The Last Sunset

This story was actually written from a writing prompt- "A Beautiful Sunset". It was a simple prompt, and I have no idea how it ended up like it did...but hey it's a good story!

“Well… here we go...” We stood on our roof and stared out over the horizon as the sun set. The bright yellow was shredded by a gorgeous maroon, that slowly faded its way into a dim purple. I pulled up my camera and took a picture of the scene in front of us. The picture struggled to capture the absolute beauty of the whole event; maybe actually living it was what made it so breathtaking.

We sat there and just watched as the sky slowly darkened, as pin-hole lights slowly took over in the darkness, and the golden shades of the day finally faded into nothingness. There was something magical in being a part of this moment.

You see, this sunset... it was different. It had been deemed the ‘final solar event’ of the entire hemisphere- which is just a fancy way of saying that it was the last sunset we would ever see. Now, I know what you’re thinking, how could this even be possible? How could a sunset be the last one? And honestly, I wish I could tell you. The news stations all had long-winded segments that presented scientific data, and intellectually challenging explanations of how the Earth’s core had shifted, or how the rotation on its axis was about to cease- honestly I could hardly understand half the things they were saying. Each channel ended the segment with one final message, most of them mimicking each other.

“This evening, go outside and watch the sunset with your loved ones. This will be the last time you’ll ever see it.”

This was such a romantic way to say something so… bleak. To tell us to go and stand outside, watch this quick burning event that most of us had either ignored or seen a thousand times, and appreciate that it was the last time it was going to happen. Of course this led to some reasonable skepticism, and a number of questions. If the half of the planet that we were on was forced into darkness, then surely the other half of the planet would be in never-ending daylight, right? That only made sense, yet the professionals said that wasn’t going to be the case. When they were asked how that was possible, how the sun would just cease to exist when it set for every part of the planet, they simply reiterated that this would be the last one, and that we should appreciate it.

Then, of course, there were the people that were curious about how life would be sustainable without the sun. Without it, wouldn’t we all be plunged into an ice age and killed off pretty much immediately? They struggled with this question- because the answer was technically yes. However, in this situation, they stated they weren’t going to rely on technicalities, and that life would continue on as it had. This, of course, caused a major stir all around the planet. There was no way that life would continue without the sun. Even excluding the fact that the planet would turn into a solid sphere of ice, every plant that couldn’t be put under a grow light would end up wilted and dying in a matter of days. Without the ability to grow mass crops, the population would end up starving. Once again, this notion was dismissed, they told us that no one would end up starving because of this

All of these situations that were a certainty without the sun, were all being dismissed by the world’s top scientists. How? How was this not to be the apocalyptic event that brought about the death of the planet? How could they say that no one would die from starvation, from freezing, from whatever other hardship would come from losing our sun?

Of course the confusion that stemmed from their official statements just ended up with people questioning the truth behind the statements. A number of conspiracy websites and videos went up on the internet in the relatively short time we had this information. There were people everywhere that claimed that this was nothing more than a plan to make the populace subservient, that the world governments were going to somehow block out the sun for the rest of the world, and even some people that genuinely believed that there was some secret society that had cursed the planet and this was our penance.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, however you choose to look at it, we could easily prove the conspiracy theorists either correct, or incorrect- we were told the exact day that the final sunset would occur, the exact minute that we would last see our glorious burning ball. And, much like predicted, the sunset took place at 8:29PM on that Friday night.

We sat on a blanket that we had placed on a flat section of our roof and watched the stars glow after the sun had finally finished setting- it was a cool night with a light breeze. The sounds of the city grew from silent anticipation to nearly explosive panic within a matter of minutes. Whether or not the people believed that this was it, they had just witnessed, with their own eyes, the ‘final solar event’.

“So...what now?” She looked over at me with a smile on her face.

“Well, now we just kind of sit here and wait to see what happens in the morning. Solar midnight is at about 1:22 in the morning. Sunrise should take place at around 6:30 or so. I guess we’ll know by then what happens.” I kept my eyes on the stars as I responded.

“And you’re certain?” She asked.

“Yeah, I’m certain…” I nodded with a smile. We both just lay there silently staring at the blackness of the night sky. The aforementioned panic of the city slowly died down as people went to bed and decided the sleep through the night as they waited to see what was going to happen. The hours passed, she fell asleep, but I couldn’t bring myself to close my eyes. I wanted to be awake to see what actually took place, I wanted to know what was actually in store for our little planet. I would glance over at the small clock radio every once in a while to see how many hours had passed, but mostly I focused on the darkness of space, and watched the gleaming stars as they danced across the sky.

If anyone had been paying as much attention as I had at that moment, they would have noticed two things which could have given them some interesting insight into this situation. The first thing was that the stars were actually still dancing across the sky, thus the planet was, in fact, still rotating. The second thing to note was the absence of the moon- with no sun, it was basically just a dark rock floating around our planet.

I watched the clock flip over to 6 in the morning and then tuned into the sounds of the city. As the next half hour passed, people would realize that the sun was not coming back, that last night’s sunset was actually the last. With every minute that passed, the sounds of city grew louder and louder. There were subtle sounds of people sobbing, screaming, panicking as the realization hit them. There was shouting, car engines roaring as people tried to speed out of the city with nowhere to go. Then came the sounds of gunshots, glass shattering, people destroying the city as a panicked mob. Everything came to its apex around seven in the morning, when we were all sure that the statements of the scientists were right.

“You were right, huh?” She said in between a yawn and a stretch.

“Yeah, I guess so.” I sighed. “I really didn’t want to be.”

“I know…” She stared back up at the sky. “So what happens now?”

“I’m not sure.” I didn’t want to tell her the truth, I didn’t want her to know what exactly was going to happen. Hell, I wasn’t even 100% certain about the next step, just that there was going to be something.

While everyone else was asking their questions, and fighting with each other about whether or not we would all die of starvation or freezing, or whether the sun would even disappear at all; I was full aware that it was going to happen. You see, around a month ago, my uncle died of an apparent suicide; he had shot himself in his basement with all his radio equipment. He was an avid collector of various radio equipment, a hobby he had actually passed on to me. After his funeral, I went over to his house and down stairs to the room where he kept all of his equipment. I sat at his desk and stared at his various sticky notes with random frequencies written on them, but one stuck out. It was on top of the strewn out detritus, and had the word ‘END August 22’ written on it and circled. Obviously, given the circumstances, I was curious about this. I turned the equipment on and put on the headphones, tuning the dial to exactly what he had written. A single message played in the same tone that you would get if you called a disconnected telephone number.

“Notice- 822-20TE. This is a notice to all involved with Operation Terra, and the surrounding Solar System. Operation Terra has concluded, and the simulation will be going offline. The Final Solar Event will be scheduled for the 235th day of the 2,020th year. On the morning of day 236, we will commence the data purge. Thank you for your time and understanding.”

This notice repeated over and over again through the headphones. I listened to it a dozen more times as I tried to understand what the hell I was actually hearing. From here I obviously reported the information, and they studied the signal. From there, they formulated their statement and told the world about what was happening.

Well, sort of.

They told everyone about the final solar event, sure, but they left out the final part of the notice. I had to give them credit, they didn’t lie. No one was going to freeze to death, no one was likely to starve, but no one knew that we were all going to be removed from existence. I was the only person in the general population that was aware of what was to come next- the data purge.

At first, I was curious about what it was going to actually be, or what it would feel like, but the realization that, if was just data that was about to be purged, I would cease to exist. I assumed it would just be an instantaneous death, and we would all just stop being.

As we stared up at the sky, and the clock clicked over to 8AM, something strange started to happen. The stars started to disappear, one by one, then the clouds, and finally the shades of blue in the sky. Within moments, it was pure black. Then that blackness began to feel like it was getting closer to us.

I reached down and grabbed her hand as I watched our reality compress into itself. I could faintly hear her screaming, the hellish sounds of agony throughout the city as the wind roared upward from the ground and toward the darkness that slowly descended. I kept my eyes open as I watched it engulf the taller buildings and they became nothing. The closer it came, the stronger the suction into the darkness became. I let go of her as she was pulled into the void, and I held my grip on anything I could grab hold of. I felt the darkness touch my skin. I felt my entire being as it was shredded into bits of data within whatever system was running this simulation, and felt agony as I was pulled into a string of ones and zeroes and set to be overwritten.

Narrations Of This Story