The sun was shining. And it was bright. Brighter than he had ever seen. But of course it was because he had never seen it shine before. It shone and shone and the houses glowed orange and the trees (the very few living ones left)cast shadows and the puddles shimmered and reflected into the all dark places that had been dark for too long. This was all very unusual. He was confused. He had no idea what was happening and why. The sun had always been nothing more than a large grey ball in the sky. It had been near dead for centuries. But somehow, amazingly, it had found a new life. Was it a trick? Was this all an illusion? Was he going crazy and hallucinating? If it was, if he was, then he was sharing it with everyone around him.
All around people were frozen in shock, surprise, and some in fear. Over there a father lifted his child on his shoulder for a better view. Over here a withered old man dropped to his knees and worshipped it like a god. Others raised weapons, some from fear of not knowing what it was, and others, those old enough to remember, fearing that it might be a trap to draw them into a false sense of security and hope. A trap set by the same vicious race that had come from the sky 300 years before, returning to finish the job they had started.
Activity all around. Joy, fear, amazement, confusion, disorder. Chaos. Everyone had some reaction. But so many different reactions. Palmer didn't know what he was feeling as he stood staring, mesmerized by the sight above. He was speechless. It was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. It was indescribable. All he knew was that this was something he wanted to, no needed to, share with Ann.
He forced himself to look away for a second to check out the situation on the street. It was packed. More and more people coming out every minute. There was no way he was driving anywhere. So he began walking towards Ann's house.
As he walked down the street, pushing his way through the awestruck crowds, his thoughts went back to a conversation they had the night before. "Why don't you believe?" Ann had asked him, seemingly out of nowhere.
They had been lying in bed, half asleep, listening to music. "Huh?" he had responded, not quite sure what she was talking about.
"Why don't you believe?" she asked again.
"Believe in anything", she said. "Why don't you?"
"Because there's nothing to believe in anymore."
"What about God? Why don't you believe in God?"
"God? Now that's a joke. What reasons would I have to believe in any kind of god?"
She seemed very offended by this. "What reasons do you have not to believe in God?"
Sometimes he hated her for being so damn smart. She always knew exactly what to say to catch him off guard, even if she didn't know she was doing it.
"There's never been anything in my life to convince me that there's some greater power out there. Have you taken a look at the world in the last few hundred years? It's dark. It's dead. No sun, no plants, no food, machines making the air we breathe....How much longer do we have? How much longer is the little bit we have going to last? If there is some all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving greater power out there, then why the hell do we live in a world like this? Simple. There is none and we do."
He didn't totally believe this, but he said it anyway. It was easier to think that way. It had always been easier for him not to believe.
She sat up and stared into his eyes. "Then what about me? And us? If there isn't any greater power guiding our lives then how are we together? Do you really think it was just chance that we met? Or do you believe that it was fate that brought us together, that we were meant to be? I do. There's nothing else it could have been."
"I don't know. The way we met, the series of events that led to it, yeah, I admit it seemed like more than chance. But I just don't know if I can believe that it was something more. Okay, maybe there is some greater power out there, like fate. I might be able to accept that. But with everything that's happened in my life, everything that's happened to our world, I just can't believe that there is a God. I don't think I ever could believe without some proof."
"But why?", she asked again.
He closed his eyes and rested his head back. "I need to think. I've always just believed what I did. I never questioned myself. But now I just don't know. I would like to believe. It would be nice. Nice to think that there's some hope, some chance that things will get better. But I don't know if I can."
They fell asleep after that and he drove her home early that morning. They didn't talk about it anymore, but it was in the back of his mind. She believed. Everything she had been through and she still had faith. Why? What did she see that made her keep going? He didn't know. He wished he did. Wished he could see it too.
Palmer squeezed through a flock of people into the front yard of Ann's house. He stopped at the sight of it. It looked looked so different in the light. He couldn't find the words to describe it. Ann had always taken the time to do little things around the house, but he never imagined it would look like this. Plastic flowers and plants all around, decorations, it looked like something from the old days before the visitors had come. She had never lost faith. And now here it was. All her work finally rewarded.
Palmer finally composed himself and walked up to the front door. He rang the bell and a few seconds later the door slowly swung open. Ann's mother was standing there with a blank look on her face. Something wasn't right.
"Is Ann here?", he asked, afraid of the answer he might get.
"Where is she?" He was worried already.
"She left. The men with the wings came and they left. Or were they women? I couldn't tell. But they were beautiful. So so beautiful."
"Wings!? Who? What do you mean? Who did she leave with? Where did they go?" He pushed past her and ran towards Ann's bedroom.
Wings? What did she mean by wings? The visitors? From what they taught about the visitors in school he never heard anything about wings. The visitors were almost apelike in appearance. Physically less evolved than humans, but with more advanced technology. A race of brutal, savage warriors who came out of nowhere, nearly destroyed the planet, then disappeared again. Could it have been them? What would they want with Ann? Where did they take her and why?
He busted through the door of her room and stopped. The first thing he noticed was the burn marks. Burns on the wall, on her bed, the floor. He was starting to panic. What happened? Where was she? He didn't know what he'd do if anything happened to her. Didn't know how he'd live without her.
His legs gave out and he dropped to sit on the floor, staring at the wall, but not close enough. Wings he thought. Wings. What did it mean. He leaned back stretching his back and that's when he saw it--wings. On her wall. Paintings of angels. Wings. Could it be? It was impossible. Crazy. Angels? No way. He couldn't believe it. Or should he? She belived. She never lost her faith. Never gave up. When so many others stopped believing, she wouldn't. And now the sun was shining. Could it be? Could the faith of one person be strong enough to make a difference, powerful enough for such a miracle? And if it was could he ever be the same? He had to. He had to believe. For her he had to believe. The sun was shining. It wasn't a trick or a hoax. It was real. It was a miracle. He had to believe.
An unknown sensation throughout his body caused him to jump up. The feeling ran though every inch of his body. What was happening to him? He looked at himself and his skin was glowing. The sensation grew stronger every second. His skin began to glow brighter and and he felt his body changing.
Yes, he believed. For Ann, for the world, he believed. How could he not? How could he have ever doubted? I'm coming Ann, he thought. I'm coming.
Outside the people watched in silence as a beam of light shot up into the sky towards the sun, causing it to shine brigher than before. Other beams of light appeared a few seconds later. More and more until the sun was shining brighter than it ever had.
I'm coming Ann, he thought. I'm coming.
back to the Short Story Page.Shining Sun, 2 January 1998