A short story by Ursula West
- In the middle of the night, while everyone was
asleep, lying quiet and still
and silent; when all the country lay sleeping in their beds,
quietly and undisturbed, there was a thumping, a low steady thumping,
deep, deep down in the deep, deep earth.
No one heard and no one stirred and no one knew anything at all until the
When the people woke up in the morning, they got out of their beds
and went to the window and threw open the curtains.
To their amazement and horror it was pitch dark.
They looked at their clock,
They turned on their radios.
They checked with their neighbours.
There was nothing wrong with their clocks, their radios.
Their neighbours all said the same thing - it was morning.
Everything was as it should be except
there was no sun;
the sun had gone
They rushed out of their houses shouting,
"Where has the sun gone?'"
"Where has the sun gone?"
But no one could tell them; no one knew.
No one had any idea where the sun had gone.
Then they became aware of the noise,
the strange thumping, bumping, steady beating beneath their feet.
They felt the ground; put their ears to the ground and listened,
listened to the mysterious noise.
"Phone the police." someone shouted.
So they rushed inside their houses and phoned the police.
Where has the sun gone?
What is that noise in the earth?
"Was ist das?" said the Germans.
"Co to yest?" said the Poles.
"Que pasa?" said the Spanish.
"What the heck?" said the Australians.
"Shto eta yest" said the Rusians.
But no one knew.
They phoned each other, they talked to each other. They looked up books.
They looked back into antiquity to see if anything had happened like this
But nothing had.
Nothing could give them a clue.
Darkness remained everywhere.
Then the wailing started.
It started slowly,
A soft wailing.
And then it grew louder,
until the people had to put their fingers in their ears,
because it was all they could hear.
It echoed everywhere.
They went inside their houses - they could hear it.
They went into the woods - they could hear it.
They went under the water - and they could hear it gurgle around them.
Everywhere in the whole world there was a wailing
THEN IT STOPPED!
But they could still hear the thumping ....... bump bump bump
And the sun had still not come back.
They tried again.
They put their instruments in to the group and they listened even harder
bump bump bump bump bump bump.
and sometimes a heaving and a wheezing.
They looked worried, they looked concerned,
but most of all they looked absolutely puzzled
until a small boy came up and tugged at the sleeve of one of the scientists
who was kneeling on the ground perplexed and worried.
"Please Sir" said the boy.
"Go away young boy."
"I know what it is," said the boy.
"Go away young boy," said the scientist.
"But I do," said the boy "I've heard that noise before -
my grandfather made that noise once."
"GO AWAY! young boy" he said again.
"But I know that noise - it was just like my grandfather."
"Will somebody take this young boy away"! said the exasperated
Another scientist spoke up,
"Let us hear what he has to say, then he will go away," he said.
"What is it then?" said the first scientist.
"I think it's the Earth - the Earth has got sick" said the boy.
"The Earth is not alive," said the scientist. "It's not
like your grandfather."
"Oh but it is!" said the boy.
"My grandfather was sick when he made all those noises -
I think the Earth has got sick too and it is just lying down for a sleep.
It had closed its eyes - that's why we can't see the sun."
The scientists roared with laughter.
They fell about the ground with great howls of laughter.
"Now run along little boy - the Earth cannot be sick," they said.
"But it can be," insisted the boy.
He pointed to the river and to the scum which floated on top of it.
"That's what is making it sick."
He pointed the the car, spewing out clouds of fumes down in the town.
And then to the trees beside the street lights.
Their leaves were curling and withering at the edges,
showing dirty black patches and twisted twigs beneath the pale yellow remains.
"And how about that - and that."
He was pointing now to a factory chimney lit by a row of small lights.
It poured out a curious purple mist from its tall grey stack.
"How would you like to have that spitting in your face all day?"
he went on.
"I bet you wouldn't like it would you?
Poor old Earth has just got sick of it all - and I don't blame it one little
The scientists stopped laughing.
They looked at each other and then all around them.
They put their heads together and talked.
When they had finished they said,
"Run along now little one, we will do something about it - we promise."
And they did.
They called a great general meeting of all scientists in the whole world.
They discussed the young boy"s theory and they made a list of all
the things that
could possibly be making the Earth sick. Much the same way as doctors make
list of all the things that could be making a patient sick.
Then they added them all up and when they had counted them they gasped
"My goodness!" they said
"This patient shouldn't be sick, this patient should be DEAD!"
Quickly - we have got to put it right - there is no time to lose.
They rushed about the world and they closed all the factories that were
making the terrible smoke and ordered them to be kept shut
till they had found a way to clean up their act.
They cleaned out all the river,
they make clean harm-free petrol for the cars,
they got rid of all the horrible stinky bits in every corner of the world
and they worked and they worked, non stop, till it was all put right
and they themselves were exhausted and went straight to bed.
The whole world did the same,
everyone had lent a hand and they all fell happily into a good night's
In the morning, when everyone awoke, it was still dark, but the noise had
There was just a quiet hic hu, hu hic, hu, hu .....
like a soft pant.
And then a gentle gasp like a beautiful sigh of relief.
That wa the last noise that everyone heard the Earth make.
After that a strange thing began to happen....
As they looked up to the sky they shaded their eyes, for sunlight was beginning
to pour through a very long narrow slit in the darkness above.
The crack opened and grew wider and wider.
They could just see the eyelashes as they drew back,
as a great big eye opened up in the sky to let the sun in.
Slowly, slowly it slid back until it dropped behind the horizon.
The sun poured in all all the birds left the trees and swooped up into
singing their heads off.
Everyone danced and clapped and looked around - seeing for the first time
the work that they had done during that dark night.
For the first time they saw how beautiful the Earth could really be.
It was fresher, cleaner and the colours were brighter than they had ever
Nothing could have looked more beautiful.
"Never again," they said "will we make the world sick."
Let's hope they never did - or next time - well,
it might never open Its eye again.