The Tide Turns

Marin walked into the wind and felt it gently push back. A few more steps and she’d be at the edge of the cliff. Her focus was on the thistle, the prickly green plants that crunched beneath her feet. What would happen to these plants during the years of Night? Would they wither and die, or would they simply lie dormant, waiting for the first rays of sunlight to peek up from the horizon? She had asked those who had been through this before, but they refused to discuss it. No one talked about the Night, even though it was almost upon them.

She stopped near the precipice. The water below was dark, almost black, and stretched everywhere, like a liquid version of the sky. In the last year, as the sun had begun its final descent, the water had gone from blue-green to iridescent blue, and from there it grew steadily darker. A hint of its fluorescence remained, but now it provoked a shiver instead of a smile.

Marin took a deep breath of the cold sea air. When the sun vanished, it would get even colder. Everything would freeze—at least that’s what people at school said. In any case, by the time that happened, she’d be long gone, along with everyone else in Bliss. Only the buildings would remain, silent and empty, entombed in ice.

The wind flung Marin’s wavy black hair into her face. She was smaller than other girls her age, but stronger than most. Her arms and legs were long and well-muscled, the product of years spent climbing, hiking, and sailing. She had honey-colored eyes, long lashes, and bronze skin—a striking combination, which she inherited from her mother. Her clothing, however, was plain and purely functional: waxed canvas pants, a raw denim shirt, and leather boots.

“Has the tide turned yet?”

f

Marin spun at the unexpected voice. She had been waiting for her friend Line, but instead she saw Palan—a frail man with paper-thin skin and a bald head marked with brown sunspots. Palan had lived through several Mornings and his skin bore the proof. His cobalt-blue robe rippled in the wind, revealing a left arm that ended in a stump just above his wrist.

“I’m not sure about the tide,” Marin replied. “What do you think?”

The old man faced Marin, his watery eyes looking past her, into the distance. “This is my fourth Evening,” he said quietly. He tightened the heavy wool scarf wrapped around his neck. “The sun seems to be moving faster and faster with the years.”

Marin followed his gaze. The sun had almost disappeared below the horizon. Only a sliver remained visible. The entire western sky was ablaze in magnificent shades of orange and red. A few degrees more and the sun would vanish completely, plunging the island into darkness for the next fourteen years. They said this would happen soon, perhaps in a matter of days.

f

It sounded a bit like the end of the world to Marin, and she still found it hard to believe.

The wind blew gently and Palan sighed. “It saddens me that I will never see this place again. When I leave here—I expect I won’t return.”

Marin reached out and touched his arm. The old man turned away from the sea, back toward the island’s interior, and grasped her hand. “I’ve heard movement in the forest,” he whispered.