Children of the Moon

April 2023

DALL E 2023 04 03 22 06 58 The moon being pulled out of rippling water by hands digital art

“Insanity is hereditary”. Those were the last words of my brother. Not spoken, but carved into his skin with broken mirror shards.

He died of blood loss in his bathtub. Twenty-nine years old, of course. Full moon, of course.

With his death, I became the last surviving sibling. The final ‘Child of the Moon’, as my mother called us. This was a name she bestowed upon us with full literal implications - claiming until her dying day that our father was the Moon. All four of us - Selene, Luna, Remo and myself. If insanity is indeed passed down by parents, then we never stood a chance. Even as a child I knew she was a strange woman, but it took many years for me to grasp the full extent of her damaged mind. As for my father - I grappled with his mysterious identity throughout my entire life. I could have handled any answer, except my mother’s. Any father, except for Him.

For most people, the Moon is of little consequence. A huge, glowing orb that hangs in the sky, bothering nobody. But to my mother and her friends, it was a beautiful thing, to be celebrated and worshipped. Once a month, when the Moon was at His brightest, they would come together, draped in flowing white gowns and donning flower crowns. They would dance and drink the night away. They would form circles and talk of spells, charms, love and long lives. They would pray to the Moon, sing with it, howl at it. Their sweet voices would bounce around the dark, empty hills. And all the while, my sisters, my brother and I would sulk and shiver, eyes never leaving the ground.

We hated Him. Feared Him. Our “heavenly” father. Our closest celestial body. For us, He was closer than most. Always creeping closer. Larger. Looming over us. Some of my earliest memories are of being dragged along to our mother’s bizarre celebrations, her beaming smile reflected in the moonlight as she paraded about in a state of primal ecstasy. The ink-black sky dominated by my supposed father.

To my eyes, He was too bright. Too large. Yet despite that brightness, He kept all the light to himself, glowing smugly, offering only a pale echo of sunshine. His false light offered no warmth, no colour, no life. A cold and cruel imitation. He watched his little followers dance in the dark with silent approval. Yet even keeping my head bowed, I could feel his judgement. It was never the night air that gave us goosebumps, it was the moonlight on our skin. When the wind ripped away our blankets or pierced our woollen clothes, yet did not sway a single leaf around us, we knew it was Him. He hovered far above us, tasting our suffering. Whenever we dared to look at our father, He would perform impossible tricks that chilled us more than the winds - clouds passing behind Him, tree branches writhing like outstretched hands towards Him, faces appearing in His cratered surface. Tricks nobody save my brothers and sisters could see. Tricks nobody ever believed.

My friends - back when I had friends - called me a lunatic once. A word with my father’s fingerprints all over it. A word stemming from the belief that the moon caused intermittent insanity. A full moon was believed to make people behave differently - more erratically, anxiously, even violently. Supposedly disproven in modern times, but ask a policeman or a bouncer, or anyone who works night shifts with the public; a full moon brings out the crazies. A lunar cycle causes lunacy, and when the moon is full, those with certain sensitivities undergo spiritual lycanthropy - their souls transforming in the moonlight. Our ever-moving moon shifts the vast oceans; the tides washing over themselves in vain to reach Him. His gravity tugs at the earth itself; adjusting the orbit of our world. True insanity is believing our minds are unaffected by His pull. I should know. I feel it constantly. Making my hairs stand on end, threatening to lift me off the ground. Whenever I look up and see Him there, even in daylight I understand why wolves howl and dogs bark.

They never liked to speak of it, but I know all too well that my brother and sisters shared the same fear of Him that I do. I know that they would refuse to go out at night. I know that even in broad daylight, they would avoid looking up at the sky. I know that when He was full and bright and hungry, they would be hiding in their beds with their eyes clamped shut, just the same as I.

We all feared the Moon. More than anything. More than death.

For most of our lives, that was all it was. Fear. Some might say an irrational fear, but is there anything rational about a colossal rock, floating and glowing in the sky, endlessly swirling around us? Regardless, that fear twisted into something else shortly after Selene’s twenty-ninth birthday.

She used to carry an umbrella when dusk was near, regardless of the weather. We all knew why - this umbrella was her shield against our father. As the oldest, Selene had developed bravery and practicality. We stayed indoors, clamped our eyes shut. Selene dared to show defiance. She wouldn’t let her fear control her. I’d always wished I could be more like Selene, until that night. I suppose someone had to die so the rest of us could learn the rules.

She lived and worked in a sleepy village, and walked the same route she had a hundred times. A sudden storm caught her before she could get home. Maybe she thought the dense blanket of clouds would keep her safe. Maybe she was too brave for her own good. High winds tugged at her umbrella and pulled her off the footpath, through a broken fence. She fell down a steep slope, into a ditch and broke both legs. Nobody was there when the rain clouds parted. Nobody heard her screams as the sky grew dark. Nobody except for Him. The police found her two days later, claimed she died of malnourishment. She had dragged herself through the mud into a pipe, “to escape the elements”, they said. But I knew who she was trying to escape. As she grew weaker, she was unable to crawl back out, her voice too hoarse to scream at passersby above her. The deep scratches to her face and eyes were self inflicted, the police said, and I believe them.

Sometimes I dream of her, inside that pipe. Draped in darkness, quietly sobbing. A circular hole of moonlight, visible beyond the pipe. Even in this dream, I can feel Him. Impossibly far above her, watching, waiting, filling the sky. It’s not that she couldn’t physically crawl out beyond the pipe. She didn’t dare. I know it in my bones. She’d always tried to be brave, for us. To show us it could be done. But alone in that pipe, she knew that was a lie. Rats gnawed at her legs before she died, but she barely felt them. She could only feel an upwards pull. The first full moon of her twenty-ninth year. That was when we started counting. Selene was twenty nine and one full moon.

He came for my sister Luna next. A fire in her apartment. An axe through her door. It took three firemen to drag her out, all the while she was screaming and flailing. They saved everyone, but the building was lost to the flames. Burning electrics had cut out the streetlamps, and as they pulled her out into the cold night air, there were only two lights. The blazing inferno of her home, and the luminous paternal glow above her, drowning out the night. She chose the former. Luna always was the stubborn one. As they tried to wrap her in a blanket and sit her down outside, she unclamped the hands covering her eyes and ran back inside the burning building.

I dream of her too. Running until her legs couldn’t carry her. Wrapped in flames she couldn’t feel. Light without warmth. An embrace that pulled her skyward. She clung to a scalding railing, trying to pull herself down. Trying to escape His embrace. But none of us can. She was twenty nine and four full moons.

By now, me and Remo knew what awaited us. His twenty ninth birthday felt like an open casket funeral. I rang him every full moon, to check he was OK. But Remo always kept his feelings close to his chest. He’d say he was fine, and I’d know he was lying. People who are fine don’t cover their windows in sheet after sheet of newspaper. It worked, for a while. Remo managed twenty nine years and eight full moons. The police thought it was a break-in, at first. But the glass was smashed from the inside - an accident, perhaps - but enough to let the moonlight in. The bathroom mirror was smashed too. The final thing to break was Remo.

When I dream of his final moments, I see the mirror shard in his hand. Our father’s light reflected on its surface. Almost like they’re clutching it together. It digs into his flesh and Remo laughs as the letters form one by one. He seemed to accept it. Inevitable. But as his blood drips skyward, the mask slips, and I know he’s just as scared as the rest of us. I know he died like the others. Falling upwards into that dark abyss.

Just me now. Twenty nine, and waiting. I’ve tried to learn from my sibling’s mistakes. I think they’d want that. I think they’d want one of us to beat our bastard father. But he knew how to get them, each of them. Stands to reason he’ll get me too, no matter what I do. I figured if I write it all down, at least someone will know. Remo was wrong. We’re not crazy. I’m not crazy.

When I was a teenager, I asked my friends how big the Moon looked to them. I had to beg them to humour me. They held their hands above their heads, and measured with their fingers. As though they were holding an invisible coin. I laughed bitterly, and measured what I saw in the night sky. I had to strain my outstretched fingers to reach. From my little finger tip to my thumb nail. None of them believed me. One night I measured and my fingers couldn’t reach his edges.

Not long after that, I stopped measuring. Stopped looking all together. Any time my eyes betrayed me, stealing a glance, he was bigger than I’d ever seen before. Last I looked, a crater smeared across his skin was almost as large as he’d been to my eyes all those years ago.

I can feel him now, as I write this. Close enough to crush my roof tiles. Vast enough to kiss all horizons. If I unlocked the shutters on my windows, I know I would not see a black sky, but endless, glistening white. Every night he creeps a little closer. Grows a little larger. How many nights can I have left before he smothers me?

Mother claimed she touched Him, held Him in her hand four times. And each time, nine months later, one of us was born. A child of the moon. On the rare times she would tuck me in as a little boy, she would tell me the story of my conception. Her eyes would sparkle, a look of pure wonder and joy slathered across her milk-white face.

“Don’t cry, sweet one,” she would always begin, brushing my cheek as I clutched my bedsheets tight. “I cried before you were born, and your Father appeared to wipe away my sorrow. I was by the lake, distraught beyond words. Life was weighing me down. My tears joined the water. My hands dug into the dirt. Your father wasn’t in the sky - there were too many clouds. But as I begged for him to show himself, he did. He always does when I need Him most. There He was, in the water. Just floating there, so small and round and full of light. I reached out, almost slipping into the lake, my fingertips slid across his smooth surface and He bobbed up and down, teasing me. He always knew how to make me laugh. I imagined He’d have laughed too if I’d have fallen in that lake and gotten my pretty white dress all wet…”

Her voice was so soft, so light. So full of love. I glanced outside the window, through the open curtains, up at the dark sky, and wondered how. He watched us, just a slice. A knife blade cut through the night. Mother brushed my hair, continuing her story.

“I stretched. I strained. Eventually, I caught him. The Moon, so pale and sweet, resting in the palm of a single hand. Warm, and brimming with love. He comforted me. I kissed him. We danced and talked until daylight came and He slipped away from me, back to the lake, disappearing down into the black ripples. But I didn’t feel sad. He’d taken away my tears, and I knew I had a little light of my own in my belly. You know who that little light was?”

I nodded, closing my eyes. If I pretended to stop crying, she would leave me. Then I could close the curtains. She prodded my nose with a single finger.

“You,” she said happily. “So don’t cry sweet one. Your daddy is the Moon. And He loves you so, so much.”

I would pretend to sleep. And she would pretend she was a good mother. Once her creaking footsteps faded, I slid from my covers and threw the curtains shut. But my eyes betrayed me every time. I always got one last look at that creamy-white sideways smile. Even hidden by the curtains, His light would spill around the edges. Even with my eyes clamped shut, I could feel His insistent, unearthly pull. Some people have nightmares of falling. Endlessly tumbling in the dark. It sounds quite nice; getting further from Him with every second. My nightmares were always the opposite. Rising with increasing intensity; faster and faster, my vision getting brighter and brighter, until there was nothing but white and I begged to be blind.

Maybe our father does love us. The bad kind of love that isn’t returned. One-directional love. Like gravity. Pulling and tugging and tearing and breaking. An unwanted obsession for his children to join him, up there in the black sky. Non-consensual love.

Maybe our father hates us as much as we hate Him. Mother wasn’t the only one to tell me the story of my conception. Selene was young at the time, but she remembered. She followed mother to the lake, hid amongst the reeds. Saw her catch the Moon, just like she said. A glowing white orb, the size of a fist. She said mother’s story was true, except for one thing. Yes, mother had danced, sang, spoke to her little moon. She had kissed his pale flesh. But then she had tried to trap Him in a box, steal him away all for herself. He didn’t like that. He escaped from her fingers and fled into the lake. Selene always believed that was why He turned on us, why He hated us.

Maybe it’s all lies and delusions. I’ve tried to convince myself of that many times. A school bully once told me my mother was a whore, that me and my siblings all had different fathers, that we were barely even related. He wanted to hurt me, but he actually gave me comfort. Better that than what I feel above me. Better that than what I’d see outside if I tore my wooden shutters off my windows.

The night is black so we can sleep. But he won’t let me do that. All I have left is my artificial dark, just this little box he’s closed me in. His cosmic revenge. I know his silver light creeps in through the cracks. That’s why I sealed them shut. I saw him trying to slither into the kitchen yesterday and panicked. He’ll be flooding the other rooms by now. He’ll never stop. I can feel him, so close now, impossibly close. Lifting up the hairs on my head. Trying to clutch at me, paw at me, until I’m just another crater on his skin.

I write these words to explain.

I write these words in the hopes that someone knows.

Yet even as I write, I see him in the gaps between the pages. Hiding behind the words. The paper shares his glow. They disgust me, terrify me, but I have to clutch them tight. His pull is so strong that the pages drift to the ceiling. I can hear the roof tiles, crunching underneath his endless weight. I’ve nailed my chair and table to the floor. Tied myself here with ropes. He turned off the lights, cut out all power. No light allowed but His glow. No sound allowed but His silence. I am using candles, but they drift upwards and spatter out. The wood above me heaves and strains. He grinds closer, inch by inch.

The Ancient Greeks believed the earth was the mother of the gods, and the sky their terrible father, pressing down on her until he was neutered by his children. Our ancestors all told stories of the moon, eerily similar. Each knew Him as a criminal, banished and punished for His sins. Early Christians claimed He was Cain, the first murderer, doomed to circle the earth forever for His crimes.

I have my own theory. I feel that upwards pull. I’ve felt it all my life. Each time I have those vivid dreams of my sibling’s final moments, I feel it stronger still. I know it awaits me in the end, whether He gets me tonight or in decades to come. I will float skywards, falling and falling, with only His cold embrace awaiting me. Perhaps He waits for us all.

Our Moon is a cold dead rock, swirling endlessly around us. He follows us. Drawn to us. Pulls at the tides. Tugs at our world. Plucks at our souls. He floats in the dark, circling us, feeding on us. His vast skin is a smattering of scars and impact craters. Our ancestors thought we rise to the heavens after death. But what if we simply join His mass, just another crater, just another pebble on the pile.

Is He really growing, as we all saw so clearly? Each death adding another soul to His endless weight? Could humanity ever measure such a thing?

Insanity is hereditary. I understand those words now more than ever. I thought them a warning from my brother, some helpless plea. But there is some small comfort contained within them. That insanity can end with me.

One more soul to join the rest. If you read this, look up. Please. See if He is larger.

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