The Return of the Lunar | Gale Huxley

Agathi saw what was happening on Instagram first. Someone had photoshopped Michael Jordan’s tearful face on the moon. The caption read “At least I won’t have to pay back my student loans.”

When she pulled up the news, the emergency alert system drowned out a news anchor crying into his hands. It hadn’t been this way when the fires started, spread, and never stopped. The anchors and podcast hosts had said this was a natural progression. Agathi had gotten used to carrying a fire extinguisher with her everywhere she went.

But now, the people in power were silent. The moon was all she was shown through the similar and unique perspective of every individual.

Was it the end of the world? Or did it not matter? Not because horribly, nothing mattered but because hilariously, nothing mattered.

There was no one around to help her decide so she walked outside. The moon had blocked the sun. It became the bulk of the sky, turning an eye-shielding afternoon into a deep-water day. It looked like the moon was leaning into the earth, gently, only desiring to touch just once before moving on—it’d been tethered to this relationship for too long.

Agathi unstuck her eyes from above only because of the noise that surrounded her. Groups of people passed her house. They sang and screamed. She wanted to be outraged. She wanted to roll down the street in a shopping cart.

A person stepped in front of her—tall and masked by a rat’s face that was ready to eat the hunk of cheese in the sky. The rat held up their closed fist, then flicked their fingers, throwing glitter into her face. Agathi rubbed her eyes and spat silver. Ratatouille held out their hand. She didn’t take it, even though it would have been the first touch she’d experienced in a long while.

The moon pulsed. It was a heartbeat freed from a body, too slow for the tachycardia Agathi knew. This beating prompted the rat to run. She followed their direction, which was toward the half-built Ferris wheel in the neighborhood park.

Agathi smelled funnel cake rather than the burning that had gotten stuck in her nose. She thought it would be a fitting last meal. It would represent a return to innocence—when she could hear the intuition of her body and trusted it.

Agathi let the grease soak her fingers and the powder cake her lips as she walked towards the Ferris wheel, which was now completed. It was set up in the middle of the park. The crowd clapped when it whirred to life and began to glow neon red. She stood in line, hoping to stop at the top when the world ended.

It had been forty-five minutes since the moon began to swell, seemingly pregnant with itself. It had been forty-five minutes and fifteen seconds since the first announcement.

Everything we’d dreamed was closer to the truth than the science of the situation. There was no sense to it or there wasn’t enough to explain it. News networks that remained on air sounded like bad conspiracy channels on YouTube. Agathi overheard them from people who watched their phones as the line to the ride inched forward. But most were not watching the news or commentary. She looked around at all the life that persisted.

Blankets covered the ground like a patchwork quilt, the grass heavy thread. Agathi wanted to step on each blanket to feel the soft or worn or pilled texture beneath her bare feet.

A tall flame engulfed an oak tree, but everyone was used to it. Flames licked at the heels of people as they milled around. People had a dance off with the fire.

A group of teenagers blared vaporwave and live streamed each other licking the moon, balancing it on the tip of their noses, squeezing it between their fingertips. Agathi’s slack jaw and long torso appeared in the background of a few shots. Her head appeared to be next to the moon, cheek-to-cheek.

Children chased each other, identical in their silver disk masks. Where were their parents? She saw that they too played in costumes. This wasn’t the children’s revolution, but a childlike revolution at the edge of the always unknown world. The galloping people returned their minds to the psyche of the earth; their natural state was ecstasy, both uncomfortable and peaceful.

“It’s your turn,” a woman wearing a cloak said, tapping Agathi’s shoulder from behind. Agathi stepped into the passenger car. A man wearing a SpongeBob onesie didn’t bother to close the door behind him, though he checked to see that she’d clicked the seatbelt over her hips before turning and disappearing into the crowd. The car rocked back and forth and up and down as it lifted off the ground.

She thought distance from the ground would act as volume control, but the crowd grew louder. Still, the people weren’t as loud as the moon, which sounded like an overfilled water balloon. Slivers shook from the surface of the moon like dandruff. It sprinkled all over the park and the people. Agathi held out her hand. The moon shimmered in its own light as it fell, but it looked dull in her palm. The splinter melted to water. Agathi licked it, and it tasted both sweet and salty.

The first large chunk fell as she neared the top. “Stop. Stop now,” she screamed at a child in a tux standing near the controls. Her car stopped at midnight of the Ferris wheel that had been ticking like a clock. People held out garbage bags like trick-or-treaters. They thought they would make a killing off the moon’s remains. They couldn’t believe in a definitive end, nor did they have an imagination for a society without a need for the desperate pursuit of money. Some of the lumps landed in their bags, but mostly, they were laid out cold. A hard rain began to fall.

The next pieces left large dents in the ceiling of the car. Agathi slid to the floorboards. Looking down, a few people were squashed beneath boulders. All she saw were white-gray bodies with arms and legs splayed or bent the wrong way. The craters in the mounds looked like faces, some smiling, some stoic. The faces and the people were soon obscured by a profusion of rocks and what sounded like a waterfall.

Roars of anguish blended with cries of exultation. It was as if a battle had stumbled into an EDM festival, and no one backed down. She didn’t know what side she was on.

Then, what remained of the moon popped. In school, Agathi had learned that a great flood had ended one version of the world. A book she read years later predicted that this age would end in fire. The earth was watered, but it was not a great flood. It had been balanced and thoughtful in its release. All flames were extinguished.

Only a chip of the moon hung in place. The sliver that remained could’ve been a star drawn by an untalented god.

Agathi wanted off the ride. The rat person lay under a moon chunk at the bottom. She took a piece of it with her after she climbed down then floated in the direction of home, emotion infiltrating all the water that made up her body and connected her to everyone, to earth, to the space that would never end.

Gale Huxley is from Atlanta, Georgia. She graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design with a BFA in writing. Her work can be found in The Plentitudes, Tangled Locks Journal, and The Dawn Review, among other publications.