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Back You are here: Home Stories Words for the People Short Stories Moonchild
Sunday, 14 November 2010 20:19

Moonchild

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‘Don’t hold your breath with your eyes open all night. Go to sleep, moonchild.’

Katerina loved the night and considered herself a member of the nightworld. She stayed up many nights gazing out her window at all the wondrous wandering stars and the paleglow of her friend, the moon. She knew a man never lived there, but she felt comforted by the soft moonlight. The first thing she remembered remembering was the first time she saw a full moon howling in a redorange light when she was still a baby. Just thinking about how the moon looked on fire that night sent all the breath out of Katerina in an exhaustive sigh, as if everything inside her released at once into a glorious feeling of calm. Her mother bought her a silver sicklemoon necklace for her fourth birthday, which she never took off, not even when she slept.

Lately, however, the calm stopped coming. The moon remained sleeping and refused to come out for the last three weeks. No one seemed to notice this odd disappearance. Even Katerina’s mother told her that the moon must just be hiding behind clouds or that it had important business elsewhere. Katerina knew better. Nothing hid for weeks at a time and the moon belonged in the nightsky. She knew the moon brought night with it and cast day behind, so when night came, the moon needed to be there, too. No, something happened to the moon.

Katerina slept only a bit after the first week. Three weeks in, Katerina barely closed her eyes. Action needed to be taken or Katerina knew she would never sleep again and she was very tired. She also feared that if the moon never returned to take charge of the night, the night might stop altogether or the creatures of the nightworld would take over. Every night she held her sicklemoon necklace in her hand hoping to make it return.

But what to do? She stared hard out the window knowing the moon was gone, but hoping it would appear. She turned over and pulled herself into a ball, then kicked off her blanket with a sigh, and folded her arms behind her head, her eyebrows knit with concern.

Tap tap tap came from the moon’s window startling Katerina. She looked and saw an inkblack figure on her windowsill. Katerina thought it saw her, too, and she pulled her blanket tightly around her again.

Tap

Tap

Tap

Katerina became nervous. The figure looked human, but was a deep darkness that filled the window, covering the whole window, it was darker than night, blacker than black. It made no sense how a person could reach her window. She slept on the second floor with no trees on her side of the house. And she knew it wasn’t a person, but an encompassing blackness, an encroaching evil.

Tap

Tap

Tap

What did it want? The thought frightened Katerina. She buried her face in her pillow and covered her body with her blanket. Her breath came in gasps and she thought she was crying already. Don’t let it get in here, she thought, don’t let it eat me. She clutched her sicklemoon necklace until it left marks in her hand.

Tap

Tap

Tap

 

Katerina remained full of fear, shaking beneath her blanket all night. In the morning, her mother thought Katerina was playing another one of her games, unable to hear the terror in Katerina’s trembled voice or see the fear in her faltering lips. Katerina was an imaginative child, and talk of monsters and ghosts came regularly.

‘There’s nothing there, Katerina, no monsters or evil. Now, remember to close your eyes tonight. The moon will take care of itself. Go to sleep, my little moonchild.’ Katerina’s mother kissed her on the forehead, brushed her ravenhair out of her pale purple eyes, and left the room.

Katerina knew the moon was lost. As usual, she stayed vigilant and awake. Then, a silent swooping shadow swept past her window like a nightmare descending. The window blacked out by a dark dread. The shadow cast into the room searching for Katerina.

Tap

Tap

Tap

Katerina tried to hide in her bed by making herself small, curled into a ball, with the blanket pulled tight. She thought then that this nightmarish nocturne knew the whereabouts of the moon, may even have been responsible for the moonnapping.

Tap

Tap

Tap

Every tap trickled terror into the room. It pounded into Katerina’s head until all she heard was the rush of blood in her ears, the bludgeoning of her heart, and those taps on glass. She grasped her silver sicklemoon necklace in both hands and whispered, ‘Please be okay and please make me safe.’

Tap

Tap

Tap

All at once, Katerina realised what she needed to do. Still shaking with fright, Katerina emerged from the safety of her bed and tiptoed to the window. The other side of the glass seemed full of a too black night. The figure waved at her, or seemed to. An ominous and obsidian creature like a neverending equivocal starless night stared back at her.

Tap

Katerina watched her hands move without her. She pulled open the window, warm air breathed in, and she saw it.

‘Thank you much, young miss. I thought you would leave me waiting another night.’ It shadowed down from the windowsill into Katerina’s room. It looked like a man, but not a man. It was taller than her mother and even her father. It stood as an impenetrable blackness, impossible to look at properly. It wore a coat made of raven feathers or it was, itself, made of raven feathers. Big leather boots on its feet and gauntlets covered its talonhands with a large circle brimmed hat, like a wizard’s, atop its head, but its face was bare, though impossible to distinguish, like staring into a lightless cavern.

‘Who are you?’

‘I am me.’

Katerina thought this a reasonable answer, but not at all what she looked for. ‘What’s your name?’

‘Hm, they call me Orpheus, guardian of the nightsky.’ It stood up very straight when it said this, almost with pride.

‘Are you a...man?’

‘Hm, young miss, we’ve no time to chit chat. You must come with me.’

Katerina stepped away, fearful again. ‘Where are you taking me?’ She trembled.

‘Young miss, Moon needs help. The nefarious nightchildren stole her and hold her captive far beyond here.’

‘Why do you need me? I’m just a little girl.’

‘Hm, we need you because you believe, and it takes the moonchild to save Moon.’

‘Moonchild?’

‘Hm, yes, but we’ve no time. Come with me.’ Orpheus held out its large leather talon. Fear and excitement spread through Katerina’s body. The moon needed her just as she needed the moon. Shaking, she reached for its hand. Orpheus eclipsed her hand, threw himself through the window, and her breathless shriek followed them out the window.

In an instant, Katerina no longer held Orpheus’ hand, nor was she plummeting out the window towards the grass below, but, instead, felt the wind rushing through her ravenhair and all fear that gripped her chest and weighed in her stomach disappeared. She held tightly onto the neck of some great, feathered beast, riding it as she would ride a horse, and felt calmness coursing from Orpheus into her. What became of Orpheus never crossed her mind; she knew the great soaring raven that carried her across the nightsky towards the captive moon.

They flew with purpose, darting across the sky, faster than Katerina imagined any bird could fly. It carried her and Katerina felt safe on Orpheus’ back with its guardianwings filling the nightsky like an immense phantom. Katerina peered down at the city below, the streetlights rushing by and the cars, so small; she had never been so high in the air. She looked up and saw the shimmering stars holding her eyes while the whoosh of wind filled her ears. She leaned back and closed her eyes letting the full effect of the speed and wind rush against her face, swirling her hair behind her. Her spirit elevated and became free.

They flew and flew and flew through the night across the sky until the city glowed far behind them and great trees that Katerina had never seen covered the land below. We must be far from home, Katerina thought. The next thing she knew, Orpheus dived straight down into the forest. It happened so quick that she barely kept her grip while the wind swept her piercing screech into the air.

Orpheus stood, once again in the dark form of a feathered man, with Katerina piggybacked. They stood in the middle of a clearing, a pale mist hovering amidst the forest gloamtrees. Orpheus’ feathers felt course, but comfortable against Katerina and she whispered, ‘Where are we?’

‘Hm, we are now here, in the realm of the nightchildren, far past civilized nightshores beneath a menacing sky.’ It looked up into the sky and Katerina followed its eyes. The sky above swirled in bottomless violets and crimson reds. Katerina felt a burning cold in her chest that seized her breath. She looked away and her lungs filled once more.

‘Why do the trees look so weird?’

‘Hm, dying stars birthed these trees. They flicker with the final radiance of those celestial hosts.’

Katerina knew not what seleshal meant, but took it for a good answer. A noise pierced the looming sky, supernova echoes knocking Katerina to the soil in horror. ‘What was that?’ She looked to Orpheus, who seemed unbothered by the blare.

‘Hm, the nightchildren have begun. Come, we must continue to the Gathering before time disappears.’

Orpheus headed off deeper into the woods not waiting for Katerina to ask any more questions, though she had many. She followed, running to keep up with Orpheus’ vast steps through the mist. The gloamtrees leered down at them, flickering and illuminating the forest, the mist biting at her legs.

After Katerina’s legs became tired, a large clearing appeared and Orpheus stopped. Katerina, with her eyes looking everywhere but in front of her, bumped into its large feathered legs and looked ahead into the clearing. She saw them, thousands of creatures clear like glass, but incandescent with a single shining element hovering in their center. Translucent ram horns curved out of their heads, and their eyes glowed like jack-o-lanterns, a pale glow from deep inside. They swirled viciously in the clearing prancing, dancing, singing, and swarming around a bright glow, the evil mist floating everywhere. Their howls shook the gloamtrees. Watching them burned Katerina with frozen lungs. Her head quaked with the image in the clearing. Holding her head, she whispered, ‘Where are we?’

‘Hm, this is the Gathering and those are the nightchildren. They dance now around captured Moon. We must keep silent, they are vicious creatures made only for mischief and malice that curse our skies.’

‘What are they doing?’

‘Hm, a ritual of thievery, they plan on keeping Moon captive for all time. We must free her or they will spread out of this perfidious forest into your land.’

‘How can we stop them?’

The nightchildren stopped and howled in unison causing the sinister sky above to reach earthward. The yawning violets and crimsons cycled downward to encompass the entire clearing and take Moon forever for itself. The note of their song cracked with the supernovad resonance that broke deep into Katerina forcing a shrill shriek from her lips.

She clamped both hands over her mouth, but couldn’t stop screaming, her body trembling wildly. Her body turned cold and her throat on fire, tears streamed from her eyes. Orpheus touched her gently on the forehead and removed her hands from her mouth. The screams stopped, her body relaxed, but the nightchildren knew.

The nightchildren descended like a horrorswarm, encircling Orpheus and Katerina. ‘Stay close to me’, Orpheus told her. The nightchildren cackled, an iceknife of sound stabbing deep into Katerina’s spine causing a whimper to come from her lips. Though she was afraid, Katerina refused to show it any longer. Moon needed her and she needed Moon. The silver sicklemoon in her hand and Orpheus by her side, she tightened her lips and stood close to Orpheus while it drew its obsidian sword from a dark abyss inside itself. The sword seemed to steal the light from the forest, the gloamtrees flickering violently, like candles blown by wind.

The nightchildren stopped at the appearance of the great black sword that fumed with an abyss made from the essence of the nightsky. If nightchildren could show fear, which they could not, it would look the way they looked that night when the Nightsword shown before them dissipating the malicious mist, their hollow bodies flickering silently, their eyes a dull wallowing smolder.

Orpheus swooped into them, the Nightsword brandished, not glowing, but ripping light from the forest. The nightchildren howled in pain, the Nightsword cutting through their ranks. Orpheus swung wide looping slashes through them and they shattered by the dozen, their single light swallowed by the abyss of the Nightsword.

Katerina watched awestruck by the dark glory of Orpheus and the Nightsword’s blackhole fury. She saw that Orpheus kept all the nightchildren at bay and occupied near the edge of the clearing, and she looked to Moon, still strapped captive while the sky descended, hurricaning towards Moon, ready to consume her and keep her forever. The malicious sky of the forest filled Katerina with a deep terror like a cloud of dread drinking her spirit. She felt pain and fear and wished deeply that she laid in bed with her mother kissing her forehead and saying goodnight. No, she thought, I need to save Moon or I’ll never sleep again and they’ll take the night from me.

She stood up straight and ran as fast as she could towards Moon, holding her sicklemoon necklace. She heard the howls of the nightchildren following behind her and felt the gloamtrees glaring, but she refused to turn around. She continued onward, fearful, but resolved. She reached Moon and felt the warmth there, she reached her hand towards Moon, touched her, and became filled with peace and calm and strength far beyond her handful of years. Her hand still touching Moon, she looked to the plummeting sky, unafraid and warm. ‘Stop!’ she ordered forcefully.

The sky descended in a continuous swirl.

She looked around the clearing feeling unsure. How do I stop this? she wondered in panic, looking around. A blazing darkness bloomed where Orpheus fought the hordes of nightchildren away from Moon and Katerina. Nothing seemed to hold Moon to the ground, either. It remained in place on the ground beneath that hungry cyclone. ‘What should I do?!’ She threw herself down and held Moon, her face pressed against that bright warm glow.

 

Believe.

 

Katerina stood once again. She thought about her mother, her father. She thought about Moon and Orpheus, who no longer frightened her, but instead filled her with calm. She thought about flowers and butterflies. She thought about the night and her life under the moonlight. Her hand pressed against Moon again, and felt her hand held by an all-encompassing brilliant light that coursed through her. She stretched her other hand straight towards the violent blistered tornado and waited, collecting all of the breath and light and power inside her. ‘Stop! Disperse and depart!’ she spoke in a voice that seemed and sounded not her own.

A light collected in her palm that shown vibrant against the harrowing hurricane. The cyclone slowed and stopped five feet from the light radiating from her hand. In a blast, the light erupted from her hand into the sky cyclone causing a struggle of forces that pushed back and forth against one another resulting in the eradication of the menacing maelstrom. Katerina collapsed wearily to the earth, watching the clouds return to the sky while Orpheus swept towards her and Moon elevated.

 

Katerina awoke in her bed with the moon, her mother Moon, shining through her window with her hands clasped on her chest, holding her silver sicklemoon necklace and a single inkblack raven feather.

She smiled, kissed the sicklemoon, and said, ‘Goodnight’.




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Last modified on Thursday, 15 March 2012 04:29
edward j rathke

Getting foppish since '96.

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