Lunatics: Part 1
“Alright, everyone! It’s happening, let’s get a move on,” Will warned his family. “We have maybe a few more minutes, but we shouldn’t wait until the last second.”
“I can’t believe this is really happening,” Will’s wife said quietly. She gathered a few of the children’s toys that were strewn all over the grass. “Will, I’m scared. What if –”
Will reached out to his wife and held her chin in his hands. He looked her in the eyes and said, “No, don’t start the ‘what ifs.’ We have to be strong for the kids and your mother; they depend on us. We have a list from my father, and we’ve been planning for months now. Everything will be alright.”
“But the kids….” She protested. “I just can’t believe this is the last we will see the sun for forty years. They will be all grown up by then.” Her voice dropped lower. “We might be gone by then.”
Will kissed his wife gently on the lips and forced a smile. “We will still be together. That’s all that matters.”
They looked at each other for a moment then continued the task of gathering everything up and taking it inside the cabin. They had everything they needed to survive the Long Night, including candles, food, water, plenty of wood for fire and security measures for the doors and windows to keep out anything that might try to get in.
Will was forty-five. He had vague memories in his early years of seeing the black sky above with twinkling stars. He had a single memory of his mother reading a book by candlelight while his father stared aimlessly out their window, into the darkness. His father’s face was devoid of any emotion; his eyes just fixated on the shadowy world outside. As Will got older, the night faded into the Long Day. Suddenly, everyone was happy again, and he had almost forgotten what the Long Night was like. Now that the world was on the cusp of what his Grandfather used to say was “A nightmare you might never wake up from,” Will prayed that his family could withstand the loneliness of the dark for so long.
“Dad! Sophie won’t help, she’s just rolling around in the grass like a moron,” Parker called out from the corner of the yard. He had already helped his mother gather her gardening tools, put Grandma Luna’s easel and paints inside, and now he was scanning the grass for any small toys his little sister may have forgotten.
“Your sister is three years old, Parker. Cut her some slack. She may not even remember what it was like to have the sun. Let her enjoy these last few moments,” Will said.
Parker sighed in frustration. His little sister laughed and rolled around like a dog, although he had never actually seen a dog in real life. He’d only heard stories from his grandmother, and had seen old photographs of golden retrievers. It’s raining cats and dogs! Grandma would say. Parker never really understood what the heck that meant, but he didn’t care enough to ask.
“I know your mother and father appreciate your helping out, little man,” Grandma said from her lawn chair by the fire pit.
“Grandma, I’m not a little man! I’m eleven years old!” Parker scowled.
Grandma laughed. “I’m sorry, my dear, I forget how fast time flies. Are you nervous about the Long Night?”
“No,” he lied. “Why should I be? I’m not a baby.”
“You don’t have to be a baby to be afraid of what’s coming,” Grandma replied quietly. “But you know that your dad will keep us all safe.”
“I can take care of myself,” Parker grumbled as he snatched a plastic unicorn up from the ground.
“Princess Sprinkles!” Sophie screamed with glee. “You found her!”
Sophie stood up and galloped towards her big brother with a grin. She slammed into his body, wrapping her tiny arms around his waist and squeezing hard. Parker cried out in disgust.
“Ugh! Get off. Take your stupid horse!” He pried his sister off of him and handed her the toy. He could hear Grandma chuckling behind them. “It’s not funny, Grandma.”
“Sophie! Come inside honey, and let your father and brother finish up outside!” their mother called from the front door. “Mom, aren’t you coming in?”
Grandma shook her head. “Not yet dear. This will be my last look at the sun before my time comes. I’m soaking up every last bit.”
Everyone shared a look of sadness. The sun was already dipping behind the pine trees, and the sky was changing colors. Golds, reds, and oranges permeated the once blue sky. Parker looked in awe while his father glanced up for a moment then continued on his mission. Sophie skipped over to the front door and took her mother’s hand as they both disappeared into the cabin.
“You know the world used to be a lot different, Parker,” Grandma said with a longing sigh.
Parker rolled his eyes. “Yes, Grandma. I’ve heard the story a million times. The days were both dark and light equally, and it lasted twenty-four hours.”
“That’s right. When I was a girl, I remember birds chirping when I woke up in the morning, and owls and crickets singing at night. Animals were scurrying outside; rabbits, deer, and squirrels.” Grandma sighed. “Such a long time ago.”
“Please don’t start talking about when you were little again; it’s so boring,” Parker complained.
Grandma looked at him and frowned. “I suppose you’d rather hear other stories. Stories before my time?”
“More stories about fluffy animals and rainbows,” Parker mocked.
“Those are the stories your parents let me talk about around you and your sister,” Grandma said gravely. Parker stopped and turned to look at her. “That’s right. I think it’s about time you hear the truth about what life used to be like. And, the truth about what life is like now.”
“How do I know you won’t just make up stories to scare me?” Parker asked in a suspicious tone.
“Because I’d have to be Stephen King to come up with the crazy shit that I’m about to tell you.”
Parker smiled. Grandma swore. Grandma never swore. “Who’s Stephen King?”
“Sit down, child. While there are still moments of daylight, I will tell you everything.”
Parker shrugged his shoulders and walked over to the fire pit. He sat in the rickety lawn chair next to Grandma, and leaned back, tapping his fingers absently on the metal armrests. Parker heard many stories from Grandma about something called the “internet” that connected the whole world, where everyone could talk to each other. She said it ended up being the world’s curse and it brought more harm than good. As for other stories, like “winter,” “holidays,” and something called “government,” Parker never bothered thinking more about what the Earth used to be like. He did know the one thing that was the center of all the despair and change that Grandma had witnessed, and that was the Moon.
The Moon, as she described it, was sort of like the sun, except it only came out at night and it didn’t burn your eyes to look at it. Grandma said the Moon was the one thing the whole world took for granted, that it was the silent, steady ship that navigated so much of how the Earth worked. The Moon was always overlooked as anything practical. It played an important role in books, movies, and every culture known to man. The Moon was something to gaze at and romanticize. Little did anyone know that the absence of the silver sphere was devastating to the human race.
“Alright, Grandma. Tell me the scary stories…”