Author : Beck Dacus

Before she went outside with her friends, the most she had ever seen of the Sun was the great gleam in the sky directly above the dome. Every twelve hours, the dome would shade itself from that light to make an artificial night. Then the screen would come off, and the unmoving star would shine in the sky again, giving life to the land under the dome.

Mama said the star was a statite reflecting sunlight on their dome so the plants could eat. She didn’t really understand, nor did she understand when Mama told her the moving gleams she saw were spaceships, headed to other planets. She didn’t much care; she just went back to playing with her friends.

As she grew older, she began to resent what she didn’t understand. Mama said she was only allowed to leave the domes every once in a while, and in certain directions that changed all the time. One day, she could only go out this door, and the next day it would be the door next to it. But Mama had also told her that you can’t make up the rules to a board game. There has to be structure, certain things that are always the same, always true. Mama was changing the rules. Mama was unfair.

She asked Mama what would happen if she stepped out the wrong door, and Mama just started babbling on about how the Sun on Mercury was too bright to survive. They were safe inside this crater, since it was at the north pole, and the Sun never rose above the crater wall, but once she left the crater, Mama said, she’d be cooked to a crisp.

What she could understand definitely wasn’t fair. She could go out this door sometimes, but not others? The Sun was good and warm in some places, but not others? It was stupid. She knew it, and her friends agreed with her. So one day, they went out a door they weren’t supposed to. They saw people coming back in through it, all dressed up in vac suits, and they weren’t cooked. So why not go through? Already dressed in their tailored vac suits, they snuck out the door, stood in the “waiting room” while the air did its thing, and then went outside.

It was the same as ever out here, no different than any other time she’d been outside. So she hopped and leaped with her friends, throwing rocks over bigger and bigger craters, making their own craters and naming them. Soon, though, the horizon started to glow. Mama said that you could see the Sun before it came up because dust flew above Mercury. That if she saw it, she should run home. But instead, her friends went to look at it. They stood on a hill for a few minutes, watching the dust get brighter. She started to feel the fear, thinking that the glow was like an intangible monster. She was scared, but she didn’t go back. She watched until her friends were touched by the sunlight, and died in a bright gleam of flesh. Then she ran.

But by then it was too late. The door was nearly a kilometer away, and it had taken her twenty minutes to walk out here. She was never going to make it back in time. Just as the Sun rose, she turned back to look at the monster coming to eat her. In her last instant, she was blinded, her world going dark even before she was destroyed by the brilliant, shining rays.