Norman Thomas di Giovanni

    The Man Who Put Out The Sun by Marcial Souto

    The sun rose out of his cup of coffee just as Santiago was putting it to his lips.

    'The sun ...' he began to say.

    'Yes?' a woman's voice sang out from the kitchen.

    'The sun - it rose - it's here in front of my eyes.'

    'What's that about the sun?'

    'It's here - it's blinding me. It rose out of my cup of coffee.'

    'The sun?'

    'Yes, and it's burning my eyes.'

    Santiago shot up, tipping over his chair, his hands covering his face. He stumbled to one side, trying to get to the window.

    'It's unbearable.'

    At the window, he took his hands away from his eyes. The sun was still there in front of him, a foot away, like an incandescent bubble.

    'Santiago, what is it? Are you all right?'

    'It's in front of my face and it won't go away.' Santiago shook his head. 'It's wherever I look. It doesn't go away - even when I shut my eyes.'

    'Shall I call a doctor?'

    'No, wait a bit.'

    Santiago rubbed his face with his hands.

    'My eyes hurt.'

    'Cold water ...'

    Santiago rushed to the bathroom, turned on the tap, and splashed the stream of water on his face. The sun did not budge, and although it was cooler now the orb itself was as radiant as before. He tried to look in the mirror, but the sun was there between his face and the glass, and Santiago saw no more than a blaze of light with a yellow disk at its centre. He tried to brush it aside as if it were an insect, but the disk was as quick as his eye, which was unable to focus on anything else. The sun was always in front of him, directly in his gaze.

    Santiago came out of the bathroom like a blind man.

    'What are you doing, brushing away flies?'

    'The sun, the sun. It's going to drive me mad.'

    His wife's fingers touched Santiago's face.

    'Don't scowl like that. Does your head hurt?'

    'The sun ...'

    'Why don't you lie down. Shall I call a doctor?'

    'Yes - no. What for?'

    'These headaches. Maybe they're caused by -'

    'No. This time it's the sun - here, right in front of your face. I can see you, but only out of the corner of my eye. The sun's at the centre of everything I look at.'

    The woman's fingers were no longer on Santiago's face. He heard her withdrawing.

    With one hand Santiago fumbled for the door. He got it open.

    '... yes, doctor, it's urgent. He says ...'

    Shutting the door behind him, Santiago found the lift button. On the ground floor, as he left, someone greeted him.

    'Good,' the person said, stepping out of his way, 'morning.'

    Santiago stood on the pavement. Directly in front of him, almost touching the tip of his nose, was the sun. It was whiter now, round, scalding. He could just make out a blurred fringe round the blinding light.

    Heading down the street, he decided (in an effort to avoid bumping into others or being knocked down by a car) that perhaps he should look upwards. That way, his eyes lifting the sun from the street back into the sky, its natural habitat, he might be left room - uninvaded by the incandescent glow - to see where he was going. But still the sun did not budge. It stayed right there between him and the increasingly taller buildings.

    Horns beeped and traffic roared by. Passers-by kept knocking into him, and several times cars came to a screeching halt only an inch or two from his legs. He was obviously in the city centre, where the buildings soared skywards and the avenues were broad.

    Against the concrete background, the sun stood in sharper relief than it had against the backdrop of the sky when Santiago left home. The unbearable sphere now glared off the buildings, reflecting light and heat, and he felt he was inside a furnace.

    Santiago needed open space and air to cool his eyes, but where that might be he was no longer sure. He thought he noticed a large opening somewhere to his right - a door, most probably. He turned towards it. A throng was pouring out. Of a lift? He pushed forward, following the tide.

    A door closed.

    'Top floor, please.'

    The air was suffocating, the heat and light of the sun reverberated off the walls and ceiling. He saw nothing but the white sphere now. He heard nothing. Sweat ran down his whole body, puddling in his shoes.

    He had to put the sun out or it would sizzle his brain.

    Someone shook his arm.

    'Top floor, sir.'

    Santiago turned left, feeling as trapped as he'd felt in the lift. He groped his way along the walls of a corridor. At the end were doors. He tried them. Nothing. He turned and went the other way. More doors. More rattling handles. Not one opened. Then he found a door with a different latch. It opened easily. Stairs led up. On the landing, another door, this time ajar. A current of air. Santiago stood on a roof terrace. The light and heat, dispersing into the sky overhead, were not quite so fierce now.

    He turned his head one way, then the other. The sun followed, squarely in the path of his gaze. Tilting his head back, the sun climbed, and it almost seemed an ordinary summer day. Lowering his head, the sun too went down - to the floor of the terrace or the street. He was not quite sure. Santiago wanted to put out the sun, to blot it from sight, to cool it off. But there was no pool or river, lake or sea, where his eyes could take the sun and drown it, kill it.

    Face to the breeze, Santiago felt a certain relief. Then all at once the sun plummeted as the sound of cars grew. It was diving for the street. Maybe here lay the solution - to smash the sun to smithereens against the tarmac. Straight down it hurtled.

    But he arrived at the selfsame instant and easily put it out with his face.

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