Record 20: Moraga, CA, Friday, July 5th, 2019. Night.
For months now, the outsider had been dying. Six months ago this same day, folks watched as the sun set for the last time over the mountains at precisely 7:02 pm, as their iPhones had informed them. A sadness hung in the now-forever night air, inert and disarmed, and waiting.
Some folks called it the apocalypse. Some called it fate. Some, global warming. None of it mattered anymore, none of the theories and predictions. The modern folks, they were not good for much more than hypothetical diagnoses, drawn from and based upon hours of Wikipedia research and a too-strict devotion to MSNBC. They spent days wound up and caffeinated, trapped between home and office walls, bouncing to and fro like pinballs, excitedly asserting their own doctrine of just how exactly the world would come to an end. Their voices blundered and bashed and everyone won every conversation, every debate, even when they lost.
Six months ago today, everyone had lost. All hypotheses had been laid to rest. Folks resumed driving Hybrids and doing crossfit and watching Netflix. All was normal. All was routine. And there was no sun.
Folks adjusted to their now-forever-dark environment in the way most folks adjust; smiles and aspiration one moment, tears and frustration the next. Days remained settled in this binary fashion for months, and folks withheld the overbearing urge to collapse beneath a hurricane of obscenities and misplaced rage, fists tightly clenched, shaking at the black sky. They resisted the urge to demand answers, to plead for a single day of sunshine and lemonade. Of quarantined sections of dead park grass where grown-ups would smile and say things about golf clubs and moderately priced Kias while their kids sat looking ugly and miserable on iPads. No one would cry or bleed or go vegan. They’d all hold hands and whistle Don’t Worry, Be Happy without fear or cynicism.
This day would never come. The folks knew this. They knew they’d never get another sunburn again. They knew all that remained was quiet resignation from life; a humble bowing out with no curtain call.
And so it went. Days without sunshine. Without living plants. Without vegetables. Without fruit.
Folks lost weight. They went pale. They got cancer.
Those still alive were cold, and justifiably so. Science had made it clear that, if the sun was to go out, the world would freeze in a matter of minutes. Why this did not happen perplexed many of the folks, and drove some to madness. Others turned to faith. Others to family.
Some of the folks, anxious to rebel against anything, took to the streets. They did this without yelling or causing a ruckus that would rattle and agitate folks more than they already had been rattled and agitated. These folks, they simply laid in the alleyways and on side streets, out of the other folks’ way, waiting to die. They did this, and no one seemed to mind.
It wasn’t until, on the coldest day two months ago, the outsider arrived; a small girl, no more than eight years old. She showed up carrying nothing, rinsing her bare feet with gasoline at a local gas station. The folks took to calling her Mason. The name seemed arbitrary, and yet, so did everything about her arrival.
She’d come from nowhere. And this was not an exaggeration. When asked where her home was, she said, without a hint of mockery: “Nowhere.” Many folks attributed this kind of buoyant response to the pure, uncomplicated wisdom of a eight year old child. Some folks, though, legitimately believed this young girl was from a nonexistent home. How this was possible, the sky only knows, but then again, some folks were still alive. How had they not died immediately, like science foresaw? This young girl, she had to be a miracle.
Folks, almost collectively, refused to entertain the notion that, perhaps, she was just a lost girl. Mason was not a lost girl. And there was proof, as some folks suggested. For one, how was it possible that Mason was thoroughly uninterested in energy drinks or text messages? All children loved energy drinks and text messages. This was a fact.
Second, Mason had no clue how to use a computer. She had, allegedly, never seen a computer before. Folks assumed she was poor, and voiced this opinion in meetings with other folks, held in house living rooms with all the lights turned on.
Finally, Mason could dance, though she was not gyrating her hips or prancing with a trumped out chest like all the famous YouTube video girls. She was waltzing, alone. Often times she waltzed in parks. She waltzed in gardens where plants and flowers used to grow. She waltzed on street corners and in grocery stores. She waltzed on rooftops and ignored the grown up folks when they shouted at her to come down. Days went on, days when Mason waltzed.
Many folks figured Mason a saint of some sort. A miracle. The second coming, in waltz form. There were, of course, detractors. These folks deemed Mason just a young, dancing girl. Sure, she had no computer knowledge, and yeah, sure, she didn’t like text messaging, but that didn’t make her immortal. Folks said, and often vehemently asserted that Mason, too, would get sick and die. These folks were condemned for speaking ill of the wonderful outsider, who, in their dying eyes, was perfectly and waltzingly infallible. Beauty hadn’t been restored to the city, or to the city’s folks until Mason showed up, gasoline dripping from her feet, her gaze somehow placid and hopeful at the same time. She was the one most folks loved. The one who never complained or said mean things. And so it was devastating for the folks, all of them, when it was discovered that Mason, their messianic outsider, was dying.
There was no official doctor’s diagnosis or proclamation. Mason simply stopped dancing a few days ago. She curled up on a park bench, and began to cough. Folks did their best to aid her, bringing her tea and throat lozenges. Doctors even visited the bench, but Mason wouldn’t let them run any tests or ask her any questions. She told the doctors, and any other folks who bothered to ask, that she was dying, and that she had welcomed her fate. Mason had lived and danced. Today, she was dying. Things are just this simple sometimes, Mason said to anyone who would listen, and, of course, many folks did. They sat before her bench, holding candles and asking Mason for advice. Mason told them all, in a soft, whispery voice, that there was no advice that she could give to them that would bring the light back. And then, without tears or platitudes, Mason died.