issue eighteen

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(840 words)
Andrew S. Taylor
The Curtain
[Updated monthly on the full moon]

There is a cloudless night sky, fixed and cold, over a tranquil beach. The moon is full. The moon is motionless, and then it trembles. In a flurry of movement, the moon unfolds, and breaks wide open. A glowing white rabbit stretches its limbs across the stars, hanging in the space where the moon once was.
The rabbit leaps from star to star, and then lands on the quiet, empty beach. It stands on hind legs, watching the gentle rolling of the ocean. The ocean is pure blackness, broken only by momentary wisps of gray that arise and then fade with a distant whisper. The rabbit, its white fur casting a pale glow upon the beach and the water, sticks its nose into the air and waits.

Time passes. Offshore, something stirs. There is a shape breaking though the surface of the water. Something swims towards the beach with unhurried deliberation. The rabbit approaches the edge of the water, still standing on its hind legs. From the blackness, a pale spheroid emerges, its surface dripping, bouncing rays of light from the rabbit's glow. An octopus. Its eyes are deep and hungry. The shape of the white rabbit is reflected in them. The octopus parts its arms and settles before the rabbit like a glistening chandelier.

The two creatures speak for a moment. Their words are lost on the cool night wind. The rabbit points at the sky with its paw, and then points at the ocean. The rabbit is saying something important. They speak a little longer, and then the rabbit begins to walk into the ocean while the octopus crawls onto the beach. They are facing one another and still talking, like strangers on a sidewalk giving directions. The rabbit is walking into the water and pointing at the sky, still talking and looking back over his shoulder as he moves out to sea. The octopus watches silently. His body slowly begins to brighten as the form of the rabbit diminishes. The rabbit keeps talking and pointing until the water is up to its mouth, and then it turns and faces the darkness. For a moment, its ears trail along the surface of the water, two petals of a giant daisy, before submerging. A pale glow moves through the water, and then fades to blackness.

The octopus is alone on the beach. It is looking at the stars, its arms limp and naked. It watches the sky, unmoving. Time passes. The octopus lifts one arm, and then another, and soon its body is a soft cathedral, an array of vertical spires pointing towards the heavens. With its arms, the octopus probes the blackness, coils itself though the stars, finds the forms of lost constellations, grips at the hafts of swords and the belts of warriors. The octopus lifts itself into the sky.

The sky is squirming now. The sky is a dark, glass ceiling upon which fluid flesh flows like pale oil. The octopus pours itself across the sky, passing through the faces of gods and the mouths of beasts. It arrives at the empty socket, the blackness-within-blackness where the moon once was. It reaches for this space and it fills it, one arm at a time, forming circles within spirals, slowly spinning. Its eyes are unblinking. It watches the sky and then watches the water. Its eyes are tired and sad, filled with the love of something distant and wonderful, with stars and ocean. It covers its face with the last of its coiling arms, forming a pale sphere with its enfolded body. The moon trembles. The moon is full. The moon is still.

I begin to breathe again. I look down at the diminutive silhouette of my daughter, watching the sky from the window sill in her darkened room. The window is open and her fine hair stirs in the ocean's breeze. She senses me and turns around. She is startled. In her small face, there is a severity I have not seen before. She does not speak. She does not say hi, daddy. My young daughter says nothing. But in her eyes, I see all that she has to tell me. You weren't supposed to see this. You did not see this.

I say nothing. I back away and leave the room, and gently close the door behind me. Only when the door is closed do I whisper, goodnight.

I walk down the dark and windowless hall. I move through the long and dark passage. I will soon lie beside her mother. I will kiss her mother's shoulder. She will ask me if our daughter is sleeping and I will say yes, she is sound asleep.

It was nothing, I will say. There was nothing at all. And we will close our eyes, and hear the ocean whisper.

The ocean will whisper all night. It will always be whispering. The ocean will be saying to us: nothing, nothing, nothing.


M  C  R

This work is copyrighted by the author, Andrew S. Taylor. All rights reserved.