Little Girl found Sun one night washed up on the river bank, saw it glowing dimly through the bushy branches, no bigger than a basketball, wet fire all pale and cool. She pushed through to the bank, shooed the mosquitoes and gnats, picked Sun up and rolled it in her hands, brushing off the mud and the leaves. Heat pulsed off like a beating heart, and when she held it close it burned brighter and hotter, yellow and happy. She cradled Sun in her arms, took it home for herself to keep.
Above, Moon was dark and lonesome. It should have been full from Sun’s light, but it was only a cold shadow in the sky. Across the Earth, the oceans pressed high up on the beaches, roaring loud and fierce, as though asking, “Where’d Sun go? Have you seen our Sun?”
Little Girl snuck Sun into the house and up the stairs, past her Daddy’s locked bedroom door, and into her room. She fed Sun crackers and chocolate, dropped them in one by one and watched Sun flare and growl until it began floating over her bed. She fed Sun till it purred like an open fire and she had to shush Sun back to the ground before it woke someone. Sun was a boy, she decided, hungry and fierce, and because she’d always heard Moon was a girl. Sun & Moon in the sky, dancing ‘round the Earth.
Sun slept beneath Little Girl’s bed that night, just a yellow ball with hardly any fire at all. In the morning, she peaked down and stroked Sun’s warm surface, emptied her school bag and dropped Sun inside, took it down to the kitchen for a snack.
Her Daddy sat at the table, grim and alone, wondering where the sun was, why sunrise was so late coming. Little Girl froze and blushed and smiled and took a pastry and she said she was going out to play. Outside, the sky was still black and starry, even though it should have been light hours ago. The moon hung in the center, separate from the stars. Little Girl fed Sun half her pastry, found a rope, wrapped it twice around Sun, and tossed him into the night sky. As Sun floated higher and higher, the stars faded and turned blue, until Little Girl’s end of the rope tugged in her hand, and she held tight so not to lose Sun. Now there was day, only a slightly darker blue than normal, and Little Girl could go on keeping Sun.
Little Girl walked Sun through the sky as she went through the woods, by the river, around the neighborhood. Sun went north and west and east across the sky, but no one looked up enough to notice, and besides it was cloudy. People asked Little Girl what her rope was for, and she said she had a kite up high, above the clouds. When Little Girl got hungry, she went home, tied Sun to the back-porch railing, and snuck inside for food. Then she went out and walked Sun some more. When it was time for evening, Little Girl pulled sun back down to Earth, and the sky darkened to dusk and night.
It went like that for days and days, Little Girl and Sun out for long summer walks. Little Girl’s Daddy saw his daughter healthy and flush, a bright glow in her eyes he hadn’t seen since her Mommy had left them. Little Girl’s classmates saw Little Girl through the town, wanted to be her friend and hold her rope. It didn’t feel like a kite at all, it felt like the sky itself, large and heavy, drifting one way and then the other, never gonna fall. Little Girl loved Sun, and Sun lit the sky bright blue, warming the town and the land, his fire purring happy.
A week after Little Girl found Sun, she passed her Daddy watching the news and saw that the world wasn’t right. The people across the oceans wondered where their Sun had gone. Why did the other half of the world still get day when they only had night? The people who still got daylight shrugged their shoulders. They had nothing to complain about, they had day and night like always.
Little Girl locked herself in her room with Sun. She hadn’t thought about those far away people. They’d come looking for Sun, and they’d find her with a rope to the sky, and they’d take Sun from her and put him far away again. She held Sun close and he wrapped her in warm light, and the ends of his flames licked at her hands, tickling like dog fur.
Little Girl didn’t leave her house the next day, or the day after that.
All the world was night and longed for day, but the sun never rose and day never came. Crops didn’t grow, flowers drooped and withered, people became as dark and pale as the moon. Time passed, AM to PM, day to day, but it didn’t mean a thing. The summer heat cooled until it seemed autumn had come early.
Without Sun for so long, the night sky was crowded with stars, filling the darkness like never before, but none of them helped dark Moon, lonesome Moon, longing for her Sun. Moon turned red and reckless. Moon drifted closer and closer to Earth, raked the oceans and seas onto the land. “Where is my Sun?” she asked, “my one and only Sun?”
Little Girl fed Sun every day, table scraps and cupboard snacks, even slivers of wood and paper, anything that burned, but still Sun grew red and bloated, his small round body expanding, quivering. Little Girl stroked Sun’s surface but it turned rough and gritty, the flames like hot sandpaper. She hid Sun as best she could under her bed, but soon he wouldn’t fit there. He wasn’t getting smaller again and he wasn’t getting well, and no matter what songs she sang or what she fed him, Sun grew worse and worse.
The stars burned in the dark sky like candles in a storm, but Moon eclipsed them and came down to Earth, her surface rolling across the sky, scarred with craters and valleys. People panicked, fearing she’d crash into the planet, but she only floated there in the sky, passing over the towns and cities, the forests and the deserts, looking for her Sun.
Some people, a few in every town, watched Moon drifting closer and closer. When she came by, they stood on their rooftops and the tops of ladders and they jumped, high enough for the moon’s gravity to take them to her surface. They landed and looked up at the Earth in their new sky. Moon felt the stragglers but didn’t care. They were warm but small. They came because their own lives were empty and chaotic, because the oceans crashed over the continents, because the sky was no longer the one they knew. They wanted a new start on the moon, to grow new flowers from the gray dirt, but they didn’t understand. Moon only wanted Sun.
Little Girl knocked on her Daddy’s door, told him she had Sun but he’d gone wrong. Daddy smiled, said “well let’s see what we can do about that.”
In her room, Sun sat red and sick on her bed, big as a beach-ball, air wavering around it.
“Jesus,” her Daddy said, “that’s really the sun.”
Little Girl explained everything, crying and shaking. Little Girl’s Daddy hugged her close and wiped away her tears. He laid a hand on the suffering sun, felt it shivering with a feverish heat. “You gotta let him go honey,” Daddy said. “He can’t stay here. He needs the sky and the stars, the moon and the Earth and all the planets in the solar system.”
Little Girl stood still, crying silently, nodding.
They walked Sun down to the river, laid Sun gentle on the water, watched the current carry him as far as they could see, down to the horizon where the sky caught fire, a burnt orange that rippled waves of blue and red and yellow, as Moon sailed over their heads and lifted back into the sky, shrinking and shrinking until she found her place again over the sea, a crescent glowing in the right side of her face, surrounded by the twinkling stars. The people on the Moon waved to the people of Earth, but no one could see their small figures from that far away, and eventually they faded into myth and distant memory.
Little Girl’s Daddy lifted her up onto his shoulders. “We’ll catch a shooting star,” he said, “and if it doesn’t carry us off, we’ll take it home and fly it around town and make sure that it never falls to the ground.” Little Girl smiled over her Daddy’s head, but Daddy felt it all the same, and they stood out by the river all night, watching the starry sky, not even noticing the rising Sun behind them, full of warmth and light.
I originally began writing this story as a submission to NPR’s “Three-Minute Fiction” series, which is a call for stories based on some specific prompt that can be read in three minutes (generalized to mean 600 words at the most). This prompt was for “Finders Keepers,” meaning stories about someone who finds something and has no intention of giving it back. But then I wrote the first page, which already came out to more than 700 words and was still only barely half of the story, so I decided to submit a different story to NPR and post this story here!
The main idea of this story actually comes from a book called “Mojo Hand” by J.J. Phillips, not the story itself but an introductory story about a girl who finds the sun and wants to keep it, but her father makes her toss it back. I liked the idea of a little girl caring for the sun like it was a stray pet, and what that would do to the rest of the world. I wanted the style to be very reminiscent of fairy tales, but to still retain some of the details of a regular literary story – I didn’t quite hit the balance I was looking for, but I won’t complain. Mostly, this was a story I wanted to have fun with before potentially doing something more serious next week. Ever since writing “The Exhibitionists,” my brain’s been kind of emotionally fried, but now I think I’m ready to write something more traditional again, or at least as traditional as my stories get.
To faithful readers: thanks again and always for coming back and reading my stories! I might not have the readership of Stephen King, but just having people follow this blog is a treat. To newcomers: you found me! Thank you for reading my story, and I hope you enjoyed it enough to come back again, or at least to go through and read some of my other stories. To everyone: feel free to leave any comments and/or criticisms down below. Otherwise, thank you, thank you, thank you! I hope you enjoyed these 3 meager pages of fiction, and come back next week for another brand spankin’ new story!