My name is Gabriel and I just turned ten years old, and I already have one true enemy—the sun. To say I’ve been brought up in a dark environment is an understatement. For as long as I can remember, and I can only remember the past two years, I haven’t seen or felt the sunshine outside. You’re probably wondering what the reason is for that. Well, my parents told me I was in a serious car accident two years ago. And once I got back from the hospital, I had a severe allergy to the sun. I would die within the hour if I even stepped one foot outside when the sun was out. So they forbade me to go outside during the day. Even when it got dark, I had to be careful. I was allowed to go outside then, but only with a chaperone, and only when it was really dark. And even then, I had to wear a scarf, or a hat, to protect me from whatever sunshine bounced off the moon. If that wasn’t sad enough, I didn’t have any friends. Because of my condition, I couldn’t go to a regular school and meet other kids. I was being homeschooled by my mother, who stayed at home for that sole reason. The only companion I had, my one true friend, was Oreo. Oreo was a stray cat I sort of adopted when it kept coming in through the backdoor. It took some time before I could talk my mother into letting me keep it, but she saw how happy I was when he was here. She felt sorry I couldn’t have any normal friends, and then she let me keep it. Today turned out differently than I had imagined. It changed my life completely.
My room was dark, as usual. My parents had installed special windows to keep the sun out. They were made in such a way that I could look outside, but no one could look inside. Not even the sun could penetrate those windows. I didn’t have any music on. It would only remind me that normal people were at the festival downtown. Not me though, I was stuck inside with Oreo. I wanted open the window and look outside, look at the people heading towards the festival. But I couldn’t. The sun was still out. My parents were very strict about that. Not only about that, but they were very protective of me in general. Everything had to be spotless, and if I misplaced one small item around the house, they got furious.
In many ways, they were like me, as if they put their own life on hold because of me. I never saw any of their friends at the house. They were quiet people. Some might even call them loners, but I had a feeling it was because of me. My mom was always at home, while my dad worked the night shift at the local plant to pay the bills. If my mom wasn’t busy with homeschooling me, she was always cleaning. I rarely saw her without a cleaning rag.
Because my room had to be dark all the time, I refused to put any color in. What would be the point anyways? I couldn’t see them anyway. The only color in here was Oreo, who was lying on my lap. His white fur lit up the room in many ways. I had my computer on, but since my parents thought it might depress me, they cut off the internet. Maybe they were right, I would only get jealous of people with normal lives.
After a few more hours, I could go outside with my mom. It was going to be cloudy tonight, so it would be safe to go out. I wanted to walk to the festival, but my mom didn’t want me to go to such crowded places. Especially ones with that much artificial light around.
“You never know,” she would always say, “better safe than sorry.”
And because I didn’t know any better, I listened. The sun was already gone for a while, and it was safe to open up the window and let in some clean air. I could hear the music in the distance. The festival was being held not too far from here, so many people crossed our street to get there. We lived at the end of the street, a little isolated from the other houses. So this was the only weekend we saw people walking past our house. Some of them drove to the festival since our street was a shortcut. They could park their car and walk the rest of the way, but most people took the bus. There was a bus stop close by, and then they only had to walk for a little while to get there.
I pushed Oreo off my lap and opened the window. Oreo was waiting on my keyboard until I sat back down. It didn’t take long before he nested back in his favorite spot. It felt good to feel the wind blow through my room. The music came in a bit louder now, but I couldn’t hear which artist was playing at the moment. Not everyone went for the whole day, and many people only came for the headliner. That’s why there were still people out in the street.
A blue F-150, loaded with young people in the back, raced by. It was clear this wasn’t a car with factory settings. The engine roared like a lion, and because of that, Oreo got startled and jumped off my lap. Without even looking back, it jumped on my desk and out the window. My room was on the second floor, but that didn’t matter to him. He jumped on the garage below, landed on the garbage bins, and ran from the driveway onto the street.
Oreo was my one and only friend, I couldn’t let anything happen to him. I was afraid someone might run him over. I hesitated a little, but the sun had been gone for a while now, so I should be safe. Without thinking, I stood up from my chair and crawled out the window. I could have walked out the front door, but I couldn’t let my mom know I was already going outside. If she found out, there would be hell to pay. Besides, if Oreo could jump out the window, so could I. I let my feet out first and held on to the windowsill. I didn’t have much strength, so I quickly wiggled my feet until they felt something to stand on. From there I moved on to the garage, and then to the garbage bins, the same trajectory as Oreo. I saw him running on the other side of the street. A few people heading towards the festival noticed him as well and pointed at him. Oreo had a distinct appearance, white with black circles around his eyes, just like the cookie. I checked left and right to make sure there wasn’t a car coming before I crossed the street.
Once I crossed the street, I noticed Oreo lying in the grass next to a light pole, illuminated. It took me a while before I realized he was lying in a ray of sunshine. I was so occupied with finding him, that I didn’t notice the sun had broken through again. My heart started pounding twice as hard and it felt like my breathing got cut off.
Did this mean I was going to die?
I puffed for air when a few bystanders noticed I was having trouble breathing. They quickly ran over to make sure I was okay. One of them patted me on the back, thinking I was choking on something.
“Are you okay son?”
I was still gasping for air, unable to respond.
“Hey, you’re okay little man, just breathe.”
My breathing started to turn back to normal, and I could feel the warmth of the sun on my arms. It felt nice, but nothing to die over.
As soon as I looked up, the man who patted my back gasped and took a few steps back.
He pointed at me while he called his friends over.
“Look,” was all he could say.
His friends came over and they all stared at me, in disgust I thought at first. Was this how dying felt? Was I already turning into something hideous because of the sun? I moved both my hands towards my face and touched it to see if it was already starting to disfigure. I let out a big sigh, relieved it still felt the same as before. I was still a few years away from puberty, so my face felt smooth to the touch.
“Please, let me through,” I yelled, “I need to get inside before it’s too late.”
“Easy there, you’re okay now,” one of the bystanders reassured me.
More and more people gathered around me, staring as if I was some hideous creature. I wondered why they did that, I still looked normal from all I could tell.
“Please, I’m deadly allergic to the sun, I need to go inside.”
“Listen, it may be hard to believe, but I don’t think that’s the truth son. Where do you live? Where are your parents?”
I pointed at the house across the street. As soon as I did that, he took out his phone and dialed 911. I was too busy yelling at him to hear what he was saying.
“Listen, son, I need you to stay here. You’re safe now.”
What was going on? Why did he say I wasn’t allergic to the sun? But I had to admit, the sun didn’t hurt. It felt nice. I checked my face one more time—still smooth. Maybe he was right, maybe my parents lied to me, but what for? I took a seat next to Oreo, who was purring despite all the commotion. Because of his looks, he got a lot more attention now, instead of only me.
It didn’t take long before I heard a siren, more than one actually. Three police cars hurried to our street, before stopping at my driveway. The policemen opened their door and took cover behind it. I’m not sure what happened, but it looked like they took their guns out and pointed them at our house.
I wanted to get up and save my mom, but the crowd around me wouldn’t let me.
“Why won’t you let me go?” I yelled.
They didn’t say a word, they only hushed me, trying to comfort me.
I heard the policemen yelling at my house, ordering my mom to come out. I still wanted to break free, but one of the men held me back. I wanted to punch him as hard as I could, but then I noticed the light pole behind him and I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was looking straight at a picture of me, only two years younger than I was now. I broke free and stood in front of the pole. Why was I on a poster? Oreo moved his white fur against my leg. At that time, I felt safe. I looked up and read the words above my photo: