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The After-Moon

by Edward Vitolo

Cradled for a time that forgets how long time has run, and so is only a moment. Comfortable in black space hugging like a mother’s womb. The eons contract as the age of birthing begins. Gravity hands caress, then tug, then pull with all their might. I am coming to you, children of the purple world, coming to give you the message you have waited your whole new lives to hear.

People used to look at the moon. Lovers kissed beneath it. Baying wolves saluted it. Ocean danced beneath its influence. A far-away world-like eye, bright imperfect sphere affixed up there in milk-speckled forever blackness. It was a nice moon, a child’s block; nice toy. Simple shape for the simple-minded we were.

There was a night the moon was replaced. For some reason dates and years became unimportant concepts, perhaps because the moon was of such regular design that when it was gone, it took with it all the other simple ideas. We weren’t sure where that funny silver circle went. For all we knew it sailed away like an old tall ship to some hidden moon-graveyard at the bottom of the space-sea.

Something else arose, the new dream, or sluggish reality of waking eyes.

Whitish, covered in a light blue glowing haze, how I remember our moon.

Pocked with meteor sting craters.
Skeletal angles, museum dinosaur-like complexity.
String-bean limbs folded inward.
Leg kick, death throe, fetal position.
Continent head pointing downwards.
Lumpy, mountain-sized horns on a vast plain’s skull.
Deep black valley eyes that could be filled by oceans.

Some carcass we thought. It didn’t twitch as it sailed across the sky as silent as radio waves. I didn’t know what it was, no one did back then, no one could, but it was forcefully captivating. It took the world’s attention prisoner, locking us in strange dungeons of contemplation.

We all watched for every moment of the night, becoming nocturnal spectators of the great dead baby-thing floating above our heads. Never did it run in cycle, not tracked in halves or quarters as our moon had been. It was solid and bright for every moment of its drift.

The behavior of mankind evolved. Everyone on the Earth slept through sun-hours as if it were a new vampire world. We needed our strength to stare through the night. To understand, or to at least try. It was a magnet and our eye-metal was urged heavenwards by wordless summoning.

Technically it was still a moon; it accompanied our planet in its orbit around the sun, held in place by the gravity of the Earth. We didn’t call it a moon. We didn’t call it anything. We just watched, becoming a compound-eye spectator.

Language was lost, flushed into space like the waste product of an entire race. What was humanity after all? Were we what we did? For if that was the case, humanity was no longer human. From then on no news was reported, televisions went black. No crops were harvested, magpies taking their fill. Zoo animals perished from neglect. Painters retired inadequate paintbrushes as poets broke pens and let dry wells of voiceless ink. No one complained in a kind of utopian contentment. Hate, duty and purpose went extinct. Only wonder remained.

We wondered where it came from, where it had been our whole lives, where it was going? Why was it here, was it dead, why was it dead? What did it die from, what would it have grown into? Questions so big they were boulders and these boulder thoughts fell in avalanches into babbling river minds, damming the flow and forcing a swelling flood. Then, when we couldn’t ponder another whim, mental volcanoes exploded pouring molten imaginings on us in a wave of heavy fire. What was it? Only one answer made sense.

It was here.

Staring became breathing for us. We had to breathe it. We had finally seen just how closed our airless lung-brains were and there was only one way, a new way to inhale. To see it was to present the suffocated with the freshest, strangest and truest possible air in the universe.

We never ate or drank while watching. The creature fed us mentally and physically. By expanding the realm of our reality, we had lost the need for sustenance. We were just eyes, and while eyes sometimes close they do not eat. We were content to stare, fix-high junkies caught in a drooling ecstasy of disorientation. During those nights, the universe seemed in place, together, though hinting at greater mysteries beyond. We had to stare and were loyal for many night-years.

There was a day, a Birthday, sometime between one second and a million years after it appeared. The creature, too close to Earth, had been snared by the grip of gravity. Chicken Little’s ancient and prophetic words were at last coming true.

Our sky was falling.

We were tuned into the huge mass as it slowly began to enter the atmosphere. Deafening explosions shook the reality of our world to pummelled knees. The great body of the thing broke apart as it grew larger, menacing us with fire bursting from eyes that had once been shadowed and serene.

The mouth opened as if to say that something we had all been waiting to hear: who and what it was. But the great thing decided to remain silent a little longer by losing its lower jaw, the mandible breaking off in an endlessly stretching yawn. Everything we had become accustomed to now drifted to Earth; hungry monster flames greedily consuming the night sky. It seemed like day for a moment, like a day dreamed or a sparking memory of a light at the end of the womb.

The day had returned to our realities, pushing the great creature down among us and reclaiming a brilliant glory during the darkest part of the evening. A place it had never existed. In the bright light, we all lost our vision, becoming crawling sightless worms heaping together for desperate survival. Now blinded, we huddled under any sort of cover, listening to roaring impacts rattling the pride of a world with a condemning voice. In the confusion a strange thought burst from a hidden mind-place,

What ever happened to the moon?

As I thought this unthinkable concept, the crowd, still blind, began to lash out, beating the mind that had put forth such blasphemy. Clawing hands clenched around my neck. I thrashed back, kicking and shouting, cursing with ancient songs of hatred that had not existed for unknown time.

There was splashing and screaming. Hot blood, saliva, urine and vomit made the heap of people as slippery as octopus skin. I pulled hair and raked nails across faces, backs and legs. My arm was bit into, a chunk of flesh removed and devoured. A violence, pure and dark and as potent as life, came back to us so quickly after being lost for so long.

The shock wave of an explosion reached us with a pounding heat-fist, blasting our mass of conflict apart. We rolled about like moaning eyeless slugs until a hurricane of salt burned us all until our skin melted. I lay wrapped in black nothingness for eternity. Cold, I brought my limbs in close to my chest, huddled like that which had replaced our simple moon.

When I finally opened the eyes I no longer possessed, I saw twinkling brightness against ultimate darkness, and after first noticing that I could again perceive, I trained my perception on smaller details. I saw a tiny marble below me, purple like a grape held in a black glove.

Every last wonder uncovered came rushing into my being, a tidal wave of joyous everything that contained every thread of information existence was sewn from. Beneath all of this weight of thought, there was an infinitely small realization that brought me complete contentment.

A purple world, the world I was meant to circle, instead of the stony sphere of a satellite I would replace. I drifted closer. The tiny beings of the purple world would need time for their small minds to comprehend all I had to tell. When they are ready, I will go to them and tell them where their moon has gone.

Copyright © 2010 by Edward Vitolo

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