When confronted by a malevolent creature composed of gossamer light, a protective father ultimately becomes the one in need of safeguarding, by an unassuming hero…
by: Frederick Foote
My six-year-old startles me a question, “Daddy, the moon has fallen hopelessly in love with me. What should I do?”
I put down my newspaper and give Ala my full attention. “What? What are you saying about the moon?”
“Daddy, she slips into my room almost every night. She dances and sings a lullaby to me and promises me the night skies and sweet dreams.”
“The moon in the night sky? Are you talking about our moon?”
Ala shakes her head in frustration. “Our moon. The only moon we have Daddy. With the glowing lullaby.”
“Come sit with me and help me understand.”
Sitting by my side, Ala holds my hand. “At first, I thought it was a dream. A wonderful dream of moonbeams weaving my hair and whispering poems in my ear. But—”
“But what? What made you think it was not a dream?”
“Luna left me gifts made of moonbeams, stardust, and magic stuff. “
“Luna is the moon, right? And these gifts, do you still have them?”
Ala nods, yes. “Luna was so kind. At first. I gave her gifts too.”
“Sweetheart, what did you give Luna?”
“A song I wrote for her. And I dreamed a special dream for her.”
“Is that all you gave her?”
Ala smiles brightly. “And stories I made up for her. She loves them.”
“That’s good. Do you still have her gifts? Can I see them?”
“Sure, but you can only see and feel them in the moonlight. Daddy, they are amazing.”
“You said Luna was kind. Did she change?
Ala frowns. “Well, at first, we just played hopscotch, tag, and hide-and-go-seek in my room and then throughout the house. And then in the backyard. It was so much fun. I couldn’t wait for nighttime to come.”
“Okay. How long have you been playing with Luna?”
“Weeks and weeks. Three or four, I think.”
“So, when did she stop being kind?”
Ala frowns again. “A week ago. She wanted me to come live in the sky with her and tell her stories all the time.” Ala squeezes my hand. “I told her I could never leave you and Mom and my stinky brother, Randy. Luna begged me, and she cried, and when I told her to leave, she got so mad.”
I hug Ala. “Well, she may be mad, but she’s gone now and, she will never hurt you. We will always protect you. Okay?”
“Daddy, she told me she would hurt you guys really bad. I had to tell her stories to keep you safe. I don’t have many more stories. Daddy. I’m scared.”
I wrap Ala up in my arms and kiss her forehead. “Tonight, we will meet Luna together. And we will end the threats. I promise. We will all be fine.”
I call my wife, who is three thousand miles away. “Honey, something is going on with Ala. The moon may be a metaphor for someone who is doing this to her. I will stay with her tonight. Please call when your flight lands tomorrow. I love you too. We miss you.”
That night Ala and I sit on the couch with bowls of vanilla ice cream and watch the moon rise as big as the sun and in an unsettling purple-black hue. I have never seen a moon that color.
Ala moves closer to me. Her eyes are glued to the moon.
“It will be okay, Ala. It—”
Ala jumps up. “Daddy, I will wear the gown she gave me. She likes it when I wear that.”
Ala sprints up the stairs to her bedroom. I start to go after her, but something is in the room with me — something ancient, cold, and malevolent. I must face it, but I’m trembling, sweating, biting my lip. I use all my courage to glance over my shoulder. A creature made of soft light vaguely in the shape of a woman in a gown dominates the room.
I turn away quickly. My eyes are burning. I can’t stop my tears.
There is an odor of contempt emanating from it — from Luna.
I spin to face her with my eyes squeezed shut. “Get the fuck out of our house! Whatever the fuck you are, get out! There is nothing here for you.”
“Daddy.” I turn as Ala races to me in a gown of the same substance as Luna. I scoop Ala up in my arms. Her dress feels warm and as soft as a cloud.
Ala points at Luna. “I don’t want you here anymore. You are not my friend. You don’t love me.”
The moon creature grows brighter as her anger increases. I close my eyes again, and Ala covers my eyes with her hands.
“Don’t hurt my Daddy. Don’t. Please don’t hurt him.”
Luna sends her response in flashes of light that I feel and understand. “Too late for him. He is blind. As blind as the pilots flying your mother home will soon be.”
Ala jumps from my arms, “No! What you are doing is wrong. It is not love. It’s evil. Stop it!”
“And your brother will waste away by the next full moon. And your grandparents—”
Ala holds my hand to steady me as she responds. “Leave them alone! —you evil, spiteful thing. Leave them alone, and I will come with you, but you have to stop now.”
“No!” I’m screaming, “I will stop you, Luna. I will find a way to harm you, to dim your reflected light. To show you naked and rough to the world.”
Luna sends a pain that cripples me, drives me to my knees.
Ala kneels beside me and shouts at Luna. “I will go with you if you stop now. But my stories will be as evil and bitter as you are. I will never smile or play games with you. I will hate you forever.”
My pain recedes. I squeak out, “No, Ala, no. Moon Bitch, take me or kill me or torture me, but let Ala go. Leave her alone, please.”
Luna purrs, “You mean nothing to me — less than dust. Ala makes me laugh and feel joy. Her stories set me aglow. She will be my companion for all eternity.”
Ala steps toward Luna, “I will not be your friend. And you will never be happy. I promise you that. I do.”
I reach in Ala’s direction. “No. Luna, you will destroy this family and poison your joy in each other. There has to be a better way.”
Luna rages. “Ala is mine. She made me love her with her zest for life. She welcomed me without fear or avarice. I can’t lose her. I will make her a Goddess.”
Ala, the peacemaker, speaks like a lullaby, “Luna, I love the better you and will spend the nights with you in the sky if I could be with my family every day.”
Luna grumbles thunder and flashes lighting that even my blind eyes sense. “Ala, will you be happy with spending the nights with me?”
“No!” I shout. “Never! You can’t have her. She’s a child — our child.”
Ala grabs my hand. “That will never change, Daddy. But I love telling Luna stories. I will be with you every day, and my heart will be with you guys all the time.” Ala whispers in my ear, “Trust me, father. Luna is as needy as a newborn and as weak as a kitten. I see it now. I do. I really do. She is mine. I own her.”
I sit on the couch, blind as midnight in the deepest sea. I welcome the blindness. I won’t see the new creature that will soon rule the night and abide here during the day. That is a true blessing.