Sunday, August 20, 2017

Our Sun Got Mooned

The other day my friend and fellow writer Eric Douglas posted on Facebook an idea for a flash fiction/short story event. With the upcoming solar eclipse, he thought it would be fun to gather stories related to this on a central site. Naturally, I jumped at the chance, much like I did on two previous occasions where he or another writer set up a similar idea. You can find my flash fiction entries relating to these events here: Halloween flash fiction or Advent Ghosts 2016

This time, though, Eric gave us the choice of writing either flash fiction, which is exactly 100 words, or a short story. Since the previous two were flash fiction, I wanted to make this story a little longer, so I opted to write a short story instead. Following is my contribution to Eric's project to commemorate the solar eclipse of 2017.


image from Google search


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Our Sun Got Mooned

It was no surprise, really, when the solar eclipse of 2017 went down in history as “one for the ages.” How could it not? Afterall, this was the only solar eclipse in the recorded history of the planet that the moon just…stopped…at the peak of full coverage, or totality as astronomers referred to it.

The eclipse began normally, with the first views in the US beginning near Lincoln City, Oregon that morning. People across the country gathered along its path and marveled at what they saw. A group of film enthusiasts even set up at Devils Tower in Wyoming to take photos of the eclipse and the monument together to celebrate a popular science fiction film from 1977. The Sundowners Club in Jefferson City, Missouri gathered in a local park near the capitol building to feast on Moon Pies and Sunny Delight. While club members acknowledged the bad pun, they still had fun handing out the treats to all who passed by. “Just make sure you put the Moon Pie in front of the Sunny D, or it’s not official,” one member said with a grin.

Scientists determined months before the actual event that Carbondale, Illinois would be the location experiencing the longest totality at two minutes and forty seconds long. The mayor of Carbondale and the city council planned a huge day of it, closing several streets near the university to accommodate a large crowd. Not everyone, though, looked forward to the event with pleasure. A local cult marched through the streets, carrying signs warning of a coming apocalypse. “The end is near!” shouted one, carrying a sign with the same message.

While the cult members seemed alarmed by the coming eclipse, everyone else seemed amused at the cult members. Both groups generally left each other alone, until a couple of students, already drunk by noon, attempted to take selfies with some of the cult members. Fortunately cooler heads prevailed and separated the revelers from the cultists before any fights broke out.

The early afternoon steadily grew darker, and an excited buzz circulated amongst the crowd. Gasps and expressions of wonder gradually increased until the air reverberated with noise. The noise reached its crescendo just as the eclipse reached totality. Cheers and laughter filled the air as onlookers watched the solar spectacle. As the three-minute mark passed, without apparent movement from the moon, the party atmosphere slowly morphed into a bewildered confusion. “It stopped! The moon just freaking stopped!” exclaimed one student.

“No way,” another student replied, “NASA was just off with their calculations.”

“I assure you, young man,” Professor Hawkins interjected, “NASA was correct with their data. I arrived at the same values myself. Something is definitely amiss here.”

After five minutes with no apparent change, bewilderment gave way to alarm. The cultists increased their chants, and several fell to their knees in fervent prayer.

Another ten minutes elapsed with no change, and alarm grew into outright fear and panic. Cell towers were overwhelmed with traffic from hundreds tweeting and sending texts, e-mails, and even Instagram photos about the continued eclipse. Across the state, and indeed across the nation, pundits on all the network news outlets speculated on what was happening. World media outlets added to the confusion with their own spin on the developing situation.

Two hours later, with still no change, the President held a brief press conference in the White House. “My fellow Americans. We must all remain calm as our nation’s top experts attempt to figure out what is going on. I assure you we’ll come to the bottom of this. For now, I urge everyone to keep calm and await further news. Thank you.”

The gathered press erupted into a torrent of questions. “Mr. President, what does NASA say about this?”

“Mr. President, did the earth stop or did the moon stop?”

“Mr. President, do you think terrorists were involved?”

On and on the questions went, with the largest majority of them answered with some form of “we don’t know yet.”

Publically, the President urged calm and patience. Within the cabinet, though, he demanded answers. “Put us at DEFCON 3, now! I don’t want us getting caught flat-footed like we were in 2001. If those idiots in Pyongyang had anything to do with this, I’m gonna tear them a new one.”

Accusations started to fly in all directions. A leak from the White House went public with the suspicions against North Korea, which naturally the “Norks” vehemently denied. They, in turn, blamed the Chinese, who blamed the US for fabricating this whole mess to begin with.
The dusky day eventually faded into night, but the next day brought more of the same darkness as the previous day. Back in Carbondale, local news affiliates were on the streets interviewing those still milling about. “Dude, it’s just like that old movie Groundhog Day,” one student remarked.

As “Day 2” wore on, though, people across the nation, especially those along the path of totality, began hoarding supplies. Grocery stores and gas stations soon ran out of stock. As these businesses began to close, panic started overtaking those looking for food and fuel. Government officials still urged calm and restraint, stating that essential services were still functioning and no unusual effects had yet to be noted. Local grocery managers pleaded with their customers, assuring them that they had trucks en route with more goods. “Just give us a day, and we’ll be fully stocked again,” one manager said on a local news show, “I just got off the phone with our distributor, and she assured me we have truckloads heading our way.”

Even with these assurances, though, suicides dramatically increased across the nation as panic gave way to despair. Those not in the path of totality began to grow concerned, especially when hearing about the runs on banks, dwindling gas supplies, and empty grocery stores. News videos of grocery trucks pulling into stores didn’t seem to matter anymore.

A week later, just as the mass hysteria reached its peak, the moon started moving again on its regular path. Panic quickly subsided, and life gradually returned to normal as much as it could. Other than the earth’s tides, which took some time to settle back into their predictable pattern, no permanent damage could be found. Well, maybe a heightened sense of vulnerability for many. People returned to their normal day-to-day existence.

#  #  #

A month after that infamous event, Glifae scanned his report one final time before touching the virtual “SUBMIT” icon on his holographic screen. His thesis “American humans are susceptible to mass hysteria with inconsequential stimuli even with innately normal conditions.” was sure to earn him the coveted Master of Alien Studies (Human emphasis) degree from Daedalus Prime University, in the Korrelian System. 

His pleasure-mate Creaphelsto mind linked with him. “That was a fascinating study, Glifae. Professor Bryvexx will be most impressed.”

“I hope so, Creaphelsto,” he replied in like fashion, “my entire time here has been devoted to studying these perplexing creatures. The High Council gave me only one Earth-week to complete my observations before they returned the Earth’s moon to its regular orbit.”

“I found it most curious that these creatures reacted the way they did. Their technology allowed them to communicate and function as normal, yet they still exhibited fear over something as trivial as their moon not moving as they expected."

“My studies have proven this phenomenon over and over," Glifae explained, "For all of their own advancement, these humans are still primitive when it comes to their perception of safety and comfort."

"Your work is now done, 'Master' Glifae, let us retire to our pleasure chamber and celebrate your achievement."


The end.

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I hope y'all enjoyed my part in this project. You can find the other submissions at: Going Dark: Free Fiction for the Eclipse. Please check out the other entries. 


Eclipse?





For those that are familiar with either my humor or writing style, surely you aren't surprised that I would include a photo like this?

What did you do, if anything, for the solar eclipse? Did you make one of those viewing devices out of cardboard or use some special viewing glasses? What about photos? Who all reading this took photos of the eclipse? I'd love to see them and read about your own experiences of the day. Please post them in the comments section below.