The Sun Child
by Lauren Bell
TW: mention of suicide
She held the sun beneath her skin giving her a golden glow all year round. There was a lightness to her being which sparkled and dazzled the eyes of passersby. They would squirrel away into their safe dark places, the corners of the world where light couldn’t reach and chitter-chatter about how impossible the Sun Child was. This wasn’t her real name, the name her parents had given her at birth, though perhaps it could have been. Perhaps her mother with flushed cheeks and sweat-soaked hair, and her father made of chalk and flour had looked at this bronzed baby, then looked at each other and declared her a daughter of the Sun.
At school she lit up the room; when the electric failed and the classroom condemned to darkness the teacher asked her to perform. And she did, although she hated it.
Her heart swelled fit to burst, her lungs like two pregnant water-filled balloons, her skin a honeyed blanket stretched too tight over muscle, bone and sinew. This was not the girl she wanted to become. But this is what people asked of her. And it wasn’t just light - with the sun came heat, glorious scorching heat; people soon flocked around her, not content with their duffel jackets, their woollen mitts and duvet-thick scarves.
They took part of her home and warmed themselves sitting in front of the TV, the heat travelling along their arms, torso, legs, feet, and shooting back up to their brain, seeing sunspots when they pictured her name. They craved what the Sun Child had, what she could bestow upon their bleach-white bodies and lapped it up like water, always wanting more.
But no-one knew the Sun Child’s secret pain. How she would disappear upstairs with barely a nod to her no longer flushed mom and her still chalk and flour dad, and lock herself in the cool haven of the bathroom, squeezing her eyes tight, tight, tight, until all she saw were magnesium starbursts.
The cool porcelain of the bath charmed her, sparking a small smile. This is where she was comfortable, away from scavenging eyes and hungry bodies all wanting a piece for themselves. This is where she could unravel, a molten ribbon unspooling into the cold unknown. She turned on the taps lapping up the sound of each drop filling the tub and peeled off her gossamer-wing thin shift. Faint goosebumps pricked her skin. The water was a welcome friend wrapping her in its wet embrace. Shutting her eyes, she took the plunge and felt the water close over her head. She counted and counted until her lungs threatened to
burn through her ribcage, until her brain was pure white noise and her body transcended all sensation.
She could feel her oxygen levels falling slowly, slowly. All she had to do was
embrace the fire snaking its way through her body, ignore the hissing in her ears, to lean into those invisible damp hands tugging her under.
The sun beneath her skin had other ideas.
Light and heat came flooding through her pores obliterating the water’s surface, her hair a mane of molten lava forcing her mouth to open and gasp like an earthbound fish. Her eyes snapped open. It seemed drowning was as painful as it sounded. She pulled herself up through what felt like fathoms and greedily inhaled.
Failed attempt number nine.
From then on she decided drowning wasn’t the way to go; she had considered
poisoning, asphyxiation and cutting but she didn’t like the idea of opening her skin only to face liquid sunshine. It made her feel alien, something to be studied at microscopic level.
Instead she continued to give in to everyone’s demands spreading herself like butter on toast.
Thank you, they’d say. Thank you for the warmth you give us. Thank you for saving us from hypothermia.
Their thanks often fell on deaf ears. Whenever someone approached her with hands outstretched and eyes lowered, the Sun Child quietly hoped that this would be the day her godliness ended. She hoped that when she transferred some of her heat, it would stay gone and she would feel cooler. And little by little, day by day, she would become flour and chalk like her dad.
Now the bubble of hope rose in her as an elderly woman with cropped grey hair and a crooked leg dragged herself towards the Sun Child. The girl felt a twinge of sadness at this
poor twisted woman who looked like she hurt every second of every day. The old lady stretched out a gnarled hand with thick knots for knuckles and lowered her eyes.
Please let this be the one, the girl thought.
And so she took the ancient hand and pressed it beneath her armpit, the warm space growing cooler by the second and felt the heat in her body lessen. The Sun Child stopped breathing.
No, this was impossible.
Or was it?
Slipping her gnarled hand free, the elderly woman squinted up at the girl who no
longer resembled a girl, instead resembling something far, far away; something bright and bold and perfectly impossible.
About the author
Lauren Bell lives in Birmingham, UK, loves rainbows and is often drunk on inspiration. Her work has been published by Bare Fiction, Firewords Quarterly, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine and The Pygmy Giant.