Our grandfather urged us to go. “It’s the astronomical event of a lifetime,” he told us. “An old man like me will be sound asleep far before it happens, so take your young eyes up that rock and bring me back a tale I can remember ‘til I die.”
He was always saying things like this. “I need to rest these old bones by the fire, so take your young legs off to the marketplace and fetch some eggs that will nourish this old body.” “That firewood won’t chop itself, and my arms don’t hold the axe like they used to. Bring us in some fuel that will warm up the house and keep me from taking a chill, ‘lest I die.”
But it wasn’t often that his admonitions took us from our chores, and still less often that they sent us off to any amusement. So my brother and I saw Grandfather to bed that night, pulled our boots on, and rushed to the beach.
The rock in question jutted out of the shore at the edge of the water, as though the giant tasked with stitching the water to the land had abandoned the job halfway through, leaving his working-needle behind.
By the time we got there, the wind was blowing the sweat off our necks, and the sound of the surf filled our ears.
We glanced at one another and wordlessly started the climb. It was surprisingly easy to find footholds. Many times in our lives, when our grandfather had allowed us a short holiday at the beach, we’d watched other children try to climb the rock. We’d watched young men, boasting of their own physical abilities, daring one another to a climbing race. The rock was always impossible for them to climb. At the halfway point, most children and many of the men found it difficult to continue. Quite a few of them found it very hard to turn back and climb down, despite the ease of their ascent. We had never seen anyone reach the top, and had never heard of anyone who had. But my brother and I climbed that rock as though it were one of the trees in our orchard at home.
Both of us were rather surprised when we gained the top. My brother cast me a worried look which seemed to ask whether I thought we would be able to climb down, but it was that moment that we realized that we were not alone.
|Writing Prompt #625|
We had climbed this impossible rock for one reason: to see the moons. The Silent Moon hardly ever showed its face, and Grandfather has assured us it was a sight worth seeing. We hadn’t been expecting to meet anyone, especially someone like that. I lost my breath for a moment or two at the sight of her. She was more beautiful than anyone I had ever seen, and seemed to shine in the light of the moons.
“Good evening,” my brother said politely. He was always more bold about speaking to girls than I was. “We apologize for our intrusion, but we had expected to be the only ones here tonight.”
It took her a moment to respond, as though she hadn’t noticed us standing there, staring at her. “You are welcome to share my vigil,” she said quietly, waving a hand at the stars.
“Thank you,” said my brother, and we seated ourselves to stare up at the sky. I was content to observe the heavens in silence, but I could see that my brother was looking at the lady more often than at the moons. “Our Grandfather urged us to come here tonight,” my brother continued, interrupting the quiet. “He knew we would enjoy the view.” He smiled at her as though she was one of the village girls who would blush at his thinly veiled compliment and giggle. When she did not, he opened his mouth again, as though determined to make her speak. “Is that the only reason you came tonight? The view?”
Again, she answered slowly. “I am waiting for my love,” she replied, gazing up at the moon.
“Oh,” said my brother, in a tone he reserved for disappointed apologies. “I beg your pardon.” I tried to give him a look to shut him up, but it seems the lady’s words had finally done that. My brother did not give the sky a second look, however. He gazed at the lady as though he would never see a woman again.
Silence reigned for the rest of the night, and I alternately watched the sky, and my brother, and occasionally glanced at the lady, whose eyes remained fixed on the moon.
As the sun reached over the edge of the horizon and spilled light over the world, my brother stood, shook himself, and climbed down the rock. The moon still hung in the sky, its light dimmed by the sun, and I watched as the Silent Moon disappeared quietly behind the clouds. It was then that I stood to stretch, trying to find my voice so that I could speak to the lady in order to apologize for my brother.
But she was gone.
It didn’t take me long to follow my brother, climbing as easily down to the beach as I had climbed up the evening before. We raced home, and my brother beat my by three long strides. He immediately opened the door, kicked off his boots while staggering inside, and fell into bed, his snores filling the house.
My grandfather awakened at the sound of the opening door, and his eyes twinkled at me as I sat in the doorway and shook sand out of my boots. “Well?” he began. “And just what did you see?”
I told him how the moon shined, and how the Silent Moon hung in the sky nearby, as though it wanted with all its might to be with the moon but could not quite reach.
“Anything else?” he asked, giving me one of his mischievous grins.
“Well, there was a--” I started to say, but Grandfather interrupted me.
“I suppose you know the legend of the Silent Moon?” he said.
“Uh… no,” I admitted, surprised at his sudden question.
“No?” he repeated, the look on his face informing me that everyone knew the story. Then, disregarding the fact that I’d been up all night, he plunged into the tale, accompanied by my brother’s snores.
“There once was a beautiful princess who was betrothed to a prince from a nearby kingdom. Though the marriage was the choice of her parents, the princess, who was an obedient daughter, looked forward to meeting her future husband. She was not disappointed when the day finally came for them to meet. He was everything she hoped he would be: charming, handsome, and good. She fell in love with him at first sight.
“The only thing that marred her happiness was that he was already in love with someone else. He did not want to marry her, but the date of their wedding was set, and the two kingdoms prepared for the great event despite the prince’s objections.
“On the day of the wedding, the prince appeared, but instead of swearing to love and cherish his bride, he declared he would never marry anyone but the one he loved. And so the kings and queens banished him from their kingdoms, promising that he could return when he was ready to marry the princess.
“The poor princess, broken hearted on her wedding day, would not listen to the advice of her parents when they suggested she wait for her prince to return. She followed him into exile as he traveled from place to place, but she could never catch up to him.
“And people say that eventually the prince became the moon, and that on the days that the Silent Moon gets close enough to shine its light where the moon is, that the princess has found her prince and is asking him to come back.”
I opened my mouth to question my grandfather, but he quieted me with a look and shooed me off to bed. As I settled down next to my brother, I wondered if Grandfather had just made the whole thing up. I closed my eyes and found myself thinking of the lady, shining in the moonlight; how she gazed up lovingly at the sky, waiting for her prince.
“Grandfather,” I called, as he shut the door and moved over to stir up the fire. “Do you think she’ll ever convince him? Do you think the prince will ever come home?”
Though my eyes were closed, I heard the smile in my grandfather’s voice. “My boy,” he replied, “we’ll know the answer to that on the day that the moons are no longer in the sky.”