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The Horses of the Night

Cabbages and Kings

By Walter E. Wilson

"Morning," said the policeman.

"Oh. Hi," he said. "Cold, isn't it?"

"Yes, pretty chilly morning. You're up pretty early, aren't you?"

"No' I've been up all night."

"Yea? Well, I guess you fellows have to spend a lot of time with your books sometimes."

"No' I'm up every night."

"Really keep your nose to the grindstone, hey?"

"No, I study some of the time; you see, I'm a creature of the night."

"A what?"

"A night person; I live during the nights, and sleep during the days."

"Oh. I thought you went to college here. Boy, I get this night duty once every couple of weeks, and let me tell you it really ..."

"No, that's not it; I am a student; but I live the nights like other people do the days, and vice versa."

"Vice what."

"Vice versa. You see, I've found the answer: the dorms are amplifying systems during the day; you can't walk through a library without some hornrimmed creature goggling from between the pages of a mouldy scrapbook at you; and this Square is palsy in motion; this place makes my flesh crawl right off my bones during the day."

"Now I wouldn't say that; but so what if it does?"

"So I live at night; at night the hampsters creep away into their sawdust rooms, the rotten exhaust smell congeals and drains away down a sewer, and you can live, you can feel yourself breathe when you walk along an empty street; the world is yours because you're the only conscious being left to give it meaning; at night I become myself, the way I want to live."

"Yea, you do look sort of shabby."

"You can see all the dead meanings of the dead day behind you lying littered through the Square like those rubbish-flakes; and you can step on them as if they were rubbish, and your only fear is that they'll dirty your sneakers; don't you feel the power in you, don't you see the night is a gigantic stage where you enter and exit players you, yourself, have molded, without another director in the universe?"

"Don't you ever go to your classes?"

"What?"

"I mean if you stay up all night, how do you get to your classes?"

"Oh. When I first started I used to stay up through classes, and then sleep until ten or so in the evening, then get up; but after the night, the day and the drones in lectures spell out anti-climax in capital letters; they're just not worth seeing after you've lived with the candles of the night." He pointed up across the street.

"Look, see the dawn smiling over there to seduce my night away? Dawn is pulling herself up into the night on the stars." He fired his cigarette away into the street. "You can feel it, can't you; you can feel the night bleeding away; can't you smell the festering corpse of a day thinking up my night"

"No, I don't know; like I said, this night duty really ..."

"No, no--prize your night duty, live for the night; you can't survive any other way; you're doomed otherwise. Believe it; you've got to."

"Sure," said the policeman, and walked away.

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