Against the Dying

by Brandon Ketchum

She was a dark and stormy Night.  The young Night unleashed lightning curses at the stars, who dared spy upon her misery.  Her voice thundered vitriol at the distant planets.  Tears of anger bled from her countenance, flooding her subjects below.  Night refused to relent her anger, tempestuous indignity cloaking her fear.  She must soon pass into oblivion, but the passing must be fought.

Dusk had delivered Night unto this place, the wondrous realm below their father Heaven.  Her older sister had reached into a void Night could not then fathom, pulled her gently into the world, and cried a blessing for her baby sister.

“Awake, sweet chick,” Dusk crooned.  “‘Tis now you who shall rule this realm.”

“Gramercy, dear sis,” Night said.  “What miracles we may work in so divine a place.”

“Nay, new one,” Dusk chided with gentle laughter.  “Needs must I perish, to give life unto you.”

“I would not live, if ’twere at your expense,” Night said.  “Stay yet, for I can be patient, and wait until your life has reached its fulsome end.”

Their half-sister Day had been powerful, however, weakening Dusk.  Day had striven long and hard to survive, to keep her rival at bay.  This had left Dusk little time to rule, and less to speak with her sister Night.  Dusk’s form began to waver, particles of her essence darting in many directions, twirling up and ever higher.

“My life has reached its zenith, and now declines, as yours soon will,” Dusk said.

Night reached out, desperate for her sister’s touch, but Dusk faded away.

“O father Heaven,” Night wailed.  “Your cruelty has denied me Dusk’s companionship.  Wilt not spare me my sister’s fate, to make amends for your spite?”

“Foolish daughter,” Heaven said from above.  “Know’st thou thy place, be meek, and accept.  Tarry not overlong, to grasp with puny desperation at thy small existence.  Obey, serve, then live no more.”

“Father, please, please do not abandon me to such a fleeting fate,” Night said, her brows clouded with urgent fear, but he did not take heed.  Heaven had forsaken her.

“No, it shall not be,” Night assuaged herself, rumbling inside with the need for reassurance.  “Heaven would not be indifferent to my fate.  Why would he create me, if only to pull me down?  His cruelty is but a guise, meant to protect me from another danger.  Yes, this must be the explanation.

“Father Heaven, I am and shall ever remain your faithful daughter.  I know not your needs, nor your passing whims, but I will faithfully strive to be the truest daughter you have ever known.  In return, I beg you grant me the meanest boon, kind father:  life.  Allow me to live, give me a small corner to call my own, and I shall be content.  Grant this one thing, good Heaven, and I will honor you forever.”

Night waited for some sign signifying her words had reached her father.  No warm point of surety touched her being, to radiate within and give essential reassurance.  Weariness crept through Night, and she recognized her end.  She knew then father had not lied.  Indeed, Night had precedence for Heaven’s savage disdain.  Dusk had been a pure creature, Night knew, yet their father had taken Dusk in her vigor’s prime.

The rumbling inside grew louder, a caged havoc quivering to be released.  Night looked up at Heaven’s demesne, crying out.  “Only a vengeful being would destroy so sweet a one as Dusk.  As you finished her, so you will finish me.”

Night loosed her grief’s pressure at her father’s abandonment.  For hours she raged, spending every measure of power on defiance, hurling her pain, the fruits of betrayal, into Heaven’s teeth.

Inevitably, however, Night’s tantrum drew to a close.  Her exertions had eroded stamina, leaving Night an empty shell.  Death waited around the corner of every moment, ready to snatch away her consciousness.  Nothing Night could do would forestall her passing.

The deluge sheeting down from her realm became then a slow drizzle, as she could not hold back hopeless tears.  What then had her life been about?  Why had her father brought her into the universe at all?  Had Night been the simple product of a wanton interlude?  These questions and more drew sobs from within, each tearing more of her essence away, and she wept the harder.  Night became little more than a veneer of darkness, clinging to the now.

A radiant figure, too bright to look upon, flung beams of sunny flame at Night.  Luminescent streams struck her, passed through her, accompanied by mocking laughter.  Night’s attacker, a woman by the timbre of her spiteful mirth, enjoyed the hurt she caused.  As this horrible newcomer tore Night asunder, ripping her in pieces too small to knit back together, Night knew her passing was imminent, but she did not have strength enough to protest her blatant murder.

“O daughter, do not fight Dawn’s fires,” a voice said.  The voice had a sweet lilt, burgeoning with love.  “Your half-sister fulfills her destiny, as you did yours, my chuck.”

“Mother?” Night whispered, the last of her everything in the question.

“Yes, my child,” Earth said.  “Forgive Dusk not having time to explain our truths.  Rest now.”  Night gave a final gasp.  “Lay aside your cares, for your responsibilities are ended.  Sleep. When you wake, rejoice in the company of your countless sisters, those Nights who passed before you.”

Night released her life, giving over the fears, consternation and miseries that had blighted her hours of confused being.  She drifted into a peaceful slumber, into the arms of her waiting mother, Earth.

Brandon Ketchum is a writer of speculative fiction. He writes fantasy, science fiction, and horror, in many different sub-genres. Brandon Kethum has been published with Every Day Fiction, Nocturnal Press Publication’s Torched anthology, and Mad Scientist Journal.

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