Every night, in the middle of the night, something wakened Mirari.
When it first began, she would go back to sleep within a few minutes after having assured herself that there was no good reason to be awake. But when it continued night after night, she grew more curious as to the cause. Something gnawed at her awareness, like when she had a loose tooth and the looser it got, the more her tongue would not let it alone.
So one night when she wakened, she sat up in bed to listen. Had it always been so silent, she wondered, straining her ears in the dark? The ticking of a clock, an occasional creak from the old house, but nothing else, nothing at all. Like the dark, the silence crept into every crevice of her room; into her shoes and between the sheets. It climbed into the clothes in her closet and went behind the chest of drawers.
If it is no sound, how do I know it? she asked out loud. Her voice made her shudder like fingernails scratching a blackboard; a wrong sound. The dolls and stuffed animals in bed beside her shook their heads in disapproval.
During the day, she noticed that things didn’t seem as bright and clear as she remembered them. She walked around the cottage: she opened the drawers in the kitchen and counted the silverware, the couch and chairs in the living room were as they should be, the paintings on the walls were in place. She found that though everything was still where it belonged, and nothing appeared to be missing, the objects were less substantial than they’d been the day before; their colors faded and edges blurred.
Dulled, she decided, was the best way to describe what was happening to the world.
Most distressing however, was that her parents were also changed. They were not so wonderful: her father not as brilliant nor as tall, her mother not as beautiful nor as good and loving.
Each day she reviewed the objects and people and found they were becoming transparent. If things continued in this manner, she feared that they would disappear altogether.
The next night when she wakened, she sat up immediately. As usual it was 3AM. Determined to learn something new, she sat crosslegged on her bed and peered into the night.
It was not altogether dark; the nightlight in the hall allowed her to see the shapes of things. She had become familiar with listening and knew that she’d hear the clock, and that the house would occasionally creak or snap or growl as it slept and mumbled to itself. There was also the silence that held each small sound; so dense it was a presence.
Suddenly her eye was caught by a small movement on the floor. Quickly she reached over to turn on her lamp. A small brown house mouse scurried beneath her desk. “Mouse, is it you who wakes me every night?” she demanded.
Indignant, the mouse answered in a high squeak, “Haven’t you ever heard the saying, quiet as a mouse? His fur was ruffled and he stood straight up on his back legs.
“Pardon me, I just hoped, since you’re awake at night, that you’d know what disturbs my sleep.”
Mouse’s fur settled down to a sleek sheen and he settled onto all fours. “I might have an idea,” he offered, his button black eyes twinkling mischievously.
Mirari guessed that mouse wanted something for his information.”What would you like in exchange?”
“Before you go to sleep at night you could put out a bit of cheese by my hole in your closet. A small sacrifice for a night creature if you catch my meaning?”
Mirari nodded and chewed her lower lip. “I’ll gladly do that but are you saying that the night creatures are not happy with me?”
Mouse tapped his foot impatiently. “No, no, that may or may not be the case. The problem is not that simple. No, there is greater mystery at work. What wakens you is not a sound. It is a ‘not’ sound. Something has gone missing.”
“Mouse, please, what is missing?”
He ran excitedly in a tight circle, round and round, talking very fast. “Yes, all of the night knows. They are gone. No one knows where they’ve gone, but gone they are. He ran more quickly.
“Why are you running so? Please, be still.” He was making her more uneasy.
“The only thing I know to do about a problem is to go very fast,” mouse admitted, continuing his circles.
“Well, that will certainly not solve anything. Won’t you at least tell me who or what is missing?”
“Why, the angels, of course.” He stopped his circles and looked at her most sincerely.
“What have they to do with the night?”
“Your education’s sadly lacking, young lady. Everyone knows that the angels sing the world back into being at night. Without their songs, the day would slowly disappear a little every day until it was no more. You must have noticed that.” He cocked an inquisitive eyebrow at her.
Mirari nodded sadly. “Thank you. You have at least given me one answer, but what’s to be done about the angels who’ve gone missing, and how much time do we have to find them before the world disappears?”
“I’m off now. Lots to do you know. Can’t stop long to chat.” And that quickly he was gone.
In the morning Mirari got up with the first light to go to her counselors. Her great-great-grandparents had built their house beside an ancient circle of redwood trees because they were the oldest and wisest beings in the land. Their age and strength had always given her courage, but there was something far more important about them–they were magical.
She ran quickly through the garden. There was no time to greet the many plants that lined the path that brushed against her, wetting her clothes with morning dew as if to scold her for her negligence. She promised to make it up to them later.
When she came into the family circle of trees, she ran her hands over the soft fur-like bark and smelled the sweet scent that came from them. The ‘dulling’ didn’t seem to have effected them as much as other things, but they were less distinct. She guessed that they would be slower to fade, being so long in solid form.
She went and sat in the clearing in the center of the circle and looked up through the treetops to the grey sky above. There was no wind so the branches were still, creating a green canopy of such peace that for the first time in many days, Mirari relaxed.
She knew that the way to listen to their counsel was to make her mind empty of all thought but her question. “Tell me about the angels singing at night, and where they’ve gone, please.”
This is what they told her:
“The work of the day wears down the fabric of the world. It is stretched and pounded, broken and weakened by the winds and weather, stresses and strains of the difficulties encountered in creation. It is not easy to bring life into specific form-to make one, let alone trillions of things stay particular. The lines between them want to blur. What is solid loses its shape. What is liquid begins to solidify. All forms wish to return to original oneness where there are no divisions. The creation grows tired after holding itself apart in the way that we come to expect.
“The angels remake the world each night. All of the day creatures sleep in order that they may be sung back into existence. Each separate life form has a song that identifies it. That is what the angels sing. When you hear your song, you are remade. It is essential to be ready to face the effort of living another day.”
This idea appealed to Mirari but it also made her sad. “Where have they gone and why?”
“They are not gone. If they were, you would be also.”
“But mouse, said . . .
“Nonsense. Since when do you listen to the squeeking of mice?”
“Mouse didn’t tell me that the world was fading. That is a fact. And you have said the angels are responsible, so what is wrong?”
“They haven’t left. You have.”
“But I’m right her.” All her worry and anxiety returned. She sighed heavily and lay back on the soft bed made by the redwood needles. With her arms crossed as a pillow for her head, she gazed up through the canopy. The sun had risen and turned the sky a pale blue broken occasionally by a passing cloud.
What did it mean that she had left the angels? she wondered.