I awoke to a view of curving, milk-white rock, perforated in places, smooth as silk elsewhere. My bedroom window was gone, as was the bed I lay in, sheets, pillows and all. There was me, the ground, and a sky full of stars.
Midnight landscapes and closed-eye sleepscapes had always been my thing. Mum said I came into the world with my eyes shut and only opened them when hungry. I had no reason to doubt her, for what was there to open them for. “How are you going to see what’s coming if you can’t see where you’re placing your feet?” she’d moan. I always replied, “I’ll feel my way.” She’d shake her head and go back to her knitting.
Give me the serenity of a cool winter’s night over a sweaty summer’s day. Give me the moon and the stars. I leapt to my feet as though them made of rubber and took in the view. The stars still shone a constant reminder, but what was the other thing, the bright cerulean ball? There was no hovering moon because I crunched upon it. And then it hit, and I smiled for the first time since she passed.
Mum died at midday on some nondescript August date. If I’d written it down, it would’ve made it real. Besides, who wanted to remember the worst of the worst, when the rest was only slightly less shitty. Aunty Gladys had dressed her in lemon, saying it’s what she would’ve wanted. I’d protested, preferring black. The sun shone as they lowered her into a basement home. It wasn’t even near a tree. No shade at all.
The bright blue object made a merry jewel in its polished, obsidian socket. It hurt my eyes. So, I turned away and set off to explore, bouncing across the chalky surface like a demented kangaroo. I thought I might pluck out a star, roll a galaxy between my thumb and forefinger, but always fell back to the ground empty-handed. Still, it was fun to try.
I bounced between jobs, girlfriends, diets and pretty much everything else. The one constant was our home, by which I now meant mine. This was my sanctuary, and I grew reclusive. I lingered like a ghost, only appearing at night through the cracks in the curtains. My face lost its glow, replaced by a spectral pallor. I lived off my savings, ordered in, and I wasn’t talking food, gave up. It was inevitable, the bank’s foreclosing. They had to scrape me out.
The moon from above was even more spectacular than from below. No amount of longing, planning, dreaming, could’ve prepared me for that solitary joy of frolicking amidst the cosmos. When I leapt, I defied gravity. It was like I broke every law known to man. As I hung there at my zenith, I was one with everything I’d wished for, from the quiet reverence of midnight to the pinpricked spotlighting of the past. This was what I’d closed my eyes for all those years. But it wasn’t the past. The past had put me there. It was time to come down.
I visited Mum the day the drugs dissipated from my system. I took a snow-white lily and placed it on her headstone, and then fell asleep on the grave. When my eyes blinked open to a world turned white, one pitted and weathered, yet embellished with such smooth curlicued writing as to haunt Poe, I recalled that night on the moon. And I was there again, for a while, and this time, Mum was with me.
Thank you for reading
Richard M. Ankers
Author of the brand new steampunk extravaganza Britannia Unleashed.