The following is from David Connor’s debut novel Oh God, the Sun Goes. Connor studied at Pomona College and the California Institute of the Arts, where he was the recipient of the William H. Ahmanson Endowed Scholarship Award. He lives in New York City and Montreal, Canada.
A metal object moves through a cloud, emerges on the other side in the shape of a plane. Its bright metal surface reflecting the bright grey color of the sky around it, and of the spot where the sun used to be, now hollow and gone.
Did the sun swallow itself?
Or did the sky fold in two and the sun fall in between?
Whatever sky remains now is more blinding than before. And instead of darkness, a grey shell expands evenly across the earth and turns the ground below an altered color. Nobody can see the way they used to. Light doesn’t carry across space like it once did, and still, it’s hard to say exactly what’s changed.
No memory comes readily to me now. If I try hard, I can glimpse barely into that old world once lighter. I can imagine who I might have been there, a person who held a job, a lawyer, a salesman selling insurance over the phone?
But no, the only questions I have lead to more questions. Like how it is this world is otherwise almost exactly the same. How it seems that life carries on in Sun City just as it always would, how the sprinklers move in the same mechanical fits, the cars turning along the same paved roads, life continuing as always.
On a lawn, a bird pecks its beak against the spigot of a sprinkler, draws no water, and flitters away. Outside a home,
Martha Adie answers the door, and we walk inside into her living room, into a space that resembles the museum’s almost exactly. I sit down on a plastic slipcover and Martha Adie begins speaking.
“Every night, my husband falls asleep with an egg balanced on his forehead. He sleeps on his back and positions himself so that the egg won’t fall during the night. He sleeps on his spine and never turns. He says it helps prepare him for the coming day.”
“He says the position of facing outward, with his back to the mattress and the egg balanced on his head, prepares him to face the coming day with an outward and balanced approach. For many years, as an adolescent, H.A. would sleep on his stomach. He would turn onto his chest and sleep with his face pressed into the pillow, and this form of sleeping prepared him very poorly. He said he wasn’t sure why his body had chosen to sleep in this manner, but that at one point in his life, he decided he would make the decision to turn around in bed and sleep facing out. He was a PhD candidate at the University of Phoenix in the Astrophysics Department at this point. He said it was during his first year of classes that he’d decided to make the change. He’d decided to face outward in sleep instead of inward. He said it was a conscious decision. That he forced himself each night to sleep on his back until it became natural. Until he didn’t know any other way to sleep.”
“The egg came later. The egg came when Dr. Higley was the chair of his department. He was working on a difficult research assignment with several colleagues, something having to do with the seismic movement of sun waves. My husband began to sleep every night with an egg balanced on his forehead, because he thought it would prepare him for the day ahead. Each night, he would sleep with an egg balanced above his temples, and in the morning, he’d crack it open and eat it. He said it was helping him think.”
“He was troubled as an adolescent, my husband. He was always very intelligent, but he was never able to apply that intelligence to anything. He says it wasn’t until he started sleeping on his back that he began to do anything of significance. He said it wasn’t until he faced outward that he was able to think at all.”
“His research paper was published that year in a prestigious journal, and eventually he was awarded the Einstein Prize in astrochemical physics. He really is a special mind, my husband. He’s very respected in his field.”
“But it’s horrible,” says Martha Adie, staring at me blankly with two sharp eyes wired like darts. “It’s horrible, what’s happened.”
I stare forward and ask Martha to say more. Her pupils widen and narrow like planets moving in orbit, Mars and Mars, I imagine—Martha’s eyes as two desert planets.
“Say more,” I say, and Martha looks at me. Her pupils widen again and the lighting in her home seems to adjust accordingly. The television set in the corner changes hue and now the room takes on a darker tone.
“Well,” says Martha, clearing her throat. “A few months ago, my husband started noticing something.”
“Each night, he would sleep with the egg on his head, and each morning he would crack it open and fry it. He’d fry it in the pan and eat it for breakfast. A few months ago, my husband started to notice something change with the eggs. At first, it was a red dot. Just a small red dot he noticed in one egg. He cracked it and ate it anyway. Then he noticed the dot getting larger and larger, until the yolk itself was practically red. He didn’t know what it meant, so he continued to eat the eggs, even though each morning, he noticed the dot was getting larger. The night before the sun disappeared, my husband slept for twelve hours, and when he awoke, he cracked the egg in the pan, and nothing was there. There was no egg inside the shell. It was completely empty. He hadn’t even noticed the sun was gone at this point. He cracked the egg and saw nothing, then looked out the window, and realized the sun had disappeared.”
How horrible, I mutter.
“It was,” says Martha, with a serious glance. “It was shocking.”
Martha looks away towards the window, as if recalling something.
“What did he do?” I ask, and Martha turns back to me. “That’s just it,” she says, staring. “That’s just it. He went into the refrigerator and grabbed another egg.”
“Mind you, this is eight in the morning. He went to the refrigerator and grabbed an egg, then marched right back into the bedroom and fell asleep. He fell asleep on his back with the new egg resting above him between the temples. The same spot he’d always put it. Let me show you something,” says Martha.
The two of us enter a hallway headed to a small room in the back of the house—the bedroom, and Martha pushes
open a pair of doors to show me her husband lying asleep on their mattress. He’s lying flat on his back, and sure enough, the egg is resting there directly atop his head. Nothing moves besides a slight breath, and some liquid in a bag of intravenous beside him.
“Dr. Higley,” I mutter, and Martha nods quietly. She traces the floor with her gaze, glancing up only briefly to see her husband asleep in their bed.
“He’s been sleeping there ever since the sun disappeared,” says Martha. “The moment the sun went away, my husband came in here and fell fast asleep. He hasn’t gotten up once.”
I stare at Dr. Higley and notice his breath slowly raise and lower the down filling of their comforter.
“I had a doctor come see him. I had several doctors come see him. They all said the same thing. That he was sleeping. That he was in a very, very deep form of sleep. Lying supine, with the egg resting above his head.”
“He must be thinking something over,” I mutter, and Martha pauses very quietly.
She stares my way, and neither of us says anything for a while. “Something must be germinating in there,” I mutter again, and Martha yields no response.
Instead she goes into the corner of the room and begins
digging through a drawer, pulls out a sheet of paper and hands it to me. Her eyes narrow as she unfolds it, and I notice a tremor move up her finger slightly.
“This is the last thing he wrote before the sun disappeared,” she says, turning the note open and handing it to me. The two of us look at Dr. Higley, who remains motionless in bed.
“It’s the last note he left before the sun disappeared.”
I stare down at the page and read it. At two words scribbled on the notebook paper.
I squint down and reread it. “Bumble Bee,” mutters Martha, pointing to the page. “That’s the last note he left before the sun went missing. Bumble Bee.”
I say nothing and squint down at the letters.
“He’s pointing somewhere,” says Martha, squinting with me.
Where? I mutter.
The two of us linger over the shape of the words, like smoke signals, like clues pointing in a given direction.
“You know, my husband and I met when we were fourteen years old. We went to the same high school together in Phoenix.” Martha pauses for a minute and lingers over the sound of that word. “Phoenix,” she says, “I miss that place,” as a tremor moves up her finger again.
“You know, sometimes I think of Phoenix,” she says. “And it makes me happy for a moment.” Another tremor. “But sometimes I have nothing to think about,” says Martha Adie, shutting her eyelids closed and launching into orbit. “And I feel so alone.”
From Oh God, The Sun Goes by David Connor. Used with permission of the publisher, Melville House Publishing. Copyright © 2023 by David Connor.