by Coby Chuang
Art by Megan Xu
Issue: Ataraxia (Spring 2018)
The moonlight overhead spans far and wide, smothering the land in a blanket of shade. From the ground sprouts bushels of trees, each one swaying languidly as if cradling a newborn child. Fireflies glow, as if free from worry, and owls, perched upon ebony branches, hum lullabies. The forest is a pleasant shade of sable, and will remain that way, for it is untouched by the savage light of the sun.
I lie in my hammock atop the tallest tree in the forest, while the darkness holds me in a cozy embrace. It’s warm. It’s comforting. Above me is a patchwork of stars, and at its center, the moon. It gives off such a gentle glow, this moon— just enough to be soothing, but not unsettling. The sun, on the other hand, shines so extremely that staring at it can leave one blind— or so I’ve been told. But the sun poses no threat to me, as it has been absent from my life for as long as I can remember.
A gentle breeze flows by, whispering at me to go to sleep. And so, under the tranquil night sky, I give in to drowsiness, falling into a state of blissful, black oblivion.
Suddenly the very sky above me is ripped open like fabric. Daybreak surges down through the torn cloth, staining the land with spatters of perverse light. Muffled screams and cries of agony begin their assault on undisturbed animals. And in the center of it all— the Winged Deity emerges. His body is so saturated with light that I wince upon seeing him. His figure is emaciated, his hands bony. His slender arms are locked such that they can only rotate hypnotically. In a split second he appears in front of me, stretching his pale fingers out towards my face. I can’t move. Finally, with a ghastly voice, he says:
Tick tock. You cannot hide from me forever.
I beg to know why he is after me, to which he simply grins beneath his garish hood.
Foolish child. Every living thing must eventually fall to my grip. The sheer glare of his body screams at my eyes. My being, my pursuit— it is all inevitable. It is absolute.
But you knew that already, didn’t you? The scythe on his back adopts a sinister gleam.
You simply refuse to accept it.
At this moment I feel a demon crawling up my throat. I gag. I vomit. Iridescent sludge scatters everywhere. With the appearance of an overgrown slug, the demon squirms convulsively on the ground. Its limbless body only succeeds in flicking the sludge around further. I can only watch in horror as the ooze begins creeping up my toes. The Deity laughs at the pitiful scene.
I come to, and frantically look around. The moon and stars are glued to the sky, as always. The animals are sound asleep, and the land around me is still painted in twilight. As always. I sigh, and tell myself that nothing has changed. But deep down I can’t help feeling that the moon is slowly peeling away, and that its canvas has taken on a slightly brighter tint.
I lie back down and wonder how long I can live like this.
Carefree, but trembling with fear.
Unhurried, but running all the same.
… Ah, no matter. Such a question will be answered— but not today.
And for the time being, my unease dissolves.
Not until the sun rises.