The Four Suns
The sun broke into 4 parts, leaving civilization no choice but to settle underwater.
Mariah Frey hiked the safe parts of the forbidden dryland with her archaeology class. People of the marine cities understood that life above water was impossible. What lived in that place before them was a mystery- a dangerous mystery, a fickle study. No one knew how humanity began in underwater cities. Who or what created the artificial conditions for survival that were based on the above land? There must have been centuries of scientific breakthroughs, but what those humans left the marine-dwellers is a complex mystery. Every trace of humanity’s origins is lost like treasure, and Mariah was one of the people determined to help find the answers.
Most people were afraid of leaving the deep sea and facing the turbulence of the surface. Natural disasters and disease were horrors of the past. The slight possibility of underwater landslides and fractures would be solved with the domes transporting to a stable foundation. Other risks of life above the ocean were unfiltered air, natural disasters, the thin ozone, and objects falling from space. They were hopeful that after some centuries of keeping the land above vacant, the earth would return to an optimal habitat. The Return to Land program was an advocacy club at her college that focused on restoring natural habitats in areas deemed safe to explore. Other participants worked in abandoned cities to demolish and remove the barbaric amount of concrete the ground begged to be rid of. They had to wear gas masks in the hazardous areas where pollution was thought to be weaved into the natural ecosystem. Certain regions also required spacesuits due to differing gravity and oxygen levels, but safety gear was not necessary beneath any of the four points of sunlight.
Mariah was especially excited for the creek, but she was forbidden from taking off the heavy mask until they were at the waterfall. Life underwater had many benefits, such as constant access to filtered water and aquafarms that never suffered from droughts. There was nothing left aboveground except ruins, but Mariah loved getting out of the dome and seeing the original system that humanity had to recreate under the sea. It felt different to see the open sky so infinite and intimidating.
The class stopped at the waterfall where they would study the environment and keep their eyes open for artifacts. A lot of people went straight towards the water or the field, but Mariah felt hesitant.
“What are you waiting for?” Bodie, her lab partner asked.
“I want to look in the less obvious places. I’m going to stay under the trees.”
She found that she was more comfortable staying near the trees than in open areas. Dryland was like being on a different planet. She went to the smaller group of people observing quietly and independently over by the hill in the forest. They took pictures of the colossal fallen tree trunk, the contrast of greenery and of ashes in the forest, plants they had never seen, leaves, rocks, mud, water, the list went on and on. Mariah made a steep climb over the fallen tree. She found herself alone and wandered as far as she could without losing track of her class. She could see a variety of colors in the distance- past a clearing through more trees. When she walked over, she gazed upon a field of lavender. She walked into it, forgetting her discomfort with the open air. She had never seen anything like it back home. They had not yet recreated the nature hikes that once stole the hearts of adventure-lovers beyond the means of virtual reality.
In her search for an area to explore, Mariah tripped over a heavy medium-sized rock, when her eye caught a thin chain underneath it. She moved the heavy rock aside and revealed a golden locket. It was exactly how one would imagine an ancient locket to look- scratched with faded gold. She opened it up to a black glass screen with a play button on it. Looking over her shoulder, she pressed it. The screen loaded slowly until the locket suddenly looked brand new, a light shiny gold. The screen read, Put your device on the ground. A hologram started loading, but only the vaguest parts were visible- there was no face, only a blurry outline with blinking pixels.
“Hello. My name is Leighton Morrow. I’m a 24 year old woman about to flee to the ocean floor with the rest of the survivors. We have all been made aware of the changes to our world history. Not even the origins of technology are salvageable. I saw the internet’s earliest stages, dealt with its difficulties, watched it advance beyond what anyone imagined, then saw its demise. Be aware that I’m probably not the only one who made one of these messages for you. Most people won’t leave anything behind because we’ve been told that it's best if the beings of the future recover as little as possible from our past. I know there’s a chance you won’t find this, but I know better than to be 100% certain about the forces of the universe. I grew up in a place called Phoenix. One day, it was record-breaking heat, and the next, it was completely frozen over and dark.”
Mariah heard her lab partner calling her and quickly closed the locket, seeing him in the clearing before the lavender field. “I’m over here Bodie!”
He ran over to her. “There you are!”
“You’ll never believe what I just found. I want to watch it before I turn it in. Isn’t it beautiful?” The locket was back to its original form.
“Watch it? Slow down” he smiled at her excitement. “What exactly is it?”
“It’s amazing. It changes and looks brand new when you turn it on. It opens to a screen, and then it’s like a projector for an old hologram.”
“Incredible! What is the hologram like?”
“I can’t see the face of whoever owned it. The hologram itself is broken but the audio is perfect.”
“Could I try it?”
Bodie opened the locket. “How does it turn on?”
“All I had to do was open it.”
“It’s not going for me,” he said fiddling with it.
“It just worked! I didn’t even finish listening to the message.”
“No one is really over here. Let’s get more off to the side in the trees and we’ll try to get it going.” He handed it back to her, and it changed form when it touched her. “Wait. It just changed.”
Mariah looked down to see that it was shiny and gold again. “I think that means it’s powering on again. We have to put it on the ground.” The hologram loaded up, one of its hands coming into a clear picture. “That hand didn’t load before. I wonder if we’ll get to see who this is.”
“I hope we do,” said Bodie. “Quite the artifact to write about for our project. You might've made a huge discovery.”
Except Mariah was unsure if she wanted to share it, knowing the establishment would likely alter and shorten its message. Artifacts were not meant to be held onto by the students. The task was to take photos and turn the objects in whether they were items or plants.
The hologram picked up where she left off.
“This is what I’m leaving you before I’m off to sea. I have a bit of extra time, only because it’s not raining fire in the neighborhood where we wait to be processed. The reason you can't find anything about the past is because the fiery wrath of The Four destroyed a huge source of information- the network systems that made the internet work. Survivors must agree to have their memories of world history erased as a condition of entering the marine cities for refuge. It’s supposedly necessary to eliminate the risk of war.
What you will know as "The Four" used to be called the sun. It was one star that warmed the entire Earth. The poles used to be the coldest, and the middle was the warmest. The sun as we knew it transformed in its death, contrary to the science-backed assumption that it would burst into a million tiny pieces and turn everything dark.”
Mariah noticed another hand on the hologram fully visible in a human form.
“She's human” Bodie whispered.
“The matter that made up the sun rained down from space and mixed into every type of natural disaster you could imagine; tornadoes made of fire, droplets of lava raining down in sheets and burning the entire city, earthquakes all over the place. About half of the earth's population survived thanks to the rise in underwater living that was already happening. The astronomers were aware that certain areas of study forbid entry of any kind; if a spaceship tried to land on Venus or the Sun, both would smolder it into nonexistence. The true elements of the sun were unexplorable at a hands-on level, so all of the information about the sun was based on observation.
The world leaders decided that history was to be blank because people can't be trusted not to destroy. Those of us making our last words on dry land are asked to warn you to stop exploring the social aspects of life before you came to be. People were silenced by a mind-altering machine when they walked through the tunnel to their new life under the sea. A side effect? Happiness. Ignorance is bliss.
Humanity won't return to life on dry land until further notice, if ever. Will we be long gone by that day, or will one choice of life- above ground or below ground- be a paid luxury? We are never away from the unknown. It's alright as long as you don't think about how you're now stuck in the slow development of a fishbowl. The dome I’m assigned to is about as large as Texas. We'll have a lot of plants down there that distract from the artificiality of life.
The explosion happened, and these four pieces hovered over the oceans. It's unknown how long the new system will stay as stable as it is right now, but The Four suns seem to have decided where they want to reside for the time being. I hope, for your sake, that they stay where they are for as many centuries as our earth originally enjoyed, but I also hope that the history of The Four is stated in no uncertain terms. And don't forget to keep music, love, and laughter alive. Good luck future. This has been Leighton Morrow from Flagstaff Arizona.”
Mariah and Bodie were silent. The hologram kept twitching, the hands seeming to come more into vision. “Do you think that was all she said?” Bodie asked.
“That sounded like a conclusion to me, why?”
“Because it looks like it’s still trying to load more.” The hologram was lighter and glowing as though it were restoring itself for the first time in centuries.
“That’s great, we’ll get to see what she looked like. You have your camera?”
“Yeah!” Bodie took out his video camera and watched the hologram transform.
When the face loaded completely, they stared in disbelief. “Bodie,” Mariah’s voice shook.
He looked at her and stayed silent, making sure his camera was still recording. “It looks like us...she looks like...you.”
The hologram stared right back at Mariah smiling, then said “If you’d like to replay this message, tap the screen. Otherwise, please close the locket.”
Mariah closed the locket and looked at Bodie. “I want this gone. Put it in your pocket and drop it into the creek before they check out our items. Don’t tell anyone what you saw.”
About the author
Starlight Tucker creates works of fiction, music, and art. She has a BA in Communications and will graduate with an MFA in Creative Writing in February 2023. Connect with her on social media @StarlightTucker