Aphelion Issue 277, Volume 26
October 2022
 
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Man in the Moon

by Krista Farmer




It’d been seven years since Sirius had first stumbled upon the man living on the moon, when she turned to him one morning and announced, “Honey, I’m leaving.”

            The man in the moon rolled slowly over onto his side. He’d been asleep on purest moondust, and it was now in all the folds of his robe. There were gray runnels of it in his mostly white beard and hair; splotches of it spread across his cheeks like dusted fingerprints.

            “What’s that,” he murmured, still half in a dream.

            He tried, lazily, to wrap an arm around Sirius, but she shrugged him off and moved just out of reach. Her skin was all aglow — a pale moony color. Her eyes were the soft aventurine green of the risen Morning Star.

            “I said it’s time for me to go. Au revoir. Auf Weidersen. However you prefer to say it down there, where you’re from. Goodbye my love.”

            She smiled at him, though there was a sadness in her smile which alarmed the man in the moon into full awakening.

            “You’re kidding.”

            “Not so,” she said.

            Sirius brushed some of the moon dust from his cheek and then stood. She was a good foot taller than he was. Lying there, upon his side, she positively dwarfed him. Her skin, in her reflective, melancholy state, was slowly darkening to more of an indigo color, churning against its usual paleness — a spilled ink sort of blue. The dress she wore was cashmere soft and had been dyed to match the soft pink colors worn by denizens of Canis Major. A planet most of Sirius’ kin, including herself, had fled after the great conflagration of the Red Giant.

            “I told you from the start I’d only stay here a year. Nearly a decade has gone by, and I’ve yet to hear one word from any of my brothers or sisters. You must know, by now, how it hurts.”

            “I know. I do know. It’s just...can’t we just…”   

            The man in the moon was stumbling to his feet now. A light sweat had formed on his brow, smearing the moondust collected there into a waxy sort of clay.

            “You won’t trick me again, old man. I love you, but it’s time for me to go.”

            “Don’t say that, honey. We’ve never had a falling out. Never quarreled. Never had a bad time. Come on, don’t say you’re leaving.”

            He lunged, attempting to wrap Sirius in his arms, but she was too quick for him. He tried again, and this time she tripped him with a quick movement of her foot.

            “Don’t make me tie you to a crater old man,” she said, still smiling that rueful smile of hers, which was even more gutting for its entire lack of spite.

            Overhead, a gathering of the cosmic dusts had shifted like a veil spun out of mica and gemstone. Infant stars winked in and out of the gaps between these clouds like a crowd of charmed spectators, eagerly gathering to watch the show.

            “You’ll miss me,” he said, struggling to smile up at Sirius from where he’d fallen.

            “And? There’s a whole universe in which I might learn to forget you,” Sirius smiled back, without rancor.

            “You’re a hard-hearted star, Sirius.”

            “And you’re a tiresome old man, moon-man.”

            “You’re no young star yourself.”

            Sirius offered him a hand and pulled him to his feet. The man in the moon knew enough about Sirius not to attempt to challenge her further, to drop all pretense of even a lighthearted banter. Sirius had been around far longer than he. Had seen much more of the galaxy than he likely would ever have the chance to. She’d had a stellar upbringing and education amidst the charted nebulae’s brightest stars. The man in the moon had, at least, as of yet, never met a mature star more immune to moral chicanery.

            The man in the moon did, however, happen to have one ace up his sleeve, despite his thinking to himself, as he stood there beneath the Morning Star’s fantastic glow, moondust still softening to clay upon his clammy forehead, that he was getting too old to still have to rely on such tricks.

            Sirius stood before him, attempting to seal the deal with a stiff glance. Starlight glinted off her dusky hair in molten pearls.

            “A cup of tea. We’ll toast to your leaving,” the man in the moon said quickly.

            “I know all your tricks, old man. It won’t work on me this time.”

            “What tricks?”

            “Stop playing coy.”

            “A cup of tea, is it really so much to ask? Ten years of solid friendship, and all I ask for is a final toast.”

            Sirius folded her arms, thinking, unfortunately, how much she still enjoyed the man in the moon’s company. She would have agreed to a final toast without hesitation, had she not caught that furtive gleam in the old man’s eye. The man in the moon might’ve liked to consider himself clever, but he was about as transparent as any other mortal she’d ever met.

            Even so, and taking the moon-man’s gently proffered arm, she told herself she would not waste any more time here. She told herself she would not, under any circumstance, capitulate even one more time to that faint, patter-brush stroke of yearning in her heart. Even as she allowed, for the moment, at least, the man in the moon to take her arm, and guide her across the ever-shifting moon-sands.

            It was not long before the upper portion of that familiar house came into view, rising slightly above the edge of a tall crater. In truth, Sirius had always thought the man in the moon’s house resembled its maker. Dark clad and functional. Charming, in a simple, reliable sort of way. The house stood in the middle of a large crater, shadowed by its high surmounting ledges at nearly all hours, yet no less plagued by the moon’s continually shifting wind currents.

            The house lacked windows, doors, even a roof. Both Sirius and the moon-man had always preferred it this way, both being constant observers of the skies, and of the landscape. Pervasive as the winds were on the moon, however, there sounded throughout the house a steady, thrumming bellow; the result of the wind being perpetually funneled through windowless spaces, doorless thresholds, and open ceilings.

Humble and unadorned as the building was, however, Sirius knew its construction had cost the man in the moon nearly a decade. Overnight, she’d witnessed the silver sprouting up in the moon-man’s wiry black beard, a grayness which had since completely taken over. His neat, smooth hair had also begun to take on sheafs of gray, and his hairline had begun to recede. Sirius had never had the heart to bring it up with him before —forthright as she about most everything else — but, in spite of all this funneled energy, the place did not even begin to compare with even the humblest structure built upon Sirius’ home planet of Canis. That palatial planet, with its courtyards always burbling with the sounds of starlit fountains, its peaks frosted by the dusky, haunted glow of Neptune, and its bountiful hills rolling on for miles with their sweet and dewy meadows.

            The moon-man’s house, by contrast, was squat, nearly ogrish in appearance. Its walls were dark, and its floors a nicked and scratched maze of compressed, irregular selenite. The moon-dusts, which were constantly being funneled into the house through all its open apertures, often sprouted up small dervishes beneath their feet as they passed from room to room. One presently tickled at Sirius’ ankle, as the moon-man guided her through the open front doorway.

            “Don’t count this a victory, yet, old-man,” Sirius said, deftly unhooking her arm from his, yet smiling at him out of the corner of her eye.

            “Not on my life.”  

            Many of the rooms in the moon-man’s house stood empty, save the few he loved most. These he’d outfitted with all the more finely wrought products of his imaginings. The first object he’d thought into existence was a large bed, complete with feathered mattress and pale, Tunisian silk sheets. Though nights on the moon were often so mild, the two hardly ever slept indoors.  Next to the bed, he’d made-up a handsome stone hearth and, next to this, a washbasin. In another room, and pushed up against a far wall, loomed a huge, dark pot-bellied stove. One of those no-nonsense, ironclad contraptions, upon which nothing was ever prepared save the occasional pot of tea. And though the moon-man seldom traveled now, piled in the corners of a few of these rooms, were all the various paintings, whirligigs, artworks, and contraptions he’d seen over the course of his wanderings down on earth.

            The costliest thing he’d ever made to date, however, besides the house itself, was a full-scale replica of Sirius’ own home planet — that capital orb of Canis Major. It was through this room now, in which the grand replica of Canis Major stood mounted upon its throne of smoothly polished Neptunite driftwood, that the moon-man guided Sirius. She couldn’t help but immediately be drawn to it, seeing as though it would possibly be a long time before she would ever look on it again. Without speaking, and by mutual consent, both she and the moon-man took their usual places on either side of the replica.

            “I’ll make us some tea. For the toast,” moon-man said suddenly, after they’d sat there for few moments, both enjoying each other’s silent company.

He slipped away into the kitchen. There was a series of burbling noises, as well as the occasional waft of fragrant steam. When he finally came back, holding a new and shiny platter, Sirius was still staring down at the model. Without speaking, he held out a steaming cup to her.

            “You think you can keep relying on these same tired tricks old man,” Sirius said, taking it from him without looking.

            The tea was Sirius’ favorite, of course. She’d recognized it at once from its fragrance, as well as by its saffron color. The tea was delicate concoction, brewed from the frothy stamens of crocuses harvested from the furthest reaches of the Centauri system. She sipped a little as she watched, skeptically, the moon-man took a seat upon his own stool. The tea tasted a little tart, a little sour, with just a touch of lingering sweetness. It filled her body, from head to toe, with a glowing, almost bittersweet sort of warmth.  

            “You’re just exhausting yourself,” she told him, “To no avail.”

            “But it’s not perfect yet.”

            “Perfection is a vain pursuit.”

            Moon-man gazed down at his model in what seemed to her an obviously contrived sort of contemplation.

            “At least, I’m not off waging war,” the moon-man said at last. “It’s better than plundering planets, I’d say. Like those fools did to your beloved Red Giant. It beats worrying about other things...paying taxes, bills, arrogant fathers...”

            The moon-man always liked to sprinkle his talk with phrases which meant nothing to Sirius. Paying taxes. Bills. Such concepts did not exist for her, though other parallels did exist between Canis Major and the moon-man’s own home planet — that swirling azure planet Sirius had always known as Gaia.

            “Tell me again,” the moon-man said, “the story of your cousin. I think it would help me with filling in this area here.”

            The moon-man pointed to a section at the northern corner of the replica. Couched in this area lie a smooth, broad meadow, bordered by a thick band of elliptical elm. Though the meadow was a close twin to the one on Canis, some of it was still very much unclear. The grassy field was still somewhat murky along the edges, and when a breeze took up and shook the leaves along the trees, they seemed to blur together in a most unnatural way.  

            “You invite me in for a single cup of tea,” Sirius said, looking at him in that knowing way, “And now expect entire story in return?”

            “I don’t expect, I ask. I know better.”

            “Why should I? My cup’s nearly finished.”

            Sirius swirled the golden liquid at the bottom of her cup, agitating the few flecks of dried stamen suspended there like minute confetti. Indeed, she was already down to the dregs.

            “I want to get this part of the model right,” the moon-man said. “And I know there’s a story with Procyon involved here. Procyon’s always been a favorite of yours, hasn’t he?”

            “All the more reason I should stop dawdling and go find him,” Sirius said.

            “But he won’t be on Canis.”

            “I know where my cousin is...more or less. I can sense him still. He’s currently hovering somewhere round the nebulae by Mars.”

            “Horrible place, I’ve heard. Full of asteroids.”

            “Is it? I thought you told me you’d never made it further out than Venus?”

            “I said I’d heard, only.”

            Moon-man sighed, draining half his cup in a single draught.

            “You know, I feel as if I know Procyon personally by now. It’d be a such a shame, really, to leave this part of the model unfinished. A viewable history — left to discovery by all future generations. Past, present, future...”

            “All right, all right. You don’t have to start getting all sentimental on me, old man. I hate when you do this. This one thing. I’ll do this one last thing for you — and then I’m gone.”

            “And I promise,” the moon-man said, holding his hands up as if in mock surrender. “No more tricks.”

            Sirius doubted this. She eyed him shrewdly from beneath her long, indigo lashes, before lowering her eyes back to the model. She was already allowing herself to be carried away. Already beginning to fall back upon those warm sets of childhood memories she’d always kept so much a part of herself. She knew she would never see Canis again. Not her Canis. Not like it used to be. Not until the gentry there were inevitably, and hopefully, replaced by a nobler, kinder sort of starlight people. All she had left of the Canis she knew, lit always upon fair mornings, such as this one, by the radiant, crimson light of the Red Giant, were her own memories, and this — the moon-man’s full-scale replica.

            “That meadow,” Sirius said, extending a finger to brush lightly the wavering grass.

            There was silence between them for a moment. At least, as silent as a house on the moon could possibly be, with no roof or doors or windows, and the ever-present winds howling throughout all that empty space.

            “Procyon was a favorite of mine also. He was like a little brother to me, though we were actually first cousins. He’s what you’d call a Minor star, though we of the dog star clan always detested those sorts of distinctions — Major and Minor. Minor and Major.”

            Sirius’ skin, not so touched by reflective melancholy now, appeared more radiant. A lighter shade of tear-drop blue.

            “But I remember it now,” she said, after a while. “It started with Orion.”  

            “I remember you saying he used to visit you all when you were children, from time to time,” the moon-man said.

            He was catching part of the vision from Sirius now, though that nagging voice at the back of his head still warned that he was getting far too old for this sort of thing. He felt a few stray hairs drop from his head, and graze his shoulders, as he struggled to see exactly what Sirius was describing. Summarily, a vision of Orion appeared in an elbow of that grassy field in the replica. This miniature of Orion grew rapidly more focused as he concentrated, emerging in high definition, as though caught beneath the lens of a magnifying glass. Orion with his dogs, his belt, his plated armor. Orion ever on the hunt. The stout bowman driving a muscular horse behind a braying pack of mud-colored hounds, an enormous silver bow strapped to his broad back. The whole of the vanguard kicking up bright clods of meadow as they ran.

            “And what is he hunting,” the moon-man asked.

            His hands had begun to tremor with the effort of his imaginings. He set his cup of tea aside in order to make it less noticeable.

            “Helia deer. You know of Helia deer,” she asked, glancing at him.

            He shook his head.

            “They’re pygmy deer. They’re so small you could hold one of their young in the palm of your hand. Procyon and I raised one, once, when we were little. My mother let us keep it in the house while my father was away. He and I had always had a soft spot for them, ever since. Procyon found it amusing to try and thwart Orion’s hunts for them. It was the only real reason Orion ever came to Canis anyway. Of course, he’d always come on the pretext of visiting with his so-called favorite dog-star nieces and nephews, but what he was really after were the Helia deer. A born hunter. Other stars always liked to say the same of us, but I like to think that title always befitted Orion more.”

            “But the deer. Pygmies? About what size were they?”

            “Full-grown, they were perhaps about the size of one of your square end-tables,” Sirius said, pointing out one of them in the room. “They had horns, but they were small things, used only, it seemed, for the males to rub their scent into the bark of trees. The females vastly outnumbered the males. They stuck mostly to grazing beneath the shadow of the elms and darting out of sight as soon they felt eyes upon them. They picked the meadow bald in spots, but with the mid-tide storms, the grass there always grew back more abundant than before. Their eyes were large and dark, and their hides were the color of hoarfrost.”

            The deer appeared in the model. Tiny-hooved creatures sporting egg-shell gray flanks. Judging by Sirius’ subtle intake of breath, the moon-man knew he’d gotten them at least close to correct. The Helia deer in the model went about briskly cropping the grass before the elms, their tiny ears flicking away dark, hovering specks. They seemed to, on some level, be aware of the huntsman’s distant approach. Flanks twitched apprehensively, hooves pawed the ground nervously. Several sentinel deer stood on the outskirts of the milling herd, their upswept ears twitching, the sensitive, white hairs alive like antennas to the faint peltering of hooves in the distance.

            “But Procyon, he was always fleet of foot. He could outrace a comet if he put his mind to it. He could easily outrun the fastest of Orion’s hounds, and he was always playing tricks. I remember one time,” Sirius recalled, laughing to herself, “Procyon telling me that he’d found a heap of Helia dung near the foot of one of the elm trees. If my father ever found out exactly what he did with that dung, he would have whipped poor Procyon on the spot for having behaved like such a beast. Procyon rolled himself over and over in it, until he smelled stronger of Helia deer than even the whole herd of them. He then proceeded, of course, to run circles around Orion’s dogs. Until the huntsman himself stood convinced they’d all run mad.”

            “But Procyon. Describe him for me again.”

            The deer were by now moving in the model on their own, with little to no input from the moon-man. They were scrambling beneath the shade of the trees, attempting to hide themselves from Orion’s braying hounds, and from the huntsman’s cruel arrows.

            “Procyon was shorter than I. I imagine he still is, by at least a few feet. He was never the brightest star, but he had a wonderfully devious sense of humor.”  

            “But more description. Physically.”

            “Well...let’s see. His hair was always shorter than mine. It was naturally that pale, nebulous color that so much of the gentry always worked so hard to try and emulate. I remember he wore it always pulled back in a single braid, which rested in-between his shoulder blades. He preferred to always go around in the nude, at least, before father began whipping him for it. After that, he always wore the least amount of clothing he could get away with. Back then, we all dressed ourselves in the colors of Canis Major. The color of star-doves — pale pink and gray.”

There, upon the model, came Procyon, finally, running ahead of Orion’s pack. His feet and legs were bare, his skin opalescent. He wore a short gray tunic with a little pink belt hung around his waist. He was covered in slight, dark streaks of Helia dung.

            The moon-man knew he was doing an adequate job with this materialization, from the way Sirius now gazed down at the model. The lithe figure of her cousin weaved in and out among the elm trees, spurred on by the braying of Orion’s pack.

            “Yes, that’s almost right. Except there, his cheek. He had a little scar there from where a tiny asteroid hit him as a toddler. He was in my mother’s arms at the time, his own nearby. I still remember his shrieking.”

            The scar materialized on the miniature Procyon’s cheek, though it was hard to spot without the aid of Sirius’ keen eyes.  

            “But one day, my poor dear Procyon flew too close to the sun, as it were,” Sirius said, sipping her tea thoughtfully. “I think you should make the sky look darker for this, the meadow a more somber shade of blue-green.”

            The moon-man did exactly as she’d told him, though he felt himself lose a few additional hairs in the process.

            “On this day, Orion had come to Canis for a brief visit. He’d spotted a stag, he’d said, while passing over on his way to other hunting grounds. A stag was a rarity among the Helia deer, and Orion claimed it was the most magnificently horned Helia he’d ever seen. On the first day, he failed to catch it. Likely, unbeknownst to him, due to my brother’s machinations. But, by the second day, he was hard on the hunt again. My cousin went about his usual mischief, only, he must have had more than his usual share of nectar that morning. He was clumsier than normal, weighted down by his stomach. I watched him fall over a tree root, attempting to outrace the hounds.”

            There, in the shadow of an elm in the replica, Procyon suddenly stumbled over a bowed tree root. As he fell forward, the white light of his skin dimmed to match the now somber grass. Orion and his hounds were upon him in a flash, the dogs all snapping and shouting into the little boy-star’s flustered ears, furiously sniffing at the dark brown streaks of Helia dung covering the boy’s body.

            “I’d been there to watch him that day. I’d watched him a few times before — ever since he told me about that trick he used to confuse Orion’s hounds. That day, I was in the shade there,” Sirius said, pointing to a place behind one of the miniature elms.

            The moon-man conjured a tiny replica of the child Sirius. The child wore a short gown of dovecot gray, and there were pink ribbons wound in her shoulder-length, murky gray hair. She crouched behind the trunk of an elm, looking on at the scene as eagerly as the adult-sized Sirius did presently from above.

            “I saw it as it happened. I saw Procyon stumble over the root, and the hounds suddenly cluster over him. I saw Orion dismount, and suddenly pull Procyon up by the hem of his tunic. I remember Orion shouting at him: what are you doing? Upsetting my hounds. And then, catching a whiff of Procyon, he leaned over. I saw it dawn on him, almost immediately, what my poor cousin had been up to.”

            The figures acted out the whole scene, just as Sirius had described. It was easy, once the moon-man had conjured the workable figures into the model, to get them all to behave according to whatever memory of Sirius’ he was attempting to replicate. Once the figures were there in full, it all became a matter of mental puppeteering. Something the moon-man had rather a knack for.

            “Did he punish him,” moon-man asked.

            “No, not really. He didn’t himself, anyway. Not right away. Orion knew the best punishment for my cousin would be to let my father deal with him — and that’s exactly what he did. My father gave poor Procyon the whipping of his life, though Orion still liked Procyon enough to allow him to change out of that dung-smeared tunic before my father saw it. I can only imagine what that would have been like. We dog stars have a reputation as it is, you know.”

            As Sirius recalled this, Orion moved in the model. He crossed the meadow with the boy-star Procyon slung over his shoulder, readying to carry him home to Sirius’ father.

            “A lovely story,” moon-man said, darting a sly glance at Sirius. “I feel it really brings this part of the model to life.”

            He saw now that her head was bent low to peer through the windows of her childhood palace. The moon-man made sure to show tantalizing glimpses of people moving behind the darkened, pink-tinted windows.

            “That’s not the whole story,” Sirius said suddenly, fixing him with that wry look of hers. One which meant she knew exactly what he was up to.

Sirius paused for a long sip of tea, then gazed down at the fragile stems floating around near the bottom of her cup, evidently on the verge of recalling something.

            “Orion had been hot on the heels of that stag. He’d wanted nothing more than to mount its little pygmy rack above his own mantel. He had a hunch my brother would be back again to try and spoil his hunt in whatever way he could. Orion was probably correct in that, though I still believe he went too far in what he did to thwart poor Procyon.”

            “Which was?”

            “He poured a dye over him, the next time he caught Procyon alone on the street. The dye was permanent. It colored Procyon’s skin painlessly, but to great effect. My cousin became bright yellow, like the color of this tea, only brighter — more glowing. If ever he attempted to divert Orion’s hounds again, he could easily be spotted moving in and out of the trees, glowing like a banked sun.”

            Summarily, Orion appeared in the street below Sirius’ childhood palace. Procyon was just then on his way home, and already a short distance from the hunter. The young boy glared mightily at Orion as soon as they came within shouting distance of one another, this despite the fact the huntsman clearly dwarfed the boy. Procyon’s tunic had been recently pressed and cleaned. His face was shining with youth and his skin appeared well-scrubbed, despite the murky, disturbed indigo which bled into it at the sight of Orion.

            A few words were exchanged between the two. The boy’s glower deepened. Suddenly, Orion revealed, from the inner folds of his robe, a weighty, silver pitcher.

            “No, no, it wasn’t from a pitcher,” Sirius cut in, “Orion didn’t need to carry things on his person like a regular man. He was sort of like you, only it took him probably half the effort to do what he wanted. He could materialize certain things out of the ether, at will. And this dye was particularly astringent. A concoction found only on the outskirts of Centurion. It was only a dipperful he poured over my cousin’s head, but it flowed easily over every inch of his body, like molten oil. It covered him from head to toe. I remember how it all went. I’d been watching from the window that day.”

            Just then, a broad-mouthed dipper appeared over Procyon’s head. The dipper tilted and the yellow liquid poured out over the boy, spreading just as quick and easy as Sirius had described, like wildfire consuming a bed of dry pine needles. The dye stained every inch of the poor Procyon before he even had time to realize what was happening.

            “And that’s why Procyon, to this day, glows yellow,” Sirius said, in a wistful sort of voice. “He’s never quite gotten used to it. All the rest of us are either white or blue, or some mix of the two.”

            As she said this, Sirius herself was nearly blindingly translucent. As bright as the edge of a sun-lit cloud. It was hard for the moon-man to even occupy the same room as her. The brightness of the light she cast made everything in the room throw dark, inky shadows. The moon-man’s head began to swim, both from the radiance of Sirius’ excited light, as well as from the effort it had required to recreate the scene in the model.

            Sirius was still looking down at the model, when the moon-man finally gave it up and disappeared for a while. He came back with a fresh round of tea as well as a plate of sliced nectarines. She was still seated there, watching the model avidly, after the nectarines had all been finished, and the tea cleared away. The morning star above had, by then, diminished to a cool, nearly translucent amber. Its light sent strange wavering shadows moving throughout the entire house.

            By the time Sirius finally looked up, the moon-man had already busied himself tinkering with other things. He looked worn-out and tired from all the day’s imaginings.

            “Let’s go to bed, old man. Just looking at you is making me tired.”

            “I thought you were leaving,” the moon-man said, not bothering to look up from whatever he was working on.

            “I’ve decided I want to see that little scene you just showed me again tomorrow, and maybe a few others before I go. For that, you need your rest.”

            It was unanimously agreed. Both took turns laying out in their usual spot, beneath the ripening glow of the just rising Evening Star, scratching out shallow impressions in the soft, cradling moon-dust. All the other stars stood glittering in their distant sockets, placed above them like tightly huddled jewels.

But when dawn finally broke, the next day — the Morning Star once again blazing up over the grayscale horizon, bathing everything now in a dream-like cloud of softening emerald — the  moon-man turned over onto his side and gently shook the still sleeping Sirius awake.

            “Honey. I hate to tell you like this. I think it’s time I left the moon.”

            “Don’t start this now,” Sirius said, rubbing the sleep from her eyes.

            “You know I haven’t much time left. And I’m lonely.”

            “No. You’re not, lonely. You have me,” Sirius murmured. “You have things to show me, remember? You promised.”

            “I’m tired.”

            “You’re being silly.”

            Moon-man sat up and looked around. There was another dime-sized bald spot developing at the back of his head. A recent one, Sirius suspected. Likely the fall-out from all of yesterday’s imaginings. It was one thing for the moon-man to conjure things like beds and mattresses, food and tea, and other things he’d seen or tasted before. Rendering living, moving people — even star-people — was quite a different matter altogether. She knew it was becoming more and more difficult for him to keep up with the sorts of demands she was making of his abilities, especially now that he was in his twilight years. She also suspected, however, that the moon-man derived a certain sense of pleasure from what he did with his talents. This added to her theory, that not a single being — neither star nor mortal — could go about the full spans of their lives without utilizing whatever in-born talents they possessed, even if it were all for the sake of only a single person.  

            “You tricked me into staying another day,” she replied, “and now you’re telling me you’re leaving? It’s not fair.”

            The moon-man stood and dusted himself. Sirius thought he did look more tired than ever before. He’d grown so thin, just within the past few weeks, that his robe had started to hang off him. That ever-present, powdery moon dust, which had gathered in all the folds of his robe and in the creases of his skin, only accentuated the latest crop of wrinkles around his eyes and along his forearms.

            “You know I’ll never see my Canis again,” Sirius told him.

            “You don’t know that. Your kind live long enough to see things truly change. Anything could happen. Anything is possible.”

            “Sure. Sure they can. Things change all the time. But opinions on Canis have proven as immovable as the sun,” Sirius answered.

            Sirius stood just as the moon-man turned and had begun to walk away from her.

            “No, it’s just not the same. It’s just like you said, there comes a time for everything,” she heard the moon-man say quietly to himself.

            Sirius, however, was not at all ready to just give up. The moon-man had just crested a tall crater, far beyond which hung the first domed glimpse of his beloved Gaia, when Sirius suddenly spotted the paw of the giant, infant-star constellation Leo. The moon-man, knowing full well by now that Sirius was busy plotting behind him, meanwhile focused all his mental energy on his building of a stairway. A few pale hairs fell from his head like aged feathers. A new wrinkle appeared between his bushy brows. Twin tufts of wiry white hair sprung from each of his earlobes. And suddenly, there before him, stretching the full length of a moonbeam, all the way down to earth, was the moon-man’s staircase.

            “You should’ve saved your energy old man, you’ve only got a few more of those left in you,” Sirius mocked, coming up just behind him.

            With a single deft flick of her wrist, Sirius cast a glamour over the winking stars of Leo. An enormous lion waked from out of the stars, just beyond the line of sight of the moon-man. The lion shook its sprightly, yellow starlight mane and stretched its regal paws out in front of itself, before casting its flaring eyes at Sirius. Without speaking, she gave the lion her orders.

            Meanwhile, the moon-man had just started his decent. He’d passed the first third of the moonbeam stairs, his vertigo increasing as the blackness of space swung nauseatingly round him, when he noticed movement down below. His first impression was that of a sudden massing of stars, which seemed to have come suddenly swarming up out of the dark. His eyes went wide with fright. He comprehended, all at once, the coming of the giant, bestial creature. An enormous starry-maned lion — the constellated Leo. The huge mane of the creature shook and trembled as it came bounding up out of that whirl of darkness, charging directly at him.

            Rationally, the moon-man recognized this beast as only another one of Sirius’ glamours. He’d caught her at such tricks before. This sort of rationalizing, however, did little to allay his instinctual fear of the monster presently charging up the stairs at him. The lion shone brilliantly, its starry teeth flashing. The moon-man could now practically feel the heat pulsating from its jaws, though this was likely more the product of his own fearful imaginings, than any actual feature of the glamour.

            After the initial, profound shock, instinct finally kicked in. The moon-man turned on his heels and fled back up the way he’d come. Sirius started laughing as soon as she saw him mount the last stair, his long white hair flailing wildly behind him, his bushy eyebrows practically flapping. She caught him in her arms just as he careened into her. His heart thudded against her like a frightened bird. With another deft flick of her wrist, she cast the raging glamour aside, and Sirius and the moon-man collapsed together in a heap of unrestrained laughter; their movements causing a sudden, powdery flurry of moon-dust.

 “You’re mine today moon-man,” she said to him. “We’ll just see about tomorrow.”


THE END


2022 Krista Farmer

Bio: Krista Farmer is an author who lives and works in Arizona. She enjoys long walks through the desert, as well as penning the various flights of her imagination she hopes her readers will enjoy.

E-mail: Krista Farmer

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