On April 26th, I pack up a piece of the moon. Of course, I don’t actually know, or even care what the date is, but the reasons for its significance are twofold; the humans do, and this time, it’s late enough where I can secure energy for the entirety of next month. The drawstring bag tightens silently as I lump the wheat coloured chunk into its charcoal depths. Even in the few seconds that I held it, I could feel the healing aura seep into my cosmic latte pores, refuelling my social battery to a dangerous level. I will not, I decided, turn into preppies like the rest of them. They were disgustingly happy, jumping around like monkeys, even sitting on the edge of the circle and swinging their legs to the rhythm of their fluttery chatter. Most of them I knew, but even the ones I didn’t, I could somehow tell that the reason for their social enthusiasm was not due to their moonpieces. They were all inherently talkative, neurotypical even.
It almost looked like a cult, the process of removing and replacing tiny chunks of the moon which produced the twinkling effect the humans loved to romanticise. And I guess that was the point; giving the humans a sense of hope within their hapless chaos. Maybe someday I would feel that sense of responsibility for the creatures on earth too. The full moon didn’t bring with it that potential though.
‘Aelia, you know you can’t put your moonpiece there…’ Lyerson’s warm touch on my fingers initiates a reactionary jerk as my hands pull the moonpiece away from the empty space I removed a chunk from earlier. I hadn’t even meant to replace it with my own, but I guess my hands naturally carried out the process as I mused about my counterparts who actually just felt like my counters. My face seemed to show this mishap too, as Lyerson’s face softened, warm as their hands.
‘Distracted by the hubbub of the full moon, huh?’ The sparkles in lieu of dimples on the corners of their mouth appeared, as their sympathetic smile worked in tandem to gently extract the dull moonpiece from my cold hands. They knew I was too embarrassed to answer, and assured me that they would replace the moonpiece on the shadow side, miles away.
‘But won’t your energy dissipate…’ I started, not abashed enough to forget how quickly an almost dead moonpiece can sap a positive disposition.
‘Oh don’t worry, Maggie has been on an uphill trajectory for the last few weeks, so I’ve got quite the stock of good ener-’ Lyerson abruptly stops, the sparkles suddenly disappearing as they cast their gaze downwards. I knew what was coming, and felt myself burning up with fluster. Please don’t please don’t please don’t start with the pity please please please-
‘I-you know, what I mean is that, mmm,’ Lyserson’s usually composed voice cracks as they try to regain control of the situation, but I was already starting to stand up. Wanting to get away from the situation as soon as was alienly possible, I mustered a faux smile and made to leave off on small talk, but Lyerson beat me to it.
‘I better go replace this…but what I mean to say Aelia, is that. Well, I am quite sure you’ll be tethered to a human soon. From what I can see, you’ve already made some really great progress within yourself. Catch you later,’ and with that, they propelled themself off the bright crater.
I know it wasn’t their fault. Everyone loved Lyerson, and everyone loved talking about their humans, especially the ones that were doing well. It wasn’t Lyerson’s fault that once they started talking about Maggie, all they wanted to do was praise her efforts on Earth. It wasn’t their fault, it wasn’t anyone’s fault, yet I hated them for it. I hated that they each had their respective humans, had always had their humans, while I never did. And I probably never would.
The moon had always seemed sympathetic. Sporadically, when I was procrastinating on my schoolwork, I would look out my window and be pleasantly surprised with its murky glow. Tonight, I look at it and think about just how unaware it is of its own significance, especially today.
With everything off, the moon provides the only source of light in my room. Its warm glow reflects in the diamonds of my shalwar kameez, which hangs neatly ironed on the back of my door. I wouldn’t be caught dead in Pakistani clothes on any other occasion, let alone something like this. It was gorgeous and modern; a deep green and pale yellow diamond embroidered flower on a hot pink crop top, a long skirt in the same palette, and a green robe that spanned the length of my body. It was too gorgeous, too cultural. In the throes of living an Australian life with a Pakistani family, I saved the abundance of my Indian outfits for the eyes of my extended family only.
In the throes of wanting to kill myself, I saved the abundance of my teenage angst for nights with the moon. I wouldn’t be able to let it show tomorrow; my extended muslim family simply did not believe in mental struggle.
My mind wanders back to the moon, its perennial innocence, its innocence today. What were the chances that a full moon coincided with Chaand Raat, the eve before Eid Al-Fitr. As the whole family customarily gathered around the moon an hour earlier, my aunt and uncles remarked how Allah had specially blessed us this Ramadan.
‘Cringe,’ I had laconically dm’ed Dinali, my best friend.
‘Wait, isn’t Eid tomorrow?’ she had replied within seconds, adhering to earlier messages that frantically read ‘extended family round in an h0ur, pls be awake need moral support!!!!!’
‘Yes’, I cautiously replied, eyeing my uncle for fear of his imminent tirade about my generation constantly on their phones.
‘So why is your family over today?’
‘Chaand Raat,’ my uncle's eyes briefly scan me, lingering for a moment, like a threat, before continuing the conversation with my dad.
‘Girl I’m Sri Lankan, you know idk what that is.’
I hated that this explanation would require a substantial amount of attention to my phone, so I excused myself, quickly hopping past the back of my chair to my washroom. Tired of sitting, I decide to get some extra steps in and pace the bathroom while locking in an Instagram voice note to Dinali.
‘Soooo you know Ramadan right? How I’ve been fasting for a month in order to show my appreciation for food and the blessings I have from Allah and bla bla bla. Anyway, you know how after Ramadan they have like two festivals called Eid, yeah? Well the first one is the more...fun and non-slaughtery one. It’s called Eid Al-Fitr, and the eve before it is called Chaand Raat…when the moon is spotted and everyone goes out to celebrate and hang out with family and stuff. Chaand Raat literally translates to Moon Night-’ Instagram customarily cuts the voice note off at a minute and sends it to her. I start another.
‘And like…it just so happened that today was a full moon, which has never happened on a Chaand Raat before. I mean it’s like cool, I guess. Like I said, my uncles and aunts went absolutely fucking berserk for it, claiming that Allah was for real looking out for us this Ramadan and whatnot. I swear to god, I don’t know how I revel in their bullshit sometimes. Okay I have got to go now before my entire family starts getting suspicious. Besides this voicenoteisabouttocutoffanysecondnowbyeeee-’
I hurriedly run out of breath while I sit my phone atop the cool marble counter. This way, it would actually look like I’d just used the bathroom for a long call. As I rest it meticulously on the edge, the side of the metal phone case glistens. The source was coming from the vermilion pricked blades poking out the edge of my cupboard mirror. The colour was fresh. I knew because a) it was the work of merely a few hours ago, and b) some of the miniscule liquid had dropped onto the white sink, speckling it with tiny red dots. I grab a piece of tissue, dab it on the red so as to not leave streaks, and get rid of the evidence down the toilet. At least the sound of the flush will make my trip to the washroom even more real.
The vivid memory of the colour seeps into my mind, filling the crevices with thoughts that I had trained myself not to dwell on right before bed. Tonight, it was particularly hard though. Despite everything that I complained about in my voice notes to Dinali, a part of me didn’t believe what I believed. What if Allah does actually exist? Surely this life had to have some sort of higher purpose to it? And if not Allah, surely another deity or spiritual being was looking out for us in this hellhole? The moon probably knew. It’s too magnificent and pure not to know the secrets of the universe. And while I eventually drift off contemplating God, I swear I see a part of the moon fall into darkness and out again, in the span of maybe a second. And though this was likely my eyes faltering at the mercy of sleep, I likened this state, and the moon to myself. Most times it is a half moon, but sporadically, it’s full. It always shines on the side everyone can see, but is perennially dark on the other. And sometimes, that darkness can’t help but show.
At their core, they were benevolent aliens. That’s how the humans might’ve referred to them if they really knew them. Instead, they called them Stars. It was a two way relationship, except they didn’t know we truly existed outside of their tangible existence. In the olden days, they were mostly convinced that the Stars were inextricably tied to their fate. Their alignments were their peace of mind, and this was the closest they ever got to knowing them. Now, some of them felt it through energies, the spiritual ones who tried to exude good energy that would boomerang back in the form of good karma. Others tied their fortune to specific God’s, the kind that bloodshed and carnage were justified for. But it didn’t matter what, or who they believed in, or when they believed it; they were to help them all the same.
They existed in the space between the cosmos. Hopping from planet to planet, sustaining themselves in the way humans eat food. The most essential part of this process was gathering energy and healing from the moon. Half moons were more than enough to do the job. The Stars would reverently take out a piece of the glimmering side of the moon, not enough that would be visible to a human eye of course, but enough to give them the energy equivalent to a human overdosing on cocaine thrice. Full moons happened monthly, and were occasions of celebration as Stars could collect a single piece and use it for up to years. With the amount of harvesting this brings on, the next generation of Stars don’t have to pick at the moon as much, leaving it as full and brilliant as it always is to inspire the humans. With the energy of the moon, the Stars travelled back through space, shining for the world to see. We were so respected, that some Stars’ humans would go on to write poems, books, movies, even journal articles about us. They inherently didn’t need any motivation, but that would have been enough to keep them loyal to the humans forever. They would go on watching over them, filling them up with good energy for the next day, intermittently intervening in their affairs through the power of simply supplying them with the urge to look up at the night sky. When they had used up our half moonpieces, they would replace them on the bright side of the moon, either with the same amount of glow or more. Never less.
That was all if you were a normal, functioning star. If you were born a Star like me, your brain chemistry just didn’t align with the rest. It was unusual, the human mind wasn’t supposed to transfer over to our community. Ours was supposed to be, had always been, strong and immune from the mental health issues we supported our humans with. Sometimes, our presence in their life was too diametrically opposed for their minds to handle, and we would need our emergency intervention teams to try and alleviate the damage. But their problems never presented themselves in us. After all, that was what the healing energy from the moon was for. But I had been born different. Even the aura of a full moonpiece couldn’t get me to a level a quarter of the level everyone else did. It got me the level equivalent of a human who had overdosed on cocaine thrice, but the ugly part. I didn’t get the energy, I just died, and there was nothing to resuscitate me. As if I wasn’t already judged enough by the saccharine smiles of the other Stars, I couldn’t even harvest pieces of the full moon. I fully needed them to barely hang on, and I was the sole depleter of the whole community. They could never tether me to a human without the high risk of death of the latter. When a full moon came around, I wasn’t allowed to put my piece back on the bright side of the moon. I actually depleted the energy from it, sucked out everything until it resembled a rotten mass that was only fit enough to be thrown somewhere around the dark side.
I look down at earth, the hole in my chest empty as ever. I’m usually immune to the light pollution, the pricks of life and my lack of connection to a single one always had me feeling worse than before. Tonight, however, it was particularly hard not to notice the intermittent flashes of light coming from somewhere in Australia. It wasn’t hard to see; the Stars were blessed with 100/100 vision. Due to this, I could also immediately tell that the flashes were a form of Morse code, something I had probably inadvertently actually picked up on something during the community lectures on ‘Fascinating Human Ideas’. I was surprised how easily I was able to decipher the message, and at the bubble of feeling brewing under my skin. My skin, which now had the faintest hint of a dull sparkle in it, pulsing on and off like a weak heart. This had never happened before, and from the stares of the surrounding Stars, it was clear they knew it too.
I woke up with a jolt, the feeling of falling had my heart pulsing on and off like it was desperately trying to keep me alive. Now awake and alert, I instinctively reach for my phone to check the time, irritating myself after I realise where I had left it. The image of the bathroom sink threatens to appear again, but I grab my torch off the bedside table and turn my attention to the sky instead. Sometimes, when I couldn’t sleep, I would have this ineffable urge to talk to the sky in the only way I could. Tonight, the full moon cast its sympathetic gaze upon me, as if it knew I had been questioning the extent of its knowledge earlier.
Off on. Off on. Off on off on off. On. And on and on I went, turning my portion of the sky ablaze with the clinical light, asking the heavens to give me a sign, any sign, that there was something out there.
‘Is there anything or anyone out there as fucked up as me?’
‘Are you there, God?’
‘Is anyone listening?’
‘Is anything listening?’
‘I promise to eat all my vegetables if you just give me a shout or something.’
‘I promise to stop cutting myself if you just-’
‘Surely send me a shooting star…’
And though I could have attributed it to my torch, I felt as though it was something more. The patch of sky directly above me gave off a slight warmth, almost as often as my flashes. As a test, I turned off my torch for a few seconds, anticipating whatever it was in the absence.
There it was, and if I squinted my eyes, I could make out the blurry outline of a star.
It was almost as if I had summoned it from nothing, like the light from my torch had been engulfed by the sky and spit right back at me in the form of a tiny ball of heat. And though it wasn’t the brightest star, I noticed that it was right atop the moon, making the latter seem as magnificent as ever. I had never really noticed the stars in this way before.
Maybe this was my star.
Whoever it was, they were pondering the existence of the divine. Their questions had seared through me, as if I was right there, on earth, reflecting a mirror back on myself. It seemed as though my body had instinctively reacted to this too, as the heat which now emanated from it was the result of a matte shine, not nearly as bright as my counterparts, but brighter than I had ever been. Out of my peripherals, I see Lyerson back a few paces away from me, the only Star giving off a small, genuine smile.
For the first time, I’m there. I’m listening. Maybe I couldn’t be a shooting star, but I could be their Star. And maybe, for the first time, someone could be my moonpiece.