No Tomorrow

By Heather Bourbeau

Brazenly, she dared the tongue-tied author to write like this was his last chance, like his livelihood depended on it, “like there was no tomorrow.” And so began what became known as “The Time of Screenings.”

When his pen, fountain and black, touched the paper, time stopped. It was 8 p.m. in his time zone and it stayed 8 p.m. 

Once-pleasant dinner parties drew uncomfortably long, guests and hosts drained of witticisms and politesse. Deer desperately roamed the flatlands as mountain lions preyed greedily, taking advantage of the perpetual darkness to grow fat. Politicians were at a loss in their black-tie and gowns, stuck at fundraising galas, reluctant to leave, confer, adjudicate, or ameliorate in case there were more dollars to ply from donors who, in turn, were too worried to leave and lose votes for pet projects. Imams debated when the calls to prayer should be, trains stopped running. 

As the day stayed at 8 p.m., movie theater times adjusted to a new system, much like the metric. Since all films would start at the same time, there was a “first screening,” “second screening,” all the way until the “tenth.” Then it began again with a “first first,” and as no one thought this could last, that this could be real, no one thought this method too cumbersome or absurd. 

Alcohol consumption tripled almost immediately, older couples tried new sexual positions, and furtive advances among the single became bored expressions as the night failed to move. 

Protests arose to end all submarine missions as people began to understand the inhumane nature of no sun. Even the Sami in Lapland ached for their one hour of sun this winter. “Light parties” began popping up, with full spectrum lights taking over once dank nightclubs. Physicists and programmers, accustomed to working through the dark, didn’t notice the change, or lack thereof, for several cycles of their coffee habit. Once they checked their clocks, their screens, and Reddit, there was a rush to invent a sun app or a way to nudge the earth back into rotation. 

And still the author wrote. 

He wrote until he could not write any more, until the story had finally, fully, been told. 

As he handed her the draft and commanded that she edit as if there were, in fact, a tomorrow, she felt the glimmer of hope return—the one she hadn’t realized had left somewhere during the fifteenth seventh screening. And as she put pencil to paper, felt the moonset and sun’s timid rise, she shed two tears and vowed never to threaten time again. 

About the author

Heather Bourbeau’s work has appeared in 100 Word Story, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Kenyon Review, Meridian, The Stockholm Review of Literature, and SWWIM. She is the winner of La Piccioletta Barca’s inaugural competition and the Chapman Magazine Flash Fiction winner, and she has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has worked with various UN agencies, including the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia and UNICEF Somalia.

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By Iacyr Anderson Freitas, Translated by Desirée Jung