Mother Nature is dying -- or rather, Midnight Black, given the title of Mother Nature, is dying. Night Rain, her successor, must deal with her mentor's death, and the scheming ways of the girls living with her.
"Midnight say her time done come," Sky Blue murmurs, her namesake squinted in the sunlight. She flicks her golden hair, curls flying and hits me with a sad look.
I rub my back and roll my neck on my shoulders, sighing. "Yeah, she's old. Ain't much we can do about that." I scoop up a bit of cloud, feel the moisture as it slowly evaporates. Sitting above the world, watching the people swarm, the trees grow, the sounds swelling and swooping, its beautiful. They just don't see yet. But they will soon.
"You don't sound too sad to hear that, Night Rain," Sky Blue accuses, swirling her fingers in the clouds, then parts them with a blow. Over her shoulder, she snaps out, "Sun Light!"
Her twin glides over, radiant as always and twirls her fingers over the part. A beam of light and I peer down into a particular park, seeing people begin to swarm, laughing and joking and setting up for picnics and fun in the sun.
I cast Sky Blue a look as Sun Light drifts by, looking like her head ain't full of anything but was probably listening in on the entire conversation. She's devious, I know -- she and Sky Blue think they're slick, but I've got this whole place on lockdown. It's my job.
"That ain't on the schedule." I stand, brush invisible dirt from my gray robes. "Try to keep it to a minimum. Trees need sunlight, but they need water too."
"Mhm." When she thinks I'm not within hearing range -- or maybe she knows I can hear her-- she mutters, "Wet blanket"
Midnight Black is dying, slowly and painfully.
She clutches my hand, skin so dark, it’s almost black. Her dark curls were once as blue as the midnight sky, now they're dry and faded, her life force drying out her wrinkled body. Her eyes, the velvety purple of shadows, no longer gleam quite so brightly. Her wheezing makes my heart hurt, the rattling of her chest causing my stomach to roll and twist in sadness.
"Night Rain, quit with the pity party," she spits out and I can't help the laugh that burns my eyes. “It ain’t like you the one lying on the deathbed here.”
"I'm sorry, Midnight. Just -- I hate to see you in so much pain." I blink back tears, sniffling and hating myself for it. "I ain't ready to see you go."
"If you wasn't ready, I wouldn't be dying," she says rather bluntly, having already accepted her death, perhaps even expecting it despite all these millenniums. Midnight knows so much -- I suppose it because she was bestowed with the title of Mother Nature. She has to know everything. I wonder briefly if she knows that Sky Blue is plotting my downfall.
"Not like I made it a secret, but you're my favorite," Midnight tells me, grinning, the gleam back in her eyes. "Long ago, there was another like you, had the same name, same black skin, black eyes, black hair." She reaches up and tugs on a curl of mine. "Had the same attitude too. Only, she wasn’t leader, too damn busy being a punk. You got what she don't, Night Rain. Don't be afraid of nothing, you hear me?"
I sniffle again. "But what do I do without you here to guide me? I know nothing about what I'm supposed to do, ain't got a clue on how to go about things." I wipe my tears away, brush my hair out my eyes. "You know Sky Blue wants to take the title from me, right? I'm scared she's gonna kill me and take the title for herself."
"She do that and she done messed up from the beginning," Midnight's voice is sharp. "Only those chosen deserve it. There are some things you gotta take for yourself, and some things you gotta let come to you." Her eyes harden. “If Sky Blue was smart, she know to keep herself in check and not to mess with the order of things.”
I nod, deciding I’ll believe her, but I’m still scared out my mind. “Alright, Midnight. I suppose when Sky Blue jabs me with her talons, I’ll tell her who's really in charge.”
Midnight’s laugh is as breezy as it was when she was young and still teaching us how to do our jobs. “That’s right! Sky Blue -- she responds to authority. Right now, she thinks you a punk too, and she ain’t gonna listen to you. But you prove to her you ain’t gonna take her crap and she’ll come around. I promise. She just hardheaded is all.”
I nod and another cough rattles her chest. Her face screws up in pain and I gently hold her hand as she tries to get herself under control. Sometimes, I come into this room, and fear that I’ve just missed her passing. We have to stay on schedule, and with Midnight dying, Sky Blue whining and Sun Light plotting, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed.
With a sigh, I finally stand up. “Alright Midnight. I gotta go back. There’s as a light drizzle for India tonight.”
“You go on girl, do what you have to.” She grins and leans back against the headboard of her bed, which isn’t really necessary considering we have no use for sleep, unlike the humans in our care. “I’ll be just fine here.”
Midnight Black died, and I wasn’t there to see her off.
I can’t stop the tears that roll down my cheeks as the other older patrons swarm around her body, clucking their tongues and comforting each other. Sky Blue and Sun Light got their heads together, whispering and darting me looks, but it’s all I can do to even breathe properly. Midnight is gone, and won’t be back. I can see from my spot at the edge of the crowd that she’s fading already, her black skin turning paler and paler. Soon, there won’t be enough color left on her, and even that’ll fade away too.
A hand falls on my shoulder and I look up at the Father Time, Noon Day. He’s as old as Midnight, because Father Time and Mother Nature always work together. Father Time keeps the schedule and Mother Nature keeps the earth. They work underneath the Granddaddy of them all, God, whose son keeps an eye on the humans.
Noon Day smiles fatherly, and wraps an arm around my shoulder. “Midnight Black told me you were going to take her place.”
I can feel Sky Blue’s glare on my back, because she can hear Noon Day too. “Yeah, but I don’t know what I’m going to do now. I don’t think I can do it...”
“Nonsense, Night Rain. You’re more than qualified for the job. Midnight chose you because she believed in you. Don’t doubt her judgement.” He rubs my arm comfortingly as I start to cry harder. “Get it all out now, alright? I know Midnight wouldn’t want anybody crying over her, but you go ahead and let all your tears out now, so you don’t cry anymore.”
I nod and he gives me one more hug before he moves on to comfort Sky Blue and Sun Light, who aren’t as saddened as I am. The sneaking suspicion I have in my gut however says that they’re the one who forced Midnight Black out of this world. I wish I could say that she had a few more months left in her, but I can’t know for sure. I just know that they don’t act like they care all that much what happens to her.
“Night Rain!” someone calls out. “Come sing for Midnight Black! She like your voice best.”
Father Time dies, quietly in his sleep with all his boys around him.
I studied his face as the color slowly bleeds from it. He died peacefully, and I hate him just a little bit for it. Midnight Black suffered pain and agony while Father Time just told his boys he was sick and died a few weeks later. He didn’t have any tumors, or bleeding or coughing or wheezing -- just he got sick and knew it was his time.
Blowing out a breath, I look over and see his successor, a boy named Midmorning Hour. He’s not like me, with vibrant green eyes that sparkle like grass coated in dew. He’s got a real polished look to him, and as he sees me, I can tell he’s a strict, stern fellow. That’s good -- I don’t want to be paired with anybody who’s incompetent.
I smile and wave at him. Midmorning blinks, like he wasn’t expecting me to be polite -- the girls aren’t as eloquent as the guys, unfortunately, considering we spend all our time making sure the earth is on schedule and the boys make those schedules -- but smiles back anyway. I try not to appear homely, and for a minute, I debate crossing over to talk to him, to see what he’s really like. And maybe to look at those green eyes closer.
Sky Blue drifts by, muttering to me, “Flirting at a funeral, Night Rain, really? How garish.” Sun Light nods her consent and I force the scowl off my face.
Reaching out, I snag the elbow of her robes and she whips around, looking mad enough to hit me, but I know she won't. I give her a hard look, saying flatly, “I’d appreciate if you’d kept such comments to yourself, Sky Blue. We’re here to honor Father Time and welcome his successor. Not nitpick at everything little thing the others do. So straighten up and watch your tongue.”
She stiffens, glaring at me and I turn my back on her, headed over to Midmorning Hour. It looks as if he heard what I said and I'm hoping that the gleam in his pretty green eyes is one of approval. I can feel Sky Blue glaring me down, but I realize now that she know’s I’m in charge this time. I don't think she'll attack me anytime soon, but I'm gonna keep an eye on her, just in case.