Moon Town

Sometime in the future there existed a dead town on the surface of the dark-side of the moon, the side that no one could see in day-time. The town had no inhabitants save for a single woman who  remained there beyond her dead folk. She sat in her small glass-domed house, staring into space, wondering if she could travel to the other stars if she just stretched her arm hard enough. Her room had a single bed for herself, a table for reading and writing, and two chairs. She always wished for a guest one day to arrive in her dead moon town. Connecting her room was another glass-domed room that was growing all kinds of vegetables and fruits. She grew potatoes, carrots, and apples, and she always made enough for at least two people. She would stow away the leftovers in the fridge that was chained from the outside and opened on the inside, and whenever she ate she always said out-loud, “Let’s eat.”

She liked to write to herself and read books in her spare time, and when she wasn’t she simply slept in her bed, staring up into the stars. She thought she would die like this. She didn’t like to go out because her dead moon town made her remember all the people that used to live there. Sometimes it didn’t matter and she would remember the old man by the edge of the moon, the young couple always moon-bathing, and the little girl who always got lost because she turned off her suit’s simulated gravity. When they died, she was the one who was tasked to bury them in the cemetery. She planted a steel sign that drove into the edge of a moon crater, and piled the bodies inside. The last thing she remembered was the large statue in the middle of the town that was a rabbit pounding on the stumps of trees.

She was truly ready to die in her dead moon town.

One day, a man visited the dead moon town. He came from the planet Earth. When he landed on the dark-side of the moon, he made sure to check the gauge on his wrist, and the straps on his suit. The sound of his breathing became accentuated in the suit, and every step felt like he was a giant trampling over cities on Earth. He came to visit the dead moon town because he heard rumors that someone was still living there.

When he arrived in the town, he was convinced that no one was living there anymore. He knocked on the glass doors of the glass-domed houses that was littered in the town and received no answer. He pressed his face on the dome’s of homes and saw no one staring back at him. He wondered if this was what his fathers felt when they first discovered the moon. It felt like he was staring at a mirror.

The man was ready to leave until he remembered that there must have been a cemetery somewhere in the town. He thought to disprove all the rumors that he would take a picture of this. He began searching for the cemetery, not realizing just how foolish his line of thinking was, and at the same time, just how brilliant.

The woman on that day was already by the cemetery when the man had been searching for the town. Neither was aware of each other’s presence, and the very fact that she was outside of her home was already a special day for her.  She made a note to always go to the cemetery on the third Saturday of every third month and pray for three people and stay for three hours before going back to her home. By the time she was done, she was heading back to town and saw the man looking frantically for the cemetery. She was appalled and thought she was looking at a ghost. She slowly began approaching him, and when she noticed the weight of his steps, realized he was real. The man was just about to give up, staring into a glass-house, when the woman tapped him on the shoulder.

The man was nearly frightened to death when he turned towards the woman.

The man was confused. The woman looked happy. The woman began speaking.

“I’ve been waiting so long for a guest.” The man did not answer back. Instead, he felt a strange wind in front of him. The wind blew left, towards the home of the woman. The man followed the wind. His fathers always told him that the winds on the moon were a good sign.

“Will you come with me?” The woman asked as she began walking ahead of the man towards her own home. The man didn’t answer.

“Where did you come from? New York? Manhattan? Canada? Australia? Ireland? Hiroshima? India? Germany? Chernobyl?” The man didn’t answer any of her inquiries. Despite this, the woman didn’t stop from continuing to be a beaming light. She was over ecstatic at the prospect of a guest that she began running without thinking. She wanted to prepare a special meal for him. The man felt a strong breeze and continued to follow.

The breeze seemed to lead into a lone glass-house at the edge of the town. There was an odd sense emanating from this house, and the man tried to wrap his head around every rumor he’d heard about the moon town. He remembered the fact that the moon town was empty, that everyone had died one day of a strange sickness that seemed to signify the end of space colonization. He remembered the fact that those who were born on the moon could survive this sickness for a little longer than those who immigrated onto the moon. Eventually, they too died as well. This allowed him to believe there could be a cemetery, but he was also disheartened in the idea of having children bury the dead. He remembered the fact that the town had a mayor, and the mayor had a daughter who was the oldest moon-born child. He remembered that she was among the last few to die. He remembered that all the residents grew most of their food in their glass-dome backyards. The breeze grew stronger when he arrived at what seemed to be an ordinary glass-house.

The woman waited for the man to catch up to her home, and when he did, she beamed out towards him, “This is my home!”

The man stepped towards the glass-dome, and the woman opened her door and waved towards the man.

“Why don’t you come in? I have plenty to eat. You must be tired since you came here all the way from Earth.” The man stood in front of the glass-house, peering inside with focused eyes. He brought his hand towards the glass door, and through his suit, somehow felt the cold of the moon. There was no one there. The man sighed, and turned back towards his ship. He was ready to head back. He was going to take pictures of all the empty houses and use that as evidence. The woman watched him in horror, standing inside her house, looking at his back as it grew more distant. When the man was completely out of her sight, she began crying. The winds on the moon didn’t bother the man for the remainder of his stay in the dead moon town.

High On Winter

Watching somebody die on Christmas day was the worst present anyone could have given to me. What made it even worse, was that I couldn’t do anything about it but share a drink with him. The snow was packing it that day, nothing too extreme but it still touched my ankles. I didn’t care to wear any boots, and so I treaded in the snow with regular shoes. I remember going home with wet socks, and a bloodied undershirt. Luckily for me the scarf I was wearing was already red, so the blood didn’t show as vividly. Holding a dying man in the middle of snow fall was disappointingly unromantic.

I was on my way back home after attending a late night Christmas party. It was probably around midnight. I was riding the train and watching the window as rows of buildings and lights shifted past me. It almost felt like I was running away from Christmas. Like I was running away from everything festive that seemed to permeate itself within every fiber of modern capitalism. It didn’t help that I was one of few people on the train. The whole night was mundane, and even the party I attended was to save face. I decided that night to get off a station before my regular stop to walk the rest of the way home. I needed some air.

Once I got off the station, I noticed a ragged man outside the terminal. He was tucked away from security, and he had a particularly rancid smell when I passed by him. The only reason why I even gave him any heed, was that he was holding two bottles of what appeared to be liquor. The only problem I had was that the labels were completely torn off, and the only thing he had was the bottles jangling about with some kind of colored liquid inside. Something about his situation made me smile, and I went up to him. He didn’t bother speaking when I approached him, but he thrust the two bottles in front of me. I took them and handed him two bills of twenties. His eyes gleamed on the bills for much longer than I could bear, and he grabbed them with clothed and dirtied hands. He then smiled back and began walking away. I couldn’t track where he was going for long after he bled into the shadows. I took the cork off one of the bottles and took a whiff. It was nothing I ever had, I concluded. With the two bottles in my hands, I began walking towards my home. Something about the situation was absurd, but I took a swig of the bottle and was oddly satisfied.

It didn’t take me long to get drugged up on the stuff and soon enough my gait became glided in staggers. I could barely drag my feet through the snow, and soon enough I began burning up. My vision started becoming loose in the process, and I remembered having to stop halfway on the sidewalk to find my balance. I was lucky that there weren’t many cars moving by me, and that the only thing to give me more headaches were the flashing Christmas lights. Once I found my balance, I continued forward, but by the time I was nearing a wall to lean on, I knelt over and began dispelling everything in my stomach. Luckily for me, it was a closed restaurant that I had just vomited all over the back of.  I tasted everything of the night, which consisted of burnt fruit cake, eggnog, and someone’s idea of homemade gingerbread. The smell was about to get me when I rolled over and planted my face into the snow. I then leaned over and looked straight at the stars. I loved looking at the stars and tracing my fingers across to make shapes and patterns in the sky. But that night my arms could barely stretch over my head, and so I grudgingly gave up and picked myself off the snow. Before I could make my way back towards my home, I noticed a few foot prints leading away from the restaurant and into the nearby woods.  My day was already filled with streaks of weird occurrences and impulsive tendencies akin to the commonality of youth. I was a working lady, and so I wished to be even younger.

I followed the foot prints with surprising ease. I wasn’t as drunk as I thought I was, but the booze was definitely strange stuff. I dared to take another sip in the dark woods but I shook myself out of the idea. The footsteps began getting more frantic as I got closer to the origin. They were more spread out, almost as if the owner of the prints were in a panic. I made the revelation soon enough that someone was in a panic. The footsteps were swirling around like a snake in my head, and whenever the wind blew and grazed the dead trees around me, I began imagining wolves and deer all around me. I cursed myself, but I pressed forward.

At the end of the footprints, I saw a pool of red leaking away from a tree. I called out, “Is anyone there?” After saying that, I cursed myself. Of course there was someone there. I wrapped around the tree, and noticed myself sinking into red snow. There was a person lying against the tree, with a knife jabbed straight into his chest. He was still breathing. I knelt down towards him, and didn’t realize I was starring in a horror movie when his eyes suddenly jolted open. I fell on my back and then cursed myself again. A dead man had no business in hurting me anytime soon.

He looked at me with a kind of pitying gaze. I was even more surprised that when he opened his mouth, he began speaking to me quite clearly, almost as if the knife in his chest meant nothing at all, “If I asked you, would you kill me?”

“If you asked me, I’d say you were already dead.” I looked towards his clothes. He was wearing a suit, and tie, and his hair was slicked back with what appeared to be gel. He was a working man, I could tell, a fairly average built white skinned man. Except, all the blood he was gushing out was ruining his suit. I guess he didn’t need to care about cleaning bills anymore, I thought. The man brought his hand slowly to the knife in his chest, but didn’t have any power to send it further into his own body. It was this action that I made sure to understand, “Killing yourself on Christmas day must be your gift to the planet.”

“I’m just one in seven billion.” I was surprised that he played along with my dark humor. I grew a strange attachment towards him. I took the knife’s handle, and then slowly extracted it, watching as pools of blood began gushing out and filling the snow even more. He looked at me with the same pitying gaze as before, “You can’t even come to humor me? I came here to die.” I took out my cell phone, and began dialing for an ambulance.

“I’ve been out here for quite some time already. I’ll bleed out before they even get here.” I looked at him again, and at the knife in my hands.  I planted the knife into the snow behind me, and called for an ambulance anyway.

“I’m still here you know. I’m sure some security camera somewhere saw me go up the trail and find you. I’d like them not to think that I was a part of a murder.” The man grunted, and then looked up into sky through the dead branches above.

“You know, Christmas is just another excuse for people to get drunk and show off their corporate assholes.”

“Tell me about it. I’m wearing a suit too.” He looked over to me and then smiled.

“It’s cold here.” I took off my scarf, and wrapped it around his head, making sure I was extra cautious so that I wouldn’t make him bleed out any faster than he already was. I got blood on my hands in the process, but I planted it in the snow.

“Giving a dead man a scarf. You really are a strange one huh?” I remembered that I still had my bottle of liquor on me. It was on the snow, and I figured that I had dropped them when I first got spooked. I picked them up, and cursed myself for even buying them. I cursed them because I needed something to curse.

“That looks like moonshine.” I knew what the term meant, but I also knew that prohibition was an old tale.

“I bought it from some guy at the station. Don’t know what the hell it is but it sure as hell is heavy.”

“Have you ever heard of the term watered booze?”

“I’m guessing you mean liquor that’s watered down?” The man laughed. He didn’t laugh hard, but he laughed. It was the kind of laugh that spiraled throughout the dark woods and made someone think they were listening to a pack of howling hyenas. It was the kind of laugh that livened up a boring party. It was the kind of laugh that shone brighter than anything around it. It was the kind of laugh that belonged to a living man. But I laughed along. I didn’t know why but I began laughing.

“In a sense yeah. I use it all the time with my other white collar pals when we go to corporate shindigs. Booze always sucks there. That’s why you stick around for the after party at the night club.”

“Guess you and I both missed that.” We both smiled. I took a quick swig of the liquor in my hand for time’s sake since the ambulance still hadn’t arrived. The man then said, “Give me a swing of that. Haven’t tasted Larry’s moonshine since forever.”

“You know that old man?” I pressed the second glass bottle onto his lips and gently poured some into his mouth. I wasn’t surprised by the alacrity in his way of drinking.

“That old man’s senile. But that old man’s my old man. Thankfully I’m kicking it before him.” The man looked at the bottle in my hands, which prompted me to give him another taste.  I took another swig of it myself and knelt back down. The stuff was kicking it again in my stomach, and my head began swirling. He looked at me and said, “Stuff ain’t that strong, can’t hold your liquor lady?”

“Guess I can’t when a dead man can drink better than me.” I took another swig, and this time felt it’s burn all the way into my stomach. I gave him another gulp as well. The night grew cold faster than I could think about it, and the sounds of sirens in the distance meant that my time there would be growing over sooner than I could think. The man sighed, and looked at the glass bottle in my hand. Not even half of it was drunk. I placed it beside him onto the red snow and said, “For you in the afterlife.” He chuckled at that.

I reached over to unwrap my scarf from him, and in the state of my demeanor, ended up falling nearly on him. I only stopped myself inches away from his body when my hands crashed into the snow. I laughed, and regained my balance. But this time, my laughter was empty. Unlike before, it echoed in the forest as a sad reminder of desolation. It was the laugh of a deranged bumbling drunk just trying to make her way on the streets. It was the laugh of a woman who’s had one too many shots of moonshine and ended up throwing up on herself. It was the laugh of a dying woman.

I looked at him, and said, “You’re really dying.” He looked back at me, and with unmoving eyes, slowly opened his mouth, “I was never alive to begin with. Not in my job. Not ever.”

“Right. How can you ever be alive, right?” He laughed. I began hearing shouting now, and sounds of branches being pushed away. The sirens were still on, and somewhere in the distance was a man waving around a flashlight, desperately trying to find us.

“Can you do me a favor? I won’t tell you to kill me this time.” I nodded.

“Lay me down on the snow, and nuzzle the knife back into my chest. I sure did a lousy job.” It took me a few moments to understand what he had meant, and by his unwavering eyes and empty face, I knew that he was sincere. It only made sense, I thought. I brought my hands towards his back, and gently began laying him onto the snow as if he was sleeping. Before I let go, I held onto him for a few more seconds than I would have felt comfortable with, but with the poison in my system, and the obscurity of the night, it seemed all too appropriate to admire life in its rawest form. I then picked up the knife, and before placing it back into his self-inflicted stab wound, said, “I might not be a murderer, but I’m an accomplice now.” The man didn’t answer back, his eyes were closed, and his breathing seemed to have stopped. I placed the knife inside his chest, and then moved back onto the snow and grabbed my glass. By this time, the officers found me. They pointed their guns at me, told me to stand up with my hands held high. The last thing I did before I followed them into the car was asking them, “Want a drink?”

Since that day whenever it’s been Christmas I always take the train and stop at that stop. I skip my company’s after party, and end up walking home alone. I haven’t gotten any moonshine since that day, but the taste of it comes back to me whenever I pass by that restaurant, tucked away by the forest, where I found a dying man. Sometimes I’d like to think that making another walk into the forest will yield me something special. But I haven’t dared to try it since then. After all, if something special does happen, I’d have to drink with a dead man.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drowned Near a Lighthouse

Preface: part of a series of other short stories revolving around a port town and a lighthouse.

I raised my squalid hand in an attempt to break free from this world. It fell short a few light years away from the stars that shone across the darkened ocean known as space. Those stars would shine brightly in response, blinking in and out of existence, showing me it’s own lifespan. I let my hand rest, as the ocean near me began its own ebb, crashing onto the island in vehement waves. The sound of night was filled by this ocean, engulfed by its infinite expanses. Soon enough, even my own world would be engulfed by this ocean, swallowed up by its ebb, and allowing me to flow into a state of eternal solitude.

I raised myself from the ground I lay, and looked at the lighthouse to my side. Its light was flickering into the ocean, losing itself in the distance of the darkened ocean. I stared into the light, tracing it with my cursed finger and making an outline of where it would end up in the ocean. I laughed when I lost track of it and laughed even more when I looked up into the operating room for the light. It was empty.

I took a step towards the end of the island where the lighthouse stood, and looked down into the crashing waves. It was my job to keep the ocean safe and find lost mariners, but occasionally my job would be lost to steel and coal. I fought hard for this job, and they fought harder to lose my job.

The waves swept up against the jagged rocks that lay near the island surface, and somewhere in that wave, I saw a hand strutting onto the rocks. I leaned over the side of the island, and grabbed the lantern from my side towards the edge. Once I had confirmed it was a body, I ran back towards my home next to the lighthouse and grabbed a net.

I pulled the body over onto the island. I figured she couldn’t have been anyone older than thirty, and at the same time, her form was nothing more than someone a little over twenty. Her hair was stained blue, like the ocean she came from, and her body was of no particular care nor neglect. She wore a dress that matched her hair. I pressed my face against her chest, and felt her pulse like the ebb and flow of the ocean. I sighed in response, and leaned back up towards the darkened ocean. I wondered where she came from, but that wonder slowly dissipated as the crashing of the waves continued, and as the light of my lighthouse shone another spiel.

The breeze of the ocean swept under my face, reminding me of the woman I had just brought ashore. I was beginning to pick her up when I heard a cough emanate from her mouth. I placed her back down, and saw her wheeze her way back into this world. Her eyes jolted open, two black holes with a galaxy behind her. She didn’t turn her head, nor did she seem fully conscious of her being alive.

“Fancy meeting the undead,” I said, gesturing her attention towards me. She tried to lift her head, but stumbled back onto the ground beneath. I wondered if I should help her up, but the expression on her face seemed to tell me that she was content laying towards the darkened ocean.

“Where am I?” She said with a quiet lull in her voice. It almost sounded like the breeze of the ocean, or even the winds of the darkened ocean that brought about a million lights.

“My lighthouse. You were in the ocean, floating on rocks.” Her expression remained stoic, unchanging unlike the movement of humanity.

She brought one arm over to the darkened ocean, and turned her hand inspecting every crevice of her fingers. I almost did the same.

“I’m sorry, I must have caused you some trouble,” she said as she brought her arm down.

“It’s my job. Unfortunately, there’d be even more trouble if there weren’t cases like you.” She seemed to nod in tacit understanding.

“We should get you inside, it’s cold out.” As I got up, I looked down at her face to see her eyes transfixed on the lights littering the darkened ocean. It seemed as if her body was melding with the ground beneath her, as if she was becoming the island that she had washed ashore on. Then she closed her eyes, and it was like looking at the still of the ocean. Her chest rose and lowered in tandem with her short breaths and her face hadn’t a single trace of muscle.

“I’m okay,” she answered. She opened her eyes, and propped her body up such that she was leaning into her legs.

“I smell of the ocean,” she said. I smiled.

“Do you think I would have died if you didn’t find me?” She looked forward into the ocean, speaking to me from a place far beyond my world.

“Can’t say for sure. Maybe you would have woken up, swam back to where you came from.” She considered my own sarcasm for debate as she sunk herself further into her legs. The back of her neck was exposed, and the lightness of her skin blended with her dress, appearing as if the sand on a beach before the ocean.

“And if I couldn’t swim back?” She asked.

“Well, in that case, you’d be drowned near a lighthouse.” She smiled at that, a devilish smile. She brought her legs up, and propped herself to stand. Her balance was off, and she seemed to sway with the ocean she was facing. She smiled again.

“Thank you, for pulling me. I must be off now.” She turned, looked at the light house, and then began walking into the town through the dirt road. I tried to speak to her, to call her back, to ask for some reason for her appearance. But the words that came out of my mouth began tumbling towards the ground, sinking into the ocean, finding its way somehow into the darkened ocean, drifting on forever with the millions of lights far from my reach.