Twilight’s Last Gleaming
by Scott Taylor
The Minister of Morning stood in his oak paneled office, hands clasped behind his back, studying a brass and ebony clockwork globe. The smoked glass dome that represented the night had almost fully passed over, and soon the Night Watchman would enter from the dark door to the west, to give his report.
The Minister felt at home in his cozy little office, tucked away in a musty corner of the Royal Naval Observatory, parked right on the Prime Meridian. As things went, though, the office was a fairly recent acquisition.
In the beginning, there was no need for an office. The creatures scurrying around the surface of the planet barely noticed the change of night into day. Morning after morning passed, the creatures became more aware of their world, and somewhere along the way, the passage of time began to be marked.
That was when the Minister became necessary. Of course, he wasn’t called the Minister back then. At first he had no name, he was just an idea. When they did begin naming him, they called him fruity, poetic things; The Herald of the Morn, Driver of the Sun Chariot, a thousand other names.
Those where busy days, and before long the inhabitants of the earth began to communicate, travel at increasing speeds, sharing information and beliefs. It became critical to consolidate. Being a bureaucrat at heart, his current title and location suited him quite nicely.
He felt a chill, and turned his attention from the globe to the west doorway. There the Night Watchman entered, right on time as always. The Watchman crossed the thick carpet; his black boots didn’t make a sound. He reached a pale hand into his black greatcoat, and produced a dark pouch from within.
“The Night, Minister,” he said in his deep monotone.
“Thank you, Watchman,” the Minister said, taking the parcel. “I trust all is as usual?”
“The earth turns as ever.” The Watchman’s face was expressionless, although his onyx eyes glinted through a thatch of lank black hair.
“Very well.” The Minister bent over his desk, scribbled out a receipt, stamped it with a rubber stamp, then presented it to the Watchman. “Sign on the line, please. Top copy is yours.”
The Watchman made his mark on the receipt, then turned without collecting his copy and strode out, disappearing through the dark doorway.
The Minister looked over the Night, filling in the blanks of his summary report. Births, deaths, average temperatures, lunar cycle, it all went in the summary report.
Sighing with satisfaction at the completed form, The Minister separated the copies, placing the pink copy in his file cabinet, the yellow copy in the tray marked DAY, and the black copy was bound around the night with an elastic band.
He tucked the Night under his arm and left his office, locking the door behind him. The courtyard was awash with the morning twilight, neither night nor day; this was the Minister’s time, and he reveled in it.
It was important to have the morning as a buffer. Night and day couldn’t very well be together, now could they? He shuddered to think what might happen should the Night Watchman meet the Daytimer.
The Minister toddled across the cobblestone courtyard to the night depository and pulled on the handle that opened the hopper. He placed the Night into the hopper, and then pulled up on the handle.
It didn’t close.
He blinked, pulled up on the handle again. It felt like something was stuck in there, jamming the hopper. Or perhaps it was full. The thought terrified him, and he looked frantically around the deserted courtyard for someone who could help him. No one there.
It was imperative that he get the night deposited and get back to his office right away. The Daytimer would be showing up soon, and the Minister of Morning had to be there when he did.
He jiggled the hopper, trying to free it. The night just lay there rocking back and forth in the bottom. Panic began to overtake him; he squatted down low and pushed up on the hopper with both hands, but could not budge it.
“It has to go. It always goes,” he heard his own voice saying. Tears welled in his eyes. He pulled the Night out of the hopper, tried to work it when it was empty, but it was well and truly stuck, now. He considered for a moment just taking the Night back to his office and shoving it a bottom desk drawer. But the sense of order that made him who he was prevented that.
And so he tried, time and again, to get the Night deposited.
When people speak of the end of days, they seldom realize that they are also speaking about the end of nights, and mornings. There are countless legends, prophesies, and predictions regarding the signs that will portend the end of time.
Strange then, that none of the soothsayers, seers, or shamans guessed that the first sign of the end of the world would be a full night depository box. And a pudgy bureaucrat attempting to stuff the last night of the earth inside.
Corporate stooge by day and scribbler of words by night, Scott lives in Florida.
His wife is the most patient woman on the planet, never complaining while Scott goes off to his imaginary places for hours, fighting zombies in Cleveland or trooping across the misty fjords with the Norsemen.
Check out his blog at: http://www.scottsallnitediner.blogspot.com
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