It was a cool summer night in July when it first happened. Summer rains had laid waste to the day and covered the evidence with sheets of humidity in their wake, but the night was oddly cool. My brother Kiran and I had adventured through the forests east of our farm and become lost, as we always did, but tonight felt different; darker. Dusk devolved itself into night with more haste than ever before. Finding our way through the thick terrain felt an impossible task. As I strained my eyes looking forward, trying feebly to find our path, Kiran looked to the sky.
“There’s no moon.” He spoke softly.
I paused and joined him in studying the blank sky. He was correct, neither the moon nor the stars were anywhere to be found above; Sheer darkness shrouded all before us. Our home lay lost somewhere in the abyss. Eventually, we somehow made it back after hours of stumbling and tripping through the dark, into the path of our enraged mother. We were both banned from all further ventures through the east woods; a punishment unfit for a meager crime of unpunctuality. But Mother did not want to hear of excuses involving empty skies. As usual, after the sun had set, she did not pay mind to anything we had to say.
When the news the next day supported our claim, everything was changed. Through the cracked screen of our living room television, the short surly anchor for channel nine (or was it the gangly man on channel six? I could never remember which one my mother favored for morning news) reported the moon had never presented itself the previous night, supposedly hidden away somewhere in the shadows of the sky. Oddly, they never once mentioned the stars.
The following night, the moon made no appearances yet again. People began to worry. Others grew distrustful. The blame and suspicions bubbled and boiled like milk left on a hot stove. No one could believe our moon would abandon us, a confused world demanded accountability for what they did not understand. The Russians blamed the Americans, and the Americans blamed everyone else. It was somewhere between night six and nine that mother told us war first broke out. We sat in the dark, huddled around the small kitchen radio as it buzzed out static and news of the destruction of our world. Unlike Mother, Kiran refused to accept this new order. They argued more than ever. One heated debate, after glass three, she cast the radio against the floor, and silence claimed the dark kitchen once more. It was night fifteen when he enlisted. Defend America from the Moon-Thieving Chinese the headline of the morning newspaper read that day. Kiran had already packed and left by the time Mother woke. The next day, the paper blamed the British.
Mother grew even more reclusive and spiteful after Kiran left. At night, after a few glasses of pale gin, she would curse the skies, as if her life had purpose before the incident. Perhaps she had forgotten we had always been the same; lost.
It was night twenty-five when we received the call. Kiran had been killed in action, gunned down by friendly fire in the pitch-black night. I imagined everyone appears the same in the darkness. I often thought of the night he left, and how I had done nothing. Always when they fought, they appeared as such gargantuan forces that I would remove myself from the middle rather than be crushed between them. Maybe Kiran had made his choice to leave long before the moon.
Mother was inconsolable. On the kitchen floor, she wept harder than ever before; more than the day Father had taken the truck to fix the headlights and never returned. He had written to us but never her. The bullet the night before had not only taken my brother, but Mother as well. That evening, she did not ask me to fix her the usual drink. She simply stared at the stained empty glass on the table before her, her sullen reflection the only company she kept.
For five days she remained in this statuesque state. I tried my best to keep her fed and bathed while attending to the farm. Kiran had always been a skilled hand at raising the crops. They wasted and died under my care, turning blacker and more brittle each passing day. I was lost and alone in a land of decay.
Then, it was a hot summer night when it happened. A bright light bared itself through my window, piercing the curtains with arm-like rays. I opened the curtains to the embrace of bright beacon. The moon filled the empty sky once more.
The next day we learned the wars were ended; a culprit never revealed. After thirty nights of darkness, the jubilant anchor of channel six disclosed that the moon had been returned to its post. He never once mentioned the stars.
The following day, Mother was not frozen to her usual seat in the kitchen. The glass sat in the sink, cleaned, and shining in the sunlight from the window. Mother was outside loading the car.
“We are moving!” She sang cheerfully, her joyful pitch reminded me of the time soon after father had left and she announced that she had bought a farm, “We could use a fresh start.”
“Are you sure?” I tried not to sound worried, “are you…. OK now?”
She glowered, looking out to the forest where Kiran and I had first been lost that long month ago, before she returned her gaze to me. Her smile restored, both sincere and empty, as many times before, but now, with only I left to stand witness. “It’s different now,” she said shutting the car door. Her shadow danced upon the withering cornfields, “Whatever were we supposed to do, without a moon to guide us?”
Delun Attwooll was born in Atlanta, Georgia. He went on to graduate with a degree in English from Georgia State University. After graduation, he set off to see the world and spent the last five years living in Japan and Korea, with the majority of the time spent living and working in Tokyo. He recently returned to Atlanta when countries closed due to the unfortunate state of the world in 2020. He hopes to get back out to adventuring somewhere new soon.