Let There Be Dark

Liz Schneidewin

Long ago, there was darkness.

The thing that calls itself human traded body hair for clothing and stood on its own two feet. For the first time since the beginning of this planet a creature existed that didn’t just want to survive. It wanted to know. It asked a question. Why?

Why? Why do I live? Why do I eat? Why do I survive? Why?

What is my purpose?

It was a question the creature asked a lot. It recognised the importance of the question but it was also aware of it’s innate complexities and paradoxes. It realised this was going to take a while. But in the meantime, until it found the answer, it would have to get on with the business of survival.

Being self aware it knew that sometimes it was cold and sometimes warm. Sometimes there was plenty to eat and at other times, scarcity. The creature learned and so it lasted. The longer it lasted the more it learned until it realised that events did not just happen at random or whim. The day became dark then the dark became light. The cold became warmer and the warm became hotter then the hot became cooler and the cold returned. It wasn’t just coincidence. It was day and night. It was seasons. It was time. And it was predictable.

And so the creature became the student of pattern and prediction. And standing on its feet it could see the sky. And at night, it saw the patterns of the moon and the stars.

The moon was an amazing thing. It stayed in the sky and gave light to the night, sometimes more, sometimes less, sometimes, terrifyingly, none at all. But the terror passed and the moon returned. Night was for sleeping for most of the creatures but not all slept. Some stood watch. The creature soon realised that the night brought dangers with it that the daytime often kept hidden or at bay. The creature learned that to survive as an individual it was best to work as a group. And so it continued. And some stood watch.

Every night, some of the creatures, the physically stronger ones of the group, stood watch over the others as they slept. And while they watched they looked up at the sky and saw the patterns of light that hung there. And because they had nothing better to do for a while, they wondered. They imagined. They pondered. They considered. They asked.

Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose? What are those things in the sky?

It didn’t know what they were, of course. Small, uncountable points of light in the sky that only appeared in the time of the dark. The creature was usually pretty good at counting the things on the ground but the things in the sky defied numeration. Yet there they were, every night without clouds. And as the creature looked up it saw other things in the stars. It saw shapes. The shapes were hard to see until you knew they were there and then they were everywhere. And they were always there. Even when the moon illuminated the night almost to the brightness of day, the stars were there, waiting patiently behind it, forming patterns, counting the days between. Keeping time.

The guardians in the darkness watched. They saw. They thought. They decided and defined. But they did not always survive.

Life, whatever it was, ended. This was undeniable and eventually, they learned, unavoidable. Knowledge could be gained but it could also be lost. And some things were important, vital to remember. And so the ones who knew the patterns began to teach them to others so that although lives would end, knowledge, and the creature, would ultimately survive.

To be continued…

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