AN: This short piece was the result of an unexpected request by a friend for a story, presumably to 'cheer him up' ... add to that a mixture of Neil Gaiman and NASA crashing two satellites into each other, and you end up with something like this. Don't ask... even I don't know what's up with my brain sometimes.


Moonstruck

Once upon a time, there lived a woman who wanted to touch the moon. She wanted to do this because on one particularly clear summer night when she was a little girl, her father took her outside and pointed at the evening sky above them.

"Did you know that you can touch the moon?" he had asked her as she eagerly gazed upwards.

"That's silly," she told him with a smirk, for she had seen a program on the television that had clearly explained why she would never be able to reach the moon, let alone touch it with her own two hands. "The moon isn't made out of green cheese, there's no man in it and we can't touch it," she explained to her father with some authority.

He only laughed and shook his head at her. "Don't believe everything you see on TV," he scolded. "The moon is made out of silver," he explained, "And it grants wishes to people who believe in its magic."

The girl only rolled her eyes, for she was almost ten years old, and everyone knew that was much too old to listen to silly fairy tales. But she said nothing, because she loved her father very much, and she knew he enjoyed telling her his tall stories.

"If the moon is full and the evening is clear, just like this one, believe with all your heart and the moon will hear your wish," he told her.

"That's stupid," the girl burst out, unable to control herself. "You have it all wrong, you're supposed to wish on falling stars," she corrected him.

"Ah, but that's not true," her father said. "Stars don't grant wishes, especially ones that are dying," he answered. "The moon does, but only to people who believe they can touch it," he said. "But since no one believes in the magic of the moon anymore, people have stopped reaching for it, and their wishes go unanswered."

The girl huffed, annoyed that her father was treating her like a little child. "Prove it," she said to him, confident that his lies would be exposed.

He only laughed and reached into the sky above, as though he was trying to grasp the moon in his palm. "There," he said after a moment, placing his hand back on her shoulder.

"Huh?" the girl said, confused by her father's happy smile. "What did you wish for?" she asked him. "I didn't see anything happen at all!"

He gathered the girl into his arms, hugging her tightly. "I wished to spend an evening with my daughter, one that we would both remember for a very long time."

"That's cheating," the girl told her father haughtily, though in her heart she was very happy for she knew his wish had come true.

Many years later, the young girl had grown into a mature woman. It was not a magical transformation, however; it was a journey that was marked by hardship, strife, and betrayal. The years had not been kind, and there were no remnants of the child left in the bitter adult, who had been abused by life and was weary of its toll. On one particularly clear summer evening, she stood over a little mound of dirt, staring at a little stone that lay on top of it, lit only by the moonlight.

"You're a big liar," she told the stone, for her father lay under the stone, and it was her father who had filled her youthful head with fanciful hopes and dreams, all of which had been dashed to pieces by the reality of life.

Her father, however, could no longer answer her accusations with his gentle smiles and warm laughter; the only thing left for her to speak to was the cold light of the moon overhead. She remembered his words, and looked up at the sky, searching for the last of her childhood fables, determined to extinguish it so that she could move on with her life. She reached out her hand to the moon, squinting, trying to touch it. She wanted to grasp it with all her heart, she desperately wanted to believe, and so she reached and she hoped and she prayed and she wished: "I want to see my father again."

The moon shone down on her, and she waited, but nothing happened. So, disappointed but not surprised, she let her hand fall to her side and turned away from the small mound of dirt. A pressure on her shoulder, however, stopped her from walking away, and she heard her father's voice once more that evening, warm and unchanged, as it had been when she was a little girl, before he had been gutted by disease and age and robbed of his strength.

"I am here because you believed," he told her.

The woman felt like a little girl again, and was afraid to turn around. "Are you really here," she asked, "Or am I losing my mind? I've lost everything else," she told him bitterly.

She heard her father sigh, "You believed enough to bring me here, and yet you can't find the strength to believe in yourself? That's not the daughter I remember," he scolded her.

At once, the little girl became an mature woman once again and felt the pressure of her father's hand leave her shoulder. "That girl is dead," she answered, "And so are you."

"That girl is still here, only her dreams that have died," she heard her father answer, as if from far away. "But not all of them. For she still has the power to wish upon the moon, and if she can wish upon the moon, then she can also bring her dreams back to life." And then the woman felt the gentlest of breezes blow across her back, and it seemed to her as if a kiss had been planted on her cheek. Something hard and painful and long-forgotten welled up in the woman's chest, demanding to be spilled out. When she turned around to open her mouth her father was gone, and she was left alone in the moonlight with a small stone and a lump of dirt.

But something shone in the dirt, and as the woman bent down, she saw a flash of silver; a coin reflecting the light of the moon. Perhaps it had lain there all along and her eyes had not seen it, or perhaps not. She took the coin into her hand and held it to her lips, closing her eyes and wishing with all her might. And when the woman finally stood, she was still a woman, but her eyes were those of a little girl. "Thank you," she told the moon and the lump of dirt.