Sunset [Short Story]

A long and empowering horizon of blue separated the Earth from the sky. It reached far and wide in its splendour and glory, but for all who beheld it knew to offer respect. Its tendrils licked the edges of the world back and forth in a rhythmic motion.

‘We’re at the beach. Well, it’s more poetic to say that we’re at the Ocean’s Edge, wouldn’t you say? I’d also like to see the sunset.’

‘No. Why are we even here?’

The man reached down, picked up a handful of sand and examined it closely. He picked out a few small pieces of shell. ‘We’re here to watch the sunset.’ The brim of his hat fluttered in the day’s gentle breeze, as did his beard.

‘All of these people, these men, women and children are all here to have fun and enjoy themselves. It is a lovely, warm day.’

‘I can’t feel it.’

‘And rightly so.’

The man pointed to a small child sitting just a few feet from them. ‘Have you ever seen such a sight? The little boy is hanging onto a great, green watermelon while in the water. I’ve heard that it can be used as a flotation device. Strange things.’

The little boy splashed about in the surrounding blue with what was assumed to be not a care in the world. His parents sat on the shore, smiling and waving. It was the first time the boy had come to the ocean’s edge and an experience he would not forget.

The man opened his hand and watched the sand run through his long fingers. Bits of it flew into his coat and stuck to him, as sea sand does.

He chuckled, ‘Small rocks. Did you know that sand is made up of small rocks? This beach, the sand we’re standing on, it’s probably made up of billions and billions of tiny rocks. It really is the small things in life that count. Lots of shells as well.’

‘I know. Why are we here? I still don’t get it.’

The wind picked up slightly and blew the man’s hat, coat, and beard. His companion was more or less untouched.

The man smiled.

‘In the ocean of people that we see, can you not sense the happiness around us? Just look at the couple walking along the beach, holding hands. ‘ He pointed to two figures further down, who were hardly noticeable between an ocean of visitors. ‘I bet they have not a care in the world right now. While he doesn’t seem to enjoy the beach we’re standing on, she is enthralled by it. You know what that means? He’ll probably do anything to make her happy.’ His smile appeared to almost be glued to his face.

The sand finally finished escaping from his hand.

‘You’re not answering my questions. I am tired of this.’ The companion let out an impatient sigh.

‘I know – I know. Just take it all in. The sun will set soon.’

They both stood and watched as the time slowly passed. People came and went; more arrived and took joy in the blue splendour. It all seemed to take an eternity and probably did.

‘It is almost time,’ said the man in the coat.

For a brief moment, the horizon shone a bright, blinding white and yellow light. The sky then sank into a low darkness. The beach’s visitors stopped dead in their tracks and stared at the sky’s splendour. Some seemed to express horror; others clutched their loved ones or the nearest person.

An invisible wave burst forth and began to knock everyone off of their feet, immediately followed by a second wave. This last wave’s intense heat and flame finished the push, but at the same time it burnt; flame ignited to the boiling point so fast it didn’t have time to burn flesh. This flame only incinerated all that it touched.

After some time, rain began to fall as the above clouds swirled and shifted uneasily. A grey substance, decay, fell from what were once the heavens.

The world was left black, burned and buried.

‘Has the sun now set?’

‘Yes. Yes, it has.’ The cloaked man stared out across the vast grey horizon. ‘This will take an aeon to repair.’