Blood On the Moon was the first short story I wrote when I decided I wanted to try and write. This is the 2015 rewritten version (I hope it’s better than the original). It’s 2170 words long (5 single spaced pages), so print it and read it later if you want. I’ll even email it to you, if you can’t print it off the blog. Click the picture to enlarge and read the poem by the same title.
Blood On the Moon
The day had gone slowly dark, like someone was playing with a dimmer switch wired to the sun, or… as though heavy clouds were drifting slowly across the sky, intermittently blocking the sun. Dark shadows ebbed and pulsed, as they crept across the barren landscape. I looked up at a cloudless, purple sky. Purple… dark blue… I don’t know… colors had changed since the water had gone. The sun was high overhead, but seemed to be fading; losing power. It had burned too hot, for too many days, scorching the earth and drying it. And now it, too—the sun—was dying. Distant hills rose into the ugly, throbbing sky like angry blemishes on an adolescent face. In the strange light, it was difficult to tell where the hills ended and the sky began. Dusky hues ranged from a grayish blue to a deep purple. A voice from the past screamed in my mind, “PURPLE HAZE!” The surreal scene filled me with dread and despair.
The trees had died; their once leaf-filled limbs now skeletal arms and fingers stretching toward the pulsing sky begging for a taste of cool water which no longer flowed beneath their roots nor came down from the sky. The ground around the lifeless oaks and cedars, once plush with bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, and green vegetation was cracked and barren. As I walked, small clouds of blue-gray dust puffed at each step, then fell quickly back to the ground, leaving scarcely a sign that I had passed. Which was of little consequence; there was no one to find the traces of my footsteps.
Evil. That was the only explanation. A phrase or title, streaked through my thoughts: “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” It had come all right. It… something… had sucked every last drop of moisture from this planet. Water… was nowhere. Rivers and lakes had vanished, and all plant life had dried to dust. Human and animal remains were indiscernible piles of gray powder. It hadn’t occurred to me before, but everything had contained water. When the water had gone, the structure of all things changed… crumbled… vaporized.
Why me? Why am I the only one left? Or am I? Is this death? Are there others wandering beside me I can’t see? Or… am I truly alone? It seems a lifetime has passed since the last shuddering blast ceased to rock the cave where I’d hidden. I’d been hiking alone in the hill country west of Austin the day it happened.
The noise from the blasts was horrendous. Unlike anything I’d ever heard. A roaring, almost like the sound of metal being torn apart, followed by a loud rush of hot air as if the world had exhaled a dying breath. I can only assume that it has affected the whole world in the way it has affected the few hundred miles I have seen. There was nothing left now… but me… and dust.
I stayed in or near the cave during the blast period. It all happened in one day—a few hours actually. On the second day I had ventured out, but only for mere seconds. The sun had begun its burn-out, and it was unbearably hot. Within seconds, I had blisters on my face and so I quickly returned to the cave. The cave was one of many in the area west of Austin; this one a few miles east of the small settlement of Smithwick on FM 1431. The mouth of the cave was on the south side of the road and ran under the highway to the north about a quarter mile. An underground stream provided me with water. I didn’t eat—I haven’t eaten since the blasts—and the water vanished on the second day. On the third day, the cave began to crumble, forcing me out toward the unbearable heat. I cringed in the shadows and waited for what I thought was certain death.
As for dying, I vacillated wildly as to my actual state of being, wondering if I’d already died… and was in hell.
When at last the sun began to cool, I began to move; not sure where I was going, but feeling drawn toward… something. The need for water was persistent in the beginning, and, strangely, I needed very little sleep, and sought occasional shelter only out of habit. There was nothing to fear or hide from, for I was hopelessly and utterly alone.
The sky had turned strange and almost dark—the sun appeared to be growing weaker rapidly—and I had no concept of time. There had been no night or day for weeks, merely different shades of twilight. The temperature appeared to be constant. Cool and dry; very dry. The air I breathed seemed as though it were a fine dust; I could feel it as it entered and exited my lungs. It had no taste… no smell, and I wondered if it was what sustained me, for though I had no need for food, and my need for water had begun to wane, I maintained my strength and was able to go on. I felt no pain, had no needs, and emotions were becoming things of the past.
My memory ebbed and pulsed much like the sun had; images and thoughts from the past clear and vivid, then becoming jumbled and confused, even strange and surreal at times.
At some point in time, I journeyed to Odessa in search of family, knowing it was wasted energy, but feeling I should at least confirm what I knew I would find there.
Everything was without moisture and had turned to powder. Trees disintegrated at my touch. Asphalt roads were gray strips of dust winding through barren hills. No wind stirred. Stillness and silence were complete. My movements were all. The world was dust and ashes, and I thought… no… I knew… the world was dead.
Dust to dust… ashes to ashes.
Odessa—the entire Permian Basin—was gone. Where it should have been, there was a gaping hole in the earth. I stood on the east side of the canyon, staring across its enormity to a sheer wall that stretched as far as I could see to the north and south. The pit appeared to be without bottom, and in the twilight that was both night and day, it was unclear to me where the land stopped and the abyss began. I stood a distance away, not caring to step into a deeper unknown, not knowing if the wall on my side was as sheer as the one on the east. It didn’t matter really. I said a prayer for my mother and the rest of my family who’d lived there—lives revolving around the black crude—which in my mind was the reason for the chasm now stretching across the whole of west Texas. I theorized that when the moisture was pulled from the underground store of black soup, the rest turned to powder, and somehow the entire landmass was sucked into a deep and dusty black grave.
I began to walk slowly back to the east, and when I’d gone only a short distance, began to wonder where I was going and… why. I stopped. In my mind I could hear the sound of water, splashing and gurgling, as it rushed toward the Gulf of Mexico. Goose bumps rippled across my arms and my eyes closed, as I dwelt upon on the sound. I felt as though I were swaying side-to-side, as if the world were lolling this way and that, then I drifted slowly… into a mindless, thoughtless night. I slept where I stood.
I dreamed vivid, strange, chilling, and frightening dreams. Creatures came into my darkness and stood staring at me. A cat, one front leg missing, stood at my feet and looked up at me with dark, questioning eyes. It blinked, a gust of hot air blew across my feet then the cat was not there.
Shimmering dust glittered in the moonlight, then fell and mixed in with the dark dirt at my feet. Tiny, green sparks flashed and then the world was dark again. A snake slithered past. I heard a woman’s soft laughter.
A child appeared in the distance. As he grew closer I could see that he wore only a diaper. His skin was dry, wrinkled, and old. The look on his face as he came closer was blank except for the eyes. He had the same eyes as the cat, and for a moment I believed he was the cat. The world was, black, silent, void of life save for me and the small child at my feet. His mouth opened wide and an angry hiss came from deep inside him, as he swayed before me in time to a song I could not hear. Another set of eyes appeared deep in his throat, and I felt my own lips part, as the beginnings of a scream welled within my heart. Thunderous laughter exploded, jarring my silent world, and I fell backward as if I’d been shoved.
As I fell, I saw the child running across the barren land.
I awoke, still standing, my shadow stretched out before me. Turning slowly, I saw the moon—I’d not seen it since the blasts—and it was large beyond my comprehension, yet its light was dim. The ground before me was gray as ashes.
I stared at the moon, wondering if I was truly awake, and wondering too, if the moon were real. I smiled, recalling childhood stories about the man in the moon. The moon smiled back.
Pale lips curled at both ends, and then blue eyes—the deepest, loveliest blue I’d ever seen opened above them. My own mouth fell open, as I gaped at the sight, then the earth rumbled beneath me and the ground dropped suddenly. There was a thump, like a door closing, and then a gunshot cracked from somewhere to my left. Ducking, reflexively, I turned and looked into the darkness where the shot had come from. A puff of white smoke curled from the end of a hellishly long rifle the baby held to his shoulder, aimed at the moon. Turning his head slowly toward me, his grin matched that of the moon, but his eyes did not.
The child now wore a silk suit—red—and it shined against the dark curtain of the night that was his backdrop. His eyes were dark and filled with a sadness I’d know way of fathoming the depth of. Where ears should’ve been were white horns curled forward, then down. The grin suddenly turned downward and he looked away toward the moon. My gaze went with his and I saw a small hole above one of the moon’s blue eyes. The eye below the hole was growing dim and turning gray. I looked back to the child.
The child’s eyes went wide, his frown turned down even more, and he raised a fist in the air. I watched as his sad, black eyes grew until they were covering the top half of his face. As he lowered his tiny fist and ran it across his eyes, a voice in my head whispered, “He sees everything.” The fist went up above his head again and then with strength belying his size, the aged infant hurled something toward me. A moan, heavy with sorrow, filled the air, and I looked back to the moon. Blood, red and shining, was trickling from the hole above the dimming eye.
There came four quick puffs of sound at my feet, and then soft, warm lips touched my cheek. A voice whispered, “Come with me.”
Turning quickly, I saw Jesus walking away, white robes flowing behind him, His long, dark hair barely visible as it billowed and blended into the dark sky. His feet, clad in silver sandals, shone a bright light before him. Fear gripped me, as I turned away from Him and ran toward the moon. Sudden panic stabbed at my chest, as I remembered the baby—and the gun—and I veered to the right. A dreadful knowing enveloped me and I was certain should I look over my shoulder, the long rifle would be aimed at my heart. My face was warm where Jesus’ lips had touched it.
Fear fled from my mind. I stopped and slowly turned to face the evil child.
There was no one there.
The ground rolled gently beneath me.
Turning slowly, I stared wide-eyed at the place where I’d last seen the Christ. He was still there, arms outstretched, waiting patiently for me.
Bowing my head, I stared down at my dusty, unwashed feet. Cold shame washed over me, as another low moan filled the night, and the moon began to cry; a mournful, soft wailing.
I stared at the four bloodstained nails lying in the dust at my feet… and I cried with the moon.
Copyright © 1995 C. Mashburn
(Rewrite – 2015)