Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Twist of the Moon Bow
By Maria Mitchell

May turned over in a puddle of her blood. The accident left what remained of her car spread out over the main street. The thunder of onlookers screaming was more frightening than the sight of her life wastefully spilling over the cold, lifeless concrete. After a moment she didn't hear it anymore. She heard a gentle wind rustling through an empty cemetery. She assumed she was dead; she couldn't understand why she still stood, or why she still saw and sensed everything around her. She looked to see Danny, a stocky, blonde boy of twelve, walking towards her. He had been dead for six years; he drowned in the sea, yet it didn't seem odd in the least to see him. She addressed him with a tongue twister just like they always used to in grade school:

"Many mermaid mummers murmuring many madrigals make me mad."

"Is that you, Balladeer?"

"No. That's a statement of fact. I don't like mermaid mummers, or madrigals, so the combination of both is really too much to bear. I don't want any more to do with them then I already have to do with nightmares."

"So why are you talking about them?"

"I can't help it. The anger is too great. All I want to do is to make them suffer like they've made me suffer."

"I think you might need to see a counselor."

"A dull, platitudinous answer. I guess I shouldn't be surprised."

"May, what exactly did you intend me to say?"

"I expect you to be more thoughtful, more imaginative, and more ingenious. Like you were in life. You seem drab now that you're dead."

Danny wasn't offended; he just felt a little sorry for her. She didn't understand how lucky she was. The very fact that she could feel any emotion at all showed that she hadn't completely crossed over yet. There was still time. "I'm sorry I'm not more akin to your perception but I can't rewire my afterlife existence just to better fit the mold you've cast for me."

May looked away sadly. "I guess not. Believe it or not that's not what I want you to do, anyway. I just wish you had some better news for me."

"No, dear. I don't know anything about good news. I know how you can survive, though, if you're interested in that."

May looked up at him with silent, desperate pleading. "I guess I'll have to take it," she replied. Danny patted her on the back and motioned for her to stand up from the grave while he walked her out of the cemetery.

"Think of an image so compelling you can't help but be inspired to think and act."

May thought about it for a long while. "You know what I've always wanted to see, Danny? I've always wanted to see a moon bow. I mean a really bright one. One so bright it looks like the brightest rainbow set against the blackness of night. It's entirely impossible you know."

"What discipline states that? Quantum mechanics? Physics with mental constipation should be avoided at all costs. Let's go to the brook. It's not far from here."

"Says your dream or mine?"

Danny curled a smile. "Does it matter?"

"I guess not."

They walked in silence as they entered a shaded area swirling with disjointed vignettes of thoughts and places that had never been except here in the ether of gossamer fluidity that is dream. The brook bubbled before them as the dark, tranquil woods manifested from mist. It was a black night dotted with the fitful gleams of stars. Danny motioned for May to look up at the waterfall cascading over the rocks of the brook.

"Here is where your moon bow can be born. Let me see if the water is feeling friendly." He bent down, wading his fingers into the water. It frothed around him cordially. He closed his eyes and concentrated on the light from the pearl moon shining above and the diamond stars scintillating around it like a great celestial necklace. The light grew in volume without displacing the dark. It floated down through the prism of the water like a plume of white fire. Gradually the moon bow began to take shape. It glowed: a fiery arc of plumed color stretching over the waterfall against the night's silken blackness.

"Danny, it's beautiful. I thank you. Will this be the last thing I see?"

"No. Not if you go now. Walk on the moon bow."

She looked at him, aghast.

"You won't fall. Just walk on it as though it were a concrete sidewalk."

She stepped gingerly onto it, and felt her body ascend over the arc. There was no gravity to bring her down so she walked gently upon the plumes of color. She walked over the waterfall, over the woods, over the rim of space. She walked until she came upon a great gate built of frozen starlight standing suspended in the vista of time. It wasn't a gate, really, but that was the only way her mind could perceive it in the darkness. She followed through and found herself back on the sidewalk in the midst of blood and chaos.

EMT workers were lifting her into the ambulance. Her head lolled sluggishly about while she teetered between life and death until she was lifted into the hospital. Stitches, sutures, anesthetic, all of it happened in a dull pageant of prosaic helplessness. She could not move or speak and did not have any desire to do so. She merely slept in a slumber that was too heavy for any faint whisper of her beautiful moon bow to echo.

Somewhere under the murky depths of this deathly, comatose sleep, Danny still wandered among the maze of her dreams, grasping at the withering fragments of her thoughts. He knew she was still in trouble. He had managed to usher her back to consciousness, but she was losing the battle. Her heart was sluggish. He could hear its weak palpitations fluttering like the ragged wings of a dying moth. He reached up to touch what little remained of the light inside her dreams.

"May. Go back. I don't want you to follow me just yet. I know you are tired and very weak. I know you've missed me, Rose, and Jenny ever since we drowned in the boating accident. I know you've been away from us for many years. I wasn't able to call them. They are too far away right now. You're sadness has pushed them too far from your heart. The only reason I was able to come is because there's something about me you've never gone a day without having a thought for: our tongue twisters. Rose and Jenny you remember only with bitterness and resentment. You remember me that way, too, but for the tongue twisters. That's the one thing belonging to us that survives in your heart and that was enough to summon me from the barrier of Lethe that separates us."

Danny closed his eyes and recited them like a prayer:

"She shells sea shells by the sea shore. Rubber baby buggers bumping bridges bouncing by. And one I just thought of now, especially for you, May: Moon glow, moon bow, glow bow glow, so grow bow, hobo, glow bow glow." Danny chuckled in the dark caverns of May's thoughts. "Good thing they don't have to make sense, right May?" His laughter echoed up from the depths of nothingness into her ears and her blue eyes furtively broke open.

"Danny, is that you?" she asked. The night nurse attending her shot up from her chair in surprise.

"Ms. Collier, you're awake. How are you feeling?"

"I'm not sure. I can't really feel anything."

"That's just the anesthetic. Just lie still, Ms. Collier. You're going to be alright. I'm going to go get the doctor." The nurse departed with a clatter of anxious heels and May continued to scour the room for Danny. She tried to remind herself he was dead. He had been for six years. He wasn't a part of this world anymore. Yet he was. He had been here. She heard his voice. He brought her back from the same shadowed land he dwelt in now.

"Thanks, Danny. You are a good friend. It's strange to say that in the present tense, but it is the truth, pure and simple."

It was going to be a long recovery but May was ready to face it knowing she wasn't alone and would never be alone as long as the words brought her back to Danny. Strength timidly began creeping back in her joints and she was able to write down his custom tongue twister on a loose piece of paper: Moon glow, moon bow, glow bow glow, so grow bow, hobo, glow bow glow. It was a prayer that would always be answered.

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My bio: Maria Mitchell is a writer and illustrator of speculative fiction and composes music for piano. She lives in northern California.


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