Sunrise was an acquired taste. A bitter wash of gray on the horizon, scrubbing away the heavy night sky. A light brush of pink, and purple, and yellow, sweet almost to the point of cloying after the weight of the scouring that came before. A following brightness, fading through the last of the stars. Light that sept gently into blood and bone and breath, bright as mint. All of it drawn out, one insistent moment after another, to make it palatable.
Brance blinked into the growing light. He yawned. His tongue felt thick in his mouth, and his shoulders ached dully. Every thought was slow and flighty as a breeze, and constantly interrupted by the notion that shutting his eyes would be very comfortable. Laying down would be pleasant as well, but not necessary. He could sleep just where he was. And yet, after drinking in too many dawns, one more was hard to turn down.
We stay up too late – you, and me, Jezi, Tomas, and Ana. Everyone else on this island seems to have better things to do at midnight, but we sit out on the old docks and forget to count hours. Sometimes we talk too loudly. Sometimes we just sit close enough in the dark to remind each other that there’s still heat in the world.
We’ve seen enough sunrises together to memorize all their colors. If we stay up long enough, we place our bets on what color will come first. Yellow, white, orange, red, green.
“Raging blue,” you always say. We beg you to pick a real answer and you shrug and pay the winner with a grin.
The morning you win, we forget to pay you.
It’s easy to waste
time; I remain confident
of each new sunrise.
Lee didn’t have the patience for fruit. He squeezed the juice out every morning, ground the flesh into pulp and swallowed it down. He tossed it back and grinned at the world as he gathered himself to step out the front door for the day, invading while it was still dark.
Tema always watched him, hip leaned against the kitchen counter, as she peeled her orange into its pieces and slid them one by one into her mouth. She had never finished more than three or four slices before he was banging out the door, and she twisted to watch him go, amused, perplexed.
The sky turned gray first. The ensuing riot of red, pink, purple, and yellow seemed like a bold thing, but it didn’t dare to touch the blue-black of the night. It waited at the horizon, toes stopped at the threshold, until gentle gray had nudged the darkness to the opposite side of the sky.
Leaning back from her desk, Ovie smiled slowly at the gray’s silent tenacity. She had worked through the night again, without really meaning to, though she was happy enough with the feeling of accomplishment that rested quietly behind the hum of her tired mind. She was too drained to appreciate the bright colors, and the sunlight streaming in behind them was waking her up more than she would like without giving her any fresh energy. She had been sitting too long, and she didn’t know a stretch that could soothe her more than the thought of curling up around her pillow. It was morning, and she didn’t want it quite yet.
But she understood the gray. She recognized that unintimidating, unyielding way to push.
Captain Donovan hated his new post within a day of holding it. The ship was a beauty, a long sleek hull under triple masts so expertly hung they might have been royal canopies. She cut through the water like a knife, pulled turns on an instant and left a wake like a lace train behind her. Her top deck shone with polished brass, her gun deck with lethal iron mouths. The creak of her timbers was so light, so sweet, it played like a melody against the water. The crew was a terror.
The men didn’t so much take orders as catch them, weigh them, and generally agree. Every one of them carried a look that made Donovan wonder if an oddly cheerful, unorganized mutiny might suddenly break out. Uniforms seemed like suggestions, and each man only wore the pieces that suited him that day. Worst, the sway of the hammock seemed to roll their brains right out of their skulls and onto the floor while they slept. None of them bothered to pick them and put them back into place until at least midday. They might as well have been clockwork men, striding around each other with half-closed eyes. Donovan felt like the only man with a pulse while he walked between them.