THE DAY SHE SWALLOWED THE SUN
This is the story of a child born at noon. Sun, high in the sky, had beamed at her as she stared him down, curious. It had been centuries since anyone had looked him in the eyes.
This is the story of a child with a prophecy. “One day she will devour the sun,” the snake oil had hissed from the bottom of the frying pan. “One day she will plunge you all into darkness and she won’t shed a tear.”
Her parents had wept, but there was still time before their daughter grew strong enough to pull off such a feat, they thought.
They changed their mind when, at age five, she said: “when I’m big I’ll fly to the sky, take Sun by the hand, and we’ll go somewhere just the two of us to be happy forever!”
It could have been sweet, but the adults had been forewarned and the collective gasp that resounded signalled the beginning of the end of Skel’s life.
The way it happened was this:
First they came for her in the middle of the night with the moon as their witness, a shield between the little demon and the sun.
Then they threw her in the pit-house they had kept empty since her birth, and had put back in shape in the hours between her innocent declaration and the abduction.
After that they locked the door from the outside, and that was it. She was petrified, in tears, alone in her prison cell.
As she grew stronger and older she could have broken free if she’d tried. She supposed the wattles making up the walls could be punched through: she would have kept at it until the hole was big enough for her shoulders and squeezed through there, taken off. That last part would have been tricky; they were always watching her in daylight, never too confident that the pit-house would hold her. Why, she was a legendary monster after all.
Only Sjór had ever been sympathetic to her plight. The dark-haired girl had cheered Skel on about her plan to elope with the sun way back when, reasoned with the adults that as long as they had the moon, who cared about the sun? Light was light was light.
“Ignorant little runt.” Auntie had pinched Sjór’s ear very hard as she had admonished her. “The moon only reflects the sun’s light, it’s worthless on its own. Without the sun, we’ll be forever in the dark and all of life will die, your silly moon first of all. Do you want it to die?”
Auntie had been satisfied to hear Sjór cry — she might have shocked some common sense into the child. But Sjór had been crying because she didn’t like being yelled at, and her ear hurt, and she was scared for Moon. The moon kept the sky away from the sea, drew waves up along the shore, brought fish, made the blood in Sjór’s temples thrum and pound. The moon was beautiful and it was everything, but everyone in the village only ever had eyes for the sun — nevermind that they couldn’t actually look at it.
Sjór would have been bitter, had Skel not shown her how empty the villagers’ devotion really was.
The alleged sun-eater was allowed to leave her house every night as the moon shone high in the sky, as long as she went back in before first light. She would spend the night awake, silent unless her only friend was there to keep her company. With Sjór by her side she would relax then wax poetic, asking about what her dear Sun had looked like that day and how much the crops had grown thanks to him. Oftentimes the younger girl would offer Skel a few flowers, swearing to herself it was the last time when she’d see tears run down Skel’s cheeks, but inevitably Sjór would give in and bring more because the tears were nothing compared Skel’s radiant smile.
“I feel so close to him. Is it silly?” The prisoner asked one day, rolling the stem of a beautiful sunflower between her fingertips.
“I don’t think so. I’m sure in some way he’s always with you. Look!” Sjór brought her forearm close to Skel’s, both girls marvelling at the contrast there. “”I heard it’s called ‘sun-kiss’. He never kisses me, who’s near him every day, but he still finds a way to kiss you, who’s hidden from him. “ She leaned in close to her friend, whispering her certitude with the reverence it deserved and the secrecy it required. “You’re not the only one who cares, Skel.”
When she separated from her friend that night, Sjór decided it was time to bring the prophecy about.
It took several days and nights conspiring with her beloved before Sjór could tell the sun-eater the good news.
“I have a plan,” she whispered hurriedly against the door of Skel’s pit-house. “The moon and I can help you meet the sun. Be ready tomorrow after noon.”
Now Skel couldn’t help her heart from leaping to her throat at those words, but a great beast had made its nest in her chest over the many years of her imprisonment. The elders called it ‘humility’ but she wasn’t so sure. ‘Humidity’ seemed more like it: a damp, dark, slumbering emptiness that took away the colours she so loved once upon a time. Hope, beautiful and entrancing, now looked dull as a dead eye. She trusted Sjór to try, but further than that Skel expected no miracles.
She was astounded when she heard the shouts. The disbelief and fear cut through the stale smell of mud that permeated everything she owned. She was anxious to get out like if she didn’t she would never breathe again. Sjór’s words came back to her and hope, that fragile bird, pounded against her flesh with what she knew now to be despair, the foe turned friend as pain didn’t register while she scraped at the wattles with her nails, her strength and speed increased to let her out in time.
When at long last her feet touched the still-warm ground it was night like she had never known it before. In the sky hung an egg — a gigantic, perfectly round, jet black egg.
No, that wasn’t right. Peering closer, eyes squinted nearly shut she could see rays fighting to slip under the dark circle’s guard. Several things happened at once: she understood, she gasped, she fell, she sobbed; Sjór’s hand squeezed her shoulder.
“Don’t worry, he’s unharmed. The moon is hiding him away so that you can leave your hut. You can go to him now, but you need to be quick.”
“How?” How was that possible, how had Sjór and Moon planned this, how would she run to him when he was still so high in the sky?”
“Moon will let go of him in a moment. When she does, make sure you run as fast as you can then jump on the first ray of light that touches the ground. It will bring you to him.”
The next few minutes were tense. Skel didn’t dare move, not knowing where the first ray would hit, yet fearing she’d be too far out of reach at the same time. Sjór wrung her hands to the point where they were painful and red, but her worry for her dear Moon held all her attention, thus she hardly felt any pain at all. She was afraid that any time now the fighters would decide to bring down the shield obscuring the Sun from view and hurt the being she loved most in the world.
Eventually Moon slid a hair’s breadth to the side. Something thin and weak peaked out behind it and extended a hand towards the ground. It couldn’t reach yet, but Skel saw the spot it pointed to and started to run. Sjór didn’t see her go, too focused on the Moon still. Her eyes had watered and her pupils were blown wide from the spectacle, but she couldn’t care less. She would witness this to the end, should it be the last thing she ever saw at all.
Skel’s feet barely touched the ground. She dodged between men and women, jumped above children’s head like a doe charging towards freedom. As she did so the ray of light grew in width and strength, more visible by the second as the moon receded. Skel drew more strength in her legs, pushed faster, jumped higher — and there was the warmth, there was the glow. The last of her energy pushed her high in the air and when she landed, she was home. Immense and merciless the Sun drew his hand back against his chest, sparing the falling Moon a fond smile. She would have returned it, too, had she not been staring at an unseeing, sobbing Sjór.
You’ll be all right now, thought Skel.
“They’ll be all right now,” said the sun.
When Skel at long last turned her face towards him she saw that he was beautiful: draped in dripping light, long lashes a golden blond, and if the glow of Skel’s skin was his kiss then she hoped the rich brown of his was her love, bruising him for its intensity. She had so much to ask him, so much to confess. The pain of hope, the torture of hopelessness. Her doubts in herself and in him; the feeling that he had never cared for her at all.
She decided any of those would make a good start.
“Have you ever looked at me?”
“They said I’d kill you.”
“With you I am finally alive.”
The kiss they shared didn’t feel like a first time.
When the Lover and the Sun plunged into the sea, the resulting waves got so big they reached the clouds. They were sizzling with heat and took everything with them; droplets burned holes into skin, bit maps onto naked backs. The moon landed between Sjór and the wave, draped her beloved meddler into her marble-soft arms and held her tight. That was when Sjór realised she had never known bliss nor safety before, and that the one providing both those things was fated to disappear.
“I don’t want you to go,” she sobbed against the Gibbous petting her hair.
“My sweet one, I will go nowhere without you.”
“But they said you would die!”
Moon took Sjór’s face in her hands and allowed her smile to tremble, so long as her voice was firm. “That’s because they forgot how the sun was born.”
As the moon laid her lips upon Sjór’s they became warmer, mellower, like melting wax under midday heat. Sjór felt pain irradiate through her chest, the searing heat of her heart biting like frost. They held on fast to each other, clinging — fingernails digging — despair binding sister souls until Sjór couldn’t tell herself apart from the one she loved. And Moon, well. Moon smiled and smiled and smiled, and from it came the purest light — one born of unconditional love given and taken in equal measures.
Up they went, lifted through the air until people looked like ants and rivers like ribbons and mountains like heaps of powdered sugar. Further still they glided through the clouds and up in the sky where it was dark save for what they touched. In the lonely expanse of the galaxy was silence and frost, but together they would weave a new pattern as far as their arms could reach.
Somewhere down the line Sjór had come undone and had been put together. Her senses were gone, replaced by something… different.
“I don’t have eyes, but I can see little coloured dots revolving around us.”
“These are our children, the planets and satellites.”
“I don’t have ears and yet I can hear you.”
“That would be because we are as one, our thoughts merge together.”
“I have no body, but I can feel you close.”
“That is love, binding us together for eternity.”
“How can I love you if I don’t have a heart?”
“How can you not have a heart,” smiled half of the one who was now Sun, “when you love me so?”
Fleur is a queer storyteller living predominantly in their own head, which happens to be located in France close to the Belgian border.
Their love for the magical and eerie started with bedtime stories but now transpires into their stories, through which they seek to shine a light on both the beautiful and grotesque aspects of everyday life. With a particular fondness for the Norse and Greek gods, they mix a little bit of everything into their practice – various means of fortune reading, gemstones, and devotional candles are commonplace in their shared apartment.
You can find Fleur on Twitter @moonsflora and on the rare occasion, on Instagram @moonsflora_.