REFLECTED SUNLIGHT • by M. Bennardo

Save up your coupons from six sleepless nights, and perhaps you too may talk with the moon…

***

When it happened to me, I was in a Japanese garden, walking slowly over the pretty bridge that spanned the koi pond. My hand trailed the railing, fingers brushing the smooth wood, while the frogs sang merrily in the reeds.

Then there he was, reflected first in the water, a bright white patch obscured by the ripples where a velvet-winged bat had dipped down to drink. As the surface stilled, the moon looked up with his perfect broad half-face, and I knew that he saw me. So I turned to address him over the tops of the banyan trees.

“Hello there, moon,” I said. “It’s good to see you tonight.”

“Oh, thank you,” he said, his face half shrouded in shadow. “But I’m not so special. Any one of these stars could outshine me and more.”

I shook my head. “Not to me, moon.” For I was in awe — I’d never seen him so large or so handsome before. “To me, you look brighter than them all.”

“Reflected sunlight,” said the moon, with a sigh. “That’s all I am. Reflected sunlight, notable only for shining weakly in an otherwise empty void.”

The frogs sang louder, and another bat dipped to drink at the pond, a silvery tinkle chiming in the night. Something rustled in the banyan trees, something stirred in the reeds. Something slept in the rhododendron bushes, something beat within my chest.

“All of us, moon,” I said. “That’s all any of us are. The frogs, the bats, the koi, the trees. We’re all reflected sunlight, in an otherwise empty void. There is none of us that could shine without her.”

“Yes,” said the moon. And for a long time we were quiet.

Finally, at last, I spoke again. “Do you think…” I began.

***

I say again: save up your coupons from six sleepless nights, and perhaps you too may talk with the moon. But ask all your questions before he moves on, or you’ll be left with one still on the tip of your tongue.

“Do you think that’s why we live in the night?” I began, not noticing the time that had passed. “Do you think that’s why we can’t face her?”

But already the reflected sun had set, and in the gray sky behind the banyan trees the real one was rising.


M. Bennardo‘s work has appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, and Daily Science Fiction. He contributed to The Time Traveler’s Pocket Guide, and is co-editor of the bestselling Machine of Death anthologies from Bearstache Books. He lives in Cleveland, Ohio.


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Melissa Reynolds

  • Sarah Russell

    Gentle and vaguely eerie. I like it!

  • Sarah Russell

    Gentle and vaguely eerie. I like it!