“I cross the street, checking for cars. It’s hard in the darkness. Everything from Day is now black and cold, like someone comes around every Switch and paints the world black, then takes off the paint when it turns to Day.”
The ground shakes as I step out of my house.
Not again! I think, sighing and sitting down on the porch. We are supposed to sit down at every Switch. No one questions this law. No one knows what happens when you don’t sit down.
“It’s not fair,” I whisper to myself as I close my eyes. The ground shakes harder and harder, the wind blows faster and faster, then the feared cold enters the air and chills my bones.
I open my heavy eyes and look up at the moon. No one knows where it comes from.
Across the street, my best friend Lara is sitting on her porch like me. “Lara,” I call.
“Oh, hi, Hannah,” she says.
I cross the street, checking for cars. It’s hard in the darkness. Everything from Day is now black and cold, like someone comes around every Switch and paints the world black, then takes off the paint when it turns to Day. Lara and I feel the same way about Night. We love the warmth and brightness of Day, spending all our free time frolicking together in the sunshine. Night is when a lot of people regularly sleep, when they don’t have to work or go to school. Nobody wants to be outside now.
“The Day was only six hours long,” I complain. “Night is so stupid.”
“Yeah. And now we have to go to school during Night.”
I like school, even though a lot of kids don’t. We have to go every 28 hours, for four hours at a time. Sometimes a Switch occurs during school, but that doesn’t matter because school is lighted during Night. Occasionally the electricity goes out, and then we’re in trouble.
Lara stands up and walks inside her house. I follow. We go to her room and stay there for a few hours, chatting and playing.
After five hours of doing nothing with Lara, our phones buzz simultaneously. It’s the signal for school. “Ugh,” she mutters.
I run out before she does, bursting out onto the dark street and running freely. We always run to school, because we live pretty far from it. Lara soon catches up with me as we dash through the darkness.
We arrive. We’re in Level 5 now, and our teacher is Mr. Chase. He doesn’t like questions that much—he usually shuts them down and doesn’t answer them. But something’s been burning in the back of my mind all Night.
“Mr. Chase,” I say, coming toward him in the thankfully bright classroom. “I was wondering something. Where does the moon come from?”
“Where does the moon come from?” I repeat.
“Hannah, how do you suppose we would answer that question?”
I blink, thrown back. “No one’s even tried?”
“We can’t travel into space, Hannah. We would be destroyed by Switches. We’re never going to find out anything about the moon.”
“No one knows where the sun goes during Night. We never will. Now go back to your seat.”
After school, still during Night, Lara meets me outside.
“I’ve been wondering the same thing.”
“About the moon?”
“Yeah. If we want it to go away, we need to figure out where it comes from. And where the sun goes.”
We stand still, gazing at the eerie circle in the starry sky, bathed in its mystery. This is a mystery we can solve. Mr. Chase is wrong.
And what causes Switches? And why can’t we fly up, up into space? And what are the sun and moon made of?
“These are questions we could answer,” I say confidently.
“Yes!” Lara cries. “We’ll be the first people to ever know. We could build bird wings for ourselves and fly up during Night, reach the moon, then follow it through the Switch.”
I laugh. “Why would we stay with the moon if our goal is to be in Day? We should do that during Day so we could meet the sun and stay with it eternally. And we’d be famous.”
Even though it’s not possible, I really, really want to believe it is.
“What if there’s a way to stay in Day without going to the sun? What about—” Lara suddenly stops and looks at me, eyes wide and hopeful. “We could stand up during a Switch! We don’t know what happens when you do that. Maybe you go to an alternate universe where it’s always Day.”
“That would be fun,” I agree, thinking of infinite sunlight, warmth, and joy.
“We should do that as soon as possible. When the next Day is over, we should stand and see what happens.”
“Yeah!” I exclaim.
The Night is long, fifteen hours. The longest Night ever was twenty-five hours, but that was a long time ago, before I was born. Switches were less common then. I wake up as the ground stops shaking and I suddenly see red under my eyelids. That means light! Day! I throw off the blanket and run outside. A perfectly childish thing to do, but I never get tired of it. I’m only ten years old, still little and curious and excitable.
I find Lara, who runs outside like me when it turns to Day. We walk down the street, happily looking all around us. We get to the house of our friend Addie. She goes with us to the pool, where we have tons of fun jumping and diving and playing. Six hours of that flies by like nothing.
We walk back to Addie’s house and eat a meal with her parents. Lara keeps flashing me looks. After the meal is done, I go to her and whisper, “What is it?”
She only says, “Are you ready?”
I almost ask what I’m supposed to be ready for, but then I remember our plan. We’re going to stand during the next Switch! At any point during the next ten hours, we could be flung into an alternate world. I can’t wait to see what we discover, but I’m scared too. Lara doesn’t look scared.
After two hours of watching movies with Addie, we feel it. The shaking.
“Let’s go!” Lara shouts, bolting up and pulling me with her. We stand in the middle of the room and clutch each other, closing our eyes, the ground shaking and the wind howling.
But Addie wasn’t in on the plan. “What are you DOING?!” she cries. “Why are you standing?”
She grabs us and pulls us back down onto the couch. My heart lurches.
Lara is angry. I know without looking. “No! No! Addie—”
“Too late,” I sigh. The shaking has died down.
Lara explodes. “Addie! We had a plan! You ruined it! Now it’s Night and we wanted to be in Day!”
“You shouldn’t stand during a Switch,” Addie replies quietly, looking away. “I didn’t want you to get hurt.”
“We’re going,” Lara sneers, dragging me out into the Night.
“That was stupid,” I say as we leave Addie’s house.
“Oh my gosh! Addie’s so annoying.”
Lately, I feel Lara’s gotten more self-absorbed and bossy. Sometimes, she seems much older than me.
“I guess we have to do it after the next Day. Let’s remember to be away from people that might deter us.”
“Right.” Good luck with that, I think. How are we supposed to know when to stay away from people when Switches are completely and utterly random?
I’m exhausted so I collapse on my bed as soon as I get home. I sleep deeply. Again, I am woken by a Switch. I don’t know how long the Night was. My mind still hazy, I stand up while the ground shakes. This is what Lara said to do, right? Yeah. Good. I find it impossible to keep my balance while my head swirls and the wind moans even in my room, so I grope around for my bed, which I lean on. The ground shakes more. My eyes are shut tight. I want to open them but can’t. Next time, I tell myself.
Then the shaking stops.
I didn’t realize I’m hyperventilating. I flop down on my bed out of exhaustion, trying to catch my breath. Too late—something builds in my throat, and I vomit on the floor.
Ewww! is my first thought. I can smell the revolting vomit, and I don’t want to see what it looks like. Then I wonder what that tells me about my brave decision to stand. Where am I? What did that do to me?
I pry my eyes open and gasp. My heart sinks.
Didn’t I just leave Night? Why is it still dark? Why has nothing changed?
I realize something awful. I attempted on the wrong Switch! I was supposed to do it on a Day to Night Switch! NOT NIGHT TO DAY! Now I’m stuck in Night. And we wanted to stay in DAY!
“Aaaaarghhhhh!” I scream, bursting into tears. What have I done? I curl up into a ball, crying. I’m so dumb. I should have been aware of what I was doing.
I slowly feel my way to the light switch near my door and turn it on. It doesn’t work. Huh? I try again, same result.
“Uh, Mom?” I call out. “What’s wrong with the light?”
I am met with the most bone-chilling silence I have ever heard. I can almost feel ghosts around me. My already weak stomach drops as I turn and find even more silence. My heart is beating like crazy. This isn’t real. This is a dream. It’s not possible to be in two Nights in a row. I am hallucinating.
And no one’s here. Terrified, I dash into the empty kitchen. My parents aren’t here and I can tell without looking.
Then it all makes sense.
By standing during a Switch, you resist flipping from Night to Day. You stay in whichever one you were in, while everyone else sits and is Switched to the other side. Now the electricity’s in Day, like everyone else, and I’m alone.
And I’ve made an important discovery, too. Lara will be happy to know how to stay in Day. It’s just as easy as staying in Night!
But will I ever see her again? Shoot. I’m on the opposite pattern… but at the end of this Night, I can stand again and be in the same Night as them. I hope that works.
I still can’t see. I feel my way to the front door and open it. Still black outside. I sit on the porch and run my hand over the chilly railing. I shiver, but don’t go inside to get a jacket. The moon is in the same place as before, still eerie with its dark patches and strangely bright glow. I can only see the moon and the stars without electricity.
It’s beautiful, something inside me says.
What? Beautiful? Night? I’ve always hated Night. The black sky is scary, not beautiful. It’s the sun that’s beautiful, with its light and warmth. The moon isn’t warm.
I blink and suddenly it’s like I’m seeing the sun instead of the moon. It looks like a reminder of… hope. A perfect round circle, glowing and white against the infinitely dark sky. For the first time, I see light flowing from it. Then I look away and am startled to see a bird hopping along the sidewalk. I can see it only by the moon’s light. Wow. I didn’t know it was possible to see in the dark.
Do I have magical powers? Or are these just some of the things no one’s discovered yet?
It seems weird that nobody’s seen this soft light from the moon. We’re so wrapped up in using electricity to make it as much like Day as possible. We have never seen this side of Night. We’ve never appreciated its own beauty.
“What is my problem?” I whisper. “I like the moon now.”
I would have never imagined this happening.
I watch the neighborhood for a long time, amazed at how it slowly transforms. Now I can make out the houses across the street. I can see more birds, not chirping, but hopping around and flying. What do they do during Switches? Do they also have to sit? Well, clearly not, because these birds are here in this opposite world with me. They are probably in the air during the Switches and they must constantly stay in Night or Day instead of Switching.
They’ve been doing it all along! And people have never noticed. We have been so ignorant of obvious clues to secrets Mr. Chase said were impossible to know. I’m the first person to know this. I am the first! I could report this to the world and be famous!
I’ve spent so long alone in Night, it’s like I’m in a world between Night and Day. I can see. Fully. It’s almost as clear as Day, both inside and outside.
And there’s not much reason to hate this Night. I’ve gotten used to the cold in the past several hours. The Night air feels weirdly good against my arms and face. I marvel at a vast display of black and gray and white, making the familiar houses and trees and sidewalk look totally new and alien.
It’s quite beautiful. I’ve almost stopped worrying about getting back to Day.
I wonder if it’s been 28 hours since school. I still want to go, even if no one’s there. Who knows? My phone doesn’t work, and it won’t buzz when it’s time to go. So I run outside and go to school, not needing the lights anymore.
I didn’t do the homework from last time, so I get my folder from under my seat and start working. It’s math, which is not too hard but takes a long time. I finally finish. Then I glance up at the whiteboard, which is updated for the coming lesson and shows a reading comprehension assignment. I go to the teacher’s desk and sift through the papers to find the one on the board. I take one back to my desk.
Then the ground shakes.
A Switch! A Switch? What do I do? Stand? Sit?
“Stand,” I say out loud. “Everyone is going to Night, so I can meet them by standing.” I’ve developed a habit of talking to myself a lot.
So I stand, remembering the nausea last time and gripping onto my desk. The shaking finally stops, and I don’t feel as bad as before.
Then the light comes. It’s so bright and blinding that I cover my eyes and cry out, “Oh!”
My mouth falls open as I look again and see people. My class! Including—
“Hannah! Where did you come from?” Lara exclaims, running to me.
I’m so stunned I just stutter.
“You disappeared! Where did you go?”
I instantly regret something, probably my decision to stand the first time. “I got lost,” I murmur.
I sigh and sink into my chair. “I’ll tell you later.”
I dread meeting Lara after school. She’s likely going to be mad at me. But wait—wasn’t she going to stand during the last Switch? Why is she here in Night?
Oh. Because people were around and they stopped her.
I’m walking away, but Lara catches me. “Hey. Where were you before the Switch?”
I groan. “Do you really want to know?”
“Okay, fine. On the last Night to Day Switch, I made a mistake and I stood.”
Lara blinks at me. “On a Night to Day Switch? You know we want to stay in Day, not Night.”
“Lara, I just said I made a mistake! I stayed in Night on accident!”
“You stayed in Night. Jeez, that’s dumb.”
I groan again, louder, trying to annoy her.
“What was it like?”
“It was just any other Night,” I said, “but I was alone and there was no electricity.”
“Yup. At first I couldn’t see, but after a while in pitch-black darkness I could actually see stuff.”
“That’s impossible. You could see in Night?”
“Can you let me talk? Yes, I could see in Night. And I discovered something. The moon actually casts light like the sun.” Lara opens her mouth but closes it, remembering not to interrupt. “And by the end of the Night, I could see fully. Like, every little detail. It was so pretty. We all use electricity at Night and we never see the natural beauty! You should try it sometime.”
Lara stares at me. “Beauty?”
“Yeah. Beauty. You’ve never seen it.”
“I’ve never met anyone who loves Night before.”
I sigh. “No one’s truly seen Night.”
“Shut up, okay, Hannah? We’ve been in Night for half of our lives. We’ve all seen Night.”
It’s useless. I should have known. Nobody will understand anything from my surreal Night alone. I walk away from Lara.
From behind, I hear Addie’s voice. “What happened?” she asks.
“She likes Night. She says you can see without electricity,” Lara says, and I can hear her disdain for me embedded into her voice.
The last time we were together, she was ranting about how annoying Addie was to me. Now the exact opposite is happening.
Addie laughs. “Really?”
“Do you believe that? I think it’s garbage. She said she—” Lara gasps. “Wait, Hannah, what did you do to stay in Night?”
I turn around. Lara is smirking at me. Uh-oh.
“I stood up during the Switch,” I blurt out.
“Good. Did it hurt?”
“Yes. I blew around in space for hours before finally returning to Earth, and I almost died.”
Lara sees through my sarcasm. “Good,” she says again.
I roll my eyes and walk away. If she doesn’t want to believe it, good for her. I’ll find someone else.
When I walk into class the following Night, I’m startled to discover Lara and Addie missing.
“Where are Lara and Addie?” I ask the boy who sits next to me.
He shrugs. “Didn’t notice they were gone.”
One of my classmates is standing on his desk, pointing at me. “What?” I retort. Does he know about what I saw during Night?
“So you like Night, right? You have superpowers, right?”
I stay quiet and look back at him.
“You said it’s possible to see in Night.”
“Would you guys just let this go?” I shout. “If you don’t want to believe me, don’t believe me! Just turn off the lights and go outside and see for yourself!”
“Hannah,” comes Mr. Chase’s warning voice.
I sulk and sit back in my seat.
“Night girl,” the kid teases again.
I walk the outskirts of my town alone, looking at the moon. It feels much colder and darker than the Night I was alone. I’m sure if I did this for hours I would be more comfortable.
The Switch comes, the end to a twelve-hour Night. Reluctantly, I sit on the cool concrete, which will be hot from the sun in a minute. I quickly make a decision to keep my eyes open this time. I focus on the moon. It stays calm as the earth shakes. My eyes really want to close, but I manage to keep them peeled. Then as the chaos reaches maximum, the whole world is suddenly bathed in light. There is no transition, no in-between. The sun is exactly where the moon was.
In the distance, I see two girls walking together. They weren’t there before. I squint at them and see who they are: Lara and Addie! Now I’m sure of what they did. They took my inadvertent suggestion of standing during the Switch and they stayed in Day like I stayed in Night. I hope they enjoyed it.
Nine hours later and I am alone again, on the burning-hot streets, excitedly anticipating the Switch. When it comes, I grin and leap up into the air, my eyes wide open. I float. I do not feel the shaking, but I feel the wind. I fly through the air, laughing, squinting at the sun.
The wind stops, but the adrenaline flow is still there. I breathe hard when I hit the ground. Nothing has changed. That was the funnest Switch I’ve ever had.
And now I have my answer. I know where the sun goes.
I’ve never realized how different Day and Night are. I mean, I know they’re different and so does everyone, but after staying in both Night and Day three times in a row, the two worlds feel so alien to each other.
I still like Night. It’s definitely prettier than Day, I know. That doesn’t mean I have to hate Day. I love sunshine. It’s not one or the other. It’s not a choice. I don’t have to be sulky half of the time. From now on, I will do whatever I want during Switches, regardless of where everyone else is, and stay wherever I want.
I see figures way down the street, near my house, and I run to catch up.
“Nowhere,” I say to the only other people that are in this Day with me.
“What?! How is that possible?”
“Parallel universes,” I explain. “The Switch is Switching us to the opposite universe. We live in two worlds—Night and Day. When we stand we do not Switch universes. Sitting is the only way to Switch.”
Lara gapes at Addie, who looks at me, not understanding.
“A Switch is just an occasional opportunity to go to the opposite world. That’s all it is.”
“Really?” Addie breathes.
“Yeah. We never go anywhere. The wind is a portal.”
“Whoa, Hannah, that’s creepy,” Lara comments, looking a bit freaked.
“What? I can show you at the next Switch.”
“Yeah,” Addie says, “show us.”
So a few hours later, when the ground shakes, we leap into the air and glide. Lara and Addie are shocked speechless at the freedom of flight in the wind. Eventually it dies down and we are softly lowered back to the ground.
“That was amazing,” Lara whispers.
“Yeah, that was really great.” Addie looks up at the sun, which has been there for many hours now. I see a few people in the distance, meaning we’re back in the normal pattern.
“Do you see why?” I say, like I’m a teacher and they’re students.
“Yeah, it makes sense,” Lara says. “Hey! Let’s tell Mr. Chase! We can finally prove him wrong.”
Lara sure shifts trust easily. Just a few Switches ago, she was sneering at me and saying I had stupid ideas. I hope this trust stays, because when she’s a good friend, she’s a really good friend.
“We can report this to the world and be famous,” I say jokingly.
Addie laughs. “Totally.”
So we walk down the street together, arms linked. We see people coming out of their houses, people who just came from Night and are going into the sunlight again. I have been in sunlight for so long it’s hard to remember what my Night alone was like.
And now it’s like my appreciation for Night doesn’t matter anymore, because I’ve made an important discovery and I’m going to be famous.