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The First Five Chapters:
In one millisecond, light travels 300 millimeters. Its falling distance is y=1/2 gt2 =5*10-12.
I realize that these little facts probably don't impact your life very much. I've been able to recite these things since I was about 3 years old. My first words weren’t “papa and mama”, but “day and night”.
Einstein said that if man could ever travel faster than the speed of light, then he would be able to travel through time. I can see that funny looking old man, in his Mickey Mouse t-shirt, sticking his tongue out. He then said that man would never be able to travel faster than the speed of light, any questions?
The problem with traveling faster than the speed of light is that the faster you travel the heavier you become. The heavier you become, the harder it is to travel faster than the speed of light because it expends more energy to carry more weight, otherwise, thank you Einstein for E=mc2.
The longest daylight out of any year is June 30th, with 15 hours and 1 minute being the norm in
What’s not normal is knowing these facts and using them to inspire fear and courage in yourself. I look up to the sky in terror each night as I watch the sun sink deeply in the West. I have never truly seen the dark, because I leave my lights on all the time. I also have a solar charged generator in my backyard. It will give my home five days of lights if the power goes out, and this does not include the daylight recharging.
My grandparents are from
, and even when it is daylight, it is gloomy… So they have told me. And yes, they are deathly afraid of the dark as well. They live 3 doors down from me. When you have such a burden on your back, you tend to stay close to home. Serbia
My mother was a great beauty of the day, the sun shone from within. She died giving birth to me. The last word she ever said was: Dannoc. This became my name. In
, it means day-night. To my grandparents, it means I was half hated for my birth when I killed my mother. Serbia
My fear of the darkness restricts me within a four mile radius of my home. It would take me 24 minutes to run like a maniac and make it home before the sunset reached the horizon. And I run, all the time, like a maniac. I run on the treadmill. I run up and down the stairs of my home. I run to work and then back home. Isn’t running what people do when they live in fear?
Then there is that day that one must face their fears and stare them down. I’d been avoiding it all my life, and so when it showed up, it hit me in the face with a vengeance…
Complacency is surely the doom of all life.
I told myself for years that I was glad I had a steady job, which 7.9% of Coloradoans don’t have. My home, while humble, had heat (and lights… I need to mention the lights). I lived three doors down from my grandparents for their peace of mind, as much as mine.
So it was a bit of a brain rattler to have my schedule disrupted simply by someone walking past my desk. I looked up, paused out of nervousness, and then bent my head over my keyboard studiously.
Everything was dark about the woman. She had midnight, black hair, black eyes, a dark skin tone that bordered on brown. She was wearing a black, tailored suit, a dark scarf woven through her hair, and her nails were, of course, painted black.
Women like that make me nervous.
Okay, most men would say the exact same thing, fears or no fears. That woman was a land-walking barracuda. She walked with a fierce and aggressive stride. She focused on getting from point A to point B. And the one person that stepped in front of her at the office received a glare and went scampering quickly away.
In my peripheral vision, I saw her walk into my boss’s office. I watched in horror when my boss pointed in my direction, and thought that maniacal run home could start right away if I figured out how to step outside the door.
“Dannoc Popovic?” I cringed at the Serbian pronunciation of my name. Most people called me Danny and didn’t realize that the “c” at the end of both my names was pronounced “ch”.
I blinked my eyes and looked over the top rim of my glasses, “Uh… Danny, people call me Danny.”
She smiled a feral sort of a grin without showing any teeth, “Ah, Americans and their little nicknames.” (Which came out more like AAAH, Ahmereecahns and dher leetle neecknameesssss.)
I swallowed hard and gave a brief grin, reached up and pushed my glasses back up on my nose.
“Your boss, he tell me you have meal break soon?”
I was shaking my head before she finished her question, “Sorry, have too much work to do. I’m not taking a lunch break today.” I also noticed that she avoided calling me by my neecknamesssss…
“Perhaps we do dinner tonight?”
I shook my head again, “I spend the evenings with my elderly grandparents.” Which was a total lie and it looked like she knew it.
She leaned down on my desk and stared at me, “You need to eat sometime, yes?”
“I’m sorta careful about what I put in my mouth. I call it selective dining.”
She gave a slight gasp of pure offense, stood up straight, as if someone snapped her designer bra, and marched out of the office.
I glared at two fellow co-workers, who had followed the conversation and looked like they were going to ask some questions. Instead, they rapidly looked down at their computer screens and the incident was not mentioned for the rest of the day (to my face anyway…)
I got home with 15 minutes to spare, as the sun began to set. I hated winters and the short days. My energy drained from me like a bucket with holes in it. I leaned against the door with my eyes closed in relief.
“You should not be so slow to get home, Dannoc.”
I should have jumped a mile high, but I was almost expecting her here. “My name is Danny, and you are trespassing.”
I opened the front door: “OUT!”
She wagged her finger at me and tsked… “You would put your own cousin out when it is so close to night fall?”
I pointed to the open door again. “You weren’t invited, and I don’t have any cousins.”
“My name is Rona Popovic. I am from
. Your grandparents invite me here.” She had been leaning against a door jam casually. She slowly straightened and walked over to my sofa, “Call them if you must doubt me.” Serbia
She gracefully sat down, as if she had been invited to tea, and looked at me expectantly.
I pulled my droid out of my pocket, and tapped on the screen. My grandfather’s gruff voice answered. “Babu? There is a woman in my home claiming to be my cousin.”
The phone went click at the other end and in less than an instant both of my grandparents were standing at my door.
“Rona! It is so good to finally see you!” My grandmother slowly walked over to the sofa and sat down. She reached over and took my new-found cousin’s hand.
My grandfather pushed me aside and slowly closed the front door. “This is very bad timing for you, niece. You couldn’t have come earlier in the daylight?”
She delivered her feral smile, “Surely you are to blame the timing on my dearest cousin? He refused me a luncheon appointment. And as a Mudraca, I chose my own timing, yes?”
My grandmother patted her hand, “We didn’t realize that you would come so soon. We were going to talk with him over the weekend, and advise him that your presence would be expected.”
Rona shrugged an elitist shoulder and leaned back, “And now we have whole night to talk, no?”
I glanced nervously at the open curtains behind my grandmother. My new cousin stood with grace and walked over to the window. The curtains twitched closed. My grandfather walked around the room turning on all the lights.
My new, dearest cousin walked over to me and began inspecting me like a microbe on a slide. “He is not a purebred, not with those eyes.” She closed her eyes and her nose twitched. “He smells very unique, not of us?”
She turned to my grandmother, “You have called me so late in his life, not even knowing if he is even one of us?”
Baba lowered her eyes and mumbled.
“You are dealing with a superior! Speak to me directly!”
My grandmother’s trembling hands clasped together.
I shoved the snotty bitch from behind, “You are in my home and will speak to my Baba with a polite tone!”
She whirled to face me, “You dare touch your superior?’
“If you don’t like my attitude, please feel free to leave,” and I pointed at the front door. "And I don't have any superiors."
Her face blanched for a brief moment, long enough for me to know that she was just as afraid of the dark as I was. She lifted her head and glared at me, “I will offer only one apology to your ‘baba’.”
She walked back over to my grandmother and sat down beside her. “I err by sneering at your gracious hospitality. Please accept this daylight servant’s apology.”
My grandmother nodded. “It is also my apology that I need to offer for not teaching my grandson the old ways.”
It was at that moment that I began to respect my cousin and think of her as Rona instead of “that new cousin”. Her apology was not reluctant, nor filled with buts and excuses. I nodded at her and walked over to sit across from her. “Old ways?”
My grandfather cleared his throat. “We left
because of the war.” He shook his head, “Baba was carrying your mother, and there were so many deaths… We wanted her to be safe.” Serbia
“The war between the Muslims and the Christians?”
Rona shook her head, “Infidels! All of them! That war they dealt upon themselves! It destroyed the great beauty of our country and put it in a great shadow, but it was not that war that your grandparents were escaping.”
She was silenced by my grandfather’s look, “War is war. We wanted our child to thrive. And no, Danny,” He walked over and sat beside me, “It was a war that had been going on for thousands of years! A war that will never end…
“When your mother’s older brother was killed, we wanted no more loss. We were granted permission to come to the country for a safe delivery of our new baby, and then stayed without permission.”
Rona sniffed, “You were General Andrijan Popovic! Your first obligation was to your troops!”
“He didn’t want to leave!” My grandmother cried, “I begged him until he couldn’t say no! I wanted to protect my unborn baby…”
Rona pulled my grandmother close and held her while she cried. Her hand stroked Baba’s hair in soothing strokes. She looked up at my grandfather, “You were a general, not a mudraca.”
Babu nodded. “I should never have tried to show her the old ways. She learned too quickly and then became rebellious. I should have sought the help of a wise one, a mudraca, but I was ashamed of my desertion.”
“She was born to two very powerful warriors, of course she learned too quickly. She should have been leashed before she came of age. But you didn’t know how to leash her, did you?” Both of the grandparents shook their heads, “And now you have a mongrel on your hands that is afraid of his own shadow. You come to me to either train him, or break him of his fears?”
She looked at me and sneered, “There is a scent about you that makes me ill. I haven’t decided whether it is your weaknesses or your half-blood. Do you know who begat your birth with his seed in your mother’s belly?”
I’d never asked. I’m not sure that I ever wanted to know. And I wouldn’t respond to her taunt. I sat silently.
“No? Let us hope that his seed has not diluted your blood too far away from the pure gold that runs through your grandparents’ veins.”
I gritted my teeth. She wasn’t going to incite me into action.
She smiled a vicious smile and whispered: “My brother would rip my heart out and feed it to me if I said these things to him. You are a sad little man.”
My grandmother looked up, “The war, Danny, is a war between Day and Night: Dan i Noc. There is a constant battle in the universe for light particles: The particles that give you and I strength. But some find their strength in the absence of all light. They thrive in the darkest of dank places.”
I nodded, “So you are talking about werewolves and vampires, and people who like the moon, right?”
“No!” Rona corrected me, “Vampires and werewolves are figments of imagination to scare little boys and girls. And the moon is not true light, but just a reflection of the all powerful sun! Unfortunately, the moon is not strong enough to give us all the light we need, so we must use caution in the shadows created by the absence moon. There are only a few day warriors powerful enough to pull energy from the moon.”
I slowly stood up and looked toward the front door. All of my fears were based on incited illusions created by my grandparents. I looked at my grandfather, the fearless general, and I walked out the front door.
Well, I didn’t die as anticipated… So much for suicidal thoughts. In fact, after the first six hours, I even gathered up the nerve to step off of my neighbor’s front porch, where I had been hiding in plain sight.
My neighbor actually saw me, and asked me to come in. I told him I was contemplating the meaning of life, and this answer could only be found on their front step. He rapidly shut his door after telling me good luck.
I sat down on his top step and waited for the world, as I know it, to end. It didn’t end. In fact, I found it fascinating. There were people walking their dogs, driving their cars, jogging, just like in the daylight, except quieter.
If what ‘they’ said about familial indoctrination and phobias was true, my immersion into the deep dark world of the night was nothing special, just the same, old street with the lights turned off.
Three hours after I walked out of my home, it went silent. Lights went off inside the houses. People stopped driving by and joggers stopped jogging. Then the nothingness set in.
I forgot my coat, damnit! Forgetting that hypothermia might be a good way to die, I stood up and stomped around long enough to realize that I was gonna be cold no matter what.
In all my sitting and stomping, sitting and stomping, I must confess that I didn’t see one warrior that was looking for a kill. I didn’t see any battles, or evil doers. I did see an over-fed cat exploring my yard, which reminded me to sprinkle some cayenne pepper on my snow when I got a chance. I almost yelled at him when he sprayed my tree… Damn cat!
My grandparents were warriors! I was the grandson of a general… Probably a general that could kick some serious butt!
It was finally realizing there was nothing moving out there, that got me off of my neighbor’s porch and walking down the street.
I looked up at the moon as I walked and saw nothing mystical or magical, just a moon reflecting light. My eyes had adjusted to the dark and there really wasn’t a lot that I couldn’t see. I spent thirty-seven years of sitting behind a door, quivering in fear, because someone told me about a bogey man waiting in the dark.
They were delusional: My grandparents, my cousin, and any other idiots that subscribed to the idea that there was a battle between the dark and the light. The whole ambiguity of that statement made me question a 1,000 year war. Any war that lasts over five minutes is idiotic. One thousand years is a curse that needs to be avoided.
The shadows played upon me as I walked down the residential street. At times, I thought I heard whispers. I would rapidly turn to confront the sound, only to find the wind whistling through the winter, barren trees. The soles of my shoes tapped against the scraped sidewalks and shuffled across the black ice that crept in at random places.
For as long as I had feared the dark, I seemed to find comfort in the shadows. When I heard a strange sound, I stepped near a tree and let the darkness hide me. Pretty soon, I was moving from tree to tree. The lighted spaces between the trees made me feel naked and vulnerable. I wondered how a man could go from one extreme fear to another in a matter of hours.
And then I laughed at myself, not quite a sane laugh. My name was Day-Night, I should let both of them power me! And with that, I began letting the light from the moon, and the darkness of the shadows push me forward.
The four miles, that had been my limit before, became part of my past. I stepped forward and moved faster and faster. My advantage was that I had been running all my life, and yet I had never gone anywhere.
As the sun began to rise, it found me sitting on a hill high above
. I let the light wash over me and then stun me, as the sunrise always did. Loveland
First of all, if there was a war between night and day, how would they fight? The night warriors couldn’t fight in the daylight. The day warriors couldn’t fight at night. And why would they fight anyway? What would be the point? Were they fighting for the big wrestling trophy to display for all to see?
Sounded like a bunch of Voodoo Chicken Shit.
My big dilemma was: Do I commit my grandparents to a home for the psychotically ill, or pander to them? How would I deal with cousin Rona? Should I pat her on the back, tell her thanks anyway, and then send her on her way?
Of course there was also the huge problem of me sitting on a hilltop, above
, in the middle of winter. Loveland, Colorado
I took one more look at the kiss of the sunrise, closed my eyes and thought of being safe and wanting to be there again, and then I found myself standing on my neighbor’s doorstep…
Now when I said that I found myself standing on my neighbor’s doorstep, I don’t mean that it was a short walk, or a long walk. I mean that instantly, I found myself on my neighbor’s doorstep. INSTANTLY!
This begged the question: Had I fallen asleep on this nice, safe, comfy doorstep: Dreaming the whole night away?
I was just standing on my neighbor’s doorstep blinking.
I stepped off his porch and moved to the end of his sidewalk. My foot hovered in the direction of my own home. Instead, I turned toward the sun, as it escaped the bright colors of the sunrise. I had never truly looked at her before today, just simply assuming what she was. The light hit my face and I closed my eyes. I saw myself sitting on the hill again, above the city.
When I opened my eyes again, I was on the hill.
Remember that nice and easy equation: E=mc2?
I slowly sank down and felt myself losing focus. I felt like my mind went void and any energy had been completely drained from me. I turned my face toward the sun, and felt some consciousness coming back, but my limbs wouldn’t respond.
Otherwise, at 6’4” and 210 pounds, more energy would need to be stored in order to fuel movement.
My eyes slowly drifted closed.
A tap on my shoulder made me blink and then move. I looked up and found my new cousin standing over me. She wrinkled her nose, “I think you need a bath.”
She was again wearing black, and her nails were painted scarlet. “Do you always wear dark colors? Wouldn’t you want to wear light colors because of your love of day?” I asked her.
She smiled, “Dark colors attract light, and light colors reflect it.” She stretched her arms out in worship to the sun. Any moment she would be singing ‘The Sound of Music’ and twirling around.
She held out her hand, and I took it. She had amazing strength and helped me stand without flinching at my weight. I swayed back and forth, weakly. “I don’t think I can make it back to the house.”
I started to reach into my pocket, but her hand stayed me, “Your phone will no longer be operable. It was not designed for our kind of travel.”
I pulled it out anyway, and found the screen shattered in a million pieces. Note to self: Next time I want to get to my neighbor’s doorstep, leave my cell phone at home. “Any other warnings I need to consider?”
“Yes, you will learn them all as I train you, but the most important one is to never travel alone until you know your limits. You are a beginner, I would suggest extreme caution.” She wagged her finger at me, “This crazy action of going outside at night was not good. Our people stay in the light because we are the light.”
Something held me back from telling her that the night really wasn’t that bad. I weakly smiled at her.
“Close your eyes, Danny.” (The first time she had addressed me by my nickname) “Let the sun’s rays flow over you and envelop you and take several deep breaths.”
It was like a prayer, or worship, of something so pure. I felt the warming tingle in my fingers and toes, and then the feeling spread to each part of my body.
“Do not move or think, until you feel the warmth pumping through your heart and wrapping around your entire being.”
I felt the palm of her hand cover my chest where my heart beat. Then I could hear my heart beating, slowly but with force.
It was just a whisper in the wind, but I understood. I opened my eyes and watched as my body sped away, through the trees, down the hill, through the streets and neighborhoods, finally to my neighbor’s doorstep.
I looked over at my yard and found my cousin standing on my step, tapping her foot impatiently. I sheepishly stepped off my neighbor’s porch, making a mental note to send him a bottle of wine or a nightlight, for invading his space.
I reached Rona and she rolled her eyes at me, “Cousins…” she muttered.
“It was in ancient times that two brothers were raised by their immortal parents. Both were loved dearly and they were treated fairly. They flourished under their parents care. The brothers were also devoted to each other.”
“Are you going to tell me that this 1,000 year war is a family feud?”
Rona frowned at me and continued her story: “They were both given the powers over night and day and they excelled at their gifts. Together they would surely rule the world. Appius and Aulus had power even beyond that of their parents.
Because of their great power and great bloodlines, both brothers were betrothed to women who would produce a great bloodline of children to follow in their great footsteps. Both women were great beauties with power and skills of their own. Tita and Tiberia were raised as gentle women: Born to serve their husbands.
While Appius and Aulus loved each other, Tita and Tiberia hated each other and often coveted what the other had. Tita was betrothed to Appius and Tiberia to Aulus. But Tita thought that Appius was the weaker brother and complained to any who would listen.
Tiberia was more subtle: She conspired with several servants to make the arranged marriages collapse. She whispered in ears and lied to visiting royalty and diplomats. But the ear that listened the most was one belonging to Spurius: A distant cousin of Appius and Aulus.
He hated the blessed brothers as much as Tiberia hated her life and her own sister. While the brothers were both blessed with the gift of night and day, his life was limited to the darkness. The bright light of the sun blinded him and the night empowered him. He used his dark powers to spy on all. He would fade behind walls and skulk in the darkest of shadows. It was in one of these shadows that he first discovered the brothers’ nemesis: Though both were strong together, separate they were at their weakest.
He began to play them off against each other. He told Appius that Tita considered him the weaker brother and Aulus that Tiberia found him dull and constantly complained that Appius was not her betrothed.
The brothers tried to distance themselves from the gossip and the petty innuendos, but by turning their backs on the problem, they allowed the problem to grow until it could be contained no more.
They agreed to fight hand to hand against each other until one declared surrender, just to appease their followers. They had fought together before, in play, and both were equally matched in fist fighting. The night before the match, they argued about letting each other win. Appius saying that Aulus was better spoken and people would heed his leadership: Aulus saying that Appius was a wiser soul and could rule in a more balanced way.”
My nose started itching and I scratched it. Rona glared at me. “So why did they fight?”
Her eyes widened in indignation, “Because they were royalty and it was expected of them.”
I shook my head, “I’m not buying in, give me the real dirt.”
“They fought because it was the right thing to do!”
“How was this ‘the right thing’ to do? If they didn’t want to fight, they shouldn’t have to fight! If they didn’t fight, then they would just look like really smart, nice guys. Now they look like idiots who would jump off the cliff if that is what everybody expected them to do!”
Rona stuck her chin up in the air, “I am telling you a story of your heritage, cousin, I expect you to listen!”
I blinked innocently at her and shrugged.
She cleared her throat, “Spurius fumed, knowing that the fight would be a sham. He volunteered to be a second to the duelers, and posted himself in Appius’ corner that next morning in a darkened corner. When the brothers rested between the bouts, he watched as Appius took a sip of poisoned water and smiled.
In the last bout of the match, Appius began to waiver. He became dizzy and disoriented. Aulus paused, thinking that Appius was pretending to allow him to win the bout. Then he watched in horror as Appius fell to the ground in death. Aulus felt as if his heart had been ripped out, sure that he had killed his own brother.
Aulus went into mourning for months, not speaking to anyone. He hid in his room replaying the fight over and over in his mind. He remembered Spurius standing by the water in Appius’ corner, and there was no doubt in his mind that Spurius was the one that killed his brother… He just needed to prove it.
He went to his parents and begged them for the power to see all movement, all things. They knew that he had been weakened and needed to focus his power. As a gift, they gave him the strength of the sun and moon. They gave him special vision to see people the way they truly were in broad daylight.”
“But didn’t he already have this power? Wasn’t he an immortal? If he thought he saw it, then why didn’t he just ask Spurius? This is seriously coming off as a soap-opera! They’re a bunch of whiners that should be put in separate corners…” I trailed off when I saw the look on her face.
She glared at me for a full minute, “It was with this strength that he went to Spurius. He saw the guilt of his brother’s death written on Spurius’ face, and the confession came from Spurius in his dying breath.
Tiberia was already heavy with Spurius’ child, and Aulus banished both her and her sister Tita for their betrayal. He wed a gentle woman, named Sarah, from a neighboring country.
Tiberia and Tita raised Spurius’ child and taught him to hate Aulus and the light with all their fury. They never allowed him to see the light of day.
This fury has been passed down, generation to generation. And this is what we fight, cousin.”
Not being raised around these myths and legends, to be quite honest: The whole thing just seemed damned stupid. “Okay, so if they thrive in darkness and we thrive in light, then where is the battlefield? Why not just let them have the night? Doesn’t seem like such a big deal to me.”
“We fight when they attack us, in our beds and homes! We hunt them down in their lairs and kill them before they can kill us!”
There was nothing to say to such a blind, indoctrinated obsession. You can’t fix what has been bred into a person for generations.
She must have seen the doubt in my face, “Your own uncle was killed by these villains when he got caught in the failing light! He was seven years old!”
She stood and prepared to leave before the daylight ended. “I will be staying at your grandparents while I train you.” She wagged her finger at me, “I have leashed you, so you will not get into trouble when I am not around to protect you.”
“Leashed me?” I was indignant, “When did this happen?”
“When I slowed the beating of your heart this morning, I tied my mind to your new-found gifts. This is for your own protection.”
I felt like a kid being told that he can only drive his new sports car with his mom in the back seat.
She paused at the front door, “Please do not go out at night anymore. I cannot protect you in the darkness, and we do not know how far Spurius’ seed of hatred has spread.”
I watched her leave and then got up and opened all the curtains in my house. Then I turned off all the lights. Midnight found me sitting at my window, staring into the night.
The view was much better from my living room, than from my neighbor’s front step. It was warmer as well.
I guess I could have been angry at the lies. Never being told the truth about where my family came from. I could have been angry because I was never told about my gifts and given a chance to cultivate them. Then there was this fear that had been cultivated and nurtured to make me afraid of my own shadow. Any normal person should have been in the throws of fury over that one.
But sitting at the window, staring into the darkness, I remembered all the things I never did. I never went to parties or participated in sporting events. I never hung out with my buddies at a bar and picked up loose women with fake IDs. I was deprived of my youth because of a stupid family feud.
I could see why my mother had rebelled. I felt her fire burning inside me.
The life that I had been living had been crammed into daylight hours: It was a life half lived.
I made a vow to myself: For the time being, I would pander to Rona. I would allow her the control she wanted and learn from her like a good little grasshopper. And then the teacher and the novice would part ways and I would not get involved in the family’s feud.
We were sitting in the middle of a playground near
. The snow was melting underneath me and soaking into my jeans. Rona had me trying the lotus position for concentration: I was awaiting orders to say OOOOOOOM several times. Lake Loveland
“Find the movement in your core,” she said in a hypnotic voice. “Your soul is vibrating, seeking the fire of the light for energy. Let the light soak into your skin, into your veins, pump through your heart.”
Again she placed her hand on my chest. The cold faded away. I forgot about my soaked jeans. A hum began inside me. It got louder and louder and then turned into a roar.
“Open your eyes, Dannoc.”
We were standing in white light and nothing else. My feet felt firmly on the ground, but there was nothing below them.
“Where are we?” I whispered, because anything louder would have been sacrilegious.
“We are nowhere, cousin,” she whispered back, “and yet we are everywhere.”
She placed her hand on my chest again, “Close your eyes and feel the energy.”
When I opened my eyes again, we were back at the playground. My jeans were no longer soaked. In fact a ring bald of snow encircled us.
I wanted to stand, but felt as weak as a kitten. A hand was held in front of my face and I used it to stand up. “What was that place?”
She smiled her mysterious smile and shrugged. “It has never revealed its location to us, only its beauty. Some things just cannot be found on a map!”
“So how do I get there again?”
“Why do you need to return? It will never be as beautiful as the first time you saw it. To go back would be to question its existence.” She started walking in the direction of home, and then disappeared.
I watched as light streaked through the trees. If any other person had been watching, they would have seen the light from the sun, flickering through the trees. I had learned to look for more than the flicker and my eyes were becoming accustomed to tracking her speedy movements.
I turned toward the sun and closed my eyes, breathing deeply. Her leash would only allow me to go in the direction that she went. If I tried to go in an alternate direction, I would be yanked back on my ass. I opened my eyes and felt the power surge through me.
“You are learning fast, cousin.”
I felt a surge of pride at the reluctant praise from her, “Thanks, Rona. Does this mean that you will unleash me soon?”
She shook her head, “You must prove yourself in battle against the dark, before you can be unleashed.”
“When we go back home.”
“Our gifts were designed to fight against the evil of night. We will all return to
, and go forward with our destiny.” Serbia
I snorted, “I’m not fighting anyone. I don’t have any grudges and I really don’t want to get involved in a 1,000 year war.”
Rona looked like she had been slapped, “Our people are getting killed by these evil people who walk with the night. Your family have been and are getting killed by these—“ She waived her hand in the air for lack of words. “And you will refuse to fight with us?”
“I think it's ridiculous to expect me to get involved with a war that started centuries before I was born!”
She started muttering in Serbian and walked away shaking her head.
I stood staring after her in concern. I wondered why it was considered a gift if it was taking away someone else’s gift of life.
Then there was the issue of “back home”. To Rona, “back home” was
Serbia, to me, it was . We didn’t fight wars in Loveland, Colorado , we built vulgar statues and put them on every street corner (okay, some of them not so vulgar, and maybe every other street corner…) Loveland, Colorado
I will confess: I was excited about my ability to travel at rapid speeds with light energy, but what would I use it for, other than a quick trip to Vegas or
Disneyland. And if I had to go by myself, what would be the point?
I had been working at home for the last few weeks, and I sat down and powered up my PC. My fingers hovered over the keyboard while I waited for the monitor to show me the light. My best option would be to send Rona home. Her training was not going to get her what she wanted, and it wasn’t going to do anything for me.
Unbeknownst to her or my grandparents, while Rona had been training me during the day, I had been training myself at night. I sat by my window every night and watched the sun collapse into a Kaleidoscope of colors and then fade into darkness. I was no longer afraid of the dark. The most evil thing I had seen at night was that damned cat brushing away my cayenne pepper and peeing on my tree anyway. He and I were gonna have words some day!
My screen blinked on, and I began to type away on the Access spreadsheet I was designing for a new business. The formulas wrote themselves and my fingers went into automatic. At work, it would have taken me 3 days to finish. At home, I was done in two hours.
My gaze wandered over to the window and I slowly stood up and moved closer. My hand reached up and touched the pane of glass. My breath fogged the window. I saw my reflections smiling, and I knew what I was going to do.
I played it a little bit smarter and put a coat on this time. Sans the suicide idea, I stepped out into the dark.
My family didn’t know what they were missing. The sun hid its secrets in the extreme brightness, like a fake smile or a kidnapper with a piece of candy. The moon was this huge globe of shadows and light, beauty and darkness. What you saw was what you got.
I walked for several minutes before I got the idea that maybe the sun wasn’t the only one that could give energy. Instead of closing my eyes, I stared straight into the moon’s face, begging her for her secrets. I let the heat build in my body until I felt the rush of energy. In sheer worship, I let myself go.
It was five times faster than I had ever traveled before: Rona’s leash was non-existent. With daylight, I was the one being controlled. With moonlight, the power was all in the palm of my hands.
When I released the energy and stopped, I realized that I hadn’t just passed through the streets of town, I had passed through walls, fences, and buildings. I was standing in a barren cornfield on the outskirts, and nothing had blocked my way. Then there was the realization that I wasn’t feeling drained, I felt like I could do this another 500 times and not even get winded!
I stood in awe of the moon and offered her generous praise of her bountifulness. I concentrated again, like I had before, and in the blink of an eye I was home. I blinked, and I was standing in my living room.
“Dan i Noc,” I whispered.
Even inside my living room, I felt the moon beams throbbing through my veins. It coursed through my very fiber and finally settled in my brain. I could have solved the equation Pi at that moment. I would learn to live again, in the day and in the night. I would no longer be afraid of my own shadow, but embrace it because it was part of me.
I took off my coat and paced my living room, turning off all the lights. My hand trembled as it hit the last switch, not from fear, but from excitement. I knew it was going to be another night of sitting by my window and staring out into the dark night…
Rona released my arm reluctantly. It was probably a good thing, because her tight grip was cutting off my circulation, and I was sure it was about to fall off. “You are in the second level of learning. I do not understand why your body can’t understand what my hand is telling it.”
She looked down at her hand like it was malfunctioning. She stepped back from me. “I will have to explain this without physical guide. You only want to move your arm quickly, nothing else.”
She looked at me and waited. I stared back. She grumbled something about my lack of father and stepped up close to me. “I want to move my whole arm very fast but I want my body to stay in one place. It is like a slight of hand, no?”
I concentrated on my arm and nothing happened.
“You must let your entire body take in the power, and then send it to your arm!”
I turned my face to the sun and closed my eyes. I let my body soak in the energy and then took control and sent it to my arm. I opened my eyes and then watched as my arm and hand disappeared. I watch the light flicker back and forth as I waived my hand in front of my face. “What do I use this for? Magic tricks?”
She shook her hand in exasperation, “No, you use it when you are fighting. If your opponent doesn’t see your hand coming, he cannot dodge it.”
“I don’t fight.” She glared at me. “I don’t like to fight. I don’t even like to watch fighting. I think it’s stupid.”
“You would let your people continue to die?” She whispered.
“It’s not a matter of me letting anyone die so much as me not wanting to kill anyone.”
I saw her body start to glow, “Would you fight me, cousin?”
Then my body exploded with pain and I went sailing through the air. I lay in the snow, gasping for breath.
“Would you fight for you life, cousin?”
I didn’t have enough energy to brace myself for the next several kicks and hits. My body slammed against the fence of the park and then slid down to the ground.
“Do you want to live, cousin?”
I curled up in a ball and waited for her attack, but it never came. Instead I heard her laughter trying to catch up with her as she sped away.
It took me several minutes to even sit up. Finally I crawled away from the fence and reached a park bench. It took everything I had to pull myself up on the bench. I sat there panting. I ran my fingers across my ribs and jolted at the agony I inflicted on myself.
I felt a tingling sensation and looked up. A man stood across the street from the park. He had dark sunglasses on and was wearing a hoodie, but there was no doubt in my mind that he was staring at me.
A month ago, I would have ducked my head and shuffled away rapidly. I was no longer a fearful man: I stared back. Whether it was a minute or an hour, I refused to blink or look away. I saw the corner of his mouth twitch, as if he was holding back a smile. He slowly turned and walked away.
I felt squashed: First by Rona’s gentle touch, and then the stranger standing across the street. Of the two, the assault from Rona seemed like the easiest to deal with.
I faced the sun, but left my eyes open, focusing somewhere to the left of the sun. My body started tingling and my aches began to fade to weak throbs. The surge of energy I felt from the sun seemed more powerful with my eyes open. My body absorbed the light. I sent the power to my arm and then fisted my fingers. I tossed my fist forward and twisted, Just like Bruce Lee in Fists of Fury.
I smiled at my invisible hand racing to some unknown villain in a movie. Except the villain was invisible, and I wasn’t hurting anyone. Much easier to battle the imaginary demons than to hurt someone and live with the consequences of my actions.
I carefully stood from the park bench and slowly walked in the direction of the sun. I was angry at Rona for the attack and for her expectations of me. I was furious at this leash that gave her all the power over me.
I gritted my teeth and shivered with fury.
And then I was almost to I-25 before I could blink.
There was no leash.
I sat on a hill above the highway and watched as the cars zoomed past. I turned and then I was home. I saw Rona standing outside my grandparent’s home with a confused look on her face. She looked somewhat relieved when she saw me.
She hurried inside the grandparents’ home and closed the door.
Maybe I should have been concerned about all the power I was discovering within myself. I must confess that I was more than just a little punch drunk discovering that I was able to do things that other people couldn’t: Like Spiderman figuring out that maybe that little spider did him a favor in biting him. I was no longer the quivering noctiphobia. I had faced the night and discovered all of her secrets.
I finished my work late that night, and then moved a chair over to the living room window. I pressed my face close to the glass and stared at the moon in deep concentration. I felt my aches and pains fade in the healing light.
I thought, at first, that I was staring at my own reflection, and then jumped back when I realized that a face was staring into mine. My chair tipped over and I slowly backed away from the figure that walked through my wall and stood over me.
A fist swung at me and hit my jaw. “It was a mistake to turn off all your lights, day warrior!” A muffled voice told me.
And with that reminder, I took the force of the moonlight that my body had soaked in and jumped to my feet. Before the person could turn around, I was behind them and holding their wrists together.
I paused and figured out that the person was actually two feet shorter than me. “Not just a day warrior,” I whispered. Then I released his wrists.
He stood with his head bowed and I moved quickly to stand in front of him. I heard a sniff and then the boy lifted his head. “Please don’t kill me!”
“I promise I won’t do it again! I’m so sorry that I invaded your house!”
He sniffed again, “My parents don’t know I am here! They will be frantic if I disappear!”
“I can imagine so,” I said and walked over to my chair and righted it. “Do you want a soda? I think I have a couple of root beers in the fridge.”
He looked up at me, “Are you going to poison me?”
“Only if you are diabetic and can’t do sugar.” I walked into the kitchen and brought two cans out.
He cautiously reached for one and then changed his mind and reached for the other.
I turned my back on him and heard the pop tab fizz. I moved over and sat on the sofa. I gestured to the chair and he moved over and sat down on the edge, ready to jump up at any moment. “What’s your name, Night Warrior?”
He gulped, “Krim.”
“Mine’s Danny, nice to meet you!” I held out my hand across the coffee table. He backed up a few inches and then moved forward. His hand reached out and briefly touched mine. My hand reached up and massaged my jaw, “Geez! I think you broke a tooth! You have a hell of a right cross there, mister!”
He sat up straight and tried to look serious. “My mother does not approve of fighting.”
“Neither do I.”
“You don’t fight?”
I shook my head, “Never, although I have been beat up twice today: Once by my cousin, and then you.”
“My father saw you training in the park today. I heard him tell my mother and she started crying.”
“So you came to avenge your mother’s tears. That’s very honorable of you.”
“Why do you train to fight if you don’t want to fight?”
It’s a question that I had been asking myself for weeks, “I don’t know. I guess to understand myself and know what I can do.” I smiled, “Have you ever seen a Bruce Lee movie?”
He shook his head.
“He was a master of all sorts of martial arts, but he only fought when he had to.”
“I don’t want to move again. We always move when my father finds people like you. He doesn’t want to because it makes my mother sad.”
“Your family is from
He looked surprised, “No, my father is from the
. Krim means mountain in Ukrainian!” Ukraine
“There’s fighting between day and night warriors in the
“Only in the
is it really bad. Everywhere else, there are just scattered people that can do what we do.” Ukraine
I leaned back on the sofa, “My cousin is from
, and she wants me to go back with her to fight a thousand year war between day and night.” Serbia
“I don’t want to go there!” He exclaimed.
“You and me both, pal!” He smiled at the word pal, “People just take things way too personally now-a-days.”
“If you did fight, would you fight as a day warrior or a night warrior?”
I shrugged, “I feel stronger at night, when the moon hits my face it heals me.”
My hallway clock began to chime three times and Krim jumped up. I didn’t want him to go. “Do you have to be home before it gets light?”
He nodded and then looked at me hopefully, “I can come back?”
I laughed, “Sure, just leave your right-cross at home, okay?”
And then he was gone.
To say that my living room seemed empty after he left would be an understatement.
I smiled, “Krim the mountain.”
I climbed the stairs and prepared for bed. I knew I would need the rest to deal with Rona in the morning.