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Empty of Sunlight -sad short story

Thanks to family, friends and my prof for helping me edit this :D


Kai was born after the Sunshade* when the sky stayed black day and night. But now, his head shoved against his knees a few feet away from that terrible closed door, he knew what it felt like to have his sun, its warmth and light, leave him in the dark.

Darkness was hearing your father sob. That sickening, choking noise of the strongest man breaking. Darkness was empty and numb.

The hall was lit by blinding white lights and the walls were covered in holographic advertisements. Bleach and alcohol drifted dully in the air. Voices and beeping machines buzzed, blurred and faded. The door next to him opened and shut as people with computers rushed in and out, in and out, out and in until it felt like he was dreaming. He squeezed his eyes shut and hunched further into himself. This was a nightmare.

A sliding whoosh and the door opened again and then locked. The steady foot stomps could only be one man. Kai jerked to his feet.

Terence Sanders, the famous inventor scientist stood before him; tears smudged around his eyes. The name Terence was familiar to him, but Kai knew him better as dad.

Kai lunged. His face slammed against his chest. The only noise he heard now was the frantic thump-tha-thump of their hearts.

Behind him, Kai could feel the presence of the door, heavy and airless all at once. He held his dad tighter. He needed to fix this. He needed to run and escape what was behind that door. No. He needed to go into that room. He squeezed his eyes shut. He didn’t know what he should do.

“I’m sorry.” His dad’s voice was raw and the grip that held Kai began to feel like a cage. “I’m… I’m sorry.”

The blood in Kai’s veins stilled. He shook his head. “Stop.”

“I’m…” His dad choked.

It was about her. NO! A rabid fear thudded in his heart. He shoved out of his dad’s arms.

“Kai!”

He rammed against the door. The glowing screen-lock blurred in his vision. He struck in a code to dislodge the lock. It did nothing. He pounded his knuckles against the cold, unfeeling screen, again and again.

A firm hand landed on his shoulder, tugging him back a few steps. The fire inside Kai fell into numb weakness. His dad tapped in a code.

The door swung open.

The room was far too yellow-lit. A lying brightness of a copy-cat sun that dripped itself all over the room. In the center, hooked up to wires and computers, laid a pale, still woman.

A sob ripped through Kai. He stumbled toward the bed and grabbed the woman’s hand. “Mom.” He gripped her palm. “Momma.” Heavy air pressed against his lungs, suffocating, shattering him. He trembled and his tears bled onto the sheets. “No!”

Beep…. Beep…beep.

Wiping his eyes with his sleeve, he squinted up at the heart monitor screen. Confusion suffocated any joy. He rubbed his eyes again, but the screen’s glowing, moving light kept the same motion.

Beep… beep… beep.

“She’s not... dead?” His voice scratched his throat.

“I’m sorry.” Terence stood in the doorway; tears gathered at the corners of his eyes.

“But... she isn’t...” He swallowed and an angry fear sparked. “She isn’t dead.”

His father’s broken look sent a cold dread spinning inside him. He was about to tell him something terrible.

Kai stuffed his hands in his pockets and stood tall. She was alive at least.

“Her heart still beats, but it is unlikely…” he paused, looking at the ceiling. He blinked abruptly and then focused on Kai. “It is impossible for her to ever wake up.”

The storm inside Kai reached the red zone. “It’s only been a week! You’re giving up?”

“Kai,” Terence rubbed his face, his voice thin. “I…”

Moments whispered to him, as memories that were so bright before. They burned to shriveled ashes and flaked away. His family having overcooked dinner just two weeks ago, the smoke alerting an array of media drones looking for drama. Screens flashing photos of them with taglines about family and fame. Over the years, people questioned whether their relationship was as close as the media made it out to be.

It was.

“You told me everything could be fixed.” He cut across the room and glared up at his father through a murky veil of tears. “You told me we could fix anything!” His dad never gave up. A hissing, burning energy flared in his chest and he leaned forward and whispered, “you failed her.”

 

Kai tapped equations into his scanpad -a rectangle tablet-, but mostly he was watching his dad through the glass room across from him. The blue light from his scanpad blinked three in the morning. When his dad stayed up this late hunting again and again to find a cure, regret burned inside him. A tired cloudy mood seemed to be their life now. Kai set the scanpad down on one of the many metal tables in the experiment room. The scanpad light shut off, leaving the room dim.


If she had died, dad wouldn’t waste away like this.


“Stop it, Kai!” He slammed his hands against his face. It was a blessing that she hadn’t died, but after his own research he knew that she wouldn’t ever wake up. Terence was right when he said there wasn’t a cure.

A new Virtual Reality machine was finally being brought to them in a few weeks. His dad was working non-stop because of it. The VR system would be his mom’s own thoughts guiding the fabricated version of herself. But it wasn’t her. Just a computer operated version with old recordings of her voice and an image of her that the computer made up. She would never wake up again. Dad wanted to tell her the moment the VR system turned on that he had a cure. That he was able to set her free. What would he do when the time came, and he had to say that nothing worked?

In the other room, Terence hummed. His voice rose in a few deep tunes, before stopping in abrupt silence. Pain flashed through Kai. He used to sing that with mom.

This was his fault. After what he said months ago, now his dad wouldn’t stop looking for a cure. Terence had been ready to let her go then but now…

Kai sighed. Every time Terence thought he found it, the cure did nothing for his mom. That failure cut his dad’s heart every time, even though he tried not to show it. He needed to stop before the VR system was put in place. Before his dad saw his mom and his efforts would either double to bring her back, or his father would really break. The word failure would chant his name. Kai needed to talk to him.

He walked towards the door, the white hall lights flipped on as he entered. He tried to shove his tired fogginess away, hoping for clarity.

Terence was sitting at a table, flipping across hologram screens. Plants and glass containers littered the table. A mess.

“Hey.” Kai said.

“One second.” Terence squinted at the screen. He wasn’t wearing his glasses.

Kai found them at the end of the table and held them out to him.

A few seconds later Terence paused the video. He noticed the glasses. “Thank you.” He put them on. “Fire away.” But he stood and rearranged tubes filled with different colored chemicals. His thoughts were floating through the air: his next step for the cure, whatever that was. He wasn’t ready to listen.

“It’s been two years.” Kai stepped to the other side of the table.

“Ahh hmm.” He whispered a plant name.

Kai stood in front of him, a half a foot taller than he had been all those months ago. “Dad, you were right. It’s time to let her go. There isn’t a-”

Terence’s hands were shaking. He dropped a bottle. It rolled across the table and knocked down a plant.

Kai placed it upright.

“I’ve nearly found it. This one must be it.”

That things could be unfixable, that his mom would never wake up, it scared Kai, but what was worse than that was his dad, Tundra Scapes city’s greatest scientist inventor, breaking himself down day by day. His hair was becoming prematurely gray. He forgot to eat. Kai didn’t always know if he slept.

Kai moved a plant on the table. “We have the VR system Brandal Corporation is going to hook up. We’ll be able to talk to her then.”

“Won’t be the same. Won’t really be her.”

“It will be her mind. And it is her.” But Kai was lying, playing devil’s advocate against his own feelings. Seeing a fake version of her in a room wouldn’t be the same. But it didn’t matter what Kai felt. His dad was more important to him. He couldn’t lose him too. “It has to be enough. You’re breaking yourself.”

He put a hand on Terence’s shoulder, tears burning his eyes. His dad looked away.

Kai swallowed. “I’m sorry about what I said. Years ago -if you remember- about failing. This isn’t failing her, dad. Running yourself down it…” He let his hand drop. “Terrifies me.” He looked at the ground. The cracks in the tiles were filled with bits of dirt and a browning stem of some forgotten plant. “I was wrong.”

The familiar foot stomp on the floor as Terence moved away from him broke another piece of Kai. He didn’t look up from the floor. He deserved this.

The lights clicked off. Tears rolled down his face as a loneliness settled deep inside him; an emptiness. But then, his father embraced him.

He didn’t leave. Kai squeezed him back.

“Last experiment.” Terence’s tired voice had a little spark back in it. “I’ll finish it tomorrow with you, if you want.”

“She is still with us.” Kai’s voice was muffled against his shoulder.

“I know.”

“She wouldn’t be disappointed?” It was a question that he hadn’t realized he needed the answer to.

“No.”

Kai didn’t let him go, and for a long time they stood in a silence that was filled with the noise of the past, the hope of the future. And the darkness, though it was still empty of sunlight and warmth, didn’t seem as dark as before.


*Everything is subject to change as re-writing and editing takes place :)



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