The Last Sunny Day

This morning.

It was the first sunny day they’d had in weeks. The gray clouds evaporated in the night and the Spring sunshine was finally able to warm the day. Nina’s mood soared as she woke up to the glorious feeling of the sunlight in her eyes. It arrived just in the nick of time since her daughter, Sophie, was on her very last nerve.

Sophie was bouncing with boredom. After days of crafts, tea parties, and dinosaurs flying around the house, Sophie was done with her toys. And Nina was done with Sophie’s attitude. A beautiful day brought with it the promise of a trip to the park where Sophie could burn off her energy. And Nina could burn off her frustration.

She let Sophie dress herself this morning. As she waited to see what kind of combination her daughter would come down in today, Nina made a quick call to her husband. They tried to check in with each other daily when he traveled for work, and cell service got spotty at the park sometimes.

“You’re going to miss her recital tomorrow?” Nina asked after Graham gave her the bad news. His return would be delayed a couple of days because negotiations weren’t going well. “Sophie’s been practicing for weeks and she’s so excited for you to be there.”

“They’ve already adjusted my flight,” her husband said. “I can see Sophie dance when I get back.”

“It won’t be the same. You know it won’t be the same,” Nina said.

“It’s just one recital. There will be others,” Graham said.

Nina tried to keep her voice low. Sound carried up the stairs and she wanted to protect Sophie from their fights for as long as she could. “There won’t be other first recitals. This stuff sticks with kids, even at her age. She’ll never get over it, you selfish ass.”

“I can’t talk about this now. They’re calling me into another meeting. I’ll call you later,” he said.

Nina heard a series of ominous thumps upstairs. “Don’t bother,” she said as she hung up the phone.

Eight Minutes Ago.

Nine million miles away, the Sun churned faithfully, as it had for five billion years. Clouds of gas under extreme pressures brought particles together in tiny nuclear explosions repeated trillions of time every second, releasing the intense energies required for the existence of all life on Earth.

A small area in the core of the Sun, the approximate size of a gas giant, began burning at temperatures ten times higher than normal. It sparked the available hydrogen around it and in moments a chain reaction began. The Sun’s fuel, expected to nurture mankind for the next five billion years, became the largest thermonuclear bomb that would ever exist in the brief history of mankind.

Seven Minutes Ago.

“He’s not coming tomorrow, is he?” Sophie asked. She said it in the matter-of-fact voice of children everywhere who’ve already learned the hard lesson of disappointment.

Nina felt her anger evaporate as she moved into protective mom mode. She tended to forget that Sophie listened in on adult conversations.

“Daddy wishes he could be here, sweetie. It’s hard for him to be away so much,” Nina said.

She kept an eye on Sophie playing in the rear-view mirror. It was ponies and dinosaurs this week. The dinosaurs were new since she’d learned about extinct creatures in school. Last week she had no interest in the giant lizards. This week they’d been invited into the dollhouse and tea parties like royal guests.

Sophie concentrated hard on her toys. The pony had developed super speed and was running laps around the dinosaur. Her tiny forehead furrowed as she processed whatever she was thinking privately. She didn’t say anything for a moment.

“But not as hard for him as it is for you, right Mommy?” she asked as the dinosaur won whatever game they were playing.

It felt like one of the dinosaurs sat on Nina’s chest. She gave a sad smile even though Sophie couldn’t see her from the back seat.

“It’s hard for all of us,” Nina answered as she pulled into the parking lot.

Six Minutes Ago.

Sophie exploded from the car, running for the playground before Nina even had a chance to grab her bags. She raced to catch up, but not too fast. There were other mothers that she recognized nearby and she knew that Sophie would be well looked after if she got out of sight. It was a fine line between giving Sophie some independence and wrapping her up in bubble packaging to keep her safe. Nina wrestled with it every day as her little girl grew up.

“Not too fast,” she called after Sophie on principle. If Sophie slowed down at all it was by a minuscule amount.

Five Minutes Ago.

Superheated matter exploded from the Sun in all directions. The star began to consume the frozen space around it, creeping towards the planets around it at 10,000 miles per second. It had all of the fuel it needed to keep moving for days, consuming everything in its path.

Four Minutes Ago.

Nina stopped at the edge of the parking lot to send Graham a quick text. It just said: “Sorry for dumping on you. I just miss you. Get home when you can. We <3 you!”

She tried not to fight with him about something out of his control, but the weather soured her mood. She’d be glad when all of this work travel was over and he could be home with them again.

Three Minutes Ago.

Sophie turned away from the playground with a devil’s grin on her face. She had an idea in her head. The kind of idea that must be satisfied before a child can put it aside.

“Chase me, Mommy,” she shouted.

She didn’t wait to see if her mother agreed before taking off into the field beside the park. The grass brushed her ankles as she ran, all of the seriousness from the car thrown off in favor of the new game.

Nina looked up from her phone and smiled as she followed in pursuit. She kept it slow to let it last as long as possible. “I’m gonna get you,” she called out.

The grass was soft and wet beneath her feet. It cushioned her steps and bounced back behind her as she ran.

Two Minutes Ago.

Her phone buzzed and she ignored it. Her whole world in this minute was the chase, giving her daughter all of her attention. Even if Sophie couldn’t see her smiling at this moment, she would know that her mommy was chasing her, that her mommy was playing. In that moment it was just the two of them. She couldn’t control Graham’s job. She couldn’t make his contract negotiations go any faster or change the airline’s schedule. All that she could control was making sure that Sophie felt safe.

As the grass stained her canvas shoes, she ran. Not to catch Sophie or to stop her. But simply to play the game Sophie wanted to play in that moment. So she ran until Sophie was done with the game and moved onto something else.

One Minute Ago.

The light from the exploding Sun sped across the darkness of space at 186,282 miles per second. It crossed the nine million miles to Earth in eight minutes. So the first evidence of the disaster bearing down on our planet reached the surface of Earth right about…


Sophie tumbles to the ground as her game of chase gives way to giggles. She kicks her little legs and runs her arms through the grass, grabbing handfuls of green. Spring flowers seem to blossom around her, as if the sound of a child’s laugh was the last harbinger of Spring that they needed to hear before blooming.

“Look Mommy! Look at the Sun,” she cries breathlessly, pointing up to the sky.

Nina almost scolds her for looking right at the Sun, but the light shifts as if a cloud has passed in front of it. A breeze tugs at the flowers around her daughter’s head and she turns to see what has Sophie so enraptured in the sky.

Others in the park are already turning to look as well. Some have their cell phones out to take video. Some are hurrying their children out of the park to go home, already.

“Why is the Sun that color, Mommy?” Sophie asks. But Nina doesn’t have an answer. Just a certainty that this is deeply and horrifically wrong somehow.

Without turning her eyes away, she kneels down beside Sophie and pulls her daughter close.


Clouds of gas and radiation will reach the Earth’s surface within 20 hours of the explosion. There will be no news countdown to the end of the world. There will be no satellites left in orbit to carry the signals. The cell towers will be overloaded by too many callers and then fried by radiation early. The airlines will shut down. Those who survive for a while on the dark side of the planet will wait, alone in the darkness, to see what kills them first. Heat, radiation, or the loss of food and water supplies. For most, it will be their own hand.

Sophie will understand that something terrible is happening in her own six-year-old way, but Nina won’t know how to tell her what it is. Instead, Nina will clutch her tight and think of that last sunny day in the park, before the grass and flowers were baked to ash. She’ll talk to her quietly of flowers in the sunlight and ponies who fly on rainbows and what happened to the dinosaurs long ago. And her voice will break every time she speaks.

“It’s okay, Mommy,” Sophie will say, patting her mother’s hand to comfort her. “My recital will be later now. Maybe Daddy will still make it.”

Nina will bury her face in Sophie’s hair and cry. And their world will end together.


This story was inspired by the title Ten Minutes Until the End of the World. Go read the original, now!

Dianne Williams lives in Lawrence, Kansas. She grew up reading Nancy Drew mysteries and classic science fiction. She once dreamed of being an astronaut. Or maybe a lawyer. Or an artist. She settled for being as many of them as she could all at once through fiction writing.

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