There is a hole where the sun should be. Not a black hole, a red one. Its flat color is the only trace of the heavens.
Last night I saw the edges of this World. It cut off, cleanly, one deliberate edge where the land ended. Just like that. No gradient. No cliff. Like someone took a lightsaber, slashed it linearly through the clouds, the trees, the soil. It made me scared. Not because of what might be beyond it, but because of what was here within it.
In this lonely town we call our World, there are no mirrors. Probably because everyone is blind: their eyes are buttons with criss-crossing slits in them. Except me. Sometimes I think my eyes must look just like everyone else’s, but then I think that can’t be true, because my eyes can see, while their eyes cannot. But I have no idea what else my eyes would look like.
Everyone else, they all use Spatial Intuition to navigate their environment: they can sense people and objects, maneuver around the world correctly, with no problems, no confrontations, never hitting anything, never damaging themselves. Sometimes I wonder what they see—or what they sense—in the place of the hole in the sky where the sun should be.
My conception of “sun” is probably different from theirs. My conception came from the books. They have pictures in them. On every page: ornate, swirly paintings. Of trees with wind-like leaves, trees without any leaves, flowers and bats, purple lakes and ghost-like fish. These pictures were drawn by others like me, for people like me, who have pupils in the place of criss-crossing slits on button eyes.
(What was the point of including pictures in every book, when the vast majority of people can’t see them? The pictures could be anything the Artists wanted them to be, they could be completely unrelated to the tale of the book, and no one would be able to call their bullshit. Except people like me, the rare people like me, so-miraculously gifted with Sight.)
In the books, the sun is a great orb of fire. It is untouchable. Light haloes around it; it is the Original Light, the one true source.
I don’t think that’s what other people think of when they think of the sun.
I asked Byu what she thought the sun was. (Byu is the only person who knows I use Sight and not Spacial Intuition. I don’t tell anyone else out of fear that they’d force me to be an Artist).
“It’s a dizzying presence.” That’s the best way she could describe it. “You can feel its heat. It’s like: that pressure point, in the sky, where all the heat comes from.”
“Does it resemble anything?”
Her button eyes stilled. I could tell she was thinking.
“Like a God,” she said finally. “I haven’t thought about it before. But they both exist on the roof of your head.”
I’ve seen God, seen gods, in pictures: bloody white robes, tangled beards, gouged eyes, bodies riddled with gunshots, with knife-wounds, with bite-marks. They looked as if they existed on a ridiculously outdated, inhumanely destructive plane of existence. They were not the same as the sun. One was mystical, comfortably false; the other was uncomfortably absent.
“Byu. Is there anything beyond the sun? That you can sense?”
She shrugged, then—how was she supposed to answer that. I might as well have asked, did she know of anything beyond the end of her mind?
One day I went on a hunt for mirrors. I needed to see what I looked like.
In the center of town, there is a large depression in the ground, where a lake used to be. Artists used to be able to look into that lake and know what they looked like, before The Storms swept all the water up into the heavens. That’s what my mother told me, at least.
I skipped school that day to go on my hunt. (It was senior year, school was optional.) Plus I wanted privacy, and the town’s center was crowded at every time except noon and afternoon.
I ended up just sitting, in the middle of the former-lake, for three hours. What I was doing, you could call it meditating. Or daydreaming. Or spacing out. Or fixating on the clouds. There was nothing that happened.
Rain did not fall. My reflection did not magically appear before me. I did not receive some mystical vision that dreamt of water, I did not fall through some hole in the depression that landed me in some secret cavern where all the mirrors existed. I simply sat there and stared. Maybe I expected something to fall out of the hole where the sun should be. Something heavy, and jagged, and incongruous and comical, like a gigantic, boulder-sized, bent-out-of-shape water bottle that would somehow land exactly at the center of this depression, exactly where I sat, and crush me like a bug. A water bottle that someone in some other world—a world where everything was bigger—lost at some point in time. But then again. How could you expect anything to fall through a hole when the hole was blocked by a myth?
According to my mother, when The Storms happened, the town was thrust into confusion. Here was the first time the people encountered a force in which they could not sense. Byu’s mother, Siya, who was town mayor, called upon Sight users to present themselves and enlighten the townspeople on what was happening. She offered handsome compensation. A woman named Nih stepped forward.
According to Nih, The Storms were a series of winds that exhibited the inverse properties of normal winds. That’s why they couldn’t be sensed: they weren’t bulky, brimming with power, like hurricanes. They were quiet, appeared only at night, and thus barely detectable. They were thieves. From houses they stole the windows; from statues they lifted the heads. Most people, the ones without Sight, could barely tell any difference in their environments until they felt it: The sudden coldness that pervaded their houses, the sounds of car sirens and neighbors’ fights. The magnificent rumble of stone cracking, as the statue head fractured from its neck.
Nih watched the water flow from the town lake into the heavens. “A reverse waterfall”—were the exact words Nih used to describe it, as my mother claimed.
A sight like that must have felt blatantly apocalyptic. What could it mean, a beheading of the statues—the town’s heroes? What could it mean, the loss of a lake that has become a signature landmark, grounding the entire town? But maybe for those without Sight, these losses barely make much difference.
Then the story gets slightly blurry. My mother says, the day after the “reverse waterfall”, the winds lifted every single mirror and every piece of glass in town. And that’s the cause of the vast absence of sources of reflection, she says. I have suspicions. And I’ve questioned her about it. There’s blackened pieces of glass, at the edges of this World, buried under heaps of rubble. I’ve heard rumors about it.
Blackened pieces of glass? My mother asks. She disregards it. She hadn’t heard of that. No, it was definitely The Storms. Those must just be rumors; people love to talk.
She usually finishes these stories with doomsday predictions of the future.
“When the sun disappears,” she’d always say, “we’re truly devastated.”
That’s really why I never told her I have Sight.
I have super human speed. I have superb hand-eye coordination. I’m a natural athlete. That’s what everyone has told me, what I have in return told everyone else.
In truth I win tennis games because I don’t suffer from the computational time it takes my opponents to register the ball’s location. Although, when I was fourteen, I quit tennis, because an older boy (likely a high school senior) came up to me after I had won a game and told me he could see exactly what I was doing. “You could use your talent to do much more,” he said. He smiled. I ran away from him, to my parents, and pretended like nothing had happened. I didn’t want to associate with him. What type of man comes to junior high tennis games—to spy on young girls, who he thought might one day draw him pretty pictures no one else could see? No, I didn’t want that. I decided right there and then that I would never do Art, that I hated Artists.
There was also a scandal that year, where a town-favorite tennis player, Exi, was exposed by a critic to have Sight. She was then exceedingly scrutinized by the masses, accused of not “playing in her league” and thus cheating, shunned for not paying her social responsibility to serve as an Artist. Eventually (after a drug overdose) she was evicted from the sport—or rather, she herself “resigned”. (Likely, this scandal also informed my decision).
The following year I tried out for soccer and soon I was on varsity. In soccer there’s many moving parts, which makes it hard for people to track your exceptionalism. It is a safe sport. In soccer I could forget my abnormality because even those with Spacial Intuition could reach my caliber, and achieve what I had done, with my “special” talent. I could have friends: people who would never discover my previous, years-long loneliness of mind. People who would never uproot me at my very base. I could stay here forever where the sun would never fall.
I started on offence, but eventually, I found my way into playing goalie. It was like stepping into true love. In senior year, I got soccer scholarships. My path was paved before me. No one ever pays attention to the goalie; they are the one player you expect to always succeed, until the moment they fail. And your team loses the point, or the game, or the entire tournament. My mom was thrilled. I was very content.
So evidently, the depression, or the former lake, bore no signs of mirrors. That left me with one other lead: the rumors. About blackened glass, buried under heaps of rubble at the edge of this World. The next week I skipped school again.
To journey to the edge of the World is such an erotically heroic concept. Perhaps I tried to make myself feel something, as I walked into South Town (the place my mother was born, where I have never been to, since she built my entire life to be contained within North Town). Yet: nothing. The houses looked the same as North Town. Perhaps I tried to make myself feel something as I reached the signs that said, “END OF TOWN. DO NOT CONTINUE BEYOND HERE.” Yet: nothing. It could have been just another day at school, just another day at the office, for a person like me, who lived her entire life completely inapplicable to the rules everyone else lived by.
Perhaps I tried to make myself feel something as I walked into the dark forest past those signs where the trees stood as still as statues, no breeze on their limbs, no leaves at their toes. Perhaps I tried to make myself feel something as I zigzagged through the trees. Light poured through from somewhere beyond the gaps—I ventured toward that. Perhaps I tried to make myself feel something as I stepped into that light, exiting myself from the forest where the trees stood as still as statues, no breeze on their limbs no leaves at their toes—something holy, something ethereal and possibly baptising about this moment, like I was stepping into some plane of heaven or some space where, due to this glorious light, every object in existence would suddenly become clear, and the entire rest of the world would unfurl before me, sunlit green hills rolling into quaint villages residing underneath endlessly spiraling clouds, that segue into a mountainous range stretching into the infinite distance, where this same pattern—hills, then villages, then mountains—repeat over and over and over and over and over and over again, forming a Bigger World I never knew.
Perhaps I tried to make myself feel something as I traced my eyes from my feet, forward, forward— to where the grass abruptly ended. To where there was no rubble anywhere; no sight of anything broken; no signs of blackened glass, of any mirrors, whatsoever.
* * *
There is a hole where the sun should be. Not a black hole, a red one—
Last night I saw the edges of this World. It cut off, cleanly, one deliberate edge where the land ended. Just like that. No gradient. No cliff. Like someone took a lightsaber, slashed it linearly through the clouds, the trees, the soil. It made me feel
* * *
Last night, at the edge of the World, I slept and dreamed.
In my dream, the World is not box-like. My town is not alone. The people do not have buttons for eyes, or perhaps they do, but I do not know this fact. I wake up inside the depression in the center of town, where the lake used to be before The Storms swallowed it up into the heavens. My vision seems blurry; I rub my eyes. There is a magnetic pinch somewhere on the right side of my forehead. I scowl. Something is coming toward me from above—but I cannot see it.
A ball-shape. Colorless, in my visionless field of sensory. A solid-feeling pressure-point, growing bigger, and bigger…
Subtle, painless pressure rubs my left temple, graphing the movements of a crowd of people—to the left of me—that has just started cheering. They’re rooting for me. With an athlete-trained sense of alarm, I hurtle myself onto my feet, and bolt toward the ball. Where is the ball coming from? And I am reminded: by the omnipresent, subtly hot pressure point, that exists on the roof of my head and will exist there perpetually. The Sun.
The ball came from the hole where the sun should be.
My focus has been splintered. But the ball, I know, is here— I dive for it.
Just an instant, micro-second later, the ball reappears in my Spacial Intuition Radar: and it confirms what I already feel. It is not in my hands. I fall forward, ungracefully flopping onto my stomach. Behind me the net cracks upon the ball’s impact. Far beside me the people on the bleachers jump and scream, in post-defeat tantrum. I just lay there. Perhaps I should feel shock, but instead, I saw it coming. This is what goalies are meant for: to lose every once in a while, to be the bringer of defeat to your team and the masses of people rooting for you, every single time. To miss entirely the big ball; the most important ball; the tiebreaker goal in the biggest tournament of the year. To collapse fatally when the sun decides to fall toward you from the sky, expecting to be caught.
Yet within a few seconds, a teammate pulls me into a sitting position. One by one they hug me. They saw it coming too; they knew I would miss this. It’s not like I have supernatural capabilities. They pat my back, tell me it’s okay. We will bear this together. And it feels nice. I do not see the stains of defeat: the dirty red tears that ooze out of their rusted and cracked button-eyes, soiling their faces and necks; the net behind me that is undoubtedly busted; the ashes covering my back, the charred field, and whatever other damage comes with the explosion of something that was most likely the sun. I do not have to see anything. All I feel: just the rough rhythm of human flesh, enclosing me, colliding with me and my equally fleshly humanness. I laugh. There is no need to cry. Object collision—all we are is object collision. A mass of indiscernible, shifting items on a Spacial Intuition Radar.
I give my hands to two of my teammates and let them pull me into a standing position. Their hands are warm. They seem to be crying; I pull them into group hugs again. Heads on shoulders, tears on chests, arms criss-crossing, tangling, thighs clamped together, hair matting to each others’ necks and cheeks with sweat. Our bodies are all warm. Their figures occupy almost the entirety of my radar, a pulsing, heavy pressure around my forehead and temples. And on the roof of my head, beats another form of heat. The pressure point in the sky where all the heat originates from, naturally.
I see no red hole. I see no trace of the heavens that I’m not supposed to see. I hear only my teammates, as they disintegrate into wails and sobs. I want to laugh. Perhaps we didn’t just lose a massive game, perhaps the ball never fell, perhaps nothing is different, nothing at all—for how could anything fall through a hole in the sky when the hole was blocked?
Then it began to rain, all around us, drenching our already sweat-soaked jerseys and shorts, clogging my field of sensory. Or perhaps it wasn’t rain, but a giant water bottle peaking through the hole in the sky, regurgitating half-drinken, back-wash-filled water onto us. But it’s not like we can tell. If it surrounds us, if it falls in droplets, then it’s rain. And the heavens do work. And it hardly matters that The Storms stole our lake years ago, if the heavens will keep raining.
And then I remembered: we are inside the depression. As if on cue, rain tumbles down harder. Maybe its intention was to flood us. It would make this depression a lake again—but would we be able to swim out of here?
“Run,” someone screams. We break apart. I follow my teammates, the slowest one in the group (I’m not used to Spatial Intuition), as they make beelines for the sides of the chasm where people seem to be climbing up. There must be ladders there, then. Ladders that I can’t see.
“Go, go, go.” One by one we clamber onto the ladders. I am the last one—I am always the last one, the goalie, the safety net. When my teammate’s foot leaves what my radar identifies as the first rung, I reach for it. I gasp.
A tide springs up from beneath, plunges the rung out of my reach, punches my back. Takes my feet from under me, and I fall over, head first, into its waves.
I gasp again. Water streams into my nostrils, my lungs, but above me—I see light. At first, just a small hole in the center of my vision, then spreading outward. The spacial maps of my radar dissolve. Specks of pressure along my forehead—pinpoints of the objects my mind had been tracking—release. The World above me opens. Glorious, baptising light is flooding the blue waters. I laugh and it comes out as choked bubbles. Dive in, and you’ll finally be able to see, I want to scream to everyone above me, the white-jerseyed toy-people scrambling for higher ground. The water makes you grow. Enter this healthier plane of existence with me.
* * *
When I wake up, the sky is still its same shade of opaque purple-blue it always is. Day and night don’t exist. I don’t know which Artist once convinced the townspeople that the sky changes colors. It never does.
I walk home. In the center of town, the depression is still empty.
We have been functioning for years without water. For most people they have been fine, still functioning appropriately. But they don’t see: how wilted we’ve become. How parched and patchy their skin is, how frayed and dirt-crusted their seams are. How saggy their button eyes are. Their declined health is obvious in their physiques, and they probably experience more forgetfulness, more grogginess, and operate slower, tired lives, but I’m not sure if they notice it or not. Maybe they have noticed—for who can not?—but maybe they choose to collectively ignore their bodily decay.
I leave the depression and continue down the sidewalk.
In the dream I encountered water. But here in this waking World, in this lonely town, I will perhaps never see water, never see glass. Never see my reflection. I will never access another pair of eyes. Something to offer me proof of existence. In a way that won’t expose my abnormality, won’t uproot the entire life I built, the way an Artist, anther human being, will.
Maybe my eyes are wired wrong. Maybe the sun is there, because why else does the every single person I’ve ever met, with no exceptions, take its existence as basic fact. Maybe a mirror would reflect this basic fact: and show me a great orb of fire in the sky, untouchable, with light haloing around it, the Original Light, the one true source. Maybe a mirror would tell me what my eyes look like—if they are different from everyone else’s or not.
Maybe if I had a mirror I could see if I am wilting, the way everyone else is, or if my appearance looks perfectly fine: no patchy skin, no saggy eyes, no shedding hair that leaves bald spots, no crooked, barely-held smiles. I could see if soccer is keeping my health intact. I could see if my body appears sturdy enough to sustain a life in this sport. I could see if I am doing it right. I could see if my reflection looks like someone capable enough to keep hiding her difference, her supposed gift that manifests as a curse, for the rest of eternity, until the sun disappears from the sky like her mother prophesizes.
I look up. I am not home. Instead, my feet have taken me to school.
In the courtyard, there is a statue of the school’s founder, a man whose name I never bothered to memorize. His head is gone. But it’s funny—because no one cares. About his name, or his face. No one notices his beheading. Except me. All the sudden I want to know about this man who I never cared for. I read his name on the stone: Anhi Won. I want to be like Anhi. Just a body left in this World, headlessly serving its known purpose. Which is to symbolically—uselessly—guard this school.
I close my eyes. And I think of joining Anhi, as a fellow mutilated corpse—but instead of getting beheaded, I’ll have The Storms gouge out my eyes, until I look just like one of the bleeding Gods drawn in the books. Until Anhi here becomes nothing more than an indiscernible mass of heavy-item, on an innocent, unenlightenable radar. Until the hole where the sun should be becomes instead a massive, grand, god-like pressure point, pulsing perpetually on the roof of my head.
That made me feel okay.
Alicia Cai is a freshman studying human development in context. She writes to keep her species-being intact.