Little Zara woke up with a start, the last fragments of a monster dream slowly fading from her mind. Her tiny hands reached up to shield her eyes from what she expected would be the morning sun. However, she was in for a surprise. As she stole a glance through her fingers, she noticed that the only light that flooded the room was the white glow from the living room lamp. She darted to the window and looked out- it was as dark as it had been when she had fallen asleep; and yet the clock to her left confidently pointed 8 with its twisted hands! Something was not quite right.
Scratching her head in sleepy confusion, she ran into the living room and straight into her father’s lap. Mr Shah had been busy reading the newspaper, with an unusually bewildered expression on his face. In the kitchen, Mrs Shah presided over a brewing coffee, her eyes wide with disbelief. She called out to her husband, “Figured it out yet? What do the science people have to say about this? Is there an explanation?” Mr Shah sighed deeply. “Just a lot of scientific jargon… Nobody really knows why the earth stopped rotating last night…”
Zara’s head jerked up from her father’s lap where it had been resting comfortably, and whatever little sleepiness remained disappeared in one go. She sat erect and attentive; her ears wide open, trying to comprehend what she had just heard. “But papa, why would the earth do that? Did it get tired?”, she asked in her squeaky kid voice. Mr Shah, even more bewildered now, replied with a groan, “Nobody knows, dear! It probably got dizzy with so much dancing around. Perhaps just decided to relax for a bit..”. He scratched his head, smiling at his own little joke.
Zara, the curious kid, would not be convinced so easily. She probed further, “What happens if the earth stops dancing?”. Mrs Shah appeared, absent-mindedly spilling the coffee, “It means that one half of the earth is stuck with day and the other half has been plunged into darkness…forever. We are in the ‘black’ part of the world.” Zara frowned.
It was true! The earth had decided to relax- it still continued its wobble around the sun, but all that dancing around had taken a toll on its health; it had decided to stop before it fainted and lost consciousness. And thus had come about the phenomenon of the ‘black and white’. The earth now had a black half and a white half, and several shades of grey in transition.
Zara tried to analyse this sudden change. After thinking for several minutes, she broke into her gap-toothed smile. She had concluded that this was a change for the better- being in the black side had its advantages. The first thought that struck her mind was about school- since there was no daytime, there would obviously be no school! Little kids like herself could not be expected to walk to school in the dark; of course it wasn’t safe with all those ghosts and monsters around? And no school obviously meant no homework! And freedom from agonising punishments!
They’d be able to play all day long, rather all night long, for the night would never end! There would be no way to differentiate between the two 9 o’clock s- neither would they have to read one as 9:00 and the other as 21:00!
But wait, wouldn’t that mean that the day (which was actually the night) would get shortened to 12 hours instead of the usual 24? 2 nights in a day? Which meant that she would be eating, sleeping, playing and watching television more frequently than before…again a change for the better. Would she miss seeing the sun? It was possible, but there was very little chance of that happening since the sky was far more beautiful and mysterious at night than during the day, illuminated with the moon and the stars. How strange it is that sometimes darkness shows us the things that light does not! And how beautiful too that some stars reveal their brilliance only in the darkness!
From her window Zara could see the bewildered milkmen and newspaper boys scurrying off to work. Confused animals looked up at the sky trying to comprehend what time of the day it was. Cautious dogs moved their heads to and fro stupidly, wondering whether they had slept through an entire day, or whether they had not slept at all. Cows looked longingly at newspapers, as if trying to read what had happened. Zara smiled when she noticed the birds-the poor creatures were still sleeping! Their ancestors had taught them to get up when the sun rose and sleep when it went down, and they were doing just that- This, thought Zara with a smirk, is what happens when you follow traditions blindly. She felt jubilant at having defeated the birds at getting up early. The foolish creatures would probably sleep for another 2 or 3 days before their sleeping capacities were exhausted, and their belief in their ancestors’ teachings shaken.
The black world was interesting. Lights shone in most houses- people were still trying to behave like it was day. Zara wondered, perhaps as we grow into adults, we get so tied down by routine that we want to stick to it even in the face of radical change! The night breeze caressed her cheek and the moon shone captivatingly- Zara smiled her missing-tooth smile. The darkness, she decided, was mysterious, but it was more serene and exquisite than any other time of the day…
In 70 Fargo Street, Boston, Mr. Pearson slung his bag over his shoulder in a somewhat mellowed down state of rage. An endless day had begun several hours ago. The sun shone madly, unapologetically in a bright blue cloudless sky. He would have loved the lovely, cheerful weather if it had not brought with it some infuriating developments.
In no time, the news had spread everywhere- the earth was not going to rotate anymore. Seasons would change- the sun would shine with varying intensities all the year round, but it would never leave the sky. The white part of the world had a great reason to rejoice- their energy requirements were going to be halved! And whatever little requirement remained could be fulfilled by the endless solar radiation.
Mr. Pearson had been at office when these developments surfaced. He had only begun counting the pros and cons of the situation when the terrifying announcement was made. Mr. Pearson’s employers were extremely shrewd and cunning people. They had decided to make hay while the sun shined (and of course, a lot of hay could be made in this situation since the sun was never going to stop shining!). As soon as they had had become sure that they were in the ‘white’ half, they had called a meeting. They had studied the situation and decided that since there were now going to be two 12 hour days in a single day, nobody would be able to differentiate one 8 o’clock from another; therefore it would only be justified to have office twice a day. Of course, the number of hours in each shift would have to be reduced, but the total hours would increase.
All employees had been enraged when they were informed about this new system. Some had hurled abuses, some had resorted to violent expressions of grief and anger and some others had almost fainted with rage. Mr. Pearson had sat dumbstruck, paralysed with rage and cursing the earth for going on unsanctioned leave from its rotatory responsibilities.
Now, at 8:00 p.m., which was as bright as its a.m. counterpart, as Mr Pearson set out for office again, his rage began to ebb. The absurdity of what had happened hit him, and disbelief coursed through him.
He was certainly going to miss the night; he already had begun missing it. Try as he might, he had found it impossible to sleep even with the blinds shut tightly. Moreover, it was always going to look like a Monday morning- bright and cheerful in appearance and hiding untold woes underneath.
Animals in the white part of the world were faced by a different dilemma. They blinked their eyes in the bright sun, trying to find solace in shadows. The birds in the white world had developed dark circles under their eyes- they had not known when it was time to sleep. They flied sluggishly, dragging their wings, and panted exhaustedly. Mr Pearson sympathised with the poor creatures- this is what happened when one listened to celestial bodies like the sun, rather than one’s own body…
Everywhere he saw, there were people sitting dejectedly, wondering whether to go to work or to sleep. The world had gone topsy-turvy. Somehow, he couldn’t help envying the people in the ‘black’ world- of course they were going to face practical problems, but somehow, he would have loved the laid back, relaxed feeling that darkness brought with it. The warm air touched his face, and the only thought that came to his mind was to somehow go to outer space and with a huge stick, push the earth into rotation once again!
The white and the black had separated, like two sides of a chessboard. Well, one would have imagined that there is confusion in mixing, and therefore all mixtures of black and white would have signified chaos; however, there is even greater chaos in clarity- black and white separated have the potential to cause herculean confusion!
The black will eventually absorb all routine and the white will enlarge it several times by reflection. The black world will forever reside in mystery, and the white world shall always complain of too much to do…and the sheer clarity of it causes confusion!
This is the winning story of a short-story competition organized by The Author’s Blog. Congrats VANYA NIGAM! A stunning example of creativity blended with imagination.