“After darkness comes the light”
– Cornelius Nepos
For centuries, the sky had been dressed in a sheet of stars, moon and ink. A nightfall, in years erstwhile, had washed away the streaks of light in one great sweep and had been ruling the world ever since. It was believed to have been a cosmic curse of some sort, the wrath of god. But nevertheless, the human race had somehow survived and evolved through the thick and thins as they always did. The past remained unchanged and cherished but there was no going back. Darkness had finally befallen the world and it was the reign of the eternal night.
The captors were those who were infested with the most important tasks of all. To capture beams that were embedded in the soil, suspended in the air and flowing in the rivers. Beams were fuzzy balls of light strewn around the world and the only source of illumination. Captors travelled far and wide to capture them and then had them delivered to civilisations across the globe. They were considered saviours by the people.
Life did not thrive but lay on the brink of existence. People braved through the night that stretched until their deaths. They couldn’t envision a life otherwise.
Aaron was one of the unfortunate captors to whom the people bestowed their ever shifting trust. He was said to be the most experienced, most skilful of them all though he couldn’t disagree more. The world was shrouded with darkness that whispered silence and casted shadows on the surface. Empty words were enough to spark hope and belief in these people. And that was precisely what Aaron held in his hands like a king’s sword.
Until it failed him then, the words, and he found his own hope unravelling. Words that sang from his mouth like melodies became a jumbled noise that drummed nightmares into his body. He stood there, on the podium, white faced and sweaty. The knowledge he held, the one he wasn’t going to say now, was a weight adding to another. The night wind gathered up the single line he spoke and echoed it off in the silence. We can’t find it. The beams- they’re disappearing..
One by one like flame flying from a candle, they went. Gloom surged over the world like a tsunami, drowning lives in the darkness. Disorder, confusion, anger and fear spread hither-thither like a contagious disease with people rioting everywhere. Some even went as far as to kidnap captors in hopes of coercing them into spotting beams. Some believed the captors to have hoarded the supplies and attacked their houses like an army of avenging soldiers but to no avail.
After several hours or it could have been minutes but complete darkness settled over like a big heavy block. The moon and stars gleamed like an evil smile. People struggled against the shadows, screaming for light. They steered clear of buildings and assembled outside, clutching each other and facing the night. It was as if an essential cord was cut off from them, leaving them stranded and lost. It was like being inside a house with four walls, a roof but no floor so that you were always falling from storey to storey, like in an endless pit. These people had been so close to the night all their lives but was this the end when it finally devours them?
Far far away from the crowd, on a deserted wasteland with the moon shining over him like a spotlight, stood Aaron as still as a statue. Visible tension drenched his body as he fumbled with something grasped tightly in his hands. It was an old metallic object, rusted and ancient but carefully maintained over the years. He held it out and squinted at it to discern the numbers and hands. But it was unusual, so different from the large clock in the assembly hall. So very slow that often it seemed unmoving.
After a moment of confirmation, he heaved a nervous sigh and felt goosebumps tickling his skin. He’d been studying this, been told this would happen someday. He’d been entrusted with this most confidential funny little clock, passed on from generations to generations that he’d began to suspect a tradition, a myth until it had all started happening. And now it was time. It was the time.
‘6:15. This clock finally points at 6:15!’ He gasped out to no one. He could feel it. He turned around and immediately staggered back in wonder and fear. He saw a faint light suffering in the horizon like a distant wildfire. Light.
He could hear the murmurs and shouts from the crowd far off and he figured everyone saw it. What happened in the next few moments was something Aaron couldn’t believe, something that was deemed impossible or never even imagined in his society. The sky and clouds changed colours as if changing a dress, the blue turning lighter and yellow shimmering in spaces like a golden mesh. All the whiteness burned Aaron’s eyes and he crouched down on the soil with his hands over them, swaying gently with a heart that thundered inside him.
After a while, he raised his head, feeling both warm and cold. He slowly peeked through his splayed fingers and saw a sight that sent his pulse speeding and he pinched himself, suspecting a dream for it seemed a pure fantasy. A fantastical fantasy if there ever was one. In the distance, hovering in the air were beams, glued and packed together to form yet another one, pouring light in every possible direction. Aaron sucked in a breath. It was the largest beam he had ever seen.
The sun had risen at last.