Night, a young, thin, sallow man with eyes white like cavefish, hides through
the day in places in the earth where the sun never goes. In caves and deep
valleys the sun never warms and in grottoes and catacombs far beneath the
ancient cities. Day, that luminous woman with the golden skin, searches
everywhere for him but to date he's been successful in eluding her amours.
Hans Gegenschein, their go-between, mediates as best he can. Gegenschein
negotiates as wisely as he is able. The "gegenschein" is the name for that
astronomical phenomenon of backscatter, that point of night directly opposite
the sun where a ghostly reflection can be seen moving among the stars. It takes
a very dark night indeed to perceive it. And this is how Night finds him. He
stands on a distant hill in some remote Alp on a moonless night and points him
out. Gegenschein tries to keep still, but he knows Night's eye is on him, so he
relents and inflects the snow like the weak reflection of a crescent moon,
though none is out. (He's related to that milky glow that fills a new moon on
Day can sneak around at night too, in the glow of a volcano or something
streaking through the sky -- that's the peek of Day through a rip in the sky
looking for Night, trying to triangulate him. One time she thought she caught
him sneaking around the beach of a remote Tahitian island and shone down in the
middle of the night brazenly to surprise him, succeeding only in terrifying the
villagers (who had, as it happens, cunningly hidden Night in a vat of taro).
Night prefers, as one might expect, to hang around with the black peoples of
the earth, even though he's bone white as a ghost. Somehow they sense that he
draws the veil of protection around them. White people, on the other hand, fear
Night as a ghost and are terrified by the horrors of what's hidden within.
It was Gegenschein who tipped Night off, that time on the beach. Night was
watching the starlight and phosphorescence in the waves (because he himself is
hypnotized and obsessed by light), when some of that phosphorescence washed up
the ramp of the damp sand and resolved into Hans: "Day is coming early this
morning. Minutes behind me now. There will be two dawns, but nightfall no more,
if she catches you."
Nobody knew what would happen if Day caught Night. What Night feared above all
was that Day would annihilate him and cause him to cease to be. Day didn't
understand Night's need for concealment, for obscurity and the dim in which one
thing can be many things. Day, he feared, would reduce everything in his world
to one sharply delineated form, eliminate all ambiguity, glare everything into
hard shapes and contours from which there was no deviation allowed.
Day didn't know anything about that. All she knew was that Night was someone
who needed warming and how could anything be hurt by simply being warmed?
Plants sprung out of the dirt and yearned toward her, flowers turned their
heads, citizens clambered out of cities and onto slopes of green, and splashed
in pools and ponds whenever she appeared. The people in the northern climes
yearned for her and adored her, the people in the tropics lazed and took
siestas striped in palm-light. Everyone greeted her with a smile, and she could
perhaps be forgiven for not apprehending, through the dazzle of her own fame,
those few who dropped shrunken to the floor of the desert and ceased to exist.
When told of them later, she shrugged. "They shouldn't've been out there.