Inside and outside of you, Moon slept.
She slept in and out of cycles for many years, a deep, comfortable sleep,
All was as it should be, the ocean waves kept to the steady rhythm of her breath,
Dreams stayed within the safe confines of sleep and the wild things stayed
in their dark places.
And then one day, Moon opened her eye.
Day one, waning crescent
The music woke me up this morning. It was a deep, echoing creature and at first it scared me, but I opened my eyes and it stopped.
Out of the window I can see Mum is singing. She has a song that she sings when she’s hanging the washing on the line that runs through the garden. An old nursery rhyme from Japan. Ah! Kojo no yowa no tsuki! She hangs our clothes in a line, Dad’s work shirt, Brother’s uniform, my jeans, an odd sock.
The moon is mostly in shadow today, but it’s getting close enough that you can start to see the parts that it tries to hide.
Ah! The moon rises over the ruined castle.
School is cancelled. Cancelled! I can’t stop grinning. I’m like a Cheshire cat, all I can do is walk around the house grinning.
Brother looks at me. Stop, you look demented.
Then I’m demented! HAR, HAR, HAR, look at me I’m demented!
He rolls his eyes and carries on reading his magazine. NASA: Earth’s Conclusion.
The strange music carries through the open window, so I decide to do a
little dance to it.
Look, look at me. Do you like my dance? Look!
Piss off Satomi.
I don’t know why he isn’t happy either, his school was cancelled as well. We should be grinning like two demented Cheshire cats together. I carry on with my little tour of the house. I would be at school right now if it wasn’t cancelled, but instead I’m not. Instead, I’m here, in my bare feet, grinning and walking and being demented.
Dad and Brother are concerned about Mum. She stays in the garden all day, humming. I’m sitting at her feet now, pulling up grass and looking at the ants. They’re moving quickly, electric-like. They crawl over each other, some of them have died in the tussle, they lie on their backs, legs curled inwards. I’ve never seen ants move this strangely before. I mash them with my foot.
At first it took me a while to get used to seeing the moon so clear in the
day, but now I can’t imagine looking up and seeing the sky without it. I can’t remember the last time I saw a clear blue sky; I think I would find the emptiness strange now. The bigger the moon gets, the darker it becomes. Less glowing and more rock-like. If I hold my fist up to it, I can just about fit it all in, but that is only today. Tomorrow it will be closer.
The clothes line has a small feather on it, clipped with a pink clothes peg. Today it goes like this: Dad’s work shirt, a feather, a feather, a tea towel, a branch, an odd sock, my favourite stripy dress, a dead bird, a cloth.
Dad and Brother are concerned about the dead bird.
Day twelve, new moon
I wonder if there is someone somewhere making this music that I hear so often now. They are hiding, perhaps in the drains, or in the trees, perhaps invisible. I cannot think of an instrument though, that would make this sound I hear. A thrumming heart-beat sort of a sound. Sometimes it sounds familiar, I think I’ve heard it before in my dreams. It’s especially loud at night.
Mochi doesn’t seem to mind, she stays awake at night anyway. Her snake tongue flickers, in-out, in-out. I try and copy her, but I can’t do it as fast as she does.
Dad’s top lip won’t stop moving. Brother calls it a nervous tick. It quivers and jumps. Sometimes he closes his hand over his mouth as if he can stop it. I’m really fine, he says, although he doesn’t look at us. Perhaps an allergic reaction to something.
Dad and Brother talk about the situation sometimes. I don’t listen for long, it gives me a weight in my chest that I carry around for the rest of the day.
Scientists are saying that the nuclear detonation idea is crazy. The longer we wait, the closer the moon gets. It’s more likely that we are going to hit ourselves in the blast.
Stop focusing on the negative. It’s only a matter of time before the government figures something out. We don’t know half of what they have going on up there in those science labs. Really, this is in the interest of everyone, so I can imagine they are rolling in new technology right now.
Dad…what’s wrong with Mum? Why is she acting so strange? And what’s with the dead birds? Do you think she –
Your Mother will be fine son, it’s just nerves. Stress has a funny way of revealing itself in people. Maybe stop reading those bloody doomsday articles around her all the time, it affects her more than you know.
But the birds –
Don’t, not in front of your sister. She’s fine, she just needs rest. It’s just her nerves, that’s all.
The sky has turned brown. It looks like a storm is brewing, but the storm never breaks, it’s just forever brewing and brewing.
Mr. Wykes went a bit strange last night. I woke up to a CLANG, CLANG, CLANG from outside. Mr. Wykes was sitting in the road, completely naked except for a metal dustbin lid in his hand. He crashed it down again and again.
CLANG, CLANG, CLANG, CLANG, CLANG, CLANG. He soon woke the whole street, lights began turning on. He was also shouting, though this was nothing new, he would often shout things at us like go home…not welcome…back to where you came from, but his words now were different, I couldn’t understand them. He was laughing as well, laughing that sounded like crying. Or perhaps crying that sounded like laughing.
I watched from my bedroom window and my family joined me, I have the best view on to the road. Soon enough a police van arrived and loaded him in, in all his fat white nakedness, dustbin lid still gripped in his hand. Brother took me away from the window, Dad sighed and said something about drinking. Brother didn’t say anything, but he had the wide-eyed look that he gets when he’s scared. Mum just giggled.
In the day, the drains are flooded, the roads aren’t roads anymore, they are streams. On bright days I can see the double yellow road lines at the bottom rippling through. We aren’t to touch the water, Brother says it is contaminated. I like to drop hair clips from my window, watch them get whisked away, a little dot of sparkly pink in a world of blue and black and brown.
At night I’m sure I could walk on these streams, they glow in the little light that the moon gives. At night I can see mermaids swimming, big snakes with eyes going down their backs, an octopus carrying gold coins. Once I thought I saw Mum dancing beneath.
Miss Sendall once said that if I put both of my fists together, they would be the same size as my brain. The moon is just slightly bigger than my brain.
I spend most of my time inside now, Dad seems to think it’s a good idea considering what’s going on. He has put two bolts on the front door, anextra safety precaution, he says, but Brother says that it’s to stop Mum from getting out.
She has been sneaking out at night. We usually find her in the morning, humming and hanging clothes on the washing line. Most of the time the clothes she’s hung up aren’t ours, and often, they aren’t even clothes. So far we had found an old wedding dress, a scarecrow head, someone’s car keys and the birds, as always. They are mostly little, tiny songbirds that could fit in the palm of my hand. She carefully clips them up by their wings. They are pretty. I liked to get up early before Dad or Brother are awake and stroke their wings and the soft feathers on their chests.
Dad always takes them down quickly when he sees them, gets a bin bag and stuffs them in, wedding dress, keys, birds and all. He locks them in the cellar and doesn’t let her leave the house anymore. The garden is sinking into the water anyway, although there are secret ways to get through it if you know where to jump.
Dad’s lip quiver has moved to his hands. They keep jumping and waving, and he has no control over them. It looks like his hands are trying to escape his body.
I can see a man, he has antlers. He is running. The roads are deep with water, but he is running on the surface. He runs past our house, skimming over the water like a dragonfly, and then he is gone.
Day twenty, waxing crescent
Mum’s gone. She got out of the kitchen window and hasn’t been back for two days. She is close by though because every morning there are still things hanging on the washing line. There was a crow this morning.
The government made an announcement, I don’t know what it was, but afterwards Dad and Brother were very quiet. Dad has started to drink now, at night I can hear him crying, but sometimes I can’t tell if it’s laughing.
I find it hard to concentrate these days. I stay mostly in my bedroom, I like to look out the window. Now I can see a man, he has antlers. He is running. The roads are deep with water, but he is running on the surface. He runs past our house, skimming over the water like a dragonfly, and then he is gone.
I’m trying to finish my colouring book, Capital Cities of the World. I have three left, Moscow, Istanbul, Brussels, but I can’t keep focus. The air
between the paper and my eyes keeps going wiggly. And the music. I didn’t mind it before, but now it’s everywhere. It’s not just the night, but the day too and every second in between. Whenever I mention this to Brother, he looks at me strangely and goes back to his newspaper, although I can tell he’s not reading it because his eyes aren’t moving.
Brother, what is Lun-at-i-cal?
It’s what they’re calling it.
The end of the fucking world, Satomi, what the hell do you think?
I saw a man with antlers today. He was walking on the water.
He looked at me as if I was trying to be funny.
The moon is coming closer, Satomi. Soon, in a few months at most, it’s going to hit us. It’s messing up people’s heads. You honestly have no clue what is going on right now, do you?
I giggle and wait for Mum to tell him off for swearing, but then I realise that she isn’t here, and probably wouldn’t say anything even if she was.
He’s not looking at me anymore, he’s looked away as if I’m something that he doesn’t want to see. I don’t understand, so I giggle some more. And then suddenly I can’t really stop, the laughter just starts to roll out of me like a big wave, like the water rising from out of the drains.
Stop, you sound like Mum. Please stop.
My snake has begun to eat herself. She doesn’t seem to be in any pain, her eyes are open and she looks outside the window as she slowly chews her tail. She’s a perfect circle, I could wear her as a bracelet if I wanted to.
The moon is a dustbin lid.
Day twenty-three, waxing quarter
The water in the taps tastes like seawater, but we are hundreds of miles from the sea. Brother says not to drink it, but I gulp it down when he’s not looking.
Dad has left. I mean to say that he’s here, he’s in his bedroom upstairs, but he’s gone. His mind has escaped from him and now it’s out there somewhere, probably with Mum, probably with the mermaids in the streaming water outside. He sits on the bed, very still. I move his arm up-down, up-down, wave it about, pull his hair. Still as a statue. That’s a simile, Miss Sendall told me.
The music hasn’t stopped, it’s still going. It must be coming from a deeper place, the earth itself, or the sky. Some days I love it, I love that music, I love it so much. It feels like a friend, and I haven’t had a friend since we left home. Mochi my snake was my friend, but she’s dead now. Brother was my friend, but he looks at me with that wide-eyed scared look now. Mum was my friend, but she’s gone now, so is Dad.
But that sound, that sound, that sound, it stays.
All the dogs are howling. My Brother says they’re dogs, but I truly think I saw a wolf walking down the road. Wolves love the moon, and now it’s here, close enough for them to lick.
I go to the garden at night, I shouldn’t do it, but I do. It’s right there, it’s right there. Wow!
It fills most of the sky now, I reach up to touch it. It feels soft, like the feathers of a bird. I turn around and see that Brother is watching me from the back door.
Look! Look, look, look, I’m touching it! I’m touching the moon, look!
Yes, you are, he says. I’m happy that he can see this.
And listen! Listen, listen, can you hear the music? Wow, just listen!
He stares at me with a dead sort of look in his eyes that I’ve haven’t seen before.
I can’t hear anything Satomi.
I don’t know what to say to that, so I giggle. A wild animal. He is staring at me like I’m a wild animal. In the distance, someone is singing echoey words from a language I’ve never heard before.
Day twenty-seven, waxing gibbous
I stay outside now.
Brother tries to bring me inside, but I bite him. He tries to speak to me, but I laugh and hiss at him. The air is heavy and pulsing like it is being squashed. It is the feeling of being upside down for a long time.
I speak with the mermaids in the water, I speak with the birds that fly around me in circles, I speak with the wolves that howl and laugh. I speak with the antlered man and he tells me that the music is a voice and it is the voice of the moon. Stop focusing on the negative, he says.
A crab is crawling across the soil. I laugh at this, wow, a crab! We don’t have crabs here, we are hundreds of miles from the sea! I pick it up and put it in my mouth, but I don’t taste anything.
Brother told me that Dad is dead, but I can’t really think who Dad is, so I just laugh. Brother is sad for me, but really, I’ve never felt such relief in all my life.
I remember Brother sometimes. I remember him carrying me up the stairs, that we pretended was a waterfall. I remember him laughing at me when I couldn’t say an English word correctly. I remember him walking me to school on my first day, don’t take any shit from anyone Satomi, you have as much right to be here as anybody.I remember digging my nails into his arm as hard as I could when he ate my last piece of Easter candy. I made him bleed, but he just smiled and smiled.
Brother was the last to leave. He left on purpose. He packed a big bag, left me some food, some tinned fruit, frozen bread, half a jar of miso, rice, pudding cups, the best he could do. And then he left. I could tell he was crying, but he didn’t look back.
Why did you stop smiling Brother? Your soul left a long time ago, just like Dad.
Day thirty, full moon
The moon is inside me and outside me and it sings,
Ah! Kojo no yowa no tsuki.
I dance beneath the water.
IMAGE: ‘The Distance Between Us’ by Sarah Misselbrook
Dead branches, pine cones, lime dust, charcoal by-product
Spheres of intimate, personal, social and public domains were defined on the land using these foraged materials. Clay soil was removed to create depth within the intimate circle. Visiting artists Amy Ortiz, Sarah Gillespie, Lilian Jordan and Robyn Owen worked collaboratively with me to re-present, repose and reuse to create some sort of order from the chaotic finds.
Perching in the forest of Catalunya, Sarah Misselbrook‘s research-based practice concerns the transient nature of material and environment. Fragile installations breakdown, mirroring devastation of floods and fire. Performing obsessive acts of repetition, whilst making and installing the work, the artist searches for something other. An offering of hope for restoration.
Dark Mountain: Issue 21
Our Spring 2022 issue is an anthology of non-fiction, fiction, poetry and artwork that revolves around the theme of confluence