The Moon Just Winked at Me: A Group Writing Project

About the Authors

1 Celia Daniels, Ohio – June 13, 2018
2 Ariel Fagiola, Colorado – June 20, 2018
3 Jenna Glover, California – June 27, 2018
4 Morgan MacVaugh, Pennsylvania – July 4, 2018
5 Hayli McClain, Pennsylvania – July 11, 2018
6 Michelle Sogge, Arizona – July 18, 2018
7 Carolyn Janecek, Utah – July 25, 2018

About Dually Noted

Dually Noted is TBL’s exciting group-writing project. New and established writers from around the world come together to create one ongoing story through weekly installments. If you would like to add the next section, shoot us your 500-word addition by Friday night. Our editor will publish the best submission at the beginning of each week.

The Moon Just Winked at Me

by the TBL Writing Community

Celestial Bodies

After Tinder’s algorithm drags me through another bad date, I make a desperate update to my profile: F, 27, looking solely for celestial bodies.

The heavens respond.

“How u doin’?” – @europanties

“I do long-distance” – @chironiclover

“U up?” – @mercurialtongues, four times before I can breathe, let alone type out a response.

The phrasing is familiar, but the tone is not; my new suitors speak in vacuums, space that demands to be filled. It’s addictive, the way they make me feel needed.

I’m in the middle of crafting careful responses when the moon appears on my screen.

“I work nights,” she tells me without preamble, “but I can meet you face to face when morning comes ‘round. Do you like breakfast?”

I haven’t eaten breakfast since I was in high school, but she sends a picture with her ping, and I—

I reply “yes” and “when” and “where?”

I’ll tell her, when we meet, that I didn’t open the attachment. The lie will make her clutch her soft sides with laughter.

The truth is that her photo is less of her than it is of me. She’s there in the framing, fingers in the shot, and I’m somewhere in the spinning blue and green, but it’s her hands that hold me, and her hands that I recognize first in the café when I’m trying not to look like a creep.

As I sit, I ask her what prompted her interest. I wait for her to lie, too. She brushes her hair away from her face and reveals her pockmarks; just another woman with PCOS or too broke to afford Accutane. She motions to the cup of coffee she’s not holding and smirks as I add cream.

“At first glance, I wanted a fuck buddy,” she says, then giggles as I choke. “You happened to be nearby. Now I think I have a thing for the things I orbit. I’m big on dancing without touching, you know. We could try that for a while.”

“I’ve gotten too good at not touching lately,” I say, wiping coffee off my chin. “You’ve seen the news, right? People are cracking apart like glaciers. I want someone who won’t break.”

The moon reaches out and takes my sweating hand. She studies the hills of my knuckles before bringing them to her cheek. Her eyes, punctuated by purple craters, gleam in the sunrise.

Breakfast ends with my yolk on her lips and her number burning a hole in my phone. She grins at me before marching down the street, while her hips (because I’m staring) alter gravity. I want to follow her, but I shove my hands into my pockets, instead, and content myself to watch until she disappears.

She turns the corner.

My phone buzzes.

When I check it, my laughter is coffee-tinged.

There is space between us, space around us, space living within us, but the moon—she winks at me. And space doesn’t feel so empty anymore.

 

 

 

Moon Beamed

It was hard to remember the last time Moon was this bright.

We were quite fond of each other, Moon and me. I disliked daytime, so Sun and I were never as close. Her stories made me smile and her warmth soothed my deepest pains; but Moon understood me.

Every night when I woke, I’d stretch my wings, clean the dirt out of my feathers, and note my rumbling stomach. When Moon wasn’t feeling so strong, the nights felt hazy, neurotic, making all the forest creatures cranky. I wanted to feel special with Moon, but on nights like those, I didn’t.

“Stop making it about you,” Clyde would scoff as he trimmed his talons on a whetstone.

But when the Moon was this bright, she felt directly related to me. I flew around, seeing clearly, swooping with ease, answering my hunger.

The stream babbled more merrily. Crickets played in groups, harmonizing and smiling throughout each round of song.

My heart raced as the night went on. I quickened my pace, devouring more, feeling full and alert. The Moon’s glow glistened off my white feathers: I was my own moonbeam.

Sun would always show her face on the forest too soon. So many welcomed her presence and cheered as they left their holes, dens, and nests. I held back a groan, not wanting to be rude. I knew Sun and Moon spoke about us.

I returned to my nest, still cool to the touch from the night’s crystal stare.

But, as I closed my eyes and tucked away my beak, there was a shriek, a clash, an overwhelming brightness. I had barely opened my eyes before the air began to shake and the trees began to groan, my neighbors spilling from their slumber, full of fear.

I opened my eyes fully and there was Sun and Moon. I’d never seen them so close: they never spoke at this time of day, when the night’s shadows descended back into slivers and Sun’s shine invaded the darkest crevices.

It was nearly too bright to see. Creatures around me began to murmur with confusion and impatience:

“What’s happening?”

“I can’t move. . .”

“Can you feel your tail?”

I then realized my body, too, was frozen, yet I felt calm. It was like a cloak of serenity had wrapped itself around my talons and wove up, up, around me. With my wide eyes, trying to ignore the intense heat that threatened to burn my corneas, I saw Sun and Moon talking before the forest. No, not just talking; yelling, cracking, splitting branches, and causing rain to envelope the space between them.

Something inside propelled me to move closer to Moon, to feel her cool pearlescent energy run through me. But I still could not move.

We caught eyes, Sun and me. She looked so stressed, pleading behind her golden heat.

We caught eyes, Moon and me.

She smiled. She winked.

And it all went dark. 2    

 

 

 

Dancing Without Touching

It was a heavenly gala for their corner of the universe and Earth was bored.

He didn’t mind these events, even liked them sometimes. But eternity never stopped, and for them, it rarely changed. He stood in his spot to please Sun, the host and surveyor of the festivities, allowing the tempo of time and the rhythm of his cousins to move him along in their cosmic dance.

Splashes of color and wisps of smoke filtered by him, vestiges of merrymakers in the corner of his vision as Earth deigned a glance around. He idly wished this were a masquerade where Venus pretended to be Sun, and Sun Moon, and—

Moon?!

Earth looked back around, eyes searching and body slowing to match reality to memory.

Mars bumped his shoulder causing him to trip once, twice, before he found his rhythm again, but Earth hardly noticed.

It was Moon, but not as Earth remembered her. She had always danced by him, movements perfectly matched to his. Earth struggled to come up with memories of her, their time in the gala, conversations, anything, but he came up blank. She was always just there, a part of his universe so consistent it became invisible.

But now her movements gave their music meaning, their dance purpose. Her arms swung fluidly out to the tips of her space, and Earth traced the curves of her body as she moved: creamy grey skin with peaks and valleys and ripples that spoke a millennium of stories, glowing with something new and entirely her own.

Earth sped up on the next pass that would take them closer together, heart hammering in its desire for a closer look. He passed her, felt the air between them grip him, for one brief second uniting them together in the same space before thrusting them apart.

Earth closed his eyes, basking in the decadence of his own imagination, submerging himself in the sense of Moon, the wisp of her presence like a cool fragrance on the wind, all around him and out of reach.

Something brushed against his arm. It was miniscule, and for a moment Earth felt it was his imagination filling in the gaps of his newly woken desire, but it lingered, tingling through his body. He opened his eyes.

And there was Moon, drifting further away from him, but looking back at him with silvery eyes that twinkled like her friends the Stars. She smiled, and Earth realized he had been staring at her for the better part of a decade. And Moon knew it. He snapped his eyes to Jupiter, but they roamed back to her of their own accord.

She was still smiling at him and together they danced without touching, but she stirred in him more than Earth ever knew was possible.

Moon twisted, stretching out her arm, arching her spine, putting on a performance just for him, craning her neck to offer Earth an impish wink before she turned. 3   

 

 

 

The Bigger Man

The moon’s smile, a scythe-like crescent, glittered at me. Trails of stars cascaded down to the treetops in the twilight. Darkness was falling faster than my footsteps. Every tree looked like every tree before it. Everyone hears stories about idiots getting lost hiking, and I had always thought, “Wow, map much?” But now, darkness was falling, and I was the idiot. It was suddenly a shame that all of those tales tended to end with someone never returning.

“Nice day for a hike, friend. Would you like to buy a toy?”

I turned. A man, alarmingly gaunt, sat hunched on a stump behind a table of wooden trinkets. An oak tree hovered behind him, dangling spider webs like strings into his dusty hair. I stared. He seemed to stare back, but his eyes were closed, so it was impossible to know.

“It’s almost night,” I said in response.

The man cocked his head and nodded and as he did, the toys on the table chittered with movement.

“Then maybe you’d like to take over for me? Night shift, if you will.”

I stepped closer and picked up a figurine. It was shaped like an elf and was no bigger than the palm of my hand. Two strings stretched tight through the torso and dangled its limbs in place. It had a wicked smile underneath its trailing hair. Small eyes pierced mine like pinpricks. “How did you do that?”

“Do what?”

“Make them move?”

Wind rustled through the oak’s branches and the man shrugged. As he did, the carving’s wooden limbs wriggled in unison. “They’re toys. They’re supposed to do what their owner makes them do. Imagination­­… er—what not.”

“They’re your toys then?”

“In a way.”

I rolled my eyes up to the star-scape, growing brighter against the night’s velvet blanket. The moon danced in its place and the man’s shoulders shook as if he were laughing, though no sound came out.

“You’re frustrating, really,” I said. The toy buzzed in my palm.

The movement stopped. The man looked at me with his eyes closed. “No. See, anything smaller than another is the latter’s. See what I mean?”

“No.”

The man leaned forward. His breath was rancid and what teeth he still had were black.

“We are all just the bigger man’s toys,” he whispered, glancing upward.

I followed his gaze up, and the moon chortled and winked its grey crater. It rolled in the sky, and the strings of stars grew taut towards earth. There was the sound of wood splintering and the oak tree straightened. The spider webs pulled the man upright and the doll followed suit in my hand. Its silken hair—it had to be corn silk—dripped through my fingers and wove around the man’s. His were shards of bone.

“What… happens when the bigger man’s toys wear out?”

The man opened his eyes. One was a hollowed black hole, the other was a milky orb.

“He replaces them, naturally,” he said. “Night shift?” 4     

 

 

 

The Sky-Sweeper

I knew it’d come back by the way the frosted moonlight thawed off the lawn, like a light dusting of snow suddenly melting away under a soundless sigh from God Himself in Heaven. I looked up at the swollen moon my mama called pregnant at times like this, and I knew instantly it had to be the Sky-Sweeper, because there was nothing else it could be.

The tale goes like this, as Mama told me, as her mama told her and Grandmama’s mama, I’m sure, told her: the Sky-Sweeper’s a majestic thing out of time and place, something hardly anybody knows about or believes in. It can take up the whole sky all at once, and it doesn’t really fly, exactly, but slides upside-down across the sky, the way a pond skater traverses the water. It also moves so quick that the odds of catching sight of it are astronomically rare.

Only the honest and handed-down-through-generations believers ever see it. They’re the ones out in the fields in the middle of nowhere in the dark humidity of nautical nights in deep summer, who are young at heart all their lives yet seem to be a hundred years older than the year they were born. The brave people who are quietly afraid all of the time. Yes, those people. My mama, for one, but I’m afraid of whether I’ve been left out.

She saw the Sky-Sweeper straight when she was eighteen and brokenhearted. She told me you have to know what you’re looking for, or else even staring straight at it, you’ll just take it for the moon winking at you—a tease of the mind—and think you imagined it and move on, as any normal person would.

My mama was never a normal person a day in her life, and thank God, or else she would have seen the man who’d left instead of the baby who’d come, and where would I have been?

Perspective, she always told me, is everything.

She saw the Sky-Sweeper’s velvet wings caress the sky, its eyes like stars that blinked at her in surprise as it paused over the bulging moon, blocking it, a biblical-sized thing that only made a sound as soft as sliding bare feet through bed sheets. And for a moment, they just stared at one another.

Mama said, “Hello, Sky-Sweeper. I’ve waited a lifetime for you,” even though, in fact, her lifetime reached forty-one, not eighteen. She told me how she rubbed her mountainous belly all full of me and said, “You look over my girl one day, right?”

She told me how the Sky-Sweeper, she could swear, bowed its head and swept a promise with its seven comet-trail tails before soaring away, shining the moonlight back across on the tears on my mama’s face.

I think I believe her—I think have to, just as I always wanted and tried to—because now it cast its shadow over me again.

And, damn, I almost saw it. 5    

 

 

 

 

Tł’éé’honaa’éí

The moon is waning when he steps out of the library.

The night wraps around him, comforting and ominous as it often is for those who grew up wandering around in it. Even now, away from his childhood home, the dark and he are well acquainted. He spends too many nights huddled in the library until it is well past the next day’s mark, has learned to walk his way home with just one streetlight to guide him.

Tonight, he walks with a friend. She is one of the few he has, given his shyness and the untrustworthy stares that usually greet him when he walks into a room.

“Thanks again for walking me home,” she says lightly, their pace slow and calm as their feet hit the concrete sidewalks, and he nods.

“No worries.”

She sighs, long black hair ruffled by a breeze that whips up the smell of garbage from a nearby trash can. They both grimace, and she lets out a short laugh.

“Bet you didn’t have to deal with those smells at home, huh? All that open land—lots of fresh air, I bet.”

He pauses. There is little he can say to that. He wants to tell her that an outsider couldn’t understand what it’s like to live on a place that is their land, but not. A wide expanse of open space, but fractions of what they had before. He doesn’t know how to speak with her about the loss, the violence of it being taken by her forefathers.

That’s the tragedy of it. He is different enough to other students to be interesting, but too different for them to try and fully understand. He does not fit.

“I prefer horse manure to your garbage cans,” he tells her. She snorts and gives him a playful shove; he shoulder-checks her back, grinning, and she stumbles with a laugh.

“Well ain’t that cute. Redskin found a girl.”

They both pause, and turn. There are two young men in the alley nearby. He recognizes them from a class last semester. Worry pools in his stomach at the memories.

“Keep walking,” he tells her.

“What’s your problem?” she asks them instead, and it all happens so fast from there.

Words are exchanged. One raises a hand to hit her, and he steps in. There’s a glint, and pain shooting in his side.

And then he’s looking up at the moon.

He remembers, too late, being five years old and sitting on his amá sání’s knee, staring up at the night sky with her. She had pointed up at the waning moon and reminded him, “The moon tells us our futures, shicheii. Look to it for guidance, and warning.”

Right now, the moon is winking at him.

“Don’t close your eyes,” says a crying voice, and he tries to reach out a hand to comfort it.

“Shináá’ ąą’ át’é,” he tells the air, dizzy. My eyes are open.

The moon winks at him again, and then blinks out. 6    

 

 

 

 

 

Eating the Moon

I started with rice crackers: round, white crisps with bumpy craters. I would hold one up to the sky and take a bite each night she waned. I’d go through a whole box before I got the shape just right. I started buying those mini cheese wheels and carved the moon’s craters out with my fingers. Gnawing the crescents from under my nails, I’d hear them splinter before I realized I’d bitten down too hard.

Someone once told me our loved ones watch over us from the sky. That night, I dreamed of a tornado: its tail touching down at the foot of my bed, whipping up the sheets into a phantom. It caught me by the ankle and flung me into space amongst the ghosts. They drew the air right out of my lungs. This is what dying does, I thought. It makes them miss Earth so much, they’d steal the life from their beloved, just so they could stay a little longer. When my eyes rolled inward, I saw the moon with her maw gaping. Her boulder-like teeth closed around me.

I broke the latch on my window trying to get it undone. I leaned out, seeing how round she was for the first time that night. No wonder she didn’t die of loneliness among all those suffocating ghosts. She was gluttonous: swallowing everyone who’d ever loved someone else.

I started with rice crackers. I carried them with me and offered them to anyone who looked hungry. I wrote down their names and if they liked them. That’s one thing to remember someone by.

I got detention for cracking open the three-hole punchers in middle school. The librarian caught me shaking one above my head, tiny white circles fluttering into my mouth. I gagged whenever the paper stuck to my tonsils. I wanted to know what my classmates’ papers tasted like—I could remember them by their report cards and tardy slips. While others would slowly forget, I would remember.

I developed an appetite for mixtapes when CDs became popular. After my third visit to the hospital, I admitted there were better ways to hold onto someone.

Leaking through the shutters, a moonbeam led a path up her thigh and I grazed my teeth along it. I traced the scarred pits on her skin with my tongue. I called them craters. For a short time, we were two moons feasting on each other. She waned faster than I did.

I couldn’t seem to hold onto anyone; changing jobs, missing rent, moving out, breaking up, mourning. I ate bottle caps. White thimbles. Shattered bowls. It was a lightbulb, in the end. White-hot on the balcony. I looked up at the moon as I bit down, thinking, how can one person mourn so much? And I swear, she winked at me.

The moon is so integral to our world—what would happen if the moon suddenly winked at you? This collection explores all the possibilities spurred by a world with a winking moon. So, tell us your 500-word stories in this setting! Feel free to borrow characters and locations from other installments. Your section can stand alone or build on what came before. Send us your submissions by Friday for consideration!