we were absolutely screwed if the coronal hole all the way around the sun’s equator didn’t close up.

Some of the apocalypticos were already committing mass suicide, or hiding in basements wondering why Jesus didn’t call them into the sky to miss the time of tribulations. The hospitals, many of which were already out of backup power, were full to the brim with people with radiation sickness. People like myself, who couldn’t stand to be cooped up all the time, came out at night, wearing hats or all-over clothes or carrying moonbrellas if the moon was out, to meet outside in the parks or on the sidewalks to check up on each other. Stores that could get by without power opened up an hour or two after sunset and closed a couple of hours before sunrise so the people who worked there could get home.

That was rare, though. It was mostly curfews and martial law and people in various uniforms shooting looters.

While I was up on the roof, though, crying, listening to the sounds of no bird or airplanes or televisions or cars or anything but the occasional ambulance, I heard the roof-access door open. I couldn’t open my eyes to see through the tear-streaked goggles. I was afraid, but I couldn’t look to see who it was or whether I was in some kind of trouble. I just couldn’t care anymore.

Footsteps approached. I could feel a shadow for a moment. Then it went away, and the door opened and closed again.

And eventually it was time to go back inside. When I was packing up, folding up the blanket, I found that the person who had come to visit had left me a bottle of beer. Ironically, a Corona Light.

That was when I had decided to believe we were all going to be okay, or at least mostly okay. For those of us that made it through this, and out the other side.


February 27, 2011 · by xalieri · Posted in This One Time  


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