Have you never heard of life before The Gloaming?
The old man took a seat on the pile of skins and got the dreamy look in his eyes that signaled a coming story. The boy pretended to concentrate on his whittling while he listened.
It was in the old days, even before I was the dream of my father. You know when you hold a piece of the Doluxorum right up to your eye? That’s how bright it used to be. Someone could be maybe fifty feet away and you could tell who they were. Day was so bright, and even night held a soft hope that the darkness was not forever. By the time I was born, The Gloaming had already begun, but even I remember it being a bit brighter than it is now.
When I was about your age, my father told me the elders used to keep all the Doluxorum in the temple. When someone died in a household they’d come in a procession to the bereft family and hang it around the opening of their hut.
How I wished I could have seen it. My father told me it was like a warm beacon of comfort to those inside despite the sadness. All the villagers would pass by and bring a meal or take turns sitting with the people inside the hut. The elders themselves would come from the temple and take time with each member of the family asking how they were progressing. People respected that light, and because it was so bright, it would shine out on the rest of the village spreading the feeling of solace abroad.
This hut right here in fact, was one of the last to get the Doluxorum. You see, when my great grandmother, Lukia died the elders came to hang it up around our doorway. My father said it shone so bright he feared he would be unable to sleep. But somehow it was comforting. He could fall asleep wrapped up in the warmth of it, and the comfort of knowing he owned his own grief. He was allowed to miss his grandmother the way he wanted to. And they were never alone. Neighbors would come from all around to be with my grandfather, and let him speak of his feelings, or let him be silent. You see, folks with the Doluxorum were set apart.
But with the death of my great grandmother something changed. Our neighbor at the time was a young woman named Kiara who felt keenly my great grandmother’s passing. Lukia had helped Kiara immensely on the day of her wedding, and had helped her learn how to bake bread and many other household chores. She had been motherly to her in many ways, and Kiara was right to feel sad when Lukia died. A death in the village touched everyone more or less, and no one thought Kiara was wrong to grieve.
One day she came to sit with my grandfather, bringing a loaf of bread made from Lukia’s recipe. She was supposed to listen to my grandfather speak of his mother, but she stop herself from occasionally interrupting to speak of how much she hurt. Once she even began crying so hard my grandfather had to comfort her. This was a serious impropriety in those days. You were not to make the owner of the Doluxorum comfort you. You were there to comfort them.
As Kiara passed out of the house that day, she paused on the threshold to say goodbye to my grandfather, and a piece of the Doluxorum broke off in her hand. It is important to note that she did not do it on purpose. The Doluxorum was known to do that. Usually the piece was taken back to the elders or just left at the foot of the door, but on a whim Kiara slipped the piece into her pocket before anyone had seen.
When she got home, she looked up and down the road to make sure she was alone. She hung a skin over the entrance to her hut and finally took the piece of the Doluxorum out of her pocket. It lit up the inside of the hut, but it didn’t seem to have quite the impact it had on my grandfather’s doorway. It was only a small piece, and probably wouldn’t be missed. She paced back and forth in her hut before finally deciding to hang the small piece of the Doluxorum outside her own doorway.
“After all,” she thought to herself, “she was my friend too. I also should be set apart in my grief. Why should they get all the Doluxorum?”
A man named Bazrim lived down the road from Kiara. He had loved my great grandmother before she married my great grandfather. He loved her until the day she died. He never married, choosing to remain alone forever rather than marry someone who he considered to be a second choice. He too was saddened by the death of Lukia, but kept his grief to himself, respecting our traditions.
The morning after Kiara hung the Doluxorum outside her hut, Bazrim was out walking when he caught the flash of light out of the corner of his eye. He moved closer to Kiara’s hut, and saw the small comforting glow of the Doluxorum.
“Why should she get to mourn Lukia so publicly,” he thought to himself. “When I am here having loved her all my life.”
He came by to sit with my grandfather, bringing a pot of soup. After they had dined and spoken of my grandmother for a while, he left. As he left, he too broke off a little piece of the Doluxorum, and he made sure it was just a bit bigger than Kiara’s.
Eventually more and more people began claiming a piece for themselves. People who never even knew my great grandmother, but didn’t want to feel left out, began decorating their own doorways with the Doluxorum. The elders didn’t stop them. In fact, they began breaking off pieces for themselves as well, hanging them around their necks on a rope to claim some of the specialness for themselves. Soon, everyone had an equal amount of light, and all claimed a part in the mourning.
So, now when someone dies in a household, we no longer truly know who is in mourning. We’ve all got an equal amount of the Doluxorum on our doors.
“Why then is it always so dark?” The boy asked.
That, my boy, is the curious thing about the Doluxorum. Once it was spread so thin, it lost its power. As each piece was broken off, it became more and more dim. We no longer knew how to truly mourn. We forgot our tears. We ceased to help each other. That was the beginning of The Gloaming.
After the old man left, the boy sat for a while in the dim light pulsating from the clump of the Doluxorum just outside his door.
“What are tears?” he whispered into the dark.