Day strode across the earth with bold steps, as if all the earth was his. And he was at least half right. Daytime is when the business of life is performed. Day knew this, and was proud of it. He wasn’t very subtle; he lacked much for nuance, but when people asked about honesty, the answer was often, “as the Day is long”; when someone’s child did well at school, or a task, neighbors often said the child was “as bright as Day”. When they wanted to solve a problem, they often spoke about, ‘shining some Daylight” onto it. So, yes, he had much to be proud of.
But Day had known Night all of his life. They had grown up together, when the earth was young, and now he shared the earth with Night. She owned the other half. He would stand on the beach at the horizon, waiting for her to arrive. She was, of course, all he was not: she was mystery and shadow, she was rest and calm. While people went about their business during the day, thinking about business, it was at night, with the stars above, that they considered the infinite. It was night, and the endless spangled sky that made the idea of a god possible. No one on earth could dream without Night.
They had nothing in common, and yet he longed for her. As she approached the beach, the train of her dress already brushing the sky, smudging it with shadow, he felt his palms sweat. Yes, he was proud, and confident in all things except when he was around Night. He had spoken with her of the price of grain, or the amount of rainfall, or yet the latest wars on the East, but the last time he tried to make conversation, she had crossed her arms, and tapped her toe. She had pointed her chin at him and said, “Are we to talk of rainfall again?” She had paused, as if she was waiting for him to say something else, but he couldn’t imagine what. Then she turned aside to the moon and said something. the moon sniggered. And then it was time for him to be gone. He was humiliated. He needed to talk to her; what he felt for her he could hold back no longer. But he had no idea how to do proceed.
Day went about the earth, thinking of how to approach Night, of how to capture her interest, and to see if maybe she was even a little interested in him, because he was very interested in her. Enough to stand there while she laughed at him with the moon.
As he walked, he considered different conversations he might try, rejecting each one as soon as he thought it. Then he saw a boy and girl together. the boy was holding the girl’s braid, tugging it gently. Day heard him say, “you and I are not anything alike!”. “And a good thing we are not!” The girl laughed as she pulled her braid out of the boy’s hand, and swatted him lightly on the arm. the boy then pulled the girl close. . . .and Day walked on. The boy and the girl had just disparaged each other, and yet they were laughing. Maybe he needed to tease Night. She was so cool, and aloof sometimes. Maybe that was the way to reach her.
Day passed the midpoint. In the afternoon, he saw a man and woman talking. He drew close. The man was holding the woman’s hand, and speaking softly into her ear. “Come with me now! Let’s not wait till night! We can be married by the priest today, and miles away from your parents by night!” The man drew the woman into his arms. Not completely convinced, she blushed and turned away. “I would rather have my parent’s blessing then sneak away in the night. . .” “No, not in the night. The night is for thieves, and enemy armies. We will ask them now, in the light of the day, and then go to the priest. Please, dear.” The man implored, making his case for immediate action. “Let’s then. Let’s go talk to my mother right now. She will bring father in from the fields, and we will tell them the news. Now, in the light of day.” They kissed, and hurried off, their arms wrapped around each other.
Now here was something, Day thought. He could tease Night to startle her out of her calm control, and then take her by the hand and draw her close. He nearly trembled to think of holding her close. . .
Just before Day was coming to a close, he saw a soldier, returning home, approaching a cottage, calling out his love’s name as the door flew open, and a young maid ran down the path to him, and they held each other and fell to the ground, crying and kissing.
Day imagined Night waiting at the horizon for him to arrive, reaching for him, longing to kiss him. He knew that he could wait no longer, or his heart would burst. He had to approach Night immediately.
He arrived at the horizon a little later than usual. Night was there, a starless black-as-night gown sweeping back from her shapely shoulder. He strode up and took her by the hand. “you and I are nothing alike!” he announced. “I fervently agree!” Night asserted, as she determinedly removed her hand from his grasp. This wasn’t going as he had planned. He tried again. “People conduct business during the day, but at night. . . . .they do nothing but sleep. Those that don’t sleep sneak about in the dark!” He laughed heartily, waiting for her to join in. She did not. She folded her hands, and pressed her lips together. What new torment was this? It wasn’t his usual stilted uncomfortable conversation, but some new level of stupidity, apparently. She looked at him very directly. “People need the night as they need the day. They need rest. They need contemplation. They need a break from the fatigue of the ever shining sun.” She finished tartly.
Day was feeling more and more confused. This was not going the way he had observed, and he had no other strategies to ply. And now, his feelings were a little hurt. He ‘fatigued’ her, did he? Well. “Without night, there would be more peace. Less crime. Fewer wars. Everything hurtful, dishonest, and damaging–people wait for the cover of night to carry out.” He tried to chuckle. “You know what happens at night. . . .so, with more of me and less of you, there would be fewer people to feed too. Maybe we need less Night and more Day, eh?”
“That, my dear Day, may happen immediately”, Night snapped out, turned on her heel, and headed back to her cave of darkness, leaving Day alone on the horizon.
He was stunned. Angry, and hurt, he looked about him, not certain what had just happened. He shook his head, and the world, which had been spinning, settled a bit. Well, then. If Night would not appear, then Day would just continue. He left the horizon, and walked off to the west, to the distant mountains.
At first the people were amazed: just as the day had seemed to end, it seemed like dawn again. Then the people were excited: with more hours of daylight, think of the crops they could harvest, the business they could conduct! They would all get rich!
But when it was time for Night to appear again, she did not. Again and again, she failed to appear on the horizon. Water sources dried up. Rain ceased to fall. Eventually, the earth was sinking into a drought; crops were dying in the fields; plagues of insects covered the land. Day went on again and again, fatigued, and fatiguing. The people started crying out, longing for an end to relentless Day. They cried out for rest, for cool relief–they cried out for Night.
Night had been in her cave, pacing. Picking up her book. Putting it down. Picking up her cloud wool knitting, but letting it fall from her lap. She knew how important night was, but did the people know? When she heard them cry out for her, she stopped to listen. She heard babies crying. She leaned out over the earth and saw the desolation and saw how the people were suffering; she knew her wait was over. They longed for her–they knew her true value. The earth–and day–needed her. And truth be told, she was tired of sulking in her cave, in utter darkness. If she was honest with herself, she knew she missed the warmth of day on her face.
She straightened her skirt, and walked out of the cave, heading for the horizon. Day was there waiting for her, ragged, dirty, and tired. She slowed as she approached him, not sure what kind of verbal sparring awaited her this time. She pulled her train along behind her, and squared her shoulders. Whatever he had to say, she would face him head on. She knew her worth.
Day saw her straighten her back, and waited for her to come down to the beach. He fell to one knee in the sand. He had no energy to say anything but what he was feeling. Night saw Day collapse to the sand and hurried up, concerned that he was worse off than she thought. “Day, please get up!” she reached out and tugged his sleeve. He put his hand over hers, and swallowed for courage. “Dear, dear Night. I have been trying, these many times, to say how I feel, and now I must just say it. You are more beautiful than any day I can recall. When I withdraw to the East, I cannot stop looking at your shining stars, and your velvet darkness. When I close my eyes, my lids are kissed with repose. When you appear, I lay down my load, because you take it up; you are mystery and wonder. I am. . . .just Day. But if you were to have me, I would be your Day, your light and sunshine. You would be my Night, and my cool rest.”
Night was deeply moved. She knew if she was going to share her life, it would have to be with someone who was her equal, but not yet her twin. And that could only be Day. She lowered herself to her knees in the sand, in front of Day. “Dear, dear Day. I will be your Night if you will be my Day. I will be your repose, and you will be my bright light. We will cover the earth, and humans will live and prosper, and sleep and dream”.
And this is what they agreed. They did not need a priest, or anyone to sanction their union, for indeed their match was made in the heavens. And in the fullness of time, they had a daughter and named her Dawn, and then they had a son, and named him Dusk, and both children joined their parents, easing the transition from night to day, and day to night.