By the Light of the Moon

Another Drawtober story, this one a little shorter, and creepier, than the last. Here's the inspirational drawing.

When I was a very small child, it never occurred to me to wonder why my mother drew the drapes — heavy, black lengths of cloth that fell to the floor in puddles — over every window of the house every night. Nor did I question why I had to be indoors long before dark, long before the other children. I would sit at the kitchen table, spooning mother’s hearty stew into my mouth, and listen to the other children of our town laugh and shout as they played outside. I longed to go to the window to watch them, but the drapes were already drawn.

At age eight, I finally asked.

Then came the stories of a gang of madmen who had roamed the countryside looking for families reckless enough to leave their windows open. The men would creep through villages, their knives concealed inside their clothes, until they came upon a house where the curtains had been left withdrawn, the window open the tiniest crack. Once inside — my mother shook her head.

They did awful deeds.

And then they would vanish into the night, wiping the blades of their knives on their thighs, leaving streaks of red that looked black in the moonlight.

But this was a word I had never heard. Moonlight?

Mother sighed.

There is an orb, she said, much like the sun, which illuminates the sky at night. But the light which emanates from this orb is different. Dangerous.

We lived at the end of the village road, on the edge of the great wood. By day, I would stand at the window and watch the trees for sign of the men. Somehow, despite their reputation, I did not fear them. Instead, I was fascinated by them — by the way they roamed the earth, homeless yet resourceful, and by their comradeship. I had no friends. No siblings. Father had left the night I was born.

I was fascinated, too, by moonlight. I murmured the word as I tipped the bowl and drank the dregs of the stew’s thick red broth.

By day, I did my chores and played with the neighbor children until their mothers told them to come inside. I heard them scold their children and couldn’t understand why. After a time, the neighbors wouldn’t play with me anymore.

I gathered our chickens’ eggs and harvested the last of the potatoes. I milked our goats, then watched as mother slit the throat of the oldest one, drained it and collected the blood in a bucket. I asked what she did with the blood, but she didn’t answer.

I drew a curtain back the tiniest bit and looked for the madmen with their knives and dark purpose.

Come away from there, mother said.

I dreamed of moonlight. I imagined standing outside in the middle of the night and the moon showering its light down upon me, and my skin glowing with it. When I woke, it was in darkness, until mother came and drew the curtains, and harsh sunlight poured itself into every corner and banished the shadows from every room.

I heard the clatter but I was not there to see it. I came running into the kitchen, where mother had been placing jars of the red stock she had canned onto the high shelves. But the ladder had fallen, and so had mother. Her head cocked at a strange angle. Her eyes open but unseeing.

Mother, I said.

I sat with her that day and into the night. At some point, I must have fallen asleep, for when I woke, I realized the curtains were open. There was no mother to close them, and I had not thought to do so.

Moonlight poured into the house from every window.

It drew me across the room. My hands against the glass, I gazed upon the great white orb in the sky, heavy with its own light. It painted everything in the yard with silver. Wanting to touch the light, I opened the window, reached out.

I began to change.

I felt my organs shift. My skin burned and tore. I shed the hair on my head, grew something matted and coarse to replace it. My teeth rearranged and sharpened themselves.

With the change in me, I felt an insatiable hunger. I do not remember deciding to run across the grass and into the street. I do not remember coming upon the home of a girl I’d once considered a friend, or peering into her window. Discovering that her mother had neglected to close the curtains completely. I worked my fingernail, now as long and sharp as the blade of a knife, under the window frame.

I left only minutes later. Dropped from the open window, sated now, my stomach no longer gnawing at me. I wiped my long claws against my thigh, leaving bloodstains that looked black in the moonlight.

***

Funnily enough, I wrote this story to go along with the illustration at the top of the page. Then, twenty-six days later, Bryce — who had no idea I was writing these stories at the time — drew this for Drawtober Day 30:

Coincidence?