The Astronomer & the Stolen Sun

1000 words

Written in 2022.

No one knew why she took the sun. Why does anyone take anything? Out of greed? Selfishness? To deny the unworthy or to simply teach a lesson?

No one knew.

In one remote corner of this newly-darkened world there lived an Astronomer. He was not an especially notable astronomer, but he was someone who was turned to for answers when answers were needed. The Astronomer shouted from his tower window at the desperate villagers below. “Please, please! Give me just seven days to find an explanation.” The Astronomer convinced them all that would be enough time.

Across the world, many had grown weary after only the first day of darkness, claiming it to be unbearable. Imagine having a sun, and then not. Just like that, in the blink of an eye. Still, these relative few were deemed contemptible for giving up so easily. By the second day, hundreds of thousands had already taken their lives. Meanwhile, the villagers had not yet received any words of hope from the Astronomer, though he insisted seven days would be all he needed.

Three days had passed since she took the sun. Surprisingly, there were quite a few who admitted three days was not such a long time, if the sun was never going to be returned to them, that is. A drop in the bucket, they might say. And really, who could have honestly claimed anyone deserved to have the sun returned to them anyway? Still, even more villagers gathered, pleading for a solution from the Astronomer. They were not yet given one.

The moon had already begun to look different. With each reappearance in the star-speckled sky, it had changed subtly. The differences varied depending on who was asked. On the first day after the sun was taken, the moon was full. It was rounder, they said. It seemed whiter, even if there was no more light from the sun to shine upon it. Was it closer now? Some claimed it appeared rougher, like time had quickly eaten away at its surface. Some proclaimed the moon’s craters were growing darker. Could it be that the moon was slipping out of time, to inevitably be taken from them as well? What might be left of anything out there? By the time the seventh day would come the moon would be waning, but the Astronomer reminded them not to fret over the moon, for it was only the missing sun that was worth their concern.

Four days after she took the sun, it had grown so much colder on the darkened world. Some contested—perhaps fairly—that something should have been left behind in its place. Why not a smaller star? A second moon with some luminosity? They’d be happy with a volcanic eruption, just to keep warm. They grew desperate, soon pleading for nothing more than a story to have been left behind, a story to tell in the future—if they had a future—in order to explain why the sun had been taken from them all in the first place. But there was nothing. Just a void, blacker than any void that already existed in space. No olive branch or parting gift or anything else to ease them. And so far, the Astronomer had nothing more to offer.

By the fifth day, some had climbed mountain peaks, hoping they might see further into space. To find where she might have taken the sun. Maybe there was still some warmth from its rays residing high in the mountaintops? But there wasn’t. It was as cold as it ever was. Even colder.

On the morning of the sixth day, a half-dozen massive, magnificent spotlights were erected, but even by day’s end, most had grown tired of the lights’ inferiority to their stolen sun.

Many began to rethink their pasts. If they had the sun again they’d change it all. But these were selfish, whiny proclamations, for all the stupid decisions and mistakes they’d made would surely be made all over again.

It had been seven days since she took the sun, though it became increasingly harder to keep track in a world of darkness. Some of the villagers, unaware that it had been seven days, grew outraged and stormed the Astronomer’s tower, setting it ablaze. The majority of the village had already been set on fire in an effort to keep them warm, but the Astronomer’s tower had been spared until then, to allow him the time he needed to save them all.

As his front steps burned, the Astronomer burst forth from the tower window. He yelled excitedly to the people below. “Our constellations have remained!” he called. “Those conspicuous shapes in the sky, those puzzles we’ve pieced together, they keep telling their stories to us, as they always have.”

The villagers labeled these stories as meaningless now, since she took the sun from them all. His first floor ablaze, the Astronomer argued, “But was our sun not a part of someone else’s constellations? What stories were they left with now? Now that she has taken it away.”

They demanded the Astronomer give them a better answer. The searing flames crept higher up the tower. “Don’t you see? It is not us who she has robbed, but them! For those out there who found hope in the configuration of their stars, the constellations and the asterisms in their celestial spheres, are now missing some of that hope. Those who navigate their worlds with the help of their stars are now lost. Perhaps even more lost than we.”

Some of the villagers stopped momentarily. The majority of them became angrier than before. But absolutely none of them understood the significance of the Astronomer’s verdict. “Don’t you see?” he begged.

And before the fire ever enveloped him, the villagers stoned the Astronomer to death. The darkened world was soon fully ablaze, as other villagers from other villages set other astronomers’ towers afire, illuminating its spot in space. A spot, if looked at closely enough, formed another constellation for hopeful denizens across the cosmos.