Flash Fiction Month 2020 Day 7

We reach the end of the first week. Seven stories in seven days. Twenty four more to go. Deutsches Museum here in Munich have a huge variety of sundials, but none like the ones in this story.

Shadow Time

There were sundials in the cities, vast and scarred, though the crowds passed them by without noticing. Most were buried in the hearts of buildings, gnomon embedded in brick walls where no sun or shadows could reach.

They found the first one in a shopping centre, tearing apart the plaster panels, vast metal needle rising amongst the demolition. Metal panels cast with star charts. Guides to planets unknown and unmapped.

Astronomers tracked the position of the shadows, computer modelling sending shade across white block cities on flickering screens. When the new sun arrived it was exactly where they predicted.

The surface boiled infection yellow, and the light was tasted rather than felt or seen, flavoured with charred hair and sodden paper. For three days and three nights we watched it scorch the sky and graze away top layers of skin. Hiding inside was no protection.

The planets arrived a week later, orbiting both the new star and our own now damaged home. Telescopes scanned the surfaces for life, and found something else. Structures erupting like sores, and populations who clustered beside the polar wounds. We watched helpless as they tumbled through the gap between us and them, landing amongst us with seeping mouths and dreams that infected us even while we were awake. Our minds were not designed to endure the openness of their thoughts. Even lead walls could not keep out the vividness of their impulses, nor rock as we found out when we retreated below ground.

They did not follow, the Parchment Children and the Uncles of Sepsis. Instead they built stone circles around our entrances, stitches that wounded the land as they wounded us, and when we emerged their thoughts gnawed through our threadbare skulls leaving us as little more than ornaments for them to decorate the scars that once were our cities. The scars where they now nestled.

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