Our circle of friends and family drew in closer as Grandfather said, ‘In the beginning, day changed to night more quickly than you could blink your eyes.’
We’d heard the story a thousand times before, and yet tonight, it held particular resonance. It didn’t matter that it seemed impossible – that the Earth would have had to whip its unfathomable girth around in manic circles, to produce such an effect. Tonight, we believed.
‘This constant flashing was so immeasurable, the first people didn’t even notice it. All they saw was a bright light, and they lived in this light, and it was good,’ he went on with the tale.
I tried – as I had all those other times – to imagine what this might have been like. Swimming in brightness – ironically, you would not have been able to see. That had always been my favourite part of the story, when I was little. When my mother would tell it to me.
‘You need shadow and contrast to see even the light,’ Grandfather followed my thoughts. ‘When there is no darkness, you do not appreciate the light. But also,’ he leaned forward, pointing one of his long ancient fingers at us, ‘just as in perpetual darkness, in perpetual light you must learn to rely on your other senses. You grow sensitive to sound, to smell, to touch – you must navigate your world this way and develop relationships with others on these bases.’
How different that must have been, when people never gave thought to the surface, to appearance – when passion took its true form of touch, and the wisdom of someone like Grandfather would attract as many lovers as his wrinkled, rotting exterior drove away in our world of the future, the now.
‘But over the millennia,’ the story hurried along, ‘the change from day to night and to day again grew slower. People didn’t notice it as it happened – much like you don’t notice how much someone has grown…until you stop and look back, remembering what they once were, how they once looked, and you see how much change passed you by all those years.’
He paused, as if aware we must all be applying this thought to him. Indeed, it struck me then how old he had grown without me noticing. Perhaps that is what happens when fear creeps into your existence and threatens to take up permanent residence in your mind like an unwanted houseguest.
‘One day,’ he near-whispered, the cold wind blowing his words around our circle and out into the great unknown, ‘our ancestors found the days and the nights had begun to last hours each – and then more hours – and more and more – until at last –’
He divided the frosty air with a sweep of his hand, to indicate the present day. A day that would last days in itself. And the more time that passed, the longer that day would become. One could only assume that in some distant future the day would last centuries, followed by a night of equal length. And with the separation of night and day came the divisions we discovered amongst ourselves – we learned to see, and with sight came difference, hate.
He didn’t have to tell us the end of the tale. We knew it all too well for ourselves.
Now would come the tale of the wolves.