Narrative

The Mini Suns of London

by Andrew Weale

 

By the end of the 21st Century the once great city of London had become monstrously overdeveloped. The streets flowed like tiny streams at the bottom of ravines formed by the mountain-like buildings that reached up to the heavens on either side.

London’s streets had always been narrow, and this had indeed added to their quaintness in earlier times. But now the combination of extreme horse and carriage narrowness and the excessive height of the super towers that rose like gigantic crystals, and had names like The Bolt Cutter, Giant Killer, and Reach, had created an almost perpetual state of darkness.

Drivers were forced to use their headlights at all hours of the day, and pedestrians were furnished with brightly coloured hats upon which torches were mounted. These were rather like the miners’ hats of old, though considerably more pleasing to the eye and fashionable.

A third factor also contributed to this perpetual night of the city. Due to the extreme congestion of the traffic below, the fumes that were generated in the tiny splinters of the streets rose like wraiths to blot out the sun above and gave rise to the return of the Great Fog of London, which hadn’t been witnessed for two centuries or more.

However, it was the very absence of the sun that gave the city pharaohs, who had been appointed to illuminate the city once again, their idea. They employed the services of a world-renowned helium balloon expert from Putney, and commissioned a provisional report from him on the expediency of creating a series of mini suns to hang at regular intervals throughout the dark crevasses of the city.

The expert, by the name of Doctor Reginald Deadgloom, did more than write a report. After only six weeks he came back to the city pharaohs with a working prototype encased in an orange box. Everyone was issued with sunglasses. The lights of the city council pyramid were dimmed and the pharaohs waited in hungry expectation as Deadgloom carefully unlocked the latches of the case. On pulling back the lid, the room was filled with a solar lustre such as one might find in an Arabian desert. Rays of sunlight spread like a lady’s fan out of the recesses of the box, but Deadgloom said, ‘That is not all, your Highnesses.’

Deadgloom retracted a small device from his left trouser pocket, and pressed one of the two buttons that lay in the centre of a round dial. The box exploded with an even greater lustre, and an orange orb ascended from its depths into the musty air of the chamber in which the company of pharaohs sat.

‘Behold,’ said Deadgloom, ‘the sun!’

And indeed it was. A sun! Although it was only a few feet in diameter, it resembled its stellar counterpart in every aspect apart from size. It emitted rays of delicious sunlight and a warmth that forced the pharaohs to roll back the sleeves of their silken billowed robes.

Needless to say, they rubberstamped the assembly of a factory line of these helium masterpieces and soon they were decorating the highways and the low ways of London. Light flooded the streets for the first time in a century. Solar heat touched the pale faces of the pedestrians below. The people shed their coloured hats and torches, and walked with not a spring but a summer in their step.

However, the allure of the suns was so great that the people down below began to take off their jackets and shirts and ties. Some hurried to nearby shops and bought fancy coloured stripy towels and lay on the pavements. Drivers stopped their cars, and hordes of people forgot their daily business to enjoy the blessed rays of this eternal summer. The whole city came to a standstill. The places of work were empty and, as one city pharaoh remarked, ‘Everyone is just frolicking, goddammit!’

This presented the pharaohs with another major problem. The city had to work. It was a machine after all that had to maintain its productivity. They returned to the inventor of these remarkable solar fabrications that had now become such monstrous distractions and asked him for a solution.

‘Why, of course,’ said Doctor Deadgloom, ‘I anticipated a problem of this nature when I designed my solar confections. Which is why I placed two buttons on my gizmo.’

He retracted the gizmo for a second time from his left trouser pocket and pressed the second button. In an instant, everything changed. The quality of the light became pearly, as the suns transformed themselves into milky moons. On the streets, the laughter, the joviality, the frolicking all stopped. Everything became frozen by the cold beams of the moons that now lay hanging over the city like spectres. And then the people turned to those full moons hanging in the dark crevices of the city. They turned to them and turned up their faces. And the light of those moons gave their eyes a mad and deadly lustre. Their pupils were holes, black and inky. And the people opened their mouths and they howled. And they howled. And they howled.