In Search of the White Whale
The whale from Pleasure Island's "Moby Dick Hunt." I may never know if my parents brought me there to indulge my youthful fascination for Moby Dick, or if my obsession began after viewing this beast!
I wake up early. Too early, considering that I got more than a little bit drunk last night, arriving home just before dawn.
I’m hung over. That much seems appropriate. My stomach feels more than a little queasy, with that unsettling warmth that warns you that you may soon vomit up whatever impurities still float around, undigested, inside of you.
I look at the clock near my bed, which reads 9:39. And since I always set my clocks ahead by approximately fifteen minutes, in order to fool myself into being on time for most of my appointments, that means that it’s not yet 9:30 in “real” time. However…
It’s dark outside. Really dark.
Another quick look at my clock assures me that it’s nearly 9:30 (“real time”) in the morning.
That’s “a.m.” to you.
I turn on the overhead light in my bedroom and hurriedly throw on yesterday’s clothes. Then I go outside, combing my hair. No excuse for looking totally unpresentable.
The sky is pitch black. I mean that literally. It’s not just cloudy, not merely overcast, like it is before a violent storm. It’s black. Jet black. It’s pure darkness, much darker than any moonless night ever thought of being.
But… It’s daytime, at least, if I understand the term “daytime” correctly, which I like to think that I do. Yet, if “daytime” can be defined as that time between sunrise and sunset, rather than the hours during which one would expect the sun to be up there, shining merrily away…
Well, then, it’s not daytime. Not now.
And as I stand in my driveway, staring upwards, a ludicrous thought occurs to me.
Someone ate the sun.
I’ve said and written plenty of strange things in my time, but this one certainly ranks up there with the strangest. And it’s not something crafted for one of my stories, plays, poems, songs, screenplays, or scripts!
No, the sun is gone. Simply, gone.
And I know that it’s gone because somebody ate it.
I can hear a handful of centralized commotions, both nearby and far away. People all over the neighborhood are coming to roughly the same realization as I, and predictably, they’re not taking it very well.
In fact, dozens of them (at least those within earshot) are outside (as I am), literally screaming to the heavens (as I am not).
All those “end of the world” clichés spring up in my mind, and I can only assume that almost everybody aware of this unlikely phenomenon is experiencing the same thoughts.
Hey, come on, folks, don’t be too judgmental here. Someone ate the sun. People are allowed to react accordingly.
Well, aren’t they?
* * *
I have a lot of friends and/or loved ones who come to my mind at that moment. With my usual self-important attitude, I realize that I should be with some of them, or at least contact most (if not all) of them somehow, in order to provide some sort of comfort to them.
I go back into the house and grab my car keys. I walk to my car, get in, and start it up. It’s dark, remember, so I turn on my headlights.
They still work, just like my electric clock/radio, and my bedroom light. So we haven’t lost electricity.
That’s good, I think. This isn’t a nuclear winter, or else we’d be suffering all sorts of residual power outages from whatever “big one(s)” they’d dropped. We’ve only lost the sun. Just the sun.
* * *
I don’t know why I don’t stop at the house next door. The many people who live there are my friends, for the most part. At the very least, I should probably use their phone to call my mother and sister. But I don’t. Instead, I put my car in gear and drive the back roads to the next town over from mine.
I have to keep dodging the dozens of screaming people in the streets. It’s a good thing I’m not in any great rush.
* * *
Finally, I reach the home of my friend Jennifer. By the entrance to her building is a motion-detecting spotlight. It comes on as I approach the porch.
It’s dark, remember?
I knock at Jennifer’s door, but no one inside hears me. No surprise there. At least two of her three kids are crying, rather loudly. I guess they’re scared. It’s not every day that somebody eats the sun.
I enter without leave to do so, which is rather unlike me, but these are unusual circumstances, I guess.
A frightened Jennifer is huddled on the kitchen floor, in a “group hug” with her three equally frightened children. The dog and cat are close at hand, as well. Presumably, even the pets are rather disconcerted.
“Good morning, Jen.”
She seems glad to see me. “David! Oh my God, David, what’s going on?”
Well, you know what I tell her. “Someone ate the sun.”
“That’s not funny!”
“I’m not joking.”
She shoots me a “this-isn’t-the-time-for-your-usual-shit” look, but says nothing, probably for the sake of her kids, who are even more freaked out than she is.
“What are we going to do?” she cries, and I have to admit, it makes me feel good that her eyes show that she actually trusts me to have the answer.
Which I do. Sort of.
I briefly join the group hug (solidarity, don’tcha know), then stand up and grab the telephone. I hold it out toward her.
She stares at it. “And what’s that for?”
For once, I resist the urge to be a smart-ass, and do not reply, “It’s for making phone calls, Jen.” Instead, I say, “Call Jennifer.”
By that, of course, I mean the “other” Jennifer.
By “other Jennifer,” I don’t mean to imply that the… well… that the “other” Jennifer is in any way secondary (or, Lord forbid, inferior!) to the “first” Jennifer. It’s just the way that this story works out.
Years ago, in my little circle of friends, we learned to refer to these two Jennifers as “Jennifer” and “Little Jen,” only to differentiate between the two in conversations. The Jennifer you’ve already met, sort of, was (and is) the one we call simply “Jennifer.” The Jennifer you’re about to meet was (and is!) “Little Jen.”
Therefore, for the remainder of this story (which is almost finished, believe it or not!), I’ll be using the same convenient designations.
Jennifer doesn’t question me. She calls Little Jen. During their brief conversation, it is decided (with a kibitzing assist from me, naturally) that we should all get together as soon as possible.
In a matter of minutes, I’ve loaded Jennifer and her kids into my car. We even take the dog and the cat, at her insistence. Not that I argue with her, of course. I rarely do anyway.
I drive on the back roads once again, dodging an even greater number of screaming people in the streets. They’re not taking this well at all.
* * *
We arrive at Little Jen’s home. Her boyfriend seems understandably agitated. Her son seems scared, yet fascinated. Yeah, he’s his mother’s son, that’s for sure.
Little Jen seems to be taking this as calmly as I am. In fact, she and I are just about the only calm people I’ve seen so far, although I must credit the “first” Jennifer with having settled down quite a bit since I’d arrived at her home. Maybe that’s because of me. I’d certainly like to think so.
Little Jen has interests that are, shall we say, not necessarily confined to the earthly plane? In that respect, she’s much like my friends Teresa and Mesha. Both of them are many towns distant, but Little Jen, luckily -- and obviously, if you’ve been paying attention -- lives nearby. So to my mind, it’s more than appropriate that we’ve come to see her.
“What do you think is going on?” asks Little Jen. “The sun’s just… vanished!”
“I know,” I say evenly. “Somebody ate it.”
Jennifer shoots me another look. “Will you please stop saying that!” she hisses. I shrug.
“Someone ate the sun…” murmurs Little Jen, nodding like she actually believes me.
(I love my friends!)
“But David,” says Little Jen, “if that’s true, then why isn’t it colder? If the sun is really gone, it shouldn’t merely be dark. This whole planet should be an ice ball!”
Good thinking. I wish I’d thought of that. I exchange a quick look with Jennifer.
“Oh, my God, that’s right!” exclaims Jennifer. “We should all be dead! Why aren’t we all dead?!?”
I am attempting an answer, or at least a speculation, I should say, when that unsettling warmth in my stomach that I mentioned earlier makes itself known once again. My mouth fills with saliva, a sure harbinger of an oncoming puke.
“Jen,” I gasp, speaking to Little Jen, “may I use your bathroom?”
Without waiting for her reply, I race into her apartment. I quickly locate the toilet, lift the lid, and position my head above the seat with jaws open wide as my stomach heaves and its white-hot contents force their way upward, exiting my mouth.
And then, even as my eyes are forced shut by a blinding flash, I suddenly recall what I drunkenly did right before passing out that morning.
I uneasily stand and find the sink, splashing cool water into my mouth, rinsing it. Moments later, I step outside, into the warm morning sunshine. Little Jen & her boyfriend & Jennifer & all four kids are staring at me in awe.
I ate the sun.
Lil' ol' me.
Li’l ol’ “drunk-and-got-those-last-minute-munchies-just-before-passing-out-for-the-night” me!
Always knew I could do that.
* * *