The sun is both necessary for the sustainability of all life and a powerful deliverer of disease, discomfort, and death. It brings pleasant warmth and agonising burning. It delivers vital nutrients and prompts the destruction of vital bodily functions.
When you were a young girl, you discovered some people incarnate the sun. They’re vibrant in personality, fearless in their actions, and are never merely a footnote in the lives of the people they come across.
These people, you quickly learned, were often dangerous to be around. For all you yearned to be within their orbit, you had a fear of them noticing you.
One day, you were drifting through life when a conman caught your eye. He was an incarnate, you saw right away, but he was safer than any you’d ever come across before. He had a brother who had contained him, and you had never believed the sun could be contained.
His brother was a drifter who yearned for a purpose and place, just like you, but try as the conman might, he couldn’t carve out such place; people who incarnated the sun, you learned early, would take anything as a challenge and almost always rise up to exceed it. The idea they couldn’t do something was only held by the people grounded to the earth, and the few times this idea was discovered to be a fact, they despaired and burned more dangerously than ever.
He knew he would burn out and extinguish someday, you saw, but he’d try his hardest to see his brother safe from the flames and held warm and safe in another’s orbit before he did.
You sat down while his brother was making coffee, and he accepted your presence easily.
His name was Stephen Bloom.
It was a fitting name. He scratched plans on paper and made them bloom into reality.
When he wasn’t creating plans, he read, and when you stole books for him, he read aloud to you and gave commentary.
“I need to con Bloom,” he told you one day.
Nodding, you handed him a new notebook and a green ballpoint pen. You had no fear of him shining his brightness towards you and seeing what his words did to your insides; as long as he focused on Bloom, you could stay safely inside his orbit without fear of burning or over-illumination.
When Penelope was brought in, you knew the con would begin.
She was a good choice, and you delighted in studying her.
Like him, she had been contained; worse, she hadn’t even known she was an incarnate until recently, and she was busy testing her nature. As she did so, Bloom fell naturally into her orbit, and she welcomed him with warmth and just the right amount of light. He would follow her, occasionally renew her fire, and keep her from burning too bright and stretching her light too far, but he would not contain her; in return, she would guide him, protect him, and temper herself when needed to ensure her rays never irrevocably hurt him.
She would make him bloom in ways Stephen never could.
You faked your death, and once you were sure Bloom was safely in the sunlight, you went into the darkness until you found the fading light of Stephen Bloom and dragged him back into the world.
Medicine healed his body, but his light was dim.
Finally, one day, when you were busy drawing in one of the books he refused to read, he touched your hand, and when you stopped and looked at him, he said, “I’m not what you need, Bang Bang.”
You didn’t bother pointing out even those people allergic to the sun still depended on its existence for their survival. Sun incarnates, you knew from observation and experience, only responded to logic and reason when it fell into their favour.
You didn’t bother responding, ‘You’re what I want,’ because, while the sun might want things such as attention, praise, and acknowledgement, it and its incarnates are powerful enough they have no true need for any of those. Some might be containable, but even they can only be extinguished if they allow it to happen.
What you did do is doodle on his face until he sighed, slapped your hand away, and reached over to take the book.
When he was done reading, he said, “You’ve seen where I’ve come from. Why don’t you show me where you do?”
Some of the childhood fear of being caught by the more dangerous rays bubbled inside, but you nodded, reached past him, and finished the last of his hot chocolate.
He smiled, and you felt relentlessly pleasant warmth spread through every pore of your body.