Fake Sun

The sun isn’t ours anymore. It’s just a simulation. It still boggles my mind. I haven’t been able to think straight ever since that planetoid showed up. It was travelling at almost the speed of light on a collision course with the sun. Nobody saw it coming until it was almost upon us. We only had a few hours to contemplate the end of the world.

What a sight it was. In a flash, the sun was reduced to a boiling gaseous cloud that stretched beyond the horizon. My retinas are scarred from that day, but who cared? I had to watch the end of the earth.

Before we could even feel the effects, the sun was suddenly back, and the vapor trail was gone as if nothing happened.

I combed my hair and pulled on my jeans. I grabbed a T-shirt from the floor and smelled the armpit. I wore it yesterday, but it smelled fine. What did it matter? What did anything matter? I tugged it over my head and plopped onto the bed, realizing I couldn’t just pretend that this was another normal day.

“Are you almost ready? You’re going to be late for school,” Dad called from downstairs.

“I’m not going to school today.”

There was no reply. I heard his footsteps coming up the stairs.

He leaned on the doorframe. “Are you okay, buddy?”

That’s a tough question. How can I be okay when our entire universe is gone? The furthest celestial object that can be detected is just beyond the moon. That object is a sphere that encircles us. Everything beyond the moon is simulated. The stars are fake, the planets are fake, and the sun is fake. We’re in some sort of cage. Am I supposed to be okay with that?

Dad sat on the bed next to me and tousled my hair. Why did that always make me feel better? I pushed his hand away; I’m too old to keep falling for that trick.

“Why bother?” I asked.

“Look at it this way,” he began. “Let’s say you’re a dog who lives on a farm.”

“I’m a dog?”

“Just bear with me. There’s a farmhouse with a fenced backyard. You have the run of the backyard. Beyond that is the rest of the farm. There’s a barn, some cows, some horses, and fields of grain. One day the farmer sells off all of that acreage and they build apartments, strip malls, and car dealerships. You’re still in the backyard, a happy dog who is loved by his family. How has anything changed for the dog?”

“Nice dog analogy, Dad, but this is different.”

“How’s it different?”

“Our entire universe is gone; everything beyond the moon is gone.”

“Good thing I don’t work for NASA. I bet they’re sweating their jobs right now. I’ve never been so happy to be an accountant. If our universe is so much smaller now, maybe I’m the best accountant in the entire universe.” He stood up, stretched his arms out, and twirled around.

I had to chuckle in spite of myself. My dad was crazy.

He stopped twirling and looked at me. “Nothing’s changed. We just have to carry on.”

“Yes, something has changed. We’ve been captured and placed in a cage. Something is holding us captive.”

“Something saved us from certain annihilation.” Dad sat on the bed.

I stood up and started pacing. “For what purpose? Are we a knick-knack on a cosmic bookshelf? Are we an exhibit in a cosmic zoo?”

“They saved us for some reason,” Dad said.

“Maybe they are going to groom us into a super race that can clean their bathrooms.”

“That’s my son, always thinking big. What does it matter? What difference does it make?”

“I don’t want to live my life as a specimen.” I looked at my shelves. I was sure glad I didn’t have that ant farm anymore. That would have been too much for my tormented mind to deal with right now.

“Did you think your life was going to have some major impact on the universe? We’re insignificant. Recent events just drove that point home.”

“You’re okay being insignificant?” I asked.

“I’m an accountant.”

I laughed and sat on my desk.

“We’re insignificant in the scope of the universe,” he said. “But you’re not insignificant to me. You’re not insignificant to your friends. It’s okay to ponder your place in the universe, but don’t get caught up in it. Live for yourself.”

I nodded.

“Let’s go. There are numbers to be crunched, beans to be counted, and textbooks to be studied.”

“You mean textbooks to be rewritten.”

He laughed. “Right. See, there’s plenty of work to be done.”

We walked to the car and gave no thought to the fake sun rising behind us.

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Rick Post

Rick Post


Contributor to the Summit Daily newspaper, Slackjaw, The Haven, The Junction, MuddyUm, and ILLUMINATION.