Prompt: In a world where every mind inhabits two bodies, one during the day and other during the night, we follow a young girl as she tries to deal with the death of her other self.
She couldn’t see; it was too dark. That was never supposed to happen. Things only ever got dim, only ever got orange or purple as the sun set. The sun always went down but she never saw the moment it vanished. That was the moment of transition. That was the time when she put away her day eyes and broke out her night ones, like peoples of old switching spectacles.
Samantha was only nine, so she didn’t know the full history of her people yet. She didn’t know the exact dimensions of the strange place where they lived or exactly how the two realms that made it up were divided. She knew only what she was raised with: her two bodies. Her room held two beds, each with a fancy cover, and only one of them was ever open.
Her day body was light of skin, like cream or cracker, and had long blonde hair. Its eyes sparkled in the sun and its fingers and toes were soft and pliable. It was perfect for taking advantage of the full light of the sun. You used your day body to dress up, to carefully travel in public, and to make your speeches and appearances at polite get-togethers.
Her night body was for everything else. It had ashen green skin, short unruly hair, and tough padded hands with small claws for climbing everything she saw. Its eyes saw only in green, only in the darkness. That body was for howling at the moon, running through boulders with your friends, climbing on everything in sight, and playfully biting anything that tried to get away from you.
Sam panicked because she was nearly blind. She grabbed her knees and called out for her parents, but that was before she realized. There was nothing wrong with her day eyes; it was simply the middle of the night. Her parents would never hear her. While their day bodies were snuggled safely in their beds, their minds were off in night form, traipsing about the dark clouds above. She was alone.
“William?” she asked as she pulled herself out of the deep mattress and probed for something else to grab. She tried to remember where her door was. “Will? What happened? Belle? Rod? Are any of you still there?” There came no answer.
She found the door knob and pulled it open. Her mind still lingered on the possibility that day was confused rather than her bodies, so she made her way to the front door. It was made of heavy wood, and she always had an easier time opening it in night form. When it finally budged, she saw nothing at all. There was a moon above, but it was obscured by the cloudy floor of the night realm. She could hear dozens of people up there, howling and cackling.
She needed a flashlight, a thing that most houses had for emergencies, but that rarely saw their cobwebs brushed off. When she found it she clicked the bottom and squeaked at the resulting cone of light. It was so unnatural. She’d never needed anything other than her two sets of eyes to see before.
She nearly stumbled on her way out the front door. It was so difficult to tell where everything was without the light, especially since she tried to track her night form’s last position by staring up into the uneven rumbling clouds that were its ground. She caught a thorn in her bare sole, and tumbled forward. Crying, she yanked it out and forced herself back to her soft feet. She had to go slower. Day form wasn’t meant to move like that.
Where had they played last? Sam shut her eyes and tried to force the memory out, like pulling a netted bass out of the river as it flailed. They were climbing Bungly Rock: a fun formation covered in scratches from previous nights, a rock of the clouds, a plaything of their night forms, before those clouds dissolved in the day and hid their rocks and trees and buildings in the aether.
“Will!” she cried out, after hearing what sounded like other children above. There was still no answer. Why was he not worried? They were best friends at night; their night bodies always played together, sometimes nuzzled when nobody looked, though his day form always denied it. She had been right there, right on the rock with him, when…
Her foot hit something soft. She dropped to her knees and aimed the flashlight. Tears flooded out of her face, enough for both halves of her. There was her night form, sprawled across the day’s ground, dead as a cicada husk. She turned the beam up and saw the hole in the clouds where she had fallen through after slipping from Bungly Rock.
She flipped it over and tried to do the CPR her mother had taught her, but that was for other people. She couldn’t perform it on herself because her mind couldn’t move and act at the same time. A laugh. It was definitely Will’s. He was still up there.
“Will!” she screamed, rubbing tears from her eyes with her free hand. “I’m okay… I’m down here. It’s dark.” The smacking of feet across rock. Either they couldn’t hear her, or they didn’t care. She didn’t know if day forms and night forms could even talk to each other. Maybe they had different languages and never realized it.
She ran after the sound of their little claws, but she tripped again and shredded the skin of her knees. The truth dawned on her. Her night form was dead. Never again could she frolic in the clouds with her friends. Long ago, when science and mind were nearly separate, her people had built this world and given each child two forms, so that they could live twice as long. Now she would have only sleep.
Unless… She remembered the stories of ghosts. Maybe she could be one of those. She had the feeling there were hours left until the sun actually rose. She would get to see it today, as she went about her melancholy task. Back to the house for a shovel, and then back to her body.
Slowly, painfully, Sam dug a grave for herself. The labor swelled her hands and turned them red. Her lower back burned like a roast left in the oven for a week. By the time it was deep enough, the orange light of day was upon her. She saw the fruits of her labor: raw flesh and dried blood. Her day form would have to get used to this, if it even could. She would have to learn if only night forms had calluses.
She gently moved her ashen body into the grave and piled dirt on top of it. She marked the spot with the shovel itsef as the gravestone, letting the handle point to the dissolving world of night above. She spotted a few night forms leaping down to the ground, ignoring her, and rushing back to their homes and beds.
Sam was numb all that day, as her parents went out to investigate what they could do about the death of their nocturnal daughter. Sadly, there was no recourse. Sam went to sleep that night expecting nothing but blackness, the pocket full of death she would have every night from now on, but it wasn’t so bleak.
She found she was a ghost in the night world after all, affixed over her grave and represented in the clouds by a proper headstone. She couldn’t speak or be seen by the other night forms, but she could observe. It was like a film. What did the old books call it? A dream?
She had a visitor. It was not William. It was someone cruel to her during the day, but who showed up every night at her grave, who ran his fingers across the chiseled letters in her name. He left bundles of pale flowers. There was another side to him, as there was another side to everyone. Sam still had her night form, but in it she could only think. She could only dwell on the truths of the darkness and the honesty in the howls.
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by GeniZiZ during a livestream. I hereby transfer all story rights to them, with the caveat that it remain posted on this blog. If you would like your own story, stop by twitch.tv/blainearcade during one of my streams and I’ll write it for you live!