The Sun Sets

Two lovers are caught in a world where the darkness rules.

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1. The Sun Sets

The grass sways in the soft wind; the footsteps that tread it hardly make a mark, the blades springing back into place, no trace left by their owners. The couple wander through the meadow not even watching where these disappearing footfalls land, careless and free. While others walk these fields in search of inspiration or privacy from the bright flowers and tall grass, they only see each other. As the sun crosses the sky to retire, they fall gently to the ground; their conversation not paused for a second.

“I love you.” He whispers, smiling at his beloved as the sun sets at their feet.

She answers first with a kiss before touching a delicate flower to his lips and replying “I love you too.” Although it is only a whisper, her heart shouts it through the hills, the words seeming the echo on forever.

They know that the bond they share will never be broken, as it has already survived enough pain and hunger to test any connection to its limit. But with the world changing around them every moment, every reminder of what they have is a welcome comfort.

The night descends on them and they cling to each other rising swiftly before racing forwards, their laughs carrying across the breeze, through the trees and along the vast fields to meet the steel city that rises around them, replacing the sun as it coats the sky in a neon glow.

 Home.

 

The streets wind in an unruly pattern like a dark, dusty maze with walls that reach the sky. She runs through them to reach her family, her hood pulled low and brushing against the walls as she slips around corners and through alleys, she prays to blend in. If she does, they won’t see her escaping into the city after curfew. But every precaution is essential to her wellbeing; one false step would be her end. She knows he runs with a similar fear, racing through another street in another sector on the other side of the city.

He smiles, knowing she’ll be smiling with him, this one thought connecting them across the skyscrapers that separate them. His thoughts distract him. He doesn’t notice the rain water that has collected, pooling with the sewage to create a slippery hazard. His keen eyes pick up this vital detail a moment too late and he crashes. The thud erupts in the deadly silence that is the sound of the city. He knows there’s no escape, but he still tries, his feet pounding the streets not a second after the fall, his brain working overtime to connect the route so they can’t trace him. He makes it another block before he begins to feel the shadows coming alive, the air escaping from his lungs and leaving him breathless.  The next block brings the paranoia they induce, he knows they are there but they like to trick their prey and play with their food before they move in, eyes that watch and voices that whisper following him round every corner and surrounding him. It only takes a minute, from the time he first sees them till the moment they capture him but it seems like a lifetime as he waits, still running, for them to reach him, for his time to be up, for The Darkness to finally take his soul and encapsulate him. Oblivious she still runs. The screech of an ambulance reaches her ears as she enters her home. The Darkness may be cruel with their punishments, but at least they clean up after themselves.

 

The morning light streams through the window, casting harsh shadows across the dark room filled with lifeless bodies. Rows of beds line the walls, each filled with a victim of The Darkness, the only visible signs of life are the groans of pain and the nurses that buzz through the ward checking charts and administering  much needed drugs. His bed lies near the centre of the room, having only been emptied a few hours before he arrived.  His chart shows the name of John Doe as most of those in the room do, the majority heal enough to be discharged or die too soon to bother finding their names. He’s just another criminal who has paid for his crimes in the blood he spilled on the floor, but, unlike the others, a girl sits there with him, her hands crushing his as she cries gently onto the sheet that covers his body. She’s only been there a few minutes but already she must leave and get back to the warehouse where she works, where they both work, and where she will have to spend hours gruelling over the menial jobs that the machinery can’t do. The work is unbearable when he is with her, so without him and with the extra work she will do to cover his shift, it will be excruciatingly painful and tiring.

She leaves the ward reluctantly, collecting her belongings from the cold hearted soldiers of The Darkness that guard the hospital doors. As she retraces the path she ran this morning she relives the same worry she felt then. The boy she loves is fighting for his life and there’s nothing she can do but wait and pray. The only thought that comforts her is the one that reminds her of how she would have felt if his brother hadn’t run to tell her, she would have had to spend the whole day thinking the worst when he didn’t show up to work whereas now at least she knows he’s relatively safe.

Throughout the day the tedious workload tortures her further by letting her do it without thought, leaving her to thoughts of the pain and distress that plagues her beloved across the city. By the time she is let out, she is almost at the point of a panic attack, her brain convinced that he’s already dead or in so much pain that he might as well be. She flies through the street without even a second thought as to the route she will take, her mind has been running it through for the past nine hours and she now knows it like the back of her hand.

 In the ten minutes it takes her to reach the hospital, full blown hysterics have filled her brain, inhibiting her ability to think straight and she almost knocks over an elderly woman on her way into the building. As she arrives at his bed she searches him for signs of any change, finding nothing she calms but still pulls a nurse over to check on him and fill her in on what has happened. The nurse’s words fill her with hope; he’s been awake and should be again soon. She smiles briefly with relief before a searing pain in her head cripples her. Nausea overwhelms her as her body tries to recover from the hard beating it took in the warehouse and the emotional flip that it has just undertaken. The nurse, recognising her distress, gives her a pill that eases the pain but also makes her sleepy and within minutes her body slumps back in the chair.

He awakes to find that the world has blurred, his thoughts are filled with a pain that seems to burn his whole body. He tries to figure out where he is, whether or not he is dead, but the only thing that his scattered mind can seem to cling to is the limp form that lies slumped on the edge of the bed. It takes a moment to realise who she is, and when he does, he can’t help but feel embarrassed that she has seen him this way. With everything they live through on a daily basis, this is hardly anything that would shock her, but he still hates to think of her worrying, of her crying over him and he can tell from the red that stains her face that she has. He waits for her to wake and although the tiredness in his eyes fight against it he doesn’t take them off of her for even a second, because a second is all that they would need to take her away from him, all they would need to take away the last thing he cares about. It only takes an hour for her to wake up but for him it feels like an eternity. When her eyes flick open, an uncontrollable smile spreads across his face, a smile which is mirrored back at him when she looks up and into his eyes.

They don’t talk, but they still communicate in their own silent way, their hands entwined and their eyes locked. The silence is only broken when the room begins to darken. He sits up a little taller and looks out of the window, over the smaller concrete structures and through those that stand high above the rest, there is an opening into the fields that ring the city. Seeing this sliver of freedom amongst the blocked in world, he pulls his beloved gently onto the small bed with him and before she can ask why, he points to the gap, in which the sun is setting.

Seeing this she can’t help but remember how she felt, just twenty-four hours ago, watching the same sun set but from a completely different place. She knows that in just that short time, everything has changed. Yesterday, their lives where unpleasant but certain and now the life of her only ally and one true love hangs in the balance and if that balance tips, her life will never be the same again.

Sensing her distress, he pulls her closer, grasping her hand tighter in his.

“One day...” he tells her”... the sun will rise and set for the last time, but for now let’s just enjoy it.”

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