Birth of a New Day
As Evanar Zacadwahi raced his horse up the sand dune, the pain in his
daywomb worsened. He moaned, stopped at the dune's crest, looked back
and saw his village's birthhunters chasing him in the distance. Their
silhouettes stood out in the light of the two blue moons overlooking the
"Move!" Evanar said, snapping the reins.
The horse cried out and galloped down the dune. Near the bottom, another
pain stabbed Evanar's side. He cried out and slumped forward in the
saddle. Between his chafed thighs and the birth pains, his body felt
like a raw nerve seared in a stone oven.
Though it was blasphemy, Evanar cursed the god Mazendua for giving him
this day to birth. Why couldn't he give birth to nights like women?
Supposedly they hurt far less than days. And why did he have to be
chosen for this day? Why did life have to hurt so much? Why?
The day thrashed inside Evanar and stretched the dayslit on the left
side of his body. He screamed, tumbled off his horse and crashed face
first into the sand. Weeping, he staggered up and tried to chase after
his horse. But the infernal beast galloped off into the night.
Too tired to chase the animal, Evanar collapsed on the sand, pain
ripping through his side. He reached under his beige robes and tried to
pull the sides of the dayslit open wider, so he could push it all out.
But no matter how much he pushed and pulled, it would not come out.
The rumble of approaching hooves filled the air. Terror became a
sandstorm in his mind, scouring away any last vestige of courage that he
possessed. He imagined Tull Kacadah and the other birthhunters
capturing him, straddling him, taking out their knives and cutting the
day out of him. Enduring pain, horrible pain. Pain beyond the measure of
Nor would they care about giving him anesthetic or letting him try to
push the day out by himself. Tull and all the other villagers hated him.
Surely nothing would give him and the birthhunters greater pleasure
than to slice the day out of Evanar's womb and leave him to bleed out on
Shaking with fear, Evanar crawled over to the edge of the dune and
shoveled away handfuls of sand. He dug and dug and dug until finally he
managed to create a small hole and crawl into it. Inside his small
space, he pushed the sand over himself and lay still.
Underneath all that weight, though, he could hardly breathe. Fine
granules got into his eyes and stung like firewasps. The bitter taste of
salt and sand made him sick to his stomach.
He reached down and took a knife from his boot. Another contraction hit
him and he gritted his teeth. He touched his dayslit and his hand came
back sticky with blood and birthing fluid.
Above him, hooves thundered over the dune. Evanar cowered in his hiding
place as the horses galloped past him. One set of hooves slammed down in
the dune mere inches from his face. He bit his lip and prayed to
Mazendua to spare his life.
The horses raced past him and continued chasing his mount. Evanar waited
several seconds. Once they saw the riderless horse, they would turn
Evanar peeked out through a small hole in the sand. The two moons were
already sinking towards the western horizon. If he didn't give birth to
the day, then the world would slow down to a crawl. Mazendua would then
become angry and bring about the end of the world, or so the Book of Lek
I must get this day out of me, Evanar thought.
As he slid the knife down to his dayslit, he hesitated. He would have
let the midwives cut the day out of him, but nobody in his village liked
or trusted him. He was always Evanar, the outcast, the fool, the one
with the lumpy, misshapen face and the buck teeth and the occasional
stutter. Always good for a laugh when they left a snake in his tent or
smeared his robes with camel dung.
When his parents died from the night sleep, Evanar was left to the mercy
of his village. Left to be humiliated and spat on and called lumpface
and dungwearer behind his back and even at times to his face. Though in
times of strife they had taught him the ways of the blade and the
desert, they had never once shown him a moment's love. And without that
need fulfilled, he felt truly lost in this world.
He bit his lip, hot tears spilling down his cheeks. If he went to the
midwives, then they would kill him cutting it out. They were always
looking for an excuse to get rid of him, and no one would shed a tear
when he was gone. So when he first learned he was pregnant with the next
day, he told his only friend, Mahalei, then ran off into the night. But
Mahalei must have talked or had the secret beaten from him.
And they sent Tull to cut the day out of him.
With trembling hands, he placed the knife against the dayslit and tried
to cut. However, the pain was too much. He bit into his keffiyeh and
tried to dig the knife deeper, but he couldn't do it.
He dropped the knife and lay weeping. The villagers were right. He was
weak and foolish. If he were any sort of real man, then he'd call out to
Tull and have him finish the job. Yet he feared death too much to do
so. He wanted to live to see the sun and feel its warmth caress his
face. He wanted to eat figs and dried strips of lamb with curry. But
most of all, he wanted people to respect him. He wanted them to look at
his face and treat him like a man rather than a monster.
Weeping, he pushed his head deeper into the sand.
Perhaps I should let the world end, Evanar thought. I might be better
But he knew better. The Book of Lek said that anyone who didn't give
birth to the next day or night would be damned for eternity.
He wriggled out of his hiding place, dusted the sand off his robes and
looked across the desert. Tull and his party were closing in on Evanar's
Evanar scrambled back over the dune in the direction that he had come.
At the crest, he looked back. They caught up with his horse and stopped
He had to flee. But where? Perhaps somewhere a daybringer was present.
He closed his eyes and prayed to Mazendua for some sign, anything. A
He opened his eyes. No sign appeared.
Distraught, he bowed his head and staggered westward across the sand,
heading towards the two moons, hoping that someone could help him get
this day out of his body.
Time drifted as the desert's coldness seared his already tender flesh.
Every few seconds another contraction would rip through his side. By now
Tull would had to have found his footsteps. All around him he could
feel the world slowing as the moons reached the horizon's edge.
In the distance, he saw a tent made out of goatskins near an oasis.
Camels and goats were tethered to the ground next to the tent. Someone
had a fire going and smoke drifted into the night.
Amidst the agony, Evanar smiled.
Please, Mazendua, grant me mercy, Evanar thought. Let this humble
servant of yours be a daybringer who will save me. If you do so, then I
will forever be in your debt.
Hope drove him across the sands. As he closed in on the tent, his legs
gave out and he collapsed on the ground. A figure in a long tan burqa
emerged from the tent and rushed over to his side. Evanar moaned and
tried to crawl towards the figure.
"Please, help me," Evanar said, his dry mouth barely managing to make
The figure grabbed him with surprisingly strong arms and carried him
over to the tent. Inside, the figure laid him by the fire, then took out
a waterskin and pressed it against his lips. Though the water was
lukewarm and slightly salty, it was still the best drink that he had
He coughed and said, "Mazendua praise you."
"Do not praise me," the figure said, the voice feminine and harsh. "For I
Evanar blinked and looked up. Looking uncertain, the figure turned away.
"I am sorry. What is your name?"
He tried to stand but the day hit him again and he collapsed. Azenyka
turned back to him, rushed to his side and lifted up his robe.
"You are pregnant with the next day," she said.
"Yes, please, get it out of me before it is too late. I beg you."
Azenyka looked around for a moment, then ran over to the other side of
the tent, grabbed a copper pot and ran outside. Moments later, she put
water over the fire to boil, stuck a knife into the water and knelt by
She reached into his slit and Evanar cried out in pain. A second later,
she gasped and withdrew her hand. A small cut stood on her brown flesh.
"This day is sharp and hard. I am not sure that I can get it out of you
without killing you."
"Please, get it out! I beg you!"
"I can promise nothing, but I will do what I can."
She wrapped a cloth around her hand, grabbed the knife from the now
boiling pot and reached down. Before she began, she took a small chunk
of lead from another copper pot and stuck it in his mouth.
"Bite down on this," Azenyka said.
Evanar did so. Azenyka knelt close to his side, pulled aside his robe
and stuck the knife tip into his slit. She cut the slit open a little
and blood gushed out. Evanar screamed and bit down on the metal, the
While biting down on the metal, he pushed as hard as he could. For a
moment, he blacked out. When he awoke, the pain was still there.
"Did it come out?" Evanar said soon after he awakened.
Before Azenyka could answer, the pain in his body answered. No, it was
"I am sorry, but I cannot remove the day without cutting into your
"No." Evanar looked away and wept. "I can't die." Though humiliated, he
turned back to her, tears stinging his eyes. "Please, find a way."
Azenyka collapsed next to him and sighed. "I cannot. I am sorry."
Evanar laid his head back, shaking. Death scared him more than anything
else. He was only seventeen years old and now he would die. Rage bubbled
in him. Only ten other men in the history of the tribe had trouble
birthing days and only one had died, not even knowing he was pregnant
with a day till night was almost over.
Self pity arose inside him. He spat the lead out, covered his face and
"I don't deserve this," Evanar said, and lowered his hands from his
"And you think I deserve this?" Azenyka said, her voice bitter.
"Deserve what?" Evanar said.
Azenyka took off the hood of her burqa and Evanar gasped in horror.
Most of Azenyka's nose had been cut off. Her head had been shaved and
part of it had been burned. The symbol for defilement had been branded
into her forehead and cheek and she had several deep knife scars on her
face. Her right eye was cloudy.
Suddenly Evanar felt disgusted at his self-pity.
"Do you think you are the only one who has suffered in this life?"
"No. But I did not know of your pain."
Azenyka bowed her head. "My brothers would often beat me and, and have
their way with me." Her voice hitched. "And then my father cast me out
into the night because I was impure. But not before the villagers left
me with this." She touched the scars on her face. Her lips trembled and
Despite the pain, Evanar reached for her. He tried to put his right hand
on hers, but she slapped it away.
"So do not speak to me of what you deserve," Azenyka said.
"Forgive me," Evanar said.
"I suppose you will wish to leave now, seeing my disgrace."
Evanar looked at her. Mazendua spoke of not looking at women who were
disgraced. But at that moment, he felt a kinship with this woman. Like
him, she had been defiled and dumped into the desert. He should have
left, but he didn't want to. He wanted to be with one like him. Mazendua
be damned; he would not go. Evanar held out his hand to her. She turned
back to him, sniffed and gripped his hand.
She glanced out of the tent entrance, laughed bitterly and waved towards
the desert. "I buried the child they forced upon me out there in the
sands and tried to build a life of my own out here. I met an old lady
like me. Unwanted and alone. She saved me from dying of thirst.
"But then she died from a sickness two seasons ago and now I'm alone. I
just don't want to be by myself anymore. I want someone who does not
care that I am maimed and defiled."
"You're not alone anymore, Azenyka. I am here. And I will stay here no
matter what. I do not care what you look like or what others believe. I
will stay with you."
Evanar slid close and hugged her, despite the pain in his side. She
hugged him back.
For the first time in his life, he didn't feel fear or loathing. He
brushed his face across her branded, scarred face. Seeing her pain gave
him the strength to take his.
"Cut me open," Evanar said.
"I can't," Azenyka said.
"Do it. Please."
Frowning, she picked up the knife and crept close to him. Evanar grabbed
the lead and bit into it again. Azenyka hesitated a moment, then slit
the blade into his side and began slicing. Evanar bucked in pain and bit
down on the lead. But as Azenyka started to cut deeper, the sound of
hooves filled the air.
Tull had come.
"Who is it?" Azenyka said.
Evanar spat the metal out of his mouth and said, "It is Tull and the
other birthhunters from my village. Quick, you must cut the day out of
"But I can't!"
"They will kill me anyway. Please, cut it out."
She pressed the knife into his side and cut. But she had barely sliced
an inch when Tull burst inside the tent with his men. Tull had on white
and beige robes, his keffiyeh covering his tanned face. His men grabbed
Azenyka and yanked her back from Evanar. She kicked and screamed, but
they held her and dragged her out of the tent.
"Tull, I was wrong to flee," Evanar said. "Just cut the day out of me
and let her be."
He knelt by his side. "Shut up, dungwearer!" He kicked Evanar in the
left thigh and pain burned through the meat there. He tried to kick Tull
back, but the blows were too weak. Tull reached down to his scabbard
and pulled out a large scimitar. The blade shone like a star in the
light of the nearby fire.
Tull pressed one foot against Evanar's right leg, slid the blade into
his dayslit and cut slowly. Evanar screamed and tried to move away, but
Tull's leg held him down. Outside he could hear screams coming from
"Stop them!" Evanar said.
Tull cut deeper and agony exploded in Evanar's side. He howled and
looked to his left. Azenyka's knife lay on the ground nearby.
Moaning, he grabbed the knife and jammed it down into Tull's right foot.
Tull screamed, dropped the sword and collapsed on the sand.
Gasping, Evanar lurched up and picked up the scimitar. One of Tull's men
entered just in time for Evanar to slash the man's abdomen and
disembowel him. He yelped, gripped his slipping guts and collapsed onto
the tent floor, the sand greedily drinking up the blood that gushed from
Fueled by pain, rage and madness, Evanar staggered from the tent. Two of
the men held Azenyka down while a third was raping her. She was naked
and one of the holders was poking the night slit on the right side of
her body with his boot.
The men gasped in horror as Evanar lurched at them. Before the first one
could reach for his scimitar, Evanar swung the blade down and chopped
half of his face off. He slumped to the ground. The second man screamed
and ran off into the desert.
Looking horrified, the third man pulled out of Azenyka, held his hand up
and said, "Please, don't! Please!"
What little strength Evanar had left disappeared as another contraction
hit him. He stumbled back and collapsed. The third man started to reach
for his sword, but Azenyka picked up one of the fallen men's blades and
ran it through him. He screamed in mortal agony and Azenyka dropped him
and the sword. She kicked the fallen rapist in the face and screamed and
spat at him.
A moment later, she seemed to come out of her fury and look at Evanar.
Weeping, she ran over to him.
"It hurts!" Evanar said.
She started to run over to him but Tull limped out of the tent with the
bloody knife still stuck in his foot and his keffiyeh undone, his face
livid with pain. Azenyka picked another sword up with her bloody hands
and pointed it at Tull.
Tull took a few steps towards them, then he collapsed. His sweaty face
glistened and tightened with pain. He screamed.
She ran over to him and kicked him back down.
"Don't! It just, it just started!" He threw his robe aside and revealed
that his own dayslit was bulging slightly.
"He's pregnant with a day too!" Azenyka said.
"But how can that be?" Evanar said. "We can't both be."
Tull cried out and pushed as hard as he could. Evanar watched in horror
and amazement as Tull's dayslit bulged outward. Part of a smooth
daysphere covered in blood and membrane popped out. He pushed harder and
the daysphere plopped down onto the ground with a wet splash of blood
and birthing fluid. After a moment, the daysphere disappeared beneath
A ripple passed through the world as the night and the two moons
disappeared. In the eastern horizon, the sun rose. Limping, Evanar stood
up and watched with awe as he lived to see another day.
His brief reverie faded, though, when his own side burned with pain. He
fell back on the sand. It had to come out, whatever it was.
Moaning, he grabbed the scimitar from Azenyka. Before she could stop
him, Evanar plunged the blade into his dayslit and slashed down.
"Evanar, no!" Azenyka said.
She ran over to his side and held him. Though anguish burned him, he
pushed. After a brief struggle, a second sphere came out of his dayslit.
But this was not an ordinary day. Rather it was a bright, black sphere
with shades of orange and red. It struck the ground and disappeared. In
an instant, the sky darkened. The moons slid over the sun and eclipsed
As Evanar's life blood dripped away, Azenyka reached down and held him.
"You gave birth to night out of a day womb!" she said, her face stark
The two held each other as the whole world darkened. Tull screamed and
cowered in the sand, but the pair stayed close together and faced the
"You gave birth to the end of the world!" Tull said, covering his head
with both hands.
Just as Evanar faded away, a slight tingle trembled through his side. He
looked down and saw his dayslit disappear. Azenyka grunted and looked
down at her right side. Her nightslit disappeared. Tull's dayslit faded
Evanar closed his eyes, smiled and laughed. "No, not the end of the
world. The beginning of a new one."