Under the Moon

Submitted into Contest #74 in response to: Write a story that takes place across ten days.... view prompt

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Drama Fiction Sad

TW: suicide attempt


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Tonight, the moon is smiling down at me, her teeth glimmering in the night. But I know in a few days, I won't be able to see her at all, and my memories will be lost in the waves. So before that happens, I must recount the interesting things that have happened in the past ten days. 


~


Nine days before today, a woman visited me. She wore a black dress with a gray shawl, and her hair was dark brown and long. Around her neck was a locket in the shape of a boat. She walked towards me slowly, dragging her bare feet through the sand. The sun had just set, and the sky was still glowing pink and orange. The air started to grow colder, and I shivered. The woman wrapped her shawl more tightly around her shoulders as she drew closer. Just when I thought she was going to touch me, she sat down on the sand facing me with her legs pulled up. Then she buried her face in her hands. After a little while, her shoulders started shaking, and I heard faint sniffles that were muffled by her hands.


By now, the sky was starting to turn darker. The woman lifted her head and looked directly at me, her tear-filled eyes shining in the darkness. Her eyes narrowed, and she leaned towards me. I held my breath. Then her jaw clenched and a flash of anger swept over her eyes.


"You…"


Even though she was whispering, I could hear the venom in her voice.


"You...you ruined everything."


I shivered and accidentally touched her, causing her to move back slightly. 


"You took everything away from me."


I jumped a little as she snapped at me, her voice growing louder. The tears in her eyes were now streaming down her face, and I held my breath as her chest rose and fell rapidly. 


Reaching towards her locket, she seethed, "YOU KILLED MY HUSBAND AND MY ONLY CHILD!"


And then she buried her head into her thighs and sobbed. A gust of wind blew by and I shivered in the cold, barely missing her dress.


I was grateful that this was a small town by the ocean, and aside from a fisherman who lived with his wife and son, there wasn't anybody else nearby who would hear the woman's accusation, or so I hoped.


After the woman's sobs quieted down to whimpers, she got up. Wrapping the shawl around her once again, she retreated to the house overlooking the shore, unaware that a photograph had fallen from her dress. I inched closer and picked up the photograph. Under the moonlight, I was surprised to see the fisherman and his son staring back at me, with the words "Lost at Sea Under a Full Moon" written on the back.


That woman must be the fisherman's wife, I thought. But what did she say about her husband and child? That I...murdered them? I looked at the photograph again before shoving it into my pocket. "Under a Full Moon", it had said. I turned my gaze to the moon above me. That night, the moon was a waning gibbous, which meant the full moon must have happened three or four days before. But I don't remember anything that happened then. I don't know why, but whenever the moon is fully bare and I can see her in all of her brilliance, or when she is hidden and I can't find her, I go mad and don't remember anything I do.


But back to what happened. The next day, I was waiting for the moon to appear when I heard a rustling in the bushes next to the house. A few seconds later, a boy emerged from the bushes, wearing a black swim top and matching black swim trunks. I watched as the boy walked towards me tentatively. I had never seen this boy before, but his blond curly hair, blue eyes, small nose, and round face seemed familiar. Suddenly, my memory came back like a tidal wave. I remembered that last month, a young girl visited me frequently to play with me. But after the new moon, I never saw her again. This boy must be her brother, I thought. But what is he doing here?


The boy stood in front of me, and whispered to himself, "If there had been a lifeguard, my sister would still be alive." Then he walked closer and dipped his feet into the water. Another gust of wind blew by, and I shivered. The boy immediately jumped back and said, "I'll try again tomorrow." Then he turned around and ran off past the house into the distance, his figure becoming smaller and smaller. I thought about what the boy said about his sister. Did I kill his sister too? Is that what happened during the new moon?


I brushed those thoughts away as the moon slowly faded into view. The beauty of the moon fascinates me. Unlike the sun, the moon welcomes me to gaze at her without my eyes burning. Its soft glow is enough for me to be able to see while still being able to hide in the darkness. Every night, the moon looks different. My strength waxes and wanes along with the moon's light, reminding me that I am just an ocean, controlled by the moon. When she only shows half of herself, I am the weakest, spending most of my energy wondering what the rest of her looks like. On days when she fully reveals herself, I try my best to draw closer to her, reaching out with my arms. But I am only grasping the air and am never able to actually touch her. When she hides from me completely, I grow restless, doing whatever I can to distract myself from thinking about her. This cycle happens every month and is how I keep track of time.


That night, I was tracing the outline of the moon when I noticed the woman heading towards me from the house. Instead of dragging her feet in the sand, she was moving quickly. And instead of looking at me, she was staring at the sand. Every now and then, she stooped down and brushed the sand. It occurred to me that she was looking for the photograph. I checked my pocket, but it was no longer there. It must have been swept away, like all the other items I'd collected. After spending an hour scouring the sand, the woman left with tears in her eyes.


The next night, the boy appeared again in the same black swim gear. After staring at me for a few seconds, he stepped into the water. I decided to tease him a little, tickling his toes and ankles. Although the boy flinched, his feet stayed put, with his toes curled up in the sand. I tickled him some more until the boy began to relax and loosen his toes. This happened for a few minutes before the boy turned around and left the beach.


The woman also visited me. Not long after the boy left, the woman stepped into the sand, wearing the same black dress as before. The moon illuminated part of her face as she walked towards me, and I saw that her eyes were still filled with resentment, but with a tinge of sadness. I welcomed her with open arms and was surprised that she walked into them without hesitation. But after three steps, she suddenly turned around and walked through the shallow water back to the shore. I froze in confusion and watched as she ran across the beach and entered her house.


Each of the next seven nights, the moon's face was obscured a little more as if she was slowly putting on a mask. With the moon covering herself, I found myself growing weaker and lazier. And each night, the boy and the woman visited me, although at different times. The boy was always first, emerging from the bushes in his black swim gear. Night by night, the boy seemed to be more and more willing to play with me. I always started out by tickling him before he would walk closer until his feet no longer touched the sand and he had to use his arms and swim. The woman also seemed bolder each night, taking five, seven, even ten steps into my arms. But when the water reached her shoulders she would swim back to shore. Under the moonlight, I could see that each time, her eyes seemed to be filled with more sadness than anger.


Yesterday, the moon's mask covered half of her face, and I kept staring at the exposed half, trying to remember what the other half looked like. When I heard feet shuffling in the sand, I assumed it was the boy again. But when I turned away from the moon, I saw that it was the woman. Unlike before, she got as close to me as she could before sitting down on the sand. I thought she was going to yell at me again like in her first visit, but she just rocked back and forth, clutching her locket and staring at me. Her eyes were distant and empty, but she seemed to be thinking about something. Then she got up and walked into my arms, just like in the previous nights. But this time, she seemed to walk as if she were trying to head somewhere. I tried pushing her back, but she kept walking. The water was at her waist when I saw the boy walking along the beach. Then without a warning, he stopped and stared in my direction, probably surprised to see another person here. By the time he stepped into the water and started swimming, the woman's shoulders were about to be submerged.


Annoyed by how the woman seemed to ignore me, I pushed back at her harder. The boy started swimming faster towards the woman. I realized that this was the farthest from shore the boy had ever swum. Suddenly, I heard the boy yelling. The woman stopped and turned around to see the boy thrashing his arms, his head bobbing in the waves. Then to my surprise, she started swimming toward the boy. I stopped pushing and watched as she reached the boy and started dragging him to the shore. 


Once they were safely back on the shore, the woman wrapped her shawl around the shivering boy and whispered angrily, "What are you doing out here, going into the ocean at night by yourself? If it weren't for me, you would be dead."


And if it weren't for the boy, you would probably be dead, I thought.


The boy snuggled into her shawl and said wistfully, "My sister drowned last month, and I've been practicing to be a lifeguard so I can save others."


There was a long pause. A tear trickled down the woman's cheek, and she patted the boy's back. "You already have. You saved me."


~


Tonight, the woman and the boy walk side by side on the beach, and I know that both of them will always remember what happened under the moon.


January 02, 2021 00:29

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2 comments

Ian Mac Vicar
00:29 Jan 08, 2021

I enjoyed this story. It was a bit confusing at first trying to figure out who the protagonist was. Once that epiphany dawned on me it all made sense, and I thought this author writes as I do, teasing the reader by hiding the full identity of the protagonist and having a little "twist in the tale" at the end that takes the story in a different direction in the style of Jeffrey Archer. Well done, I enjoyed it and look forward to reading your work.

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Kimberly Yu
22:31 Jan 10, 2021

Thank you for the feedback! I'm glad it eventually made sense. The hardest part about writing this was keeping the protagonist's identity a little bit of a mystery without making it the main focus of the story.

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