Civil Twilight

micael-widell-520887-unsplashCivil twilight. To most people it’s that period between sunset and full dark, but to the people of Raven Beach it was something else. It was an agreement between the Day-Walkers – mostly human – and the People of the Night – mostly inhuman, or formerly human, or humanish.

Their community was an experiment in peaceful coexistence. It helped that their town was situated in a northern latitude, where that in-between time was longer than it was elsewhere. It helped that they were a coastal village, rather than a big city. Everyone knew each other. That mattered.

The experiment had begun a decade before, after a hellish month.

First, a vampire child on his way home from school in the morning had been accosted by human kids waiting for their bus. He’d lived – barely – but it had taken weeks to recover from the sunburn, and the family had nearly gone broke trying to keep him fed with virgin blood.

In retaliation a vampire gang had captured a human girl, the sister of one of the boys involved in the earlier attack, and drunk her nearly dry before dumping her outside the local hospital. They’d warned the family of their plan to turn her but hadn’t in the end. Still, it was a clear message.

Over the next weeks the attacks had escalated. Old Mr. Pritchard on third street had chased a pair of werewolf cubs off his lawn with a silver-tipped pitchfork after they’d… watered it… in a particularly canine way, and their parents had caught Mrs. Pritchard coming home from her bible study class a few evenings later and ‘accidentally’ scratched her. It wasn’t deep enough to cause a full change, but she’d suddenly had to battle extreme facial hair when the full moon came. Not to mention the way she craved raw beef.

And so, it continued. The zombies were chased away from the morgue with blinding floodlights, and even though it had been quietly accepted that it was their job to dispose of the bodies of unidentified homeless people when the waiting period had ended, and the demon who ran the library was chased home one evening by a mob wielding water-pistols filled with holy water.

Something had to change.

Many suggestions were made: the bloodsuckers and shifters should just turn everyone. The zombies should move to a new town. The humans should burn all the other-human creatures out of house and home.

But, despite their great differences, the people of Raven Beach felt tied to their community, and to some of the unique aspects of it. Granny Liebowitz, for example, was a hedge witch who made the best cherry pies, but she wasn’t above tossing together a batch of blood sausage for the vampire kids who came to help clean up her yard after every storm.

And Sal D’Angelo who ran the pizzeria didn’t just make the best meatball sub on the North Atlantic coast, but he also did a steak tartare pizza for his customers who preferred their meat uncooked. He hadn’t managed to create a marinara sauce without garlic, but he did a pumpkin and oxblood ravioli that the vamps considered a guilty pleasure.

And speaking of the vamps, Vlad and Katya owned the music store in town, and not only did they offer free studio time to every local band trying to cut their first CD, they had a rental library of vintage vinyl that went back forever.

No one in Raven Beach wanted to lose that, but at the same time, no one wanted to live in fear of being bitten, bled, burnt, or staked, either.

A town meeting was called. The council suggested that they all step down en masse to be replaced with a new council, with representation for all the major groups in town. The people agreed and held a vote that night, with the new council including four humans, two vampires, a werewolf, and a demon. (The zombies didn’t put up a candidate. They felt they didn’t have the necessary communication skills.) The ninth member of the council was a Native American shaman the last descendant of the original tribe which had occupied the area. Everyone felt she would be impartial.

That was step one.

Step two was an agreement that the morgue would better serve the zombies, that the blood bank would host monthly blood drives to help the vampire community stay healthy and robust, and that the werewolves could let their cubs run free in the dog park on odd numbered days.

And step three… step three was the Civil Twilight Concordance.

It was agreed that the time between first light and full dawn, and first sunset and full dark, was a no-kill time. Children could safely travel to and from school. Adults could move freely from home to work or vice versa. Most of the year, those hours even allowed for brief errands.

And the rest of the time?

The vampires might, from time to time, stalk humans on their way home from the movies, or the werewolves could be caught threatening the teenagers at Lovers’ Dune. But there was an unwritten agreement that townies, no matter their breed or species, were untouchable.

Human, inhuman, formerly human, and human-ish live side by side in Raven Beach. And during civil twilight, they walk together.

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Civil Twilight by Melissa Bartell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.