The Substitute Sun by Boris Glikman

The Substitute Sun

by Boris Glikman

The Substitute Sun by Boris Glikman
Image by Agnieszka

The world awoke one bright morning to find that the Sun was gone, replaced by a circular cardboard cut-out. The cut-out was roughly coloured in by a yellow pencil, with some of the colouring straying beyond the circumference of the disc and staining the blueness of the sky. Short cardboard rays were coming out of the rim and there was a smiley face sketched inside the circle. It looked just like a child’s drawing of the Sun.

After mankind had recovered from the shock of losing their beloved star, plans were made to locate it and put it back in its rightful place. Great rewards were offered to anyone who could provide information as to its whereabouts. Police forces allocated their best men to try and pinpoint who was likely to commit such an act.  Pressure was put on crime organisations to reveal if this was their doing and if so, how much they wanted for the Sun’s safe release. Clairvoyants were called upon to use their abilities to intuit where it might be held against its will.

Despite these exhaustive efforts, the Sun remained missing, although people still clung to the hope that it would be found alive.

With time’s passing, the pain of losing the Sun became less acute. The world slowly grew accustomed to the substitute and even began to appreciate its benefits. People understood how lucky they were that this impostor gave out the same amount of warmth and illumination as the original star. The physicists were pleased that the replacement exerted an identical gravitational force, so that Earth’s orbit remained unchanged; the workers were content that the stand-in did not increase their hours of labour, and the farmers were thankful that the cardboard disc provided an equivalent quantity of light to nourish their crops.

Eventually, it was seen as quite appropriate to have a bogus sun, given that so much else was phony in society: fake tans; fake smiles; fabricated, unnatural foods; artificial noses on artificial faces; living simulated lives on the computer. Many believed that the substitute was put in the sky as a sign of the divine approval of the world’s false ways. Consequently, it was concluded that unauthenticity is the true nature of man.

Centuries passed and there was nobody left on Earth who had experienced the glory of the original Sun. The crudely coloured cardboard circle with its cardboard rays and smiley face was now the only sun that the world had ever known. Lovers swooned under the warm beauty of its radiance; composers wrote symphonies dedicated to the perfection of its proportions; poets extolled the rich vibrancy of its colour in their sonnets and religious worshippers thanked their Maker for gifting the Earth with such a miracle of nature.

Boris Glikman


  1. Such a sun would indeed make the term ‘Their Maker’ more realistic, believable, but I worry how it would interact with the moon et al.

    1. Thank you Peter, I appreciate your feedback. Regarding how it would interact with the Moon etc, you can find in the 4th paragraph of this story the following passage: “The physicists were pleased that the replacement exerted an identical gravitational force, so that Earth’s orbit remained unchanged”

  2. Very clever, Boris. The cardboard sun is a great metaphor for our fake world. But it’s human intelligence, our knowledge that is killing the authenticity. There’s no way back. I think you’re right, people will accept those fake things as a normal thing.

  3. I can only agree with Irina’s words about this story – it’s definitely one to make you think as well as chuckle. As for our fake world, I despair. Your phrase ‘so much else was phoney in society’ just about sums up life in the 21st century. The idea of people eventually accepting a fake sun as the norm really illustrates that. A beautifully written and clever story, Boris.

    1. thank you Millie. I appreciate you reading my story and your thoughts on it! Glad you liked it.

      This story is actually a kind of a companion piece to another story of mine titled “The Shadow of the Great Nebula of Orion” which can be found here:

      And this is my personal blog if you wanted to take a look at more of my work:

      1. Thank you, Boris! I really enjoyed your short story, and would love to read more of your work. I’m away in Malta this week, but once I get home, I’ll be sure to follow the links you’ve kindly given me.

  4. I especially enjoyed the way “The world slowly grew accustomed to the substitute and even began to appreciate its benefits”.

    When I was a child, dairy farmers lobbied to outlaw the coloring of margarine. To combat this, each block of margarine came with a small packet of coloring. It was my job to toss all the blocks into a large bowl and mix in the color. It was very hard work.

    It raised many questions in my young mind and more questions when my parents ignored them.

  5. I’m here thanks to Irina and I never regretted that.You’ve so vividly narrated your sun story,which was a successful metaphor to show your readership the plain,bitter truth.Truly,authenticity is lost and so is our humane side.Presumably,the cardboard cut-out cannot reach our emotional side.New generations will never have the chance to compare things.What a pity it all shows so natural and real to them …
    Great imagery dear Boris,at least, there are still some people and writers like you around to remind us the lost values and the authentic beauty of our world.Have a wonderful & creative day! Doda

    1. thank you Doda, I really appreciate your insightful and heartfelt feedback on my story. I’m glad that it resonated with you. I do try, through my writings, to make the readers see things from a new angle and in new light, and to enable readers to have insights into customs, norms, behaviours, assumptions etc that are accepted automatically by society and are never questioned.

      If you wanted to take a look at more of my work, I have a personal blog here:

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