There is only one ray of sunlight left that shines on the Earth. The ray has a limited diameter of about three feet. It's like a spotlight. People can see the beam approaching for days and days. The ray is careful to shine upon every inch of the planet's surface, which takes a very long time but is at least fair. Uncomplaining but eager, people await the ray's arrival. When it reaches them they hold up their faces and enjoy the moment because it doesn't last long. It's lovely. One woman said it was as if God had run his fingers through her hair. Sadly, some of us are not lucky enough to have this experience: those who are born just as the ray leaves their vicinity and will be dead by the time it returns. These people content themselves with the certainty that the ray will one day glide over their graves.
Now that it is a rare and precious thing, everyone appreciates the light from the sun and talks about it a great deal. They talk about sunlight as much as they used talk about celebrities and sporting events. They watch the sun ray's movements on television. There is a special channel devoted to the sun ray. It's called The Sun Ray Channel. You have to pay a subscription to get the channel and it's quite expensive. No one else is allowed to record or broadcast the sun ray as it moves about. Full transmission rights have been secured. Those who can't afford to pay the subscription for The Sun Ray Channel usually watch illegal streams of the sun ray online, which is almost as good but for a dip in picture quality and occasional lagging.
The practise of sun hogging (following the beam as it travels and walking in its light) is no more. It was frowned upon. The sight of multitudes of people shoving each other so as to grab a moment in the warm glow seemed undignified to those watching and was tiring for those participating. It also left people dreading the sun ray's arrival as it carried with it a stampede of assholes that would maraud across their property and deny them their moment. So, the activity came to an end and those who indulged in it were stigmatised and left pariahs. No one admits to their former sun hogging days.
People still have tans but they're an unnatural hue, got from lying beneath the sun simulacrum in the Sun Ray theme park. The simulacrum is great big cooker ring of a thing that emits a crackling buzz. The discerning avoid it and remain pale. Spending time basking in the simulacrum saddens them as it only reminds them of what they've lost.
The habits of animals have changed a lot since the sun went away. Animals have become fleeting silent things, silhouettes you might glimpse darting before headlights. Nocturnal species remained largely unperturbed by the disappearance of daytime and actually thrived. Being able to swoop down and catch rodents for a full twenty four hours has caused owls to become huge. I saw one that had to be nine foot long with its wings extended. It suddenly soared down before me, silently from out of the darkness. It scooped up my Jack Russell, Jarlath, and carried him away. I listened as the yapping grew distant. I had nightmares for at least a week. Maybe two weeks.
There's a lot of bats around too. They behave like robins.
The flowers we once knew are all dead and sorely missed but the luminescent weeds that replaced them have a spectral beauty of their own. The albinoid chlorophyll smells odd though. It's hard to describe the smell really. It's a subtle smell. It's a new smell. A never smelled before smell. I suppose the only way you could describe it would be to say that it is a kind of neutral smell or that it smells like a product, a type of product that is not known for its aroma. It's not a nice smell and it's not a bad smell but it is a smell.
The moon is gone too of course. It hasn't the strength to breach the cloud. People recall it in all sorts of ways: a great shining saucer, a mid-month eucharistic wafer glowing in the night. The stars are remembered too as scattered diamonds and so on. People watch old footage of the moon and recreate it with computer generated effects. There are festivals that commemorate the moon where children make moon kites out of paper and shine torches on them as they fly them in the night sky. It's always night now. Well, there's a kind of day when the cloud changes from pitch black to a darkened ash colour but no one calls that 'day'. Now there is just night and people say things like 'what night is it?' and talk about the 'nights of the week' – Monight, Tuesnight, Wednesnight, Thursnight, ...you get the idea.
The worst consequence of this sunless world is our failing health. The lack of vitamin D the sun used provide has made everyone poorly. We no longer live as long as we once did. Over the years, there are sporadic rumours of the sun's imminent return. Many people are desperate to believe as much. Various meteorologists and the like bring out best selling books predicting the dispersal of the cloud due to one thing or the other. We even make movies about it, it's become a genre. Most people pay no heed and know it's all just fantasy but others get very excited and are then disappointed. The sensible talk is about how the sun's absence came to be. No one really knows why the cloud coalesced and left us with only a single narrow beam of pure sunlight. There are fantastical folk tales about why the sun left us but science is at a loss. One philosopher proposed that it may be the Universe's way of asking us to go away. 'Why would the Universe want us to go away?', this philosopher was once asked. 'Maybe it got tired of being ignored', the philosopher answered. Maybe he's right or maybe the folktales are closer to the truth, that the sun drew a curtain over us because it was ashamed.