This week’s Chuck Wendig challenge concerned a random story title, and the instruction to write a fun, easy story – see here. I don’t know about fun and easy, but it was very cathartic. Enjoy, or endure, The Thief of Moons.
He’s dressed in an expensive suit covered in zippers made by the best tailors in the business. The suit fits like a glove, gleaming red and blue over his taut, muscular body. Underneath, his body is a hollow, misshapen oval, fragile and androgynous, a maze of inlets and outlets. His arms and legs are thin, hard and segmented, and he moves like an insect that has been subjected to too many amputations. Only when he moves can you hazard a guess at where his face might be, for it is indistinguishable from the suit and the zippers. In his left hand is an overnight bag, like the ones doctors carry. Tiny, empty specimen jars are packed neatly in the bag. Floating in each one is a moon. Sickles, crescents, quarters, halves. But never full. He is the Thief of Moons, and he sets his sights this month’s new prey.
A scarless, deep salmon sun sets over the horizon of his hunting ground. Light bleeds over a septic world in dire need of a saviour. The land is littered with debris from where the sea inside burst long ago. A giant beached whale lies on the shore, its body striped and mottled like a failing liver. The air is thin and faintly poisonous.
As the shadows loomed taller, the Thief of Moons scurried from cover to cover, in search of that perfect circle of light. The grounds were sodden and flooded, and his feet and free hand made uneven splashes in the water as he held his bag high, keeping his precious moons dry. The light retreated for good. Now he had his chance. He placed his bag down and rubbed his red and blue hands together in delight and anticipation.
“Soon, soon.” He opened his bag and started removing the jars, arranging them in order of the size of their contents. The little slivers first, followed by crescents, eighths, quarters, and so on. There was one empty jar, filled with clear water. He took it in his hand and went on to the place where he would get the best view of the moon. There, he would hunt it down, subdue it, and capture it. Keep it safe. Nurture it to fullness if I have to.
“Oh moon,” he called in a soft, authoritative voice. “It’s time to come with me.”
There it was, hanging in the place where the sun had been. “No.” It called back. “I want to save this world.” Not quite full, the Thief of Moons observed. One more night maybe. Then, I should have bought sweets. Moons love sweets.
Still, the tantalising, shining oval remained out of reach. Slowly, the Thief of Moons unzipped the area where his mouth would have been and began to bleed. His blood mixed with the swamp slime, his weakened state bringing stars into the black sky. The waters rose, and he grew closer to the moon. He saw surprise morph into fear in its tiny craters, and saw some resemblance to someone, somewhere. A goddess perhaps. How the face of the moon looks almost human. He’d never noticed this in the sickles, the crescents, or even the halves.
“I know you.” The moon cried. “You were once the sea inside. Once you ruled these lands… why?” He whispered. ”How could you let them go to ruin?”
If the Thief of Moons had eyes to cry, he would have. None of them had spoken to him before, let alone confronted him with questions that it would pain him to try and answer. He zipped his mouth and wordlessly reached out with his jar, shaking his head. The moon seemed so small in the jar as is flitted around in apparent anguish at being in a space so confined. The sky was so vast, both in size and possibilities. Soon, there would be another moon. And soon, he would capture it for his collection.
The Thief of Moons left the place where the moon had been but no longer was. He piled his little jars back into the bag and picked them up. Shaken from the blood loss and inner existential turmoil, he tried to lift the bag but dropped it instead. When did I become so weak? He watched helplessly as water, light and fragments of glass cascaded out of his bag and ran down the thighs of the night like a waterfall.
Once, he ruled these lands as the sea inside. He could have saved them all. But he was not made to be a ruler. As the last of the moons disappeared, the sting of his own failings pierced his heart.
The Thief of Moons zipped his mouth open and shrieked, and shrieked and shrieked. Somewhere, the goddess flat lined.