Author : Sharon Molloy

The bean juice tastes as bitter as it always does. I drink it only to stay awake and so live another day.

The rest of the tribe piously swallows it as part of the sun worship ritual. They also swallow stupidly circular logic: This plant is the sun’s favorite, because the sun gives it more energy, and it does this because…

The moment the drinking concludes, the village races to the ceremonial hut, to don the special costume and seize a musical instrument: drum, flute, or wooden clacker. I don’t want to do any of it, but I have no way of declining. The ritual will work, they say, only if the entire village participates; any who hesitate, let alone refuse, are “removed.”

We quickly assemble to march up the mountain. They say they meet the sun halfway, but I’m certain it’s much higher than they think.

They dare not keep a sensible pace. They believe if we are not all in place before sunrise, the sun will never rise again. They won’t even make the climb less dangerous by lighting a torch; if the sun thinks another sun got here first, the idiotic story goes, it will feel rejected and abandon us forever.

I always lag. Always. For some reason, I can neither awaken early, nor get to sleep early. Despite the powerful drink, some mornings I barely make it through the ceremony. I fight my body just to stay conscious; with each blink my eyes stay closed longer and longer. My head feels far away and my heart is beating cold water.

So unbearable is this daily torment that I once dared suggest we try ensuring the sun’s return by enacting this entire ritual at sunset instead. Nobody would be getting up before dawn, and nobody would have to stay up late, either.

That was when the rumors began, and a dark cloud of suspicion has hung over me ever since. They are still trying to decide if I hate the sun or if it hates me. Neither, of course, is true. (Neither do they notice me continuing to work all afternoon even as they sneak off for naps.)

With every step, my feet grow heavier. Just as I am about to collapse, we reach the top of the mountain and begin begging the sun to return… as if it was going to do anything else. The music, or noise, starts, an idea they must have gotten from watching birds and frogs attract mates.

Even as the eastern sky grows pale, the noise increases to an alarming crescendo. Every single morning, the village believes anew that this could be the fateful day when the sun does not return.

Finally, a ray of sunlight shows above the edge of the world; everyone screams, cries, hugs each other, leaps into the air. Once more, the ritual worked; the world won’t end today after all. I’m just relieved it’s over and slump –

“ – is sleeping!”

“ – offended the sun!”

“ – only one more day!”

“ – will be the last sunset!”

“Remove him! Remove him!!”

“No! Please! I’m awake… I saw it rise-”

They won’t listen. Countless hands seize me and
drag me toward the edge of the mountain; jagged rocks wait below like the teeth of a –

“Hey! Good morning! All ready to get started this bright and early morning?”

I stand up and rinse my coffee mug without one word to my irritating coworker. Just having to be here this early is bad enough.

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