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Grade
10

Ink was made by the Night.

The blackened sky had all the time in the world to think. It was true thousands of years ago, and it is still true now. Her favorite thing to think about is the human. She told stories to the stars of beings always looking toward new horizons, challenging their challenges and seeing the world with different eyes. She was fascinated with these new beings to traipse across Earth’s skin. They didn’t walk on four legs, or perch on two with wings at their sides. They utilized everything about them with curious fingers, and she would wonder at the tools that they left scattered about the feet of their rocky homes.

Night knew only scraps of information of such a race, for they avoided her dark presence and hid from her in the daylight’s brilliance. Her tales were stitched together from what she asked of the Sun when they brief passed each other. At dawn, the Sun would tell the Night what she wanted to know about the humans. Who was born, who died. What new things they discovered. As the Night faded away and disappeared with the light, she could barely wait for dusk when the Sun could report the answers to her questions.

Sometimes, if the Night was lucky, the humans would sleep outside. Her favorite times were when they dared to stay up late. She was drawn to the flicker of flames below, to where they danced.

The Night stared, enraptured by the swaying of their curious bodies and the gibberish that they sang to the moon. They spun about the fire as if it were alive, beating their own flesh to make odd rhythms. The Night didn’t understand it, but she was enchanted.

Her greatest wish was to know what they thought. What they said. What they perceived. She wanted to look into their heads to those amazing minds of theirs to know what made them tick. She didn’t feel any urge to speak with them—just to listen. She found herself jealous of the Sun and how he was able to see them in their prime, in the brightness of day.

So, it came to her one midnight. She was watching a pack of the race’s hunters, who’d been out late. There were around six of them, and they were carrying cut pieces of gazelle meat across their muscled shoulders. Their taut, tanned skins were dusty, and one man limped behind the others. His leg dragged behind, and his face was contorted with pain. Despite his obvious crippled state, he still hefted a good sized flank. They looked exhausted, and the Night could see that their bright eyes were now dull and flat. They looked straight ahead, melancholy and unhappy despite the great bounty that would delight their mates and children at home.

The Night was confused. Here they were, with such a large prize that would ensure they would go to bed with full bellies. A rare opportunity so rarely earned in the constant competition of all living beings. She so desperately wanted to know what was making them so miserable.

So it was then that she realized what she must do.

The Night could not speak with the humans. After all, she was but an ebony expanse above dimpled with silver balls of starlight. She possessed no mouth such as theirs to ask them to tell her their stories. So how was she supposed to know what such creatures thought? They would have to speak to her in a different way, without having to speak.

She thought for many sunsets and sunrises, and finally the solution came to her. Then, patiently, she waited for one of the humans.

It took three days before her persistence bore fruit. On that fateful day, a single human ventured from its protective sanctuary in the late twilight. Clouds dulled the sky, and the stars happily played hide and seek behind the gray cotton. The human crept slowly across the sparse grass below, cautiously looking all about it. The Night could see it was a female, and was pleasantly surprised. It was a rare sight, to see one without the company of men.

The Night watched her for a long moment, admiring the little creature. It was thin, but not pitifully. It was summer, so game was relatively good for the little race. The winter brought with the flurry of snow flakes and bitter wind the threat of starvation. However, summer gifted warmth upon the land and teased the plants and animals from hiding, and the humans eagerly set upon the newfound food.

The little woman’s wide eyes were lined with wrinkles. Not from age, but of worry and stress. The human men were responsible for caring to the chore of providing food for the family. The women, the Night supposed, were charged with providing care for the men’s successors and the next generation of nannies. The Night guessed this one was seeking to find some peace and quiet from the little ones—a momentary break in her responsibilities.

However, those eyes were now brimming with curiosity. The female gazed, fascinated, at the moon glimmering through the breaks of cloud cover, and regarded the stars with wide eyed awe. It didn’t seem to want to do anything but gaze at the Night.

So, it was to her that Night presented her gift.

 

The Night gathered the clouds all about her, and then ordered them to release their burdens. The gray masses of fog gently breathed rain from their bloated bellies, which plummeted to the ground. The woman started as the first drop splashed against her head, and she quickly scrambled backwards.

However, she paused in her flight. She remained tense and drawn in fear, but her eyes screwed up in confusion. Slowly, ever so slowly, she reached up with a shaking hand and touched a finger to the wetness dampening her rich chocolate hair. She hesitantly brought the finger to in front of her face, and cautiously examined it.

It was not a clear residue like that of the rain that falls from the sky as one knows it that had fallen from the sky. Rather, this liquid was black.

Another droplet splattered near the human’s feet. She didn’t jerk as violently, rather looked at it sharply. The third drop elicited only a glance, and the fourth brought no fear at all.

The woman looked up in wonder as the Night rained down about her, splattering against her bare pale shoulders and staining them onyx. Her cheeks dripped with ebon tears, and her arms bled pitch. Her body ran with the Night’s blood, and the Night thought the woman was beautiful.

She marveled at the miracle about her when her eyes were caught by something on the ground.

She looked toward a rock, yet to be stained by the rain. It was not far from her, and she covered the distance between it and her with but two steps. She lowered herself to her knees. She stared at the rock for a moment, and pressed her finger to the rough surface of the stone. She dragged it across the grain, and behind it there was a line of ebony.

The woman paused and examined the mark, and then put her finger to rubble again. Her eyes became locked on her primitive canvas, shielding it from any rain that could fall and splatter the rock. The Night watched from above, letting her blood plummet from the clouds to dampen the woman’s body, but the human paid no heed.

Finally, the little body below relaxed. She drew away from the rock, and the Night eagerly looked over her shoulder.

On the stone, there was a rough teardrop, filled in with the black rain. It was haloed by a crude, unsteady circle.

Quickly, the image was smudged by the falling rain. The woman watched her drawing disappear under a sheath of black, and then she stood. She looked up at the Night sky, and the Night wished that the woman could see her stare back. The human lifted her hands to the sky, cupped, and let them fill with the liquid midnight. Then, she lowered her little improvised bowl to her heart, and she ran back toward her cave.

She came rushing back out just as quickly, followed by curious children. The little ones shied at the rain, but not the woman. She rushed out, to the cave’s side. She splashed her cupped black against the rock face and then smeared it with her hand. She looked at the children, gesturing with her hand for them to join her. It took them a moment, and then they reluctantly crept into the downpour. It took no time for them to shed their fears and join the woman in drawing and stamping their little handprints across the stone.

The men came later, wasted quite a bit of time grunting at the strange rain, and finally ventured out to join their brood. Soon, the whole family was drawing pictures, decorating their home with figures of each other and animals and tableaus of the Night rain.

The Night watched them go, and she smiled. She watched that amazing little race smear their thoughts onto the rock, and she was happy.

So it was that humans first learned how to speak without their mouths. To tell their stories with images, and eventually words. To preserve their minds and themselves in history. And to this day, the Night enjoys every last line and drawing that she is able to see, and remembers that first day that she taught a race to write. 

State
WA
Zip Code
98665