's 2014 Horror Write-off:

" The Wandering Sun "

Submitted by By Joseph Hartman

The boy walked into the old woman's cottage. Her blind eyes stared at nothing.

"I suppose you want to know about the man who outran the night? That's the only reason people come here anymore. Come on in, it'll be noon soon.

I've put on some tea for the occasion. I always expect visitors this time of year, and why not? I'm a welcoming woman.

I've been around longer than most, mind you, so don't fret if I ramble on. You came to me, remember. You'd have no one to blame but yourself.

Oh, I'm already doing it. Go ahead, sit down. Yes, right there's fine. Where to begin...?

There once were days when the sun and moon were siblings, brother and sister. They passed overhead so fast that the sky was an evershifting pattern of lights.

But whenever the moon came out, the spirit of night would wash over the land, and terrible beasts would wrench themselves from the shadows.

The beasts lay waste to the land, and the people began to hunger for the daylight. One man in particular, a wealthy, unmarried man, detested the dark. And one day, he decided that he would never face it again. At noon, he set off, sun shining down on him, and he resolved to never walk in shadow again.

He sold all he owned and bought out the fastest seafaring vessel in the world, and the finest crew. They sailed west, endlessly horizonward. The ship stayed below the celestial fire, piercing through the very wind with its speed.

They remained in constant daylight for three days. It was then that the man outran the night, and in his ambition and greed, stared at the sun so long that it drove him mad. The crew, however, became tired, and the sun dipped towards the horizon.

The man panicked, and drove the crew harder than ever. They worked themselves to death, leaving the man in solitude. But he was very far west now, and the sun was within reach. He reached out to it, bribing it to stay, spilling gold coins out into the water. They melted in the sun's heat, and became a shining bridge to the horizon. The man crossed, and touched the sun.

...What? You're saying that the sun is too far to touch? That no one can reach the horizon? Underestimate not this man, for his hatred for the dark would befuddle even the sun's light. Now pipe down and listen.

He touched the sun, but he was not burnt, for the sun did not hate him. The formerly rich man reached into his pocket, and retrieved the last unmelted coin.

He bit it, and gave it to the sun so he could do the same. This was their agreement, that the sun would follow the movement of the coin rather than the movement of the skies.

But the man was paranoid, and he swallowed the coin, so none might steal the sun from him.

The seas turned to vapor before the man, who walked across the water to a western land. Under the sun's benevolent rays, he did not tire, hunger, or thirst, and the people treated him as a god when he stepped onto their shores. The light shined down on the offerings, his new wealth, and for a single day, it was bliss. But then the day ended. And the night would not be denied.

The moon passed in front of the sun, plunging the world into darkness. But while the people and the rich man despaired below, the moon whispered the horrible truth to her brother, the sun: he had been imprisoned, and the man meant to enslave him forever. The sun flared in rage, and vowed revenge on the man who had exploited him so.

The spirit of the night passed by during the eclipse, and the beasts of shadow slaughtered the townspeople, but left the man unharmed. But then the moon let the sun's rays shine down, but this time they scorched and burned the man. He tried to escape, to throw his arms over his head, but the sun always followed.

The heat became too much for him, but the man could not die with the sun's coin inside him. And so he pursued the moon and her spirit of night, for once needing the dark, craving its cool embrace. He walked until his legs could not carry him, and then he continued to walk. And he has walked ever since."

The old woman closed her mouth. Her blind eyes stared at nothing. "And that," she said with a sense of finality. "Is why day follows night."

The boy began to speak, but the storyteller put a finger to his mouth. "Shh..." She said. "It is noon."

He led her outside. Though the town was usually bustling, but all was silent. Save for the sound of feet, slow, clumsy, but with a grim pressure.

The boy leaned past the crowd, but the woman pulled him back. "It is not for young eyes to see. Turn away."

But he had already seen it. A hunchbacked man, emaciated and dry, skin fading from brown to red to black to ash. Cracks ran down the outline of his body, as if he was a figure of porcelain that could break at any moment.

But worst were his eyes. They were not burned, or melted. They were a dazzling blue, brighter than the noontime sky itself. But his pupils were so small- no. He had no pupils.

His iris was so contracted that his eye was a solid blue, glowing nearly as brightly as the white hot disc that could be seen through the thin skin of his stomach. The unmelted coin.

Above him was the angry eye of the sun, moving with his footsteps, casting burning rays across the city.

As he passed, the people poured water on his wounds. It hissed and boiled, washing away the excess ash, and with each drop that touched him, the man releasing a horrible retching, whining sound. The boy guessed he might be screaming.

"They seek to ease his pain," The woman said. She carried a goblet, presumably full of water. "It is their tradition, of course."

The man stalked past, not even looking in the woman's direction. She sipped from the goblet, and smacked her lips. Soon, he faded from view, and the villagers returned to their homes. Not a drop of water remained on the ground.

"In 50 years, boy," She said, almost growling. "In 50 years, it will be sunset. You have lived all your life in this daylight, but I will not live to see the stars again."

She clutched her heart, which was tainted by poison and wasted years. Her other hand held the boy's shoulder, with the grip of a corpse. The goblet spilled onto the ground, relinquishing its foul contents.

"I once had a brother," She said, between tattered breaths. The boy cried and tried to lift her off the ground. "But he ran away to chase a selfish dream, and left me with nothing. Let this story die, let this man walk the earth without a name or a face that knows him."

"But please..." She pleaded, grabbing him with both hands now, as if desperate to hang on. "Follow the advice I once gave him:"

"Never outrun the night. Or you shall never catch it again."

The moon appeared on the horizon, and her blind eyes stared at nothing.