The Day of the Burn

That morning started like every other. I got out of bed well before the sun came out and stumbled to the bathroom. After doing my duty for humanity, that is to say no one was going to go blind looking at me, I traipsed into my bedroom. The sunlight was gently cascading through my window and I stepped into it. I had done this a million times before, stepping into the sun as it came through my window, but today was different. Instead of a faint warmth I felt an undeniable burning sensation. The sun was hurting me. I was confused, surely this wasn’t actually happening. I stuck my foot back into the sunlight only to see the flesh begin to turn red almost immediately. It was like watching a sunburn in fastforward. I panicked. I inched around the room to the phone and dialed my sister’s house. “Hello?” My sister’s voice sounded choked. “Are you guys ok?” I asked, concerned about her tone.

“Bill went out to get the newspaper this morning.” My sister wailed into the phone as if this was the worst mistake ever made.

“Bill does that every morning, Sis.”

“This morning is different.” Her voice was soft, like she was afraid if she admitted it too loudly the whole world would explode.

“What happened?”

“When he went outside, oh my God Ellie, he just turned completely red and before I could yell at him he was covered in a rash. And then he couldn’t move and when I opened the door to go out and help him I started to turn red, too. I panicked, Ellie. I-I slammed the door and I just left him out there. I mean, I called 911 but they told me that everyone on their staff was on lockdown. He stopped moving, Ellie.” By this point my sister’s words had dissolved into a tearful memoir of her husband’s last moments on earth. I sat there, soaking in the story she had just recounted to me. How had this happened? Bill had never reacted poorly to sunlight before, but neither had Kelly or I. I offered as much comfort as I could to her and instructed her to go make sure the shades were closed on all of her windows, I was already doing just that. As I moved through the house I was incredibly grateful that my bathroom didn’t have a window in it, otherwise this morning could have been disastrous. As I hung up with Kelly, she had to go get her children and tell them what had happened, I moved toward my desk. My laptop screen lit up as I swiped my finger across the mouse pad, I flinched reflexively as the light came on. I typed in the first news website I could think of, CNN. The website was exploding with videos, from all around the freaking world, that showed people dying in the sun.

I called my friend Herschel, he worked at the University a few miles away.

“Ellie, thank God you’re ok.”

“What the hell is going on, Herschel? My sister just told me her husband was baked to death when he went outside today.”

“Well, since it was only noticed as a phenomenon today the jury is still out but the scientific community is under the impression the whole human race is suddenly allergic to sunlight. Which leads us to believe something in the atmosphere has changed.”

“What do you mean something in the atmosphere has changed? How could it have changed overnight?”

Herschel sighed into the receiver, I imagined how tired he must have felt, “Well, assuming no foul play I can’t say what could have happened, Ellie. Like I said, we’re all just as confused as everyone else. I’ll be sure to keep you updated. Can you get to your computer?”

“Yeah, I’ve got my laptop right here.”

“Good, I’ll email you with updates as I get them.”

Herschel hung up on me, leaving me to my imagination. Would we have to build tunnels under the roads? How were we going to maintain the internet?! I was definitely going to need to find a pet if I could never go outside again. This really put a kink in my plans to go for a picnic tomorrow.

As all of my thoughts of how to plan for the future swirled around in my head I began to search for a novel on my bookshelf. It would appear that my only friends for a nice long while would be my books and I wanted to make sure I had one I could focus on. I selected a book about zombies and unicorns. I figured the short stories would be able to hold my attention and between them I could monitor my email for any updates. The internet was already teeming with theories by the time I returned to my laptop. I wondered what would happen to the world, but more importantly I felt the weight of regret. I should have gone on all those wild adventures when I had the chance. 

 

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