Emily remembered the day she learned the truth. Like every thirty something, she lived her life taking for granted all the basic luxuries and conveniences that came with living in a developed country – running water, over-stocked mega grocery stores, transportation, smart phones, computers, but most of all – electricity. The day the sun became the enemy, Emily was driving in rush hour traffic from her nine-to-five, heading home to make dinner for herself and to feed her dog. She was irritated and restless. Her boss had given her a hard time about a project she had spent hours perfecting and she was still mulling over a break-up with a guy she dated for a short time, wondering what it was about her that had kept her single most of her adult life. The traffic was heavy, everyone in a hurry to get anywhere, everywhere, and nowhere.
With a deep sigh she flipped on the radio, a habit she outgrew years ago. Driving to and from work had become a refuge; it was the only time her mind was able to quiet, but today, she couldn’t shut off her thoughts. She turned the dial to a pop music station but instead of a song being played or a disc jockey running his mouth, she heard a very serious voice speaking formally to listeners. She turned the radio up.
“…what we are seeing here is one of the largest solar storms in history. If a solar flare produced by the storm and able to reach the sun, the sun will emit a massive burst of gas and magnetic energy – enough to destroy the infrastructure of power grids and cause widespread power outages. While this is the worst case scenario, it is dependent upon the amount of emissions that are able to reach earth. Our planet could be hit partially, fully, or missed completely…”
Emily listened on as the man continued to explain the phenomenon that with words she did not fully understand. Despite his proficiency in speech she could sense uneasiness in his voice.
“What we are trying to do is warn people of the possibility and urging everyone to be prepared. We cannot prevent widespread panic but we are asking everyone to band together…”
Adrenaline spiked her blood stream and now her mind was racing uncontrollably. She could feel her heart thump in her chest and the feeling of dread sat heavy at the bottom of her stomach. She looked at the cars around her. Everyone was at a dead stop. She looked at herself in the mirror and saw that her face had gone completely white, her pupils dilated. She glanced over at the car next to her. The woman in the driver’s seat had the same slack-jawed expression. They made eye contact and held it for a moment. Then the woman began to cry.
It took a week for the world to end. Major grocery outlets were being controlled by the National Guard or local militia groups while local markets were completely looted and burnt down. Goods were now being rationed out to families and individuals as the news made it more apparent that solar flares were imminent and to what extent the earth would be affected, unknown.
The day it happened, Emily stood on her porch sipping a three-finger pour of whiskey. She had quit going to work and stayed home preparing as best as she could. She was done for the day and the day was drawing close to dusk. She had been glued to the television for the past hour as the countdown began. NASA and other scientific organizations had gathered enough information to determine an approximate time that the sun would be impacted by solar flares and confirmed that emissions would reach earth. It was estimated that two-fifths of the globe would become radioactive and that a geomagnetic storm would completely dismantle the infrastructure and operations of every power-grid on earth. Electricity – and life as everyone knew it – would be gone in less than an hour.
Time ticked on as Emily stood on her porch staring at the landscape as the sun hovered in the fall sky and grey-yellow clouds gently folded around it. It was 9:38 pm when it happened. Emily watched as fire orange trails struck the sun’s surface, turning it into an orange glowing eclipse. The sky darkened and the sun appeared to triple in size. Emily blinked against its luminescence until everything grew dim. She watched in awe as the night sky turned into a kaleidoscope of colors. Auroras. Northern lights. Something she had heard about in science classes ages a go and typically occurred in the northern polar region of the globe. But tonight, the northern lights were on full display in Athens, Illinois. Emily stood in still as everything in her house went quiet and the rooms turned dark. Her ego began to dissipate until nothing existed – except the sky.
The months following the coronal mass emissions, millions upon millions of people died from radiation or starvation. Many more died from violence as society seemed to madden and those who survived were only able to on limited supplies. The true survivors were those who were raised with the ability to use the land, to grow crops, can their own goods, and heal the sick. Still, even that existence became impossible as the drought persisted and everything green began to die away. What was once a beautiful glowing blue and green orb was quickly turning into a monochrome version of itself.
No one was prepared for the way the world would actually end. Emily, like everyone else, knew the dangers of war, the possibility of nuclear arms being deployed, the reality of natural resources running out, and the impact of global warming; hot topics heavily debated on news channels and wine fueled dinner parties of the affluent. Ironically, the very thing that gave us life is what took it away.
Cosmic Irony by Heather Brewer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://mujerprolijo.wordpress.com/2016/02/25/cosmic-irony/.