The Sun is on Fire

A short Story by Frank Eggleton

‘The Sun is on fire’ is your song. You wrote it out of the blue. Well, not entirely. After a karaoke party, one of your seven flatmates, the one who plays bass in a band— asked you if you had any lyrics. You told him that maybe you could scribble down a tune and then write a song in twenty minutes. That is not true either. It’s just what you told them. You have been burning inside to write a song for years. So now and then, you pull out your notebook and rework verses.

You had an epiphany explosion when you wrote the line. You heard somewhere that the sun would die one day and then realised that you would too. That’s what makes life beautiful. The world is pulsating, and you are too—but not forever.

When you handed them the text, your insides heated up. It’s embarrassing, revealing what’s inside your mind. Then, a couple of days later, they returned to you and said the lines were great and would you like to perform them? They wanted a woman’s voice on their new album.

They emailed you the musical track, so you could listen to it and find a melody. At first, the words didn’t fit, and you were rattling them out too fast because of nerves. You tried a slower delivery, and it felt good.

You went to the studio. It wasn’t as modern as you had imagined, and you could see through to a room full of instruments and a booth with old school microphones.

You ran through the first verse. You edited the lyrics a little because some of the endings of the lines didn’t quite fit. Is the song too abstract? You wanted to put as many beautiful shining things inside your song as possible. As you realised, it may be the only one you ever recorded. You run through the first verse repeatedly until the producer gives you a nod. He thinks all your takes are good. So you hit the chorus and run into the second verse repeatedly.   

After the second chorus, there’s a fade down into an instrumental. The big finish is a bunch of choruses. Again, you want to drive the melody into the listener’s head. 

The producer gives everything a quick mix. Your voice feels too out front. You like it, it’s your song, kind of, well, yours and several other people. But it has your vocal, your words, your ideas. The lead singer Mario approaches and congratulates you. After some discussion, you decide it would be cool if he put backing vocals on the choruses.

You strike a deal. Mario will sing backing vocals on your track, then you get to perform your backing vocals on two of his songs. They ask what name you want it attributed to, and you say Petra Parlous. Petra is your first name, and Parlous is how you feel.


‘The Sun is on Fire’ was released six months ago, the band has been doing well. You gaze upon the tour poster. It details your travels of Aotearoa, at a time when that would be impossible in most countries.

You have written several songs with your new guitar that you wish to record someday. It took you months to save for. As soon as you heard your vocals on that song, you decided you needed to buy and learn an instrument. Pieces of music have been floating out of your body ever since. You could play the C and G chords all day.


You wake up on the best day of the year—the day of the Newtown Festival. You are playing at 4:20 with the band, and you will perform backing vocals on two songs before finishing the set with yours. There will be at least a couple of thousand people singing along to your words, no pressure.

The sun is hot, and it blows through the curtains onto your legs, so you move them into the shade. You live with seven other people in a five-bedroom flat, there are three couples in the house. It is sometimes stressful, as you walk into arguments or, worse, couples making up. Also, you have to chase up after the rent, as you are the head tenant, even though you are the youngest at twenty-one.

The landlord is always on your ass, and today is no exception. He wants the rent to be caught by midday tomorrow, Monday at noon. Or he will have to kick all eight of you out. Imagine how angry the rest of the house will be if you need to look for a new place to live in. The housing market is horrible.

You know you shouldn’t have bought those tickets for the ‘La La Summer Festival’ for you and four of your friends. Now you are $1200 short. You look in your account and transfer him $250, which leaves you $54 to live on for a couple of weeks, and you’ll be living on cheap beer, pumpkin soup and bread again.

A few weeks ago, your friends said they were too poor for that ‘La La’ festival, but you told them nonsense and bought five tickets anyway. They did say they would pay you back, but you forgot to say when. So now somehow you have to ask them for their share.

You look at your metallic blue guitar. You know you could get a few hundred for it, but you don’t want to, and anyway, that won’t get you to $1200 by tomorrow. You wished you could just enjoy the day and act like a rockstar, and now you don’t even feel like drinking or making out with anyone.

You text everyone at once, that you’re going to get evicted unless they pay you back. You get one text, and they ask you for your account and say it’ll be in there overnight. Phew. That’s something. Including yourself, you think two down.

You are sure everyone will be at Newtown Festival, and it’s just a matter of finding them in person.

You write the three names down, Marlia, Georgia, and Aroha. Then you take out the festival timetable. Aroha will definitely be there at the Riot stage. She’s helping that stage out.

You wear black at 10:30 in the big bright morning, and the vibe is already filling the streets. Smiling, laughing, hunting and buying and selling and consuming. People bumping into each other.

By the Riot stage, you see Aroha in the audience. But she disappears.  

Your frustration does not dance away while you enjoy a couple of bands. You head towards the dance stage. It’s midday, a few people are dancing.

You hit the next stage for some hip-hop. The beats are smudgy and kind of homemade. The crowd is starting to swell. It’s hard to get a taco or a pancake, but you wait. Then you realise you don’t have much money, which motivates you to start hunting again.

Someone tells you they have seen Aroha down at one of the bars, working. Too easy. You find her pulling pints, and she looks over at you. You try to have it out with her, but she is too busy. She hands you over a pint and gets you to sit inside and wait for her. You can’t afford any excuses. You need that currency.

Aroha joins you. She has a tear in her eyes. You are not sure if this is part of her thing or not. She tells you she has had a fight with her boyfriend. She has to break up with him. She says she could maybe give you the money, but she needs it to find someplace to live.

Of course, it is reasonable for her to need that money. But you need it too. The bar is humming with loud talks of nothing. It’s getting into your head. How can anyone think with this racket thing happening? Then you get an idea.

You tell her, she gives you the money. Then she can stay at yours for a couple of weeks. Until she gets her shit together. She hugs you and transfers the money. She thanks you and kisses you on the cheek, and says she’ll meet you at your gig at 4:20.

You look around the festival but cannot find Marlia and Georgia anywhere. You are close enough now that you could sell your guitar, but it has been so good to you.

A three-piece band plays; a guy on drums has bright orange glasses and big curly hair. He is going hard. Two women front the band on bass and guitar, and they are grooving. The high tide of the audience lunges towards the stage.

The sun heats up, and all your worries drift away into the blue sky. You nod, you shake, you think about your performance.

The crowd erupts into claps of pleasure and smiles, and the band thanks, everyone.

You look at your watch; it is getting close to 4. Your band Panic Attic have started. You are on at precisely 4:20, though they pleaded that you get there around now.

 You push through the throngs. You are on the opposite side of the festival.

A drumming circle of people fill up the space in front of you. You know they won’t be there long, but they play a beat that gives you anxiety. It’s the speed and people walking by; the circle won’t budge. The incessant beat bangs in your ear, in your head. Two minutes feels like ages, but eventually, they all swivel around you. You take a breath.

You stumble by a couple of stages. A drag king is singing some sweet French song from the 1920s.

Finally, you arrive, and Panic Attic is already hyping the crowd. There are quite a few people.

You find yourself in front of the stage, and the band looks relieved when they see you.

After a couple more songs, they call you up to the stage. You amble around the side to the stairs and slowly walk up. The crowd chatters as the band tunes their guitars. You get pointed to a mic and stand behind it. They introduce you; you smile. You feel a little flustered, like this moment has snuck up. The audience is vast, excitement oozes down the street.

The first song you back the vocals up for is a slow groovy number. You don’t have any words. It’s more of an ooo and la la la number. Which feels harder than you’d think, as you have to hit the right volume. You can’t have your ooooo’s louder than the main vocal. But it has to be audible, or there’s no point. It’s all about your breathing technique. It took quite a few practices to get to where you hit everything with the right volume.

You close out the day’s problems. You take in what is in front of you and focus on the music. The sharp sparks of the offbeat guitar, the beats of the drums and foggy tones of bass coalesce. The pre-chorus appears, and you hit your ooo’s just right.

The crowd applauds. You look around the audience for Marlia and Georgia. Where could they be?

Next up, it’s a faster number. It’s all building towards your song. You get to sing a couple of lines on this one, all behind the lead singer. Your voices sound great together. There’s a beer for you on the stage. During the instrumental break, you open it, the crowd cheers, their eyes all on you. You’re becoming giddy.

The song ends and your mind is thinking about the ‘Sun is on Fire.’ You have performed it live at least a dozen times. You have practised it over fifty times. You feel there’s a couple of places you sometimes miss. When you get carried away by the music, you sometimes feel as if you are inside some kind of dream.

You introduce the song, and the crowd energy escalates in excitement. You sip your drink and see Aroha, Marlia and Georgia. They smile and wave at you.  

The drummer counts. The band plays on, and you find yourself moving. The first line you deliver with confidence. The notes sound great, reverb bouncing down the street. Is that some of your old classmates you see? Yes. You hit the following line. You like having a little space between the lines. By the end of the 1st verse, people are joining in. It has blown up a bit lately.

It feels like the whole audience joins in on the first chorus.

It’s straight into the second verse, and you are moving harder than you have before. The audience mimics what you are doing. Then into the second chorus, the instrumental carries you off into a dance.

Without thinking, you put your lips up to the microphone and make a woooo noise. You have never done that before, not even at practice. It sounds good.

The band bring down the music, so it’s bass and drums for the third verse. It means your lyrics are out front. You give the vocals a bit more punch. By the time you are going into the last chorus, you give everything. You can feel every word you sing.

Everyone sings with you. At least that’s how it feels. Each time you sing the chorus, it gets brighter and brighter and has exponentially more emotion. You are feeling a oneness with everyone you can see. You realise this chorus is projecting around Newtown. You feel a part of this celebration. Then, in the last three lines, you sing softer and the band build-up to their final note. And there it is, that moment of silence straight afterwards. The moment you can hear your heartbeat so fast. You wonder if that’s dangerous, and then a loud noise happens. You got lost in your head. You sort of forgot there were thousands of people in front of you.

You look up and smile at the band. It’s their last song as well. So you are all nodding and smiling at each other. You don’t have anything to carry off the stage, so you wait slightly awkwardly for the rest of the band to pack down. Mario approaches you and says they should do more of your songs.

First, you must pay that bloody landlord. 

People are trying to talk to you, and you want to. Some of them are hot, but they are not hot enough to make you want to go homeless. You find Aroha, but not the others. They said they would catch up with you later to Aroha, but they never said anything about money. You want to enjoy yourself, but you’re not sure how.

You and Aroha go to her house to pick up some stuff. You walk through the outskirts of Newtown to get to your house. Trying to avoid all the people, especially Aroha’s ex.

Then, you realise that your friendships are worth more than your guitar. So be it.

You get back to yours, take photos of your guitar, and put it up online. You need $500, so that’s the price you give it.


The hot sun burns your legs, so you move them into the shade. They bang into Aroha’s legs, who lets out an annoying sound. You didn’t mean to wake her. Everything is too bright. You move about, stretching your arms and letting out a sigh.

Your phone is thrown at you. Aroha reckons it has been buzzing all morning.

Someone is going to give you $500 for your guitar. First, this makes you happy, then as you look at it is gleaming in the corner of your room, it makes you sad.

A message is from your landlord. He got some of the money, but where is the last half of it?

10:30, you drink coffee in the kitchen. Your flatmates have left a huge mess—dishes all over the bench. You love it there. You have managed to run the flat for two years, for no pay.

You feel so conflicted about some guy coming around in twenty minutes to buy your baby. You wouldn’t be surprised if he was the kind of guy to eat his Ramen noodles over your guitar.

When Aroha enters the kitchen and helps herself to coffee, she asks you what’s wrong. The doorbell rings, and it’s him. You point to your guitar case, and he starts to inspect it. You decide what the hell and tell Aroha everything. About how you’ll get kicked out if you don’t sell your guitar because Georgia and Marlia never paid you back.

Aroha tells you they have paid you back. You read your third message, which is from them, simply saying ‘done.’

You sign in to your bank, and there it is. You pay the landlord straight away. All the money you need to pay your rent, and they even put in an extra $100, as a tip they said.

You hear a sound from the hallway. It’s the greaser. He says he’ll take the guitar. You say no, but he doesn’t seem to hear you. He takes his cash out and puts it on the hallway table, and proceeds to take your guitar away.

No, you say. He looks up in surprise. You give him back the cash and start fighting over the guitar. It takes Aroha to interject for him to leave without your instrument, and she has to push him out the front door.

You put your guitar down and hug Aroha.

You get a text back from your landlord. It says, thanks for that, then it says he might be putting the rent up soon.