The people of the city made a moon, out of a fine spherical mesh of LED lights. But this moon proved to have a mind of its own. It flew over the urban sprawl in the night, visiting neighbourhoods. The moon mostly kept itself dark, for fear of running out of electricity. But even though it was invisible, you could hear the sound it made like a giant bird above you. And it darkened the streets as it travelled, turning off the orange street lamps below, only for them to flicker back on when it had passed, as though a moving shadow had fallen.
When it saw the citizens staring up into the sky, straining to spot the ghostly dark form of it, sometimes it would halt in the air and turn itself on suddenly, a pale silver giant lighting up their faces. The moon tinged the light from its LEDs to recreate the shapes of the real moon: the craters, maria and highlands. When the real moon was hanging full in the sky, it would even fly up to appear briefly next to it, an exact replica.
All the children of the city were fascinated by the moon. They rushed to their windows when it appeared. But the adults grew afraid of it. Why should this moon they had built torment them so with its erratic behaviour? What terrible influence was it capable of? Parents crossed their arms and refused when the children clamoured at their front doors to be let out to see it.
But one girl was clever enough to feign complete indifference to the moon. After telling her mother she was going to let the cat out, she slipped into the night. No one noticed her leave, catless. She stopped in the street and waited.
The moon, a dark sentinel which had grown lonely for human company, spotted her. It dropped from the clouds, gradually illuminating itself as it descended until it hung very bright just above her. She held out her hand. The moon approached her. Adults, drawn by the light and by the sight of this girl haloed and dwarfed by the huge looming orb – closer to a human than it had ever been before – came into the street shouting and shaking their fists.
But the moon continued towards the girl’s outstretched hand and placed itself against her palm with infinitesimal pressure. Where her fingers touched the tiny bumps of its LEDs, the colour flared into reds and oranges which swirled around her fingertips, as though she had placed her hand into a rippling pool of light. When the moon pressed a little harder, pushing her back just a little, her mother swallowed her fear and came forward to rescue her. But the girl laughed. The moon pushed her a little more, and she laughed louder. Then it shook its light in waves around the whole sphere of itself and suddenly, with a whoosh of air, took itself back up to a watchpoint in the sky. There, once again, it made itself into a replica of the real moon, which at that moment was hidden behind the edge of the world.
From then on, the LED moon ceased to hide in the night. Parents let their children play with it. The city warmed to its presence. The people had made it to give themselves hope and, even though it had not followed their plans, it had fulfilled the same purpose.
One night about a month later, when the children called the moon down, they noticed a difference: its glow was weaker than before. As it descended towards them, they could sense something was wrong. Instead of floating by them, the moon came down to rest on the tarmac. The parents dragged their children away in case it rolled on top of them. But the moon stayed still, its luminescence faintly rippling all around.
No one dared touch the moon that night. They took themselves to bed and stared at the light it cast on their ceilings, falling asleep in its peaceful glow.
And in the morning it was gone, and was never seen again.
Tim Kindberg Bristol, UK Tim Kindberg is a writer and digital creative based in Bristol, UK. His most recent novel is gothic sci-fi thriller Vampires of Avonmouth (vampiresofavonmouth.com), a story of love, loss and vampirism in which a detective struggles in a climate- and technology-ravaged future to regain his humanity, and thus his beloved daughter. Tim creates digital platforms and writes sceptically about major technologies including AI at matter2media.com. http://champignon.net View all posts