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A Bottle of the Good Stuff

Besides fiction writing, Zack Conley is an experimental baker, apologist, and graduate student of biochemistry. He is currently stationed in Houston, Texas, waging war against the antibiotic resistance. He is also a contributing editor, "The Motley Advocate," for the Science ACEs Blog (scienceaces.wordpress.com) and tweets @ZConley42 whenever he remembers he has a twitter.

When it was Abigail's birthday, I bought her a full bottle of the good stuff. It was a blue glass bottle, of a tepid color, with the yellow stuff full to the top inside. I wrapped it in red paper to mask the gentle yellow glow.
She didn't notice at first, it was just another present amongst the several odd shapes sitting on the table. We didn't even open presents until later. First she was woken up by her favorite song echoing down the hallways. The stone walls were letting the vocals bounce around as the overhead bulbs slowly flicked on one by one. The rest of the family groggily awoke, grandfather complaining about the vocals. But they all made their way out of bed, some of them stumbling over wires as they made their way to the central keyboard where I was pulling up the video. All of the screens in the house came alive with dancing animals, letting Abigail dance her way down the hallway.
Then it was time for breakfast and she wanted potatoes. I had gone to the garden and pulled a few overhanging spuds, while checking the chemical meter on the nearby dial. Based on the readings I needed to get more potassium but it could wait until tomorrow. It was Abigail's birthday after all.
After breakfast she tried to hide just how excited she was. She was playing games on one of the screens in the living room, while we sent out e-mails, made phone calls and did the normal business we had to do. But I could see from the way she kept watching the clock flash that she was waiting for it to start.
I finally took pity on her and told everyone to gather in the floor. She eyed the pile of brightly colored packages in the dim light like a dragon surveying its jewels and plunged forward. There were games, and other programs, but I kept shifting her away from grabbing the bottle. I didn't want to steal anyone else's thunder. But then she finally came to it and everything stopped. She knew what it was. We all knew what it was, and she eyed it like liquid gold.
"How long?" was all she asked.
"Three hours," I responded.
Then we were all chasing after her, as she darted from the living room stumbling into her shoes. I caught her climbing up the main ladder, a flashlight in her pocket. The rest of us followed afterwards grabbing various torches or some just using their cell phones.
By the time I got up the ladder she already had the hatch open, and for a moment I forgot everything as the air hit my face. It was dark, and one could barely make out shapes on the horizon from the little bit of light that came from the stars. Yet the wind was blowing across my face, and I took a moment to truly breathe.
Abigail was standing a few feet away, furiously trying to rip the cap from the bottle. I chuckled, feeling the bottle opener in my pocket.
"Not yet," I told her, turning on my own flashlight. "Where do you want to be when you open it?"
She smiled and ran down the road, as quickly as she could in the darkness, the rest of the family following suite.
We found her at the playground, this time waiting for us to catch up first before she opened it. When everyone was there, some needing to catch their breath, I finally obeyed Abigail and flicked off the bottle cap. With a large pop, the small ball of light was released from the bottle and gently floated upwards into the sky. As it rose in the air so did the sunlight, spreading out over the surrounding area.
With a cheer the family began to play. The young ones followed Abigail to the playground equipment, attacking the slides and swings like they had never seen them before, which to be fair they hadn't. At least they had never seen them properly. The older kids climbed from trees and rolled down the grassy hills, while others played basketball with a renewed vigor missing from the last games. The ones too old to play set around and simply enjoyed the sight, some playing board games and others picking at flowers.
They weren't really flowers and grass, as in the days of old. These plants used chemosynthesis, the others had used photosynthesis. But that was really beside the point. The flashlights and cell phones lay on the ground forgotten.
For a child, three hours can seem like forever, so it is fair to say that they played forever. But then the three hours were up, and the ball of light began to sink down towards the horizon. This was the really clever part, simulating the sunset. So we all sat together on the grass, huddled together watching the light turn to a mixture of red and orange. Then it was gone and the night returned.
We were all hungry at this point so we made our way back towards the house. We went straight to the cake since it was Abigail's birthday. Really, to be healthy we should have had a late lunch.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, January 9th, 2017

Author Comments

This story came about because of the weather. The humidity of the summer and the short days of the winter make perfect outdoor weather feel rare. Once, when my friend wanted to go grab a drink, I told him I'd rather have a glass of sunshine. The rest of the story grew from there.

- Zack Conley
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