Mathilda had grown up being a carried child. Her mother had sold the buggy, instead favouring the beauty and closeness of wrapping her baby on her front or back. From here Mathilda watched the world go by, listened to conversations or tuned it all out and slept soundly. Being wrapped had given her a sense of confidence much like her sister who had been carried before her. This confidence had given her the ability to dream and do anything she wished to achieve. Unbeknownst to Mathilda one wrap in particular had seeped its magic into her too.
At the end of her carrying days her mother carefully washed and folded her most cherished wrap, Mokosh Thistle Midnight, one that was known for its strength and incredible sleep dust. She promised Mathilda that one day, when she had a baby of her own, she could use Midnight again.
As Mathilda grew up she watched the country around her change; cities took over countryside until no countryside was left. In the bid to build ever greater cities, spacescrapers towered high above the atmosphere. The vast cities became a monument to man’s domination of all things natural. Those who dwelt in these high rises soon forgot what it felt like to lie on your back on a summer’s day with the grass tickling your toes and the hazy heat lulling you to sleep.
It wasn’t just the connection with nature that had receded from people’s lives. Those that built these vast cities were building habitats that never slept; its residents working around the clock to drive the machine of industry and communication. As such, the lights never went out from these spacescrapers and a sick tungsten hue radiated across people’s faces no matter what time of day. People’s circadian rhythms were being altered and with it their joy of life.
By now Mathilda was 36 years old and had a daughter of her own called Sonhos who was just 2 weeks young. She had not realised until she had stopped work to have her child how much life around her had changed. The natural needs and wants of a baby were so difficult to fulfil in her spacescraper apartment. The times when Sonhos needed darkness and to be swayed to sleep were impossible with the light seeping through the blackout curtains. Mathilda yearned for air that smelled of wet dew on a spring morning but all around her was the clinical air of machine cleaned oxygen designed to keep residents healthy. She looked into her daughter’s electric aqua eyes and saw in them a future she yearned for.
In a quiet desperation one morning after a long night of unsettled crying from Sonhos, Mathilda reached for the wrap her mother had given her a few weeks before to welcome this grandchild. Remembering the guidance her mother had given her she wrapped an enraged and exhausted Sonhos in a Robin’s hip carry, spending awkward moments tightening the wrap so it felt secure. She counted to ten, pouring with sweat from her exertions and the dead city heat. She looked down, taking in the quietness that had suddenly come over the apartment. Sonhos was fast asleep, hands curled against her rosebud lips. Mathilda was astounded for she had never truly believed the mythological sleep dust that her mother had waxed lyrical about so many times. Grabbing her keys and some water she left the apartment and took the long elevator ride down to the ground for she knew she wanted to meander and think.
In the first quiet moments for what felt like years, calm and centred with her baby asleep against her chest, Mathilda walked the streets of the city vaguely hoping to find the edge. She thought about her husband, friends and mother whom she loved so dearly. She realised that the lack of sleep and the disconnection from nature was slowly draining their health and vivaciousness away. This pernicious bleed of life had to be stopped; but how? Against her chest, Sonhos stirred and resettled, a look of complete contentedness on her face. Mathilda failing to find the city’s edge turned slowly back to her apartment, she had been out for nearly three hours.
As soon as she arrived back into her apartment, lit with its sickly orange glow from the lights outside, and unwrapped Sonhos she woke up. Her fists balled with rage as her eyes shied away from the light. It was the start of another long night for Mathilda knowing that no twilight or darkness would truly arrive to wrap its velvety safety around her and her daughter. Sleep evaded them both.
Even so Mathilda dreamed in strange wakeful visions as she slowly swayed into the early hours. In her dreams she saw, if not a receding of the cities, but a blossoming of green, so much so that people came out of their buildings, left their relentless desk bound jobs, taking off their shoes as they went. Trees had appeared with springy moss at their bases and here people gathered, feeling the damp moss in their hands and settling down in joy. They spent time talking, drinking, anything that would prolonge this delicious new sensation of leisurely peace. Long into the evening they stayed until they realised it was becoming more difficult to see each other. They looked up to realise that one by one, the lights of the spacescrapers were turning off. Their city was preparing to sleep. People gasped in amazement and watched for the first time a twilight falling around them and with it crept upon them the new sensation, gentle tiredness. They bid each other goodnight and made their way to their beds for that night, the first real night in decades, people in the city would enjoy their first deep sleep.
Mathilda shook out of her waking dream as Sonhos geared up for another bout of crying but the visions that had warmed her face, feeling of the lush moss and the creeping of sleep stayed with her; a cobweb of memory. The day, as it was, yawned out in front of them. She cooked breakfast and bid her husband goodbye. He looked exhausted and grey. She paced the apartment with her tired daughter, called her mother for desperate talks wanting to hear her calming voice. By 6pm and another faught call her mother asked ‘have you tried the wrap at dusk?’
What dusk, thought Mathilda? Thistle Midnight, it’s electric azure blue, caught her eye from the bedroom chair. Remembering the effect it had on her daughter the previous day she proceeded to wrap her again for another walk through the city. As she drew the shoulder pass over her back the night’s waking dream grew stronger in her mind. As she tightened the knot below her daughter the sensations she had seen and felt grew stronger. Already her daughter had given in to the sleep dust imbued in Midnight and was sleeping soundly as Mathilda grabbed her keys and left the building.
This time as she journeyed through the city streets she opened her mind up to the memories and sensations of the dream. The fabric under her palm grew soft and gentler still as if it were somehow exuding energy. Mathilda’s eyelids grew heavy, a trance of quietness overcoming her body and she continued to walk, not looking up at the city around her.
If she had, she would have seen a green hue seeping silently around her and that one-by-one, lights in the spacescapers were going out. If she had looked up, she would have seen roofs becoming sedum-scapes and trees springing from every tired and vacant crack in the concrete. The first she realised something was happening was when she felt the brushing of something strange against her ankles and started with surprise. She looked down, for the tickling was coming from grass at her feet. Startled, she looked around her, was she dreaming? The city was still here, but it was altered, it was giving itself over to life.
Around her were fellow city dwellers doing just as she had dreamed the night before, smiling, talking, and enjoying the newly changed landscape. It was twilight, real dusk but not all the lights had gone out yet. Mathilda sat at the base of a birch tree and considered what had happened, what had caused it? There had been no missives from the government of any change of heart, any alteration in how people were expected to live their lives. There had been no public awareness campaign that a greening was to take place or the twilight would return. She had walked through these streets so many times so what was different?
She began to think about her dream again, and the wrap, for the two had converged within the same hours the day before. Midnight had worked its peace on Sonhos so completely, perhaps its magic extended further? Getting up carefully from the curved embrace of the tree’s trunk she centred herself and stroked her daughter’s head. Touching the wrap again beneath her palm she started for home and as she did the lights behind her, the final ones, blinked off. Midnight and Mathilda were bringing the night with them.
True night, not one in her dreams, fell quietly on the city and onto grateful residents who curled up in their beds and slept soundly for the first time in a long time. Hours later, the strange hue of daybreak filled Mathilda’s mind and jerked her from dream filled sleep. She understood what she needed to do now. Gently wrapping Sonhos again in the half-light she walked the city and as she went the daylight started to dawn. Not the sickly hue of the city lights but real light, morning light, sunshine-on-your-face-and-rays-in-your-heart-light. Midnight brought the day and a renewing of the lush greenness as it did dreams.
And so the days passed, Mathilda and Sonhos wrapped in Midnight, walking the city together at dawn and twilight, heralding wakefulness or sleep and refreshing the green around them. She understood that time is precious when you carry a child and cannot last forever. Midnight was not only magical but had been so vital to the relationship she was developing with Sonhos. She knew she needed to pass this on.
Midnight is in the care of another new mother now and she walks the city at dawn and twilight as she strokes the cheek of her sleeping child. It will be passed from mother to mother as they repeat Mathilda’s journey, bringing day, night and renewal to those around them for as long as its needed.