The Moon and Me

Claire Westbrook

May 13, 2022


I will never forget the day the Moon died.

She passed on a Sunday evening, the holiest day. It would seem a cruel touch to envelop the world in darkness on a day that celebrated light, but the universe is cruel and cold, and it thrives on suffering.

“She was special,” announces the Priest at the start of the funeral, and the congregation nods in agreement. Their prayers taste like bitter wine and I force the bile to remain in my throat. They flick tears off their cheeks like dust and act as if they know a thing about her. But they don’t.

They do not know about the way she danced in empty fields, flapping her arms like something unlike herself. She dipped and twisted, disappearing as she did so, only to return days later with pink-dusted cheeks and a vicious smile. I would wait with bated breath when she was gone, anxiously anticipating the light patter of feet on dewy grass which announced her return. They do not know about the time she disappeared for an extra day, leaving me bruised and frail. With every passing hour I became weaker: a flower without water.

They do not know that she took me to the ocean every night and dunked my head under the salty waves until I lost all semblance of reality. The only thing holding me to life was the harsh press of rough fingertips on the back of my neck. Only when my last breath had weakly slipped out and darkness had crawled in from the sides of my vision like cracks in ice, would she lift me out of the cold. In those moments I would despise her. I would despise her cherry lips and her crooked smirk and everything about her. But then she would laugh — a sound not unlike a broken piano chiming in an abandoned ballroom — and all would be okay.

✦ ☽ ✦

“You’re glorious,” she had said one day, her hand brushing through my hair. It’s a wonderful comfort to have fingers tickle your scalp, and her silver fingers were a delight.

I remember laughing. “Glorious?” I repeated slowly. “Mediocre is more like it.”

“Well, you’re a glorious mediocrity.”

We laughed and laughed at the absurdity of the situation. How she could ever mingle with someone as bland as I was beyond even her, the answers hidden so very deeply in the cosmos.

✦ ☽ ✦

She loved to paint. She painted in silver sweeps of stardust and spit and a dark substance of which even she did not know the name. She painted lovers reconciling and lovers meeting. She was enthralled by soft touches and faint blushes on pale cheeks. They were beautiful. Then one day the silver brush resembled a silver knife, and the paintings were still beautiful but they were horrific too.

“Why would you paint that?” I asked one day, frowning at the wilted rose hunched over like a skeletal figure begging for scraps. The rose seemed to come alive in its frame, its torn petals waving in a nonexistent breeze, the thorns on its stem inching towards an unsuspecting fingertip.

She shrugged in response, wiping the back of her hand across her forehead, smearing red across it as she did so. “It’s a demonstration,” she said, an edge to her voice that I had never heard before, “about how good things never last, how endings are inevitable.”

“Don’t say that.”

“Mary, it’s just a painting.”

“I don’t care. Don’t say things like that.”

Her apology danced off her tongue just like she had danced in those dark fields once a month, but I could tell she didn’t mean it. She never did.

✦ ☽ ✦

The paintings became worse after that.

Wilted roses turned into wilted hands with outstretched fingers grasping at empty air. She painted crooked bodies and gaping mouths, rotting skin and abhorrent corpses.

The last thing she painted was a limp figure outstretched on wooden flooring, with a cavernous hole in the centre of its chest. Hunched over the figure was a woman. The woman held the remains of the figure’s heart in drenched red hands. The rest of it was in her mouth.

I threw up for hours after seeing that image and no matter how badly I willed it to go away, it had already nestled in the deep crevices of my mind. I hated how it looked. I hated how it made me feel.

Most of all I hated that the woman crouched over the figure looked exactly like me.

✦ ☽ ✦

She began to disappear more often, managing to escape beneath the bright sun as well as the vast blankets of night. She stopped dancing and painting and taking me to the ocean, instead leaving me to speculate on her whereabouts, to gaze at the star-speckled sky for hours, in the hope that I would catch the briefest glimpse of her divine madness.

It felt like there was a desolate pit in my breast where my heart used to be. I yearned for its constant beat, its heavy rhythm. And I faced the horrific realization that perhaps only she could return it.

I stared at that sky for days, counting the wishes thrown at shooting stars and ultimately throwing a few of my own.

Then finally she returned, the same smile plastered on her once-glowing skin, the smile that had once controlled my every move like an exceptional puppeteer. But I had cut the strings since she last saw me.

And I had had enough.

✦ ☽ ✦

Just like she wanted, her blood now stains my hands, deep and dark like the petals on her canvases, as vicious as the cold waves that once clogged my throat. I tear into her chest and claw out her heart, creating a gruesome reenactment of her most harrowing paintings. Drool guzzles from her lips, glistening on her sweet face. Muscle and sinew burn red-hot under my fingernails. I wonder what people would think if they stumbled upon this image in a museum. Would they stare in awe, revelling in our glorious mediocrity?

I look at her broken face, how she’s splayed open as intimately as ever. Rather than screaming at what I have done, she smiles something bloody and whispers my name over and over again until nothing is left but me, dancing on her cold lips.

I sit against her empty body, her heart cradled in my cracked fingertips.

I think of the soft placement of her feet on dark grass and of the piercing edges to her unrighteous grin.

I think of the silver paint on the canvas and the red paint on my hands.

I think of her heart and how it tastes like sea salt as I slowly bring it to my chapped lips.

It smells like roses and early-morning dew.

And I think to myself, there is nothing more holy than that.

Claire Westbrook is a twenty-year-old writer from Toronto, Canada. She dabbles in short stories, poetry, and is currently working on her first novel. She can be found losing her mind over words and queer media. You can find Claire on Instagram @claire.westbrook and Twitter @stariesswinter