Midnight at the Sunrise Hotel
12:00 AM: The pendulum clock chimes.
12:10 AM: The concierge rises from sleep, yawns, and rubs his head. He wanders into the lobby, nudging tables and couches. Using a key that is attached to his belt, he winds the gears of the antique clock. He inspects the thermostat and gravimeter. Then he verifies that the clock is level. The concierge is responsible for the sunrise. He must make certain that it happens on time.
1:25 AM: On the beach, the groundskeeper trudges across the artificial sand. He wears a green uniform and has a stooped posture. He turns on flood lights, places umbrellas, and distributes fold-out chairs. The chairs face the sea, which really isn't a sea. It's a pool that extends a hundred feet before hitting a retaining wall. Beyond the wall is the lip of the dome. And beyond that, cold desolation.
2:00 AM: The concierge inspects the guest ledger. He notes which guests have special dietary needs and require supplemental oxygen. He verifies that everyone signed a waiver. Before the concierge wakes up the hospitality staff, he again visits the pendulum clock. He watches the bob swing back and forth. The sun is scheduled to rise in four hours.
2:30 AM: The hospitality staff meets in the dining hall to assemble tote bags. They perform this task every morning except Monday. The sun doesn't rise on Monday. Inside each tote bag is placed a beach towel, solar shades, sunscreen, an instructional booklet, a beach ball, and a souvenir t-shirt that says, I WATCHED THE SUN RISE AT THE SUNRISE HOTEL.
3:05 AM: The concierge radios the crane operator. "Wake-up, please." The crane operator responds groggy and profane. She sleeps inside a crawler which is stationed on the rim of a crater, twelve miles away. The crawler has a pressurized cab, caterpillar tread, and a 240-foot crane used to hoist the sun.
4:30 AM: On the beach, the groundskeeper tugs on pulleys to arrange the clouds, which really aren't clouds. They are sheets of orange and purple mylar that hang from ropes above the retaining wall. The groundskeeper steps back, studies the clouds, and adjusts the pulleys. Every sunrise must be unique.
5:20 AM: The hospitality crew tip-toes through the suites, ringing little bells and gently waking the guests. Once dressed in swim clothes and flip-flops, each guest is given a tote bag and directed to the beach where they are assigned a chair.
5:45 AM: The concierge visits with each guest. He gives advice on the best way to enjoy the sunrise. "Don’t look directly at it," he suggests. "Wear solar shades and apply sunscreen." He suggests this, even though the guests don't need sunscreen. The sun is constructed out of a panel of fifty-six high-wattage LED bulbs, delivering nearly 470,000 Lumens. Although the sun is very bright, it produces very little ultra-violet light.
6:05 AM: The concierge hurries to the lobby and checks the pendulum clock. The sun was supposed to rise five minutes ago. The concierge runs back to the beach and glares across the sea. "Don’t worry, folks! It will be here any second!" If the sun doesn't rise in the next twenty-five minutes, each guest is entitled a refund. The Sunrise Hotel guarantees its sunrise.
6:15 AM: The concierge hurries back to the lobby and radios the crane operator. "What are you doing? Hoist the sun!" The crane operator is surly and maybe a little drunk. She says she feels underappreciated. She wants more food rations and days off. "Fine!" And she wants to visit the beach by herself. "Fine! Just hoist the damn thing!"
6:25 AM: The sun rises. First a spark appears on the horizon, then a glowing slice, and finally the top of the disc. Everyone on the beach gasps. The sun climbs in little jerks. The guests point and shout in delight. The children clap. "The sun! The sun!" Soon the entire beach is lit up. The guests rise from their chairs. Some run across the sand. Some swim in the sea. Some play with beach balls. "The sun has risen! Right on time!"
6:40 AM: The groundskeeper trudges into a tunnel below the beach. He adjusts a thermostat, increasing the temperature by two degrees. Then he pipes in the sound of seagulls, which really aren't seagulls. They are the sound of spliced-together magnetic tape, run at twice the speed.
6:50 AM: The concierge is glad that nobody has noticed the dead bulbs in the sun. He tells guests that the sun was once so bright that it turned the entire sky blue. Now the sky is black with twinkling stars. Still, the guests admit, the sunrise is impressive. When the light passes through the mylar clouds, streaks of purple and orange cross the sand. That's a nice touch.
7:00 AM: When the sun reaches its zenith, a smidge above the horizon, the hospitality crew serves breakfast. It consists of a pouch of scrambled eggs, vat-grown bacon, electrolyte powder, and strawberries, which really aren't strawberries. They are cultured plant cells mixed with food coloring.
7:25 AM: The concierge slips away. He enters the lobby and stares at the pendulum clock. He wonders if it would be better to make the sunrise at noon when more guests are awake? Or in the evening for entertainment? The clock ticks. The bob swings. No, he decides. He will not change the schedule. This is how the hotel has always performed the sunrise, so it must be correct.
8:00 AM: The sun sets.
Mark S Bailen has an MFA from the University of Arizona, attended Taos Toolbox, and participated in the Storied Imaginarium. He is a member of Codex and the SFWA. He has published in Fantasy, Nature, and Little Blue Marble. Visit his website at fakemountain.com.