The river that kills the sun

Dimitris Adalialis tree horizon stars

Today I was going to paint the sun as it died. I set out as the dawn light crept into the sky to announce the kindling of the sun in the fire mountains in the east. With a weather-stained bag across my shoulder and canvas and easel in my hands, I set out west, letting the sun follow me to its grave. I’ve been travelling for months. Now my shoes were worn thin, my coat threadbare. I had a face that would have been much paler and without wrinkles if it had not been for the burning heat each day. And now, today, I would at last see the edge of the earth where the river spilt into the void to quench the flames of the sun.

The roar of the churning waters could be heard from afar. Worn rock and boulders stretched towards the horizon’s edge in swathes of black and brown, ochre and white. I stopped where there was still short grass and stunted acacia trees with leaves coloured bright green by the water; the last life the river bestows before becoming the rushing mud-brown roar that slew the sun at the end of each day.

A man sat beneath one of the trees, his shoulders and sun-bleached hair dusted with the tree’s fine yellow flowers, his skin was wrinkled and burnt to leather. He stared unblinking at the horizon with white eyes even as the passing rays of sunlight struck them.

“Have you come to see the sun die?” His words were slow and his voice hoarse, as if he had not spoken in a very long time.

“I’ve come to paint it,” I said and he laughed.

“That is the first time I’ve heard of such a thing. The rest of us were just curious.”

As I followed his pointing finger I saw a line of lone souls sitting beneath the trees or standing at the edge of the abyss. All stared at the dying sun in silence. A great cloud of steam, smoke, and sparks drifted up from the edge and swirled into the sky. The last of the yellow-orange flame tendrils faded and were extinguished and the night sky was revealed. An infinite darkness, but, within the darkness pinpricks of light kindled to life from the sparks of the sun. First one, then more and more until swirling bands of light were lit and sparkled. And sang.

I could hear the dirge building in the sky, thousands – millions – billions of voices rising and falling and singing in a language I could not understand. But within my breast the song rose, wordlessly, passionately until it spilt from my mouth as well and rose into the heavens and caught me in its web. And suddenly I felt sorrow at the sun’s death. Sorrow not negated by the knowledge that it will be kindled to life once more when it reaches the east after the long night. There, where mountains spew the fire that will light the rest of the world. Where people celebrated the new life. Where they would never know the sun-dirge.

I looked at those around me and I knew that I would never be able to leave, that I would not be the last one to come and stand at the edge of the world and sing a dirge for the sun. And I knew that I would never be able to finish the painting. I knew that I would forever live with only the hope to hear the song of the stars once more.

Dimitris Adalialis
Photo by Dimitris Adalialis 

Ps. I found this photo and just thought it’s perfect for the story!

By Carin Marais

Bibliophile, writer of speculative fiction, non-fiction, and maybe-fiction, language practitioner, doer of stuff.


Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.