The Marriage of Heaven and Earth
I finger the cool metal of the gun, sitting cross-legged in my father's study. It glints in the light of the full moon. A million things are running through my head. It's come to this, sitting here, contemplating the end of being. The absence of existence. Warm tears turn cold as they fall down my cheeks.
Mechanically I rise to my feet, moving slowly through the house. I come to the back patio, and walk barefoot into the yard. I gaze at the glittering night sky, stars inset in black velvet. I contemplate the spaces between the stars, think, that will be me soon. As I stare upward the sky stares downward.
The world seems to fade out of my vision. It almost seems as though everything is the night sky. I find a cloudy stairwell, and, bewildered, begin my ascent. I pass through gassy clouds and silver baubles held up by transparent strings. I keep putting one foot after another on the steps, higher and higher than each.
All at once the immensity of the Night is before me. She sweeps her long robes about her, and tosses her glittering hair back. She snorts breath out of her nose and blinks tenderly.
"Sweet child, what brings you up to the top of the sky?"
I don't know how to reply. I look into my hands, and shift the strange heft of the gun between them.
"You needn't say anything. You are lost, I can see. Well, whenever you are lost, the night sky can lead you to safe haven. Can you find your way on your own?"
I don't look up.
"No, you need a guide. Let my son guide you, he is the best there is."
I look up and see a light glowing. It grows larger and larger, till I can recognize it as the moon. But it keeps getting bigger and bigger until it seems to take up all of my vision. Then the moon uncurls like a cat or a wood bug, and he's really a boy like me. Now he stands before me, still glowing brightly, but my size.
"Son, will you lead this boy home?"
"Yes, mother. I'll get him all the way there, safely."
He turns and smiles at me brilliantly. I give something of a smile in return.
"This way," he says. We take steps back down the stairwell. It feels strange walking out of the sky.
When we finally make it back to the yard I get a good look at the Moon. He isn't glowing anymore. He isn't wearing any clothes. His hair is black like the night, and his eyes too. He is looking at my hands. "What's that?"
I look at the gun. "Nothing. I should put this away." I start into the house. I notice he's following me. I'm glad my parents aren't home to ask me what I'm doing with a naked boy.
I go up the stairs to my father's study. I place the gun in its drawer. I lick my lips nervously, wondering if I'll only be pulling it out again soon. I turn to the Moon.
"Well, I'm home now."
"Not yet," he says.
I don't know what to say to that. I think absently I should probably get him some clothes.
I lead him to my room and start opening drawers. I pull out a shirt, a pair of boxer shorts, and a large pair of jeans, and hand them to him. He takes them.
After a minute of him just standing there, I realize he must not know what to do with them. I grab the clothes and put them on the dresser. I pick up the shirt by the hem.
"Can you lift your arms? No, straight up."
He complies, and I shimmy the shirt down, trying with a little difficulty to work his hands through the sleeves. It's harder than with a child, because his arms go as high as mine do. He doesn't seem to enjoy me putting his head through the collar. Once I'm done he pulls at the collar with annoyance.
"I don't like this," he says.
"I'm sorry, you have to wear it. It's the rule." I grab the boxers. "Lift one leg up, okay?"
He does, and I pull it through the leg of the shorts, and pull his foot to the ground.
"Can you try to put your other foot through here?"
He does, haltingly. I pull the shorts up to his waist. At another time this might be arousing or embarrassing, but right now I just feel kind of numb. I decide to leave the jeans on the dresser, since we won't be going outside tonight anyways.
I sit on the bed, and the Moon just stands there. I lean back into my comforter. Something occurs to me.
"Do you have a name? Other than the Moon?"
"A name? How do you mean?"
"Well, my name is Clayton… when people talk to me, they call me Clayton. To tell me apart from other people."
"I can't think of anything like that. Mother just calls me son. Nobody needs to tell me apart from anyone else."
I think about that for a minute. I guess this means I can give him his name, since I might be the only one to use it. I go through ideas in my head.
"Can I call you Darien?"
One of my happy childhood memories is of watching TV. I got up every morning before school to watch Sailor Moon. It's embarrassing, but the Moon won't know the difference, will he?
Well, as long as I'm going to live, I might as well go to bed. I look around, and consider sleeping arrangements. I remember an air mattress that my parents bought me half my life ago for camping trips. It must be out in the garage.
I start walking there, and notice the Moon following me. I shrug internally. It couldn't hurt, to let him follow me. I get to the garage door, and flick on the light. It sputters momentarily before lighting up. I go rummaging in a pile of junk. I get some cobwebs caught on my sleeve, which annoys me.
"I didn't know you had stars down here too."
I turn around and he's smiling, looking straight at the bulb.
"You shouldn't look directly at it. It's bad for your eyes." I'm not sure if that even applies to celestial bodies, but I would feel bad for blinding the Moon while he's staying with me.
"There sure are a lot of rules here."
I keep shifting things around, looking for that air mattress. I haven't seen it for years, so I'm partly worried it's not here at all. I pull aside an old legless pool table that was set against the wall, and find it. I grab it and look around.
"Darien? The Moon? Where are you?"
I carry the mattress with me while I look for him. He's not in the garage. I go through the door into the entrance area of my house. I almost missed him, in a corner under the staircase. He's bent over our large potted plant.
"Mmhm," I hear him murmur.
"I've got it," I tell him. He looks up, startled.
"Is that what we were looking for?"
"Uh, yeah, it's for me to sleep on. What are you doing?"
"Just making friends. Will you believe this guy's never seen the Moon before?"
"Are you talking about the plant?"
"Yeah." He looks up at me, and gives an enormous dazzling smile. I'm dumbfounded. So I begin walking up the stairs and hope he follows. Luckily he does.
I stop at the linen closet to grab a couple sheets and a blanket for myself. When I get to my room I plop the air mattress down, and start making a bed for myself. Darien stays in the doorway. Once I'm satisfied I turn and bring him to the washroom.
"Now we brush our teeth." I open a new toothbrush for him to use and pass it to him. I begin brushing. Soon I notice he's staring at me, fascinated. I spit out my goo and rinse my mouth. I take his brush and put some paste on it, and some water.
"Okay, hold it like this. Yeah. And move it back and forth… no, not so hard, you'll hurt yourself. Yeah, this side too. Okay, then I usually brush on my tongue… yeah. Okay, now spit it all out. Now you can rinse your mouth."
After all this, I'm starting to really feel sleepy. Darien follows me into the bedroom, and I flop onto the air mattress. He's still standing in the doorway.
"You can take the bed."
He walks over to it, and sits down. I take off my clothes, leaving my boxers. I lie back and close my eyes, settling in. After my breathing has started to deepen, I hear a rustling noise. I crack an eyelid and look over to the bed. Darien's still sitting there, looking uncomfortable.
"Uh, we're going to sleep now. Just lie down in the bed and try to be comfortable. Close your eyes and relax. Eventually we'll wake up and it's morning. Do you think you can do that?"
"I'll try." I can hear him move around in the sheets.
-The Marriage of Heaven and Earth-
I wake up before my alarm. The red light of the clock reads 6:55. I groan and get up. Dawn is just cracking in the sky. I sit up and stretch. My muscles really didn't enjoy sleeping on the air mattress. I hear a few joints pop. I stand up and set my alarm off. I change my boxers, and pick out some new clothes for the day. When I'm done, I turn to the strange boy occupying my bed.
I turn on the lamp on my dresser, and sit beside him on the bed. I lightly push on his shoulder, trying to rouse him. His eyelids flutter, and he gives a low moan. Then his face contorts, and his hands fly to my arm, gripping tightly. His gasps loudly.
"What was that?" he whispers intensely. "I just… stopped existing. There was nothing, anywhere. Was I dead?" His voice is gravelly from just waking up.
"No, that's sleep. It helps you rest so you can do things during the day. If you're lucky you get dreams, which are like stories that play in your head."
He still looks spooked. Oh well.
"Come on, there are things to do today. Let's get you dressed."
I dress him, with as much difficultly as last night. Then I bring him downstairs with me.
I put a pot of water on to boil, and add some oats. Darien watches me with fascination.
"Hmm. I suppose you haven't eaten before, have you? Do you know what eating is?" His blank look is all the answer I need.
"We're going to put this oatmeal in our mouth, once it's ready, okay? Then we chew it… and then we swallow… do you follow this?"
"I think I get it… but I don't think I'll really know until I do it myself."
I get out some brown sugar, and some almonds, and some raisins. Once the oatmeal is done I put some in two bowls. I add some milk and bring all of these things to the table. As soon as I set down the bowl of oatmeal before Darien he shovels a big hunk of it into his mouth.
His eyes go wide and he opens his mouth, inelegantly returning the oatmeal to the bowl.
"Aaaaah," he whimpers breathily.
"Yeah, it's hot," I say. He waggles his tongue, staring at the bowl, like he's been personally let down. I sigh and get up, grabbing a glass of tap water for him. "Here, this will help your mouth until it's cool enough to eat."
While he's drinking the water I add brown sugar and almonds to my oatmeal, and mix it around. I pick up a spoonful and blow on it until it's cool, and then I eat it. I'm happy with this oatmeal. It has turned out well.
Before long I'm rinsing the dishes and putting them into the dishwasher. I pull on my jacket and give Darien an old sweater of mine to wear. He manages to put that on himself.
"I suppose you aren't going to stay here while I go to school, are you…"
"I'm your guide. I'm not going to leave you alone. How will you find your way?"
We depart into the hazy morning, side by side.
A/N: I'm not sure when I'm going to get a chance to keep working on this, so updates will be irregular. But I am passionate about this story and it will not molder in the basement of my mind.
EDIT: The inscription was bothering me. So I took it out. If you still want to see it, here it is:
Ay how the nightjar sang!
How it sang in the tree!
The moon goes through the sky,
A child in his hand.
-Ballad of the Moon, Moon, Federico Garcia Lorca