The Day of the Moon
Dan continued to shield his eyes for some time even after the last of the echoing thunder ceased to be heard. The hour was late in the morning, just on the verge of dawn, Dan thought, and turning toward Metro City, he started at once––this time, with his feet on the ground.
As he walked along in the increasing light of the morning, Dan looked back on his wondrous experience, and also reflected upon the dread fate that awaited those who would not head his message. My Son shall destroy this world, Dan remembered with a shudder what the Moonlight Lady said, Her pearly soft voice contrasting hard against the unbearable reality of the words.
Dan thought about his mission as he walked, too. The sun was cresting the distant eastern range, and directing gleaming bright into Dan’s eyes, a welcome warmth and light from the cool and darkness of desert night. “If they do not head my words, they shall perish, one and all!” Dan said aloud, as if to the Sun Himself. As he walked along, thus absorbed by this heavy melancholy thought, Dan took no notice of the fact that, whereas before, his raiment shone with a dim brightness of a waning moonbeam, now his attire burned bright white like that of a blacksmith’s fire. As he walked, were one to look upon his approach from the City, Dan would have appeared as a second sun arising from the west. As it was, though, no one noticed, for no one was awake enough to notice his coming into the City at all.
As Dan returned, he did not know at first which way to go, or where to begin, or what to say. But as he walked slowly down the street of the industrial district, he thought he might know where to begin. A steel mill, with thousands of workers, was just up the road on the left. The factory was in full swing with the day’s operations, pumping out hundreds of thousands of pounds of metalworks for the City and trading abroad. Thus operations necessitated a considerable work force, which Dan thought would make for a good beginning point from which to get his message spread throughout the Metro City. He resolved to go there to the factory and begin his preaching.
Coming up to the building, which was more like a little city itself than a single structure, Dan strained his neck bending his head back to look up and up as the side of the facade which rose up into a steel-blue sky above, with but a lonely cloud floating by. The door was glass, like the Cube Academy, and Dan squinted looking at it, for it shone with the brightness of reflected sunlight. He opened the door and walked in.
The business receptionist desk was set high above the head of the woman who was working there. Dan looked around. No artwork on the walls. No pictures of persons. No color. No chair. No coffee table. Just grey blue blank walls, a desk previously alluded to, and a single door which presumably led to the factory floor. Dan approached the desk which enfolded around the secretary, who was presently on the phone, and took no notice of Dan.
As she finished up her call, Dan took the opportunity to observe her. To his surprise, as he did so, a strange new sensation arose in his heart and mind. He could almost guess what she was thinking. “Not, thinking,” Dan thought to himself, “More like feeling out in words,” as if he could perceive her emotional and cognitive disposition like one observes hair color or skin tone. As he so observed her, she seemed perplexed by Dan’s presence, while still talking on the phone with someone else, by the sound of it, Dan thought a steel trader on the coast.
“If that would suit your associates, I’m sure Mr. Turner and his team would accommodate. Just send us words when you’ve made your decision. Yes. Uh huh. Ba-bye now,” said the secretary into the headset telephone apparatus mounted to her skull, and looked up at Dan. “The sign says, sir, no soliciting. Turner Steel Co. is not interested in what you are selling. So please do us both a favor, and leave please,” said the secretary in neither a cold nor heated tone, but one of utter indifference and impersonality.
“Why do you think I am here to sell something?” Dan asked, perplexed himself.
“One look at you, I knew you weren’t a client or worker. No go on, get out of here before I have to call security,” and seemed to go back to her some papers in front of her, but looked up a few times to see if Dan were leaving. He just stood there staring down at her.
“You are right. I am not a worker or a client. But I am not here to sell you anything. I am here to solicit something, though,” Dan said in patient, soothing tones.
“That’s just it, guy! There’s no soliciting! Now get on now or I’m calling security!” Dan just looked down at her dumbly. He did not want to upset the woman, but he did want to have an opportunity to speak with the scores of workers presumably behind that very door. He tried another approach.
“Listen, lady! You can call security. See if I care. But I will not leave this building until I’ve delivered my message. All I ask is that you let me have a word with your employees for a few minutes. That’s all!” Dan said, very stern but not unkind. The woman was at first taken aback by his sudden change in temperament, but at the words for a few minutes, a change came over herself, and she became heated.
“Listen, glitter-boy! If you think I’m going to catch it from Mr. Turner for stopping his presses for even a second, so some lunatic in sparkle pants can come deliver his message, you’re more nuts than I took you for. Now get out, or I will call security. You have ten seconds. Ten, nine, eight, seven…” Dan continued to stare dumbly down at her. “Five…four…” And, with a long sigh, he turned toward the door to leave, but looked back at the woman behind the bunker-of-a-desk, who had stopped her counting to continue shuffling papers, this time actually appearing to read them. After a second, she looked back up at Dan who had exited the building, and snorted and rolled her eyes into her head, then returned them downward to the present pressing business papers.
Dan walked out into the blue morning with a heavy heart. How was he to save those who would not hear him even speak? How was he to get to the heart and mind of those who had their ears stopped up? Dan’s strength and agility were demonstrably near omnipotent compared to the rest of the inhabitants of Metro City, as was made known to Dan the night prior. And, according to the promise of the Lady, Dan could not know harm while he was on his mission. Dan was, in his own mind and in reality, invincible against any physical antagonist, any bodily enemy who would oppose him. Yet, and this weighed heavily on Dan’s heart, he felt impotent, weak and small now, opposed and shown up as a fool and crazy person even by a puny woman secretary of a steel-mill factory in the outskirts of the City.
“If she stopped me from getting my message out, how am I going to get it out to fellow cadets at the Academy, or even the instructors or officials, or at the orphanage?” Dan thought aloud, utterly dismayed by the prospect. All the while feeling low, and walking down the street toward the central district, he heard railcars pacing to and fro over head, whistling high then low as they neared and passed by, and then another thought came to him: “If I can’t be heard, then I’ll be seen!” and with that began to run very quickly down the sidewalk of the street, and as railcars whizzed past, Dan started to run so fast, he quickly outpaced them. Flying along now Dan glittered with the golden beams of the morning, and looked more like a streak of light flowing through the streets of Metro City than a stunningly fast young man running to grab people’s attention, so no one noticed him.
This fact began to dawn on Dan, and so he slackened his sprint to a human speed, then to a leisurely jog, then to slow and heavy walk, without even a noticeable change in breathing. “Great!” Dan shouted aloud. Those who were coming and going, in and out of businesses didn’t notice. “I’m faster than a speeding bullet, and still no one sees me,” and, looking around at the passersby, he continued, “What’s the good of being practically omnipotent when no one even opposes you but simply ignores you?” This defeatist train of thought plunged Dan into a deep rumination which would have rapidly devolved into a spell of despair had not a single ray of light illuminated his mind to a memory of a tree in a park which withstood a shot from a blaster.
“Of course! Green Grove! I have to preach the Tree that saved humanity! I have to tell Metro City that they are not the meaning of the world! That that Tree is! I have to remind them what was lost, given up, sacrificed, to appease the wrath of the Light, that it was Light sacrificed to Light to expel the Darkness from the world! Which Darkness has now slowly crept back in and consumed it again,” Dan continued thus, to himself animated like he had an audience, though no one even noticed he was talking as he walked by. “How the Lady deigned to visit me, how She with a trembling lip,” here Dan began to swoon as he spoke aloud, “offered Her Son as a burnt offering to the Lord,” and began to weep, for the visitation’s memory was too fresh to allow for any other emotion. Thus he walked down the sunlit street weeping and talking to himself like a madman, himself all ablaze like a living sun walking about on the earth, but no one noticed.
By the time Dan came to, he noticed it was evening and the sun had past down over the mountains. He had walked all day long through the streets, talking aloud, recounting the history of Light and Darkness, by what knowledge he gained living in Aerlan––for just as his bodily strength returned to him, so too did his knowledge of the Worlds and their meanings, and what his place was in it all, which excited him exceedingly. Thus so absorbed in the torrent of names, dates, sweet teachings of the Guiding Lights, and the recollection of the beautiful persons whom the Lights inspired to heroic feats and everlasting accomplishments which Dan recollected from his previous life in Aerlan, he’d quite forgotten about his bodily needs of food and drink and rest, and so decided to amend the oversight and break his fast at a diner just at the corner, all a buzz and blaze with indigo blue and neon orange lights.
Walking up to the door, Dan looked up to see no stars, nor clouds, but the faint aspect of the Moon, shimmering silent in the sky. He stood there motionless for a moment or two too long for propriety’s sake, for as he returned his gaze to the receptionist as he walked in the door, she blurted out, “No drunkys, allowed. Go eat off your drunk somewhere else. This is a family establishment,” to which Dan, wiping the recollected emotion from his eyes, looked up at her wondering what on earth she was talking about.
“Drunkys, ma’am?” He asked, politely.
“Well, if you ain’t drunk, mister, what’ll it be? Booth, bar, or table?” the receptionist responded, quite unresponsive to his inquiry.
“Booth, please,” Dan said, as polite as before. She showed him to his table, to which Dan was about to protest but, remembering the forward nature of the receptionist, decided against it on account of not wishing to make a scene. After the coast was clear, he quietly slipped into a booth when she left his sight, and he seated himself and took up a menu and looked out the window.
Outside, it would have been dark indeed but for the panoply of florescent bulbs bedecking the train-car diner which stood fast there on the corner of the street. Dan watched persons pass by through the intersection. It was getting late, yet the night was full with the comings and goings of a motley assortment of personages. Old, young, well-to-do, poor as rags, all on some kind of errand or another, and all quite oblivious to the fact that they would all be destroyed in less than a week. One such caught Dan’s attention: a young man of about twenty-four, aimlessly walking up and down the street, holding his hand out ever so often. Dan thought this was a hobo at first, but then he saw the young man’s hand wasn’t empty but holding up and handing out pamphlets to those who would take them.
Dan ordered a burger, fries, and a cup of coffee, but found that he really didn’t have an appetite, but did have a sip or two of some black coffee. He settled his check with the receptionist who was now his cashier without a word, making his way toward to the door, he turned back to see the middle-aged woman chewing bubble gum and looking absently outside then down at her watch then outside again. Dan sighed, then went outside himself.
The night air was brisk but comfortable, and quite enlivening to Dan’s spirits, or else it was the effect of the black coffee on his otherwise empty stomach. Whatever it was, he felt rejuvenated and ready for whatever was next in store––though, had he known what was in store for him that night, he wouldn’t have been quick to say so. He had the mind to venture to Green Grove, to pay homage to the Tree Marie had shown him, and was presently tending toward the railcar platform station to do so, when he passed by the young man holding out the pamphlets.
“Want to take a walk on the dark-side? Take this!” said the young man, older to Dan by appearance, but significantly his junior.
“Thanks, young man, I mean, sir. Thanks. What’s this?” Dan asked looking at the him in the glowing gaudy light of the diner.
“Your ticket to power, my friend!” he said in an intriguing tone Dan couldn’t get out of his head for sometime after.
“What kind of power, friend?” Dan asked, playing along.
“Whatever you want! Whatever you can dream of! The pamphlet says how. Act now, though. It goes down tonight!” and gesturing as though that were the end of his commercial, he turned away from Dan then turned back one last time to grin, but as he did so Dan noticed the young man’s eyes did not reflect any of the orange and blue light of the diner, did not look like eyes at all, really, but two ominously sunken pits of emptiness. Dan turned, shuddered and made his way toward Green Grove, though still holding the pamphlet.
Once in the railcar, Dan settled himself in to the seat and looked down at the pamphlet, which was no bigger than Dan’s palm, black on the front and back with no writing on it, at least none Dan noticed at first. But, as he looked at it closer, and, whether because the light changed in the railcar, or outside, the black of the pamphlet’s cover slowly gave way to words forming apparently before Dan’s eyes. It read: You Desire to be Known. You Desire to be Popular and Famous. We are Here to Help! And as Dan read the words silently to himself, the sound of crawly, scratchy voices sounded in his mind’s ear, making him shutter again. He was about the throw the pamphlet into the nearest waste receptacle and motioned to do so, but something stopped him. It wasn’t the same source as the pamphlet. This feeling was more wholesome, which encouraged him to endure whatever it was that the pamphlet had in store for him that night.
Emboldened by this feeling of encouragement, he opened the pamphlet, though he would rather have not had he acted according to his desire, and a flood of red light streamed across his face, which emitted from the opened little pamphlet. Slowly the red light, which was pulsating and flushing in and out in intensity on the surface of the opened book started to settle itself and solidify into words of deepening and darkening red, bloody red, then into a gory purple, and finally into a deathly black. It read: You’re Wise to Choose Us. Now Help Us Help You! Come to Temple Row Tonight. We’ll Be Waiting. Then the letters dispersed back into the quivering sea of blood, and Dan closed the pamphlet with another shudder. “Temple Row?” thought Dan. “Who goes to Temple Row at this hour? They’re probably closed anyway.” Temple Row was an ancient site of numerous places of prayer and sacrifice to the different Lights, which, since the Great Council, became more or less a row of museums than places of honor and worship. These shrines were once the location of mass pilgrimages from all over the world, peoples coming offering sacrifices and praying for guidance in life and illumination from the Lights. Now, as Dan could recall from his Academy field trips there, no pilgrims, only locals from Metro City, looking on behind the red ropes and signs, at altars and artwork of a bygone era.
Since Temple Row was only a block from Green Grove, Dan decided it wouldn’t hurt anything to stop by. He reasoned, since these people were willing to help him, perhaps they were willing at least to hear him, too, so he could help them not be burned up in the tidal wave of fire in a few days. The chimes of the railcar indicated Green Grove was next, so Dan made ready to disembark. As he got up, he felt something like dust in his hand where he had been holding the pamphlet. As he looked down at his hand, he saw he did not hold a pamphlet anymore but ashes. “What in the world?” he said aloud, but his stop had come, and so he hastened out of the railcar just in time.
Coming out onto the platform, he looked down at his hand and inspected the ashes by the moonlight. He could see the outline of his hand, and some of his palm, but no ashes, nothing that looked like anything. He brushed off his hand anyway, and went down the elevator to the ground level where he proceeded a block away toward Temple Row.