Mischievous, capricious, boisterous Sun never took her cosmic duty seriously in her younger days.
Many cast light upon the mortal world, but only one, only Sun cast warmth upon the mortal world.
For Sun was always laughing. Always. And her great warmth came from her perpetual laughter.
Her elder sister, Moon, cast a light that was calming and dim enough to let other lights shine, like the stars and the planets.
Sun was meant to shine during the day and Moon during the night. Sun’s radiance, providing both light and heat, was meant to make safe the day for mortals to work and grow. Moon’s glow, providing calm, was meant to make safe the night for mortals to rest.
When Sun was born, she shone so brightly that no other light could surpass her. Her mother, the Night, tried to teach her to calm her light, to temper it. But Sun could not help but to beam down upon the mortal world.
In those days, the mortal beings could hear Sun’s laughter. So even when they sometimes suffered from the heat of her brilliance, they welcomed the coming of day, for they welcomed the rising of Sun.
This was well for a while, but as Sun grew older and bigger, so grew her radiance, so grew her joy, and her laughter threatened to burn the delicate mortals of the world below the heavens.
She alighted on the earth every now and then to visit the mortal beings, who delighted her and welcomed her. As she grew, her mother warned her not to visit the earth anymore, for the mortal world could hardly bear her presence. Soon, it would not be able to bear it at all.
Though Sun understood that her mother was right, she thought she could wait. She thought that she could make just one more visit before she stopped. But whenever she decided that her visit was to be the last, she would enjoy herself so much, that she would change her mind and decide that her next visit would be her last.
So it happened that she visited the earth one day, laughing and beaming as she always did. Even before she alighted, she saw that her radiance was burning the earth below her. The earth turned from a rich black-brown to an ashen gray before she touched upon it. And while she had been welcomed before, now she was shunned. The mortal beings fled from her. And those who could not flee suffered her radiance as terribly as the earth had. They were burned away to ash before her blazing eyes.
Sun was horrified at the sight of the destruction she was causing. But still, she laughed, hoping that joy would overcome and heal the horror. By instinct, she moved toward those who fled and feared, seeking to comfort them. But as she moved, so moved her radiance.
As she moved, so moved the devastation she wrought.
For the first time, Moon appeared in the daytime. She descended far enough that the mortal beings could see her light, even past the light of her brilliant sister.
Moon cried out to Sun and told her to rise into the heavens.
“Stop, little sister! Rise up. Rise up to me now.”
Terrified of what she saw and what she had unwittingly done, Sun heeded the words of her elder sister. She raised her head to the sky. She raised her arms to the sky.
And she raised herself to the sky.
As Sun’s brilliance receded from the earth, the mortal beings felt immediate relief.
Moon held out her arms and caught her sister in a close embrace as Sun rose to her. Even still, Sun laughed. Her laughter was nervous and anxious now, but even still it was filled with radiance. Though they were sisters, and though Moon was a celestial being, Sun’s radiance was so intense that it burned her sister where they touched.
Nevertheless Moon held tight and lifted her sister even farther above the earth. As she rose, Moon summoned the clouds to gather below and soften her sister’s dazzling light.
Night fell, and Moon took her place in the sky, but watched from afar as her mother punished her sister. Moon was afraid, for Sun had stopped laughing, and her radiance had dimmed.
“Look what you have done to your sister,” Night said, her voice quiet but deep.
Sun flicked her gaze toward Moon. Half of Moon’s form was now pocked with the scars of the wounds she received when she held her brilliantly burning sister in her arms, to pull her away from the suffering earth.
“Worry not, mother,” Moon said with a glowing smile. “I am still as beautiful as ever.”
Indeed, Moon’s soft and milky glow was unaffected by the wounds she had endured, wounds that had already healed by the grace of her celestial nature.
But Night glowered at Sun. And Moon’s soft words did not soften her mother’s heart.
Night forbade her youngest daughter from ever alighting on the earth again.
Moon watched, expecting bursts of angry flame to manifest around her sister. She hoped the Sun would burst into laughter instead and tease their mother and appease their mother at once.
Moon was afraid when Sun said nothing. And Moon was afraid when Sun’s radiance dimmed even further as she bowed her head before her mother and receded even farther away into the heavens.
Sun did not rise in the sky the next morning. The mortals below cast wondering gazes up at the indigo sky. But Moon summoned gentle winds to sweep forth clouds once again, and she herself hung low enough in the sky that her light was brighter than ever it had shone. Moon’s radiance held no warmth, but she shone bright enough through the clouds to calm the mortal beings.
That night, exhausted from glowing all the day and all the night before, Moon looked down at the mortal beings, and she worried for them. Then she turned her gaze out into the cosmos, and she worried for her sister.
Her mother told her not to worry, that Sun was only sulking and would return.
But Sun did not return the next day. Or the next. Many days passed and still the Sun was absent.
Without Sun’s bright and warm light during the day, the mortal world began to change. Some mortal beings needed Sun’s light to survive, and these began to wither and die. Some mortal beings suffered from Sun’s intensity, and these thrived for a while in Sun’s absence. But soon, without Sun’s warmth, everything in the mortal world began to wither and freeze.
Moon called upon the stars to shine brighter, but they were far away in their own homes, and while they twinkled as brightly as they could, none could equal the brightness of the Sun.
And none could radiate warmth as the Sun could.
Unable to bear the suffering of the mortal beings, and unable to bear her own dread over her sister’s fate, Moon entreated her mother for permission to search for Sun.
Night gave her daughter permission to search for her sister, for Night too had begun to grow worried.
Moon began her journey, rising into the cosmos, flying farther and farther away from the mortal world. The mortals saw her light recede bit by bit each night, from her full form to half to a sliver, until she was completely gone, and only the stars shone in the night sky. The days were still dim, and now the night was dark. For cool though the Moon’s light might be, it was bright and soft. And it gave many a mortal comfort during the long, dark nights.
The mortal beings did not know why Sun and Moon had vanished. But they prayed that the sisters would return, for the mortal world needed them to hang in the sky. They needed laughing warm Sun and calm smiling Moon.
Moon traveled far, far out, past all the planets whom her charming sister had captured in her orbit, and beyond. She searched and she searched. She passed a few other stars in that corner of the cosmos, and she asked them if they had seen a yellow star pass by, a young and reckless yellow star.
Many had seen Sun. She was hard to ignore. She had rushed by most with her fiery train. But she had spoken with a few. She had asked a pair of spinning twin stars about their brotherhood, and told them that her own sister was not a star. She had asked a vast old star about her red hue and her diffuse outer garments. She had asked another joyful yellow star she met how it was that he kept from harming those whom he wished to reach out and embrace.
“And what was your answer?” Moon asked this yellow star. “Was she satisfied by it?”
Sun was not satisfied with the yellow star’s answer, for he had only told her that he had not yet encountered any whom he wished to reach out and embrace. He offered himself for an embrace, joking that Sun was much bigger, and if she were to accidentally devour him, he would forgive her.
The yellow star’s joke distressed Moon, for she knew that it would have only horrified her sister. She was not surprised when the yellow star said that Sun recoiled from him and fled.
Moon continued her search, and all the while, she considered what she would say to calm her sister, encourage her sister, cheer her sister, and temper her sister all at once. Sun was too old now for either the punishments or the coddling given to the young.
For a long while, she traveled, and soon glimpsed a radiance that she recognized among the twinkling of stars and planets. She followed the warm brilliance to a deep and dark well. She found her sister perched at the edge of that well, gazing into its light-less center.
“This is not like mother’s darkness,” Sun said as Moon approached. “This is not black.”
“What is it?” Moon asked, settling some distance from her sister.
“It is the absence of being.” Sun turned to look at Moon. “Here, I can do no harm.”
“Nor can you do any good,” Moon replied.
“True, but the cost of doing good is too high.” Sun turned away to face the abyss again. “If I trip and fall to the earth, many would perish.”
Moon gazed at her sister’s radiant face. “Many are perishing now, in the absence of your being.”
“Sister Moon, however did you bear my foolishness all this time?”
Moon suppressed a gasp, for she was taken aback. Deep was her sorrow at seeing Sun’s happy radiance so diminished.
“Calm is my domain, Sister Sun. Yours is joy. An entire world misses your laughter.” Moon placed a hand upon her heart. “I miss your laughter.”
“I do too at times. But what is there to laugh about?”
Moon shifted closer to her sister, nervous that she did not yet feel Sun’s warmth. “You are wasting your radiance here, Sister Sun. Will you come back with me to your home, shining above the mortal world? They are waiting for your return.”
Sun was silent for a while. Moon shifted even closer and finally felt a stream of warmth, being pulled away from Sun into the well of absence.
“What about your radiance?” Sun said at last.
“I left the stars shining in my place.” Moon smiled. “There are many lights that grace the night sky. But only one shines during the day.”
“I have spoken to other stars,” Sun said. “I am not the only one possessed of warmth as well as brilliance. Not the only one who has shone upon mortal worlds. I have learned of their fates, these stars and the worlds upon which they shone.”
Sun turned her face to Moon, and even when it was somber, Sun’s face was warm and smiling. “I don’t wish to grow cold and lifeless. I don’t wish to collapse upon myself. I can hang far up in the sky where I cannot hurt the mortal world. But even such care, they will perish. I don’t wish to see the mortal world fade until it ceases to exist. Why can we all not abide forever?”
Though Sun’s words were filled with sadness, Moon was heartened. She was heartened to see and to hear that her sister was still possessed of some innocence despite all that had come to pass.
Moon came close enough to her sister to place a hand upon Sun’s fiery crown. “The mortal world will cease to exist far earlier than it otherwise would, if it does not feel the warmth of your laughter and the brightness of your light.”
Sun looked down at her hands. Her light and warmth streamed away from her and into the well of absence. “I fear my radiance is spent.”
Moon moved her hand, and placed an arm over her sister’s shoulders, which still pulsed with fierce heat. Moon smiled, for the heat was almost unbearable. “That’s what you thought the first time mother yelled at you, and you stopped laughing for just a moment. Do you remember what you did?”
Sun raised her head just a bit and frowned. She narrowed her bright eyes in thought.
Moon laughed then. “Let me remind you…”
And so she did. She reminded Sun of the days of her infancy, of her childhood, of her many antics. Sun cast her radiance off once so she could twinkle dimly like a faraway star, giving Night herself a fright. And then there was the time that Sun decided she loved water best and wished to be an ocean. She spread her radiance out until she was so diffuse that even Night could hardly see her. Moon was impressed, but Night once again, was filled with fright.
“Poor mother,” Moon said, smiling softly as Sun began to chuckle.
Moon told more stories until Sun began to laugh, correcting her elder sister, and digressing into other tales of mischief.
As they told tales and jested, Moon pulled her sister away from the well of the absence of being. She pulled herself and her sister farther and farther away from the well’s grasp, a grasp so irresistible that even their radiance could not escape it. But as they moved farther and farther away, the well’s grasp loosened. And the sisters retained their radiance.
Sun laughed and laughed, but her laughter though bright and broad, was different somehow. It was tempered and centered.
By the time they returned to the mortal world, their mortal world, it had plunged into cold and ice. This frozen time had become a season that the mortals had named “winter.”
Night was glad to see them, but before she had wiped a tear of worry away off her cheek, she was already instructing Sun how to shine so as not to overwhelm the inhabitants of the mortal world.
Sun, whose laughter had paused for a moment when first she set her eyes upon the frozen world, had caught sight of mortal beings still working, living, and even thriving through the winter. She heard songs and cries of joy amid the cries of suffering. She began to chuckle again as she hovered high in the heavens. She knew just where to hang so that her heat would not burn the world, but melt it gently. She did not need her mother’s instruction in this, yet she listened all the same.
Moon too returned to the night sky slowly. The mortal beings saw only a sliver of her light at first, then a crescent, then more and more, until the unpocked half of Moon’s being glowed, and then more and more, until she shone her full form in the night sky.
Both sisters saw then that it did the mortal world good when they appeared and receded not just at day and night, but in longer cycles that spanned many days, even whole seasons. It was only by being absent that they had learned how best they might serve when they were present.
And they learned from each other as well, for at times Sun glowed with a calm light and at times Moon shone red with anger. At such times, the sisters would bolster each other, Sun calming Moon and Moon delighting Sun.
And the mortals beings rejoiced and rested.
For the radiant daughters of Night had returned to their sky.
Copyright © 2020 Nila L. Patel