Welcome to Sunday Scribbles!
I had the idea for this story whilst I was on work experience in editorial at Penguin Books in London. On sunny days I sat and ate my lunch by the river opposite the M16 building. The sun often went in and out, and I wondered what would happen if one day it went out for good.
This week’s top tip is:
Onto the story!
March 21st 2025.
It’s nearly the end of March and there’s a chill wind in the air, but the sun is shining. The river is sparkling where the warm rays hit it, but, as always at this time of day, there’s a shadow where a tall building blocks the light. That’s London. Full of tall skyscrapers and blocks of flats. A city nearly nine million people call home. That I call home, when I’m not working forty plus hours a week pushing the latest gadgets on whoever will listen.
The sun flickers above me, but I ignore it. It often hides behind the clouds, much like my dreams only shine through in brief moments of clarity. It’s OK, although sometimes when I look at the sun high in the sky, I wonder what the point is. I scribble my stories whenever I can, in every free moment in this very notebook, but some days, that’s not enough. Some days I crave to write all the time. To edit. To teach. I can’t afford to change career though.
I glance up, towards that smouldering star as it emerges, and shield my eyes as I bask in the sunlight. Ten minutes until the Eclipse everyone’s been talking about. The riverbank is crowded with people hoping to see it. I should be able to catch it before I have to go back to work.
The light flickers again, but I’m staring at the sun this time and there are no grey clouds around to cover it as it goes dark. I blink, and the familiar golden glow reappears. I think I’m seeing things, but then a child calls out, ‘Mama, the sun turned off!’
A young woman rolls her eyes and takes her child’s hand. ‘It’s there just like usual, honey. In a little while it will disappear, but don’t worry, it’ll always come back.’
‘But it blinked! Like a light when you turn it on an’ off real fast!’
‘Have you been playing with the light switches again?’
She turned on him, and I stifled a smile as he looked at his feet and kicked the ground. ‘No…’
Another flicker, and then darkness descended on the riverbank. I shuddered and tugged my coat around me. ‘Strange. Eclipse’s not due to start yet…’
But it hadn’t. There was no golden glow around where the sun had been. No light at all. It had gone. The child’s scream pierced the air. His wasn’t the only one. An eerie tension descended as we waited for the sun to come back. It didn’t. People panicked. Chaos descended.
I didn’t go back to work that afternoon. That day, on the day of the solar eclipse, my life, the lives of everyone around me, changed forever.
28th March 2025.
I can’t believe it’s been a week. After the sun went out, I used the flash light on my phone to head underground. Beneath the city, with the noise of the trains and the eerie lights, I never would have suspected anything was wrong. But it was. It was dark, and growing colder.
We’d known the sun wouldn’t be around forever, but it wasn’t supposed to disappear in my lifetime. Why wasn’t the planet engulfed with heat? Scientists thought it had something to do with the shimmering barrier which sat around the pieces of our now dead sun, holding it in a fractured spherical shape. It didn’t matter. It was gone. We had to focus on survival.
Temperatures dropped. Plants started to wither, and with them livestock would die off too. The government tried to maintain a semblance of normality amidst the chaos, encourage citizens not to panic and continue to go to work and school. Some did. Others? We prepared for the worst.
What little money I had went on resources and tools. Every day I bought as much as I could carry. No more useless ornaments or video games. Candles. Food. As many blankets as I could fit in my backpack, before I headed out once again into the cold darkness.
The street lights were always on now, but it wasn’t the same as daylight. Day blended into night. The stars became a permanent fixture in the night sky. I checked my watch and headed for the nearest underground station. The platform was crowded, but it wasn’t even rush hour. People basked in the artificial light, trying to remember how it used to be. They’d be the first to go.
21st April 2025.
There are no crops left. Any food supermarkets had has been taken by force. Those with a monopoly on resources will last longest. That isn’t me, so I’ve no choice but to join a group. I can’t go far, it’s too cold and the trains have stopped running, so I had to join the lawless. They’d kill over a can of peas, and I have nothing to offer them but sales skills. They buy it. I’m to negotiate electricity and gas prices.
I’ll never sell and publish my sci-fi novels now. I’m a scavenger and a faker. The only thing I’ve written since the sun went out is my diary. I should have let myself write years ago. Given up three nights a week at the pub, tickets to the game, and meaningless nick-knacks. Chased something that meant something, before it was too late.
It’s too late now. Society is chaos. Opportunity has fled. The government’s abandoned us. We’re on our own. Gone are news reports and entertainment. Electricity and heat are a commodity you can buy for the highest prices: food for warmth. Is this our future?
Wild dogs roam the streets, feasting on the unfortunate victims of hypothermia. Once the weak run out, they’ll prey on the strong. We have four air rifles between two hundred people, but more than enough knives, shovels and pitch forks. We’re ready for them. Once the screams fade, we huddle together under a pile of blankets. If it gets much colder than this, we won’t make it.
21st September 2025.
Six months. It’s too cold. The river’s frozen over.
Numbers have dwindled. Halved. Halved again.
I’m still alive, with my past life behind me. Wasted.
I should’ve saved money to quit my job and chase my dream while I had the chance. If I’d failed, so what? At least I’d have lived. Sure I’d still be here, facing dwindling supplies and certain death, but at least I’d feel less depressed about it.
Cold? Predators? Others in my clan? Which will get me first? Either way, it’ll soon be over.
21st March 2026.
‘It’s been a year since the sun went out. Do none of them remain?’
‘It was to be expected, Arkinon. You know humans were not fond of extreme temperatures.’
Arkinon bent his squat frame to dig around in a pile of frozen corpses. ‘Still, all of them?’
‘As expected,’ his companion replied. He glanced at a report on his watch. ‘The blast containment was effective. The planet isn’t damaged. Temperature, -100º F. It’ll do nicely.’
‘What’s this?’ Arkinon asked, as he pulled a frozen book free from a frozen hand. He scanned it with his watch. ‘It’s in English. “The Day the Sun went Out.” Fascinating.’
‘Yes, yes, come on son. We have to find the best place to set up headquarters before the other ships land.’
Arkinon pocketed the book and straightened to follow his father.
A few years later a squat teacher dished out copies of “The Day the Sun went Out,” printed in Martian, to his class, and told stories about the destruction of a species.
‘And so,’ Arkinon concluded, we protected our home in the only way we knew how: A controlled detonation of the sun before it overheated our planet and made it inhospitable. There were consequences of course. The temperature on Mars dropped much lower than expected, and we were forced to move here, to Earth. Our scientists are constructing an artificial sun, so that one day we can return home, but the people you’ll read about in here? They’re never coming back.’
Thanks for reading!
We wouldn’t lose light immediately if the sun went out. It would take about nine minutes, because light from the sun takes that long to get to Earth. I’ve tried to be accurate with my facts. Earth’s temperature really would drop to below -100º F after a year without the sun!
Each week I encourage other writers to write a short story around the weekly prompt. The prompts for the rest of this month are:
One word not enough? I post expanded prompts weekly on Pinterest:
If you use one of the prompts, feel free to share your story links below.
Feeling creative? I also run a weekly hashtag game on Twitter, #sunscribbles, where you can share one off lines or quotes from a #WIP around the weekly prompt!
See you next week!