This Cruel Moon

Sky is Over

rating: +140+x

“The moon was always so pretty. It’s sad we can’t go stargazing anymore.” She spoke in a monotone. “I miss it. The sun, the moon, the stars…”

She let out a sigh. She and Cal were sunken into their bed, staring at the ceiling. They had grown accustomed to their surroundings. She closed her eyes, wishing she couldn’t see. She had never been one to have a weak stomach, but every time she thought of what would happen if they dared to leave, she could feel her stomach twist. She held Cal closer, as if he was the last person left, which wasn’t necessarily an incorrect assumption. She enjoyed the sound of his beating heart; it was the last reminder he was real, she was real, and this world was, unfortunately, real. She spent most of her days limp, holding onto her only love.

He felt the quaking of her arms, and by extension her body. Understanding what she wanted to say, he pulled her closer to respond. His chest ached as he processed what she had previously said. He started thinking, searching his mind for any reminder of the moon. Slowly, he arrived on February 13th, 2021, the most bittersweet day.

Even if he said nothing, she knew, lightly scratching his head and intertwining her fingers into his hair. As close as she was to him, she always felt spaced out. Almost as though he would slip through her and disappear like everyone else. Her eyes traced his face. She missed the rise and fall of his chest. She desperately wanted to hold him closer.

“I miss it too," he finally said.

She sat up, closing her eyes slowly, keeping them closed for a few seconds before opening them again. Cal had followed when her eyes were closed, his eyes opening after. A welcoming calm washed over her. They didn’t entirely need words to communicate. They tried desperately not to speak, despite the longing to hear each other's voices. They couldn’t bear to bring attention to their small, safe, room. She looked away from him. He was unmoving, but that wasn’t abnormal. She kissed his soft skin gently.

“Do… do you remember?” he asked.

“Remember what?”

“February 13th.”

Katalina nodded, holding her breath. She liked to think of that day, since it was one of the only things that kept her sane. Besides, they had decided they weren’t going to attempt to go to Site-19. They didn’t want to see what would happen if they did. Their only link to the outside world had been silent for weeks, and it was all but confirmed they were gone too. The more she thought about it, the more she questioned what would happen if Cal went out.

“What would happen?”

Cal cocked his head at the question.

“If you went outside?”

Truth be told, he didn’t entirely know what would happen. Chances are, he would become one of those things. An immortal fleshy, waxy, goopy blob. He knew it would adapt, but wasn’t sure what it would affect. A stream of questions flooded his mind, all of which didn’t have a clear answer.

“I would adjust and probably become a blob like everyone else.”

His scent was always comforting, even in a situation like this. They drifted into their own minds, both trying to slip back into the last day. It was something they did often. Something to pacify their need to feel something other than sorrow.

”I remember… We left Site-37. It was a cold day. I mean, it was February.” Katalina’s voice finally sounded like her normal cadence. ”We went to the mountains, right outside of Site-37. Damn, that hike to get up there was long, though.” She laughed, patting his arm lightly. “What made you want to do that?”

”The hike was only longer because you decided to jump into the river underneath the mountain. You didn’t even know how far down it was! At least you didn’t get hurt.” He sighed. “Either way, you know the sunset was worth it. Besides, I knew you were leaving the day after, and I didn’t want us to miss Valentine’s Day together. I know how much you loved the stars, and you had been meaning to go to the observatory. It wasn’t hard to plan a date.”

”Considering I am the most vocal out of the two of us! I thought you were just taking me stargazing, not to the fucking observatory. You held my hand and started a beautiful speech just as the sun was starting to dip beneath the other mountains.” He reached down and intertwined his fingers with hers. ”You were just so stupidly happy the entire day. It was so cute, and made my heart melt every time we saw each other. As much as we tried to keep it professional, like we were working with each other anyway, we kept being giggly little 8th graders.” She giggled at that last statement.

”The sun is breathtaking. Almost as much as you, but it could never compare. I always wondered what was out there… Though, it never mattered as long as we were both on this Earth. We promised that ‘no matter what, we have each other.’ It was always a significant constant in our lives, from what we saw together, to how we dealt with our own problems, to how we promised. How we felt about each other. We even got it engraved in our rings.”

”Engraved in our hearts,” she said, interrupting his reenactment of the speech.

”I honestly can’t think of a time where I wasn’t glad to spend my life with you. Every time we had to be away from each other, I left like there was something missing. I hated that feeling, it was always so lonely. I have no doubt you felt the same,” he continued his speech.

”Yeah… those times were always the darkest.” She nodded. ”That speech left me in tears. I know I keep cutting you off, but damn, you’re so great at these things. If I let you continue, I would probably be in tears. After that, I could hardly see the stars that started popping out of the dark. You knew exactly what you were doing.” She smirked.

”Oh, definitely, after all, I am the best date planner ever. Oh! Do you remember the face you made when we went into the observatory? It was so cute. I would do anything to see that face again. The first thing you wanted to see was Orion’s Belt. It was stellar, one could say.” He winked at his horrible pun. This made them both break down in laughter.

“It was similar to the day you proposed. Ho man. It was so fucking cute. You knew my love of space and the stars, and you were so sly. Not saying I wouldn’t have said yes if it wasn’t under the stars, but it definitely sealed it in my mind. You were so nervous, like I didn’t know. It’s like every major event in our lives had the glittering sky above us.” Katalina sighed. ”I miss those days.” Her demeanor completely dropped.

”I do too.”

“I don’t want to remember what happened next…” Katalina said limply, her voice monotone. “I want to see the stars again.”

She stared at the curtains. She knew it was night, despite not opening them. Longing tugged at her. She wanted to sit in a field. Actually see the stars. It was the first thing she was robbed of on February 14th. If she was going to die, she wanted to do it with the stars. She let out a deep, exasperated sigh. She paused for a second, shaking her head.

The wooden floor creaked under Katalina's footsteps. Cal watched as she opened the bedroom door. The world provided a deafening silence for him. He stood up, something pulled at him. Like she was pulling on a string. The entire house was boarded up. It was dark, but he could still make out Katalina in the hallway, her hand on the front door. She was still questioning if she wanted to.

Tears ran down her face. Her heart pounded, and she was sure he could hear it. She needed to see the stars. Before she could open the door, he grabbed her wrist, turning her to face him. Her face was twisted in a mix of anger, emptiness, and despair.

“I don’t want to live this way anymore!” she yelled, ripping her arm back.

She bared her teeth, brow furrowed, and eyes soft. His words caught in his throat, causing a lump to form. Unable to speak, he just shook his head, reaching out to hold her. She quickly pulled away. Twisting the silver metal knob, she exposed the quiet, dark outside. They almost forgot how it once was. He tried to close the door, trying to keep her with him. If he'd known anything to say to her, he would have said it.

The door slammed shut and red filled her vision. She tensed her muscles and clenched her fists. He tried to push himself between her and the door. She shoved him to the side, knocking him down to the floor. Despite this, he held the door knob firm and kept it in his grasp. It was the last thing protecting their small, delicate, screwed up status quo and he would be damned if it was ruined. She pulled at his hand, slowly prying his fingers off of the door knob. He grabbed it with his other hand, as she continued to work.

“We could see the stars one last time… We could be happy watching them again.”

“No.” He shook his head. “We can’t go…”

She shook her head, letting go of his hands. He got up, releasing his grip on the door but still held it gently. Her face dropped and her body relaxed into a shallow calm. He dropped his combative mood, knowing the cycle. After she tired herself out, she would always calm down just as quick as she started.

“I love you. Don’t forget that,” she said, ripping Cal’s hands off the door before he could react and opening the door, slipping out of the small crack. She ran out into the front yard, past the curb, and into the street. She enjoyed the wind in her hair. She didn’t feel the pain, loving the sharp and broken asphalt on her feet. It was freeing, like she was locked up without the key. The dark blue ocean above was speckled with bright lights like she had never seen before.

Before he could think, he instinctively pushed himself off the floor and raced onto the porch. His eyes widened as he stopped suddenly. His mind finally caught up with his actions. He couldn’t take his eyes off her.

Her pale skin drooped and oozed. It twisted and contorted into a wax-like substance. Her arms and legs melted into themselves and pried themselves free, continuing the motion. Her eyes dripped and disappeared. Despite the smile disappearing, it still showed joy. Her body reminded him of a shiny solid ocean. His face paled as he watched Katalina turn around. It squelched and slapped against her own flesh. Her body was no longer hers, no longer the one he remembered. It wasn’t her anymore. It wasn’t the person he had fallen in love with. It was a sick abomination.

It reached a glittering, melting arm towards him. He was left frozen for a second before turning and rushing inside. He slammed the door and locked it. He slid down the dark wood, weeping as she banged on the door. Its flesh slapped wetly against the porch, mirroring the gurgles her voice devolved into.

“It’s a nice night outside and the stars are so beautiful.”

This Cruel Moon

He heard it approach the door. The pounding, the begging, the strange sickly pulse of her tone.

“Babe, let's go see the stars. They’re so bright and pretty tonight!”

He knew he couldn’t give in. He really wished she would leave him alone. He pushed his left hand to his face, tears welling in his eyes. He played with his wedding ring, feeling the warm metal against the frozen cold that shot through his body. He didn’t dare to take it off his finger.

Every time he tried to think of her, he relived her transformation. The squelching from outside only reminded him of it. The banging got louder in his ears as he tried to ignore it. It wasn’t fair. None of this was fair. The last thing holding him together was ripped away from him. He looked for any sign of what he should do. His heart and lungs ached.

“Please, the sky is so clear! We can be together again.” It sounded like her voice, but it was warped. It was wrong. It was deeper and somewhat gagged.

“I can’t see the stars.”

“Please? It's so nice outside!” Her voice was sickly sweet.

A sob wracked his body as she continued to beg to see the stars with him. Her voice sounded free. It sounded so happy, so loving, so caring. It weighed heavy on his chest and he felt like he was drowning. It ate at him and dragged him so far down into himself. It kept playing in his head no matter how far down he tried to push it. He wished he tried harder to keep her safe. He should have done something more.

He lay there silent for hours, not daring to respond to it again. Deep regret swallowed him. It grabbed him, choked him and held him hostage. Her voice only served to drag him deeper. He fought with himself. He kept telling himself it wasn’t her. That it couldn’t be her. He fought with the truth he never wanted to acknowledge.

It strained him to keep his puffy eyes open. He was so tired. Finally, he relaxed against the door. It seemed like an impossible task, but there wasn’t much else he could do. He was at a loss for a plan. He couldn’t justify anything he could ever come up with. He wasn’t going to kill his wife. It was so wrong. He didn’t even know if he could kill it. His head dropped. He prayed for any sign on what to do. He was stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Shattered porcelain was scattered around the floor. Shoes were knocked all over the place, and jackets had been tossed everywhere. He idly scanned the floor; a glint of gold caught his eye. He stared at it, before realizing her ring had fallen off in the fight over the door. His eyes widened and his jaw dropped. A wave of shock ran through him. It was as though it wasn’t real, like he wasn’t real. The banging was drowned out by a high pitched ringing and his beating heart. Everything fell deathly silent, save for his heart. Not even the screeching thing outside cut through it.

He reached a shaky, skeletal hand towards it. The metal was still slightly warm to the touch. Turning it in his fingers, he held it loosely fearing it would slip through his grasp. It was so smooth, even the star sapphire was silky. He felt the engraving on the inside. A calm washed over him and sent him back into reality as he read it to himself.

“Because no matter what, we have each other…” he whispered.

Blinking, he stared at the ring. This was as clear a sign as any. The choice was welcoming despite the initial rejection. It gave him clarity. He didn’t see a point in a life without her. And as much as he wanted to die, he knew it was impossible. He knew it would mean seeing the end of the universe without her. He really didn’t want to give up on her. He needed her, and she needed him. He didn’t want to think everything was over. This wasn’t giving up though. It was a calm requirement. It was how it was going to end.

He swallowed hard, embracing the pounding of his heart and the feeling of unease that washed over him. Sweat ran down his face and his body shook. Slowly, he stood up, turning to face the door. The banging paused for a second as he met her waxy face through the glass on the door. She could sense him, see him, understand him. He held his breath, almost thankful to see her despite the darkness. His waxy hand grasped the cold door knob. With a click, it unlocked. He paused for a second. Still wondering if his resolve was as strong as he thought it was. With that, he opened the door to the dark outside.

“I knew you wanted to see the stars,” she said gleefully, holding out a hand.

“If it meant being with you, of course I did.”

He grabbed her hand, allowing her to lead him out into the moonlight under the clear night sky.
The hand felt like hers, and while it was, it was so different. As the two mingled, he didn’t feel any pain or remorse. He smiled and held her, closing his eyes slowly. It was so good to finally be one with Katalina. Before they were whole, he dropped the two rings. They met the ground with two small metallic clangs.

Their limbs and bodies melted together as one. This was what they were meant to be. They felt held by one another, they felt safe, they felt free. There was nothing that could hurt them. Nothing could pull them apart. They could hear each other's thoughts, and feel each other's feelings. They could finally see the remaining glittering stars again.

“Because no matter what.” Their voices mingled together in a way neither of them recognized. They paused in their collective security.

We Intertwined

We have each other.

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