The Moths in the Moon

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When first the moths alighted in the world below, the land of earth, they did so out of curiosity.  And they did so because they were sent forth from their home by their creator.  Their home and their creator were one and same, and she bore the name Moon.

And she was the moon.

The moths were sent to live upon the Earth, to explore it, to change and be changed by it.  Some of these explorer moths were never meant to return to their birth home.  For once they landed upon the Earth, they would be trapped there by the limits of their strength.

Having never been to this new land, most were afraid.  They were not afraid of exploring, but they were afraid of never seeing their home again.

But the Moon encouraged them.  She told them to take heart, for though they would be far, far away, they would not be without her light.

Because the Earth was so big, and the moths would reach every part of it, she could not show her face to all at the same time.  They would have to take turns.  She would turn her face to each part of the Earth, little by little, until the fullness of her bright smile shone down. 

This the Moon declared.  And so it was.

***

Two bright lights fell upon the Earth.  The light of the Sun and the light of the Moon.  All three, the Earth, the Sun, and the Moon were sisters.  The Sun came first, and burst into the world, brilliant and flaming.  She was always laughing.  The Earth came next.  Warmed by her sister’s laughter, her heart grew aflame.  The Earth too knew laughter, but she also learned of many other feelings.  And as those feelings flowed through her, life flowed through her.  Each time she smiled, many creatures rose to life upon her breath.  And each time she wept, many creatures died upon her breast.  And then came the Moon, the youngest sister.  She was cooler and dimmer than her elder sisters, whom she admired so well.  She too desired to bear life, like her sister the Earth.  And she too desired to glow brightly enough to delight, like her sister the Sun.

So the Moon created life. 

And she gave that life a name.  She called them moths.

And her sister the Sun laughed with delight.  And her sister the Earth invited the Moon’s children to visit.

And so they visited the Earth.

And most of the moths liked it well.  And because the Moon shone upon them every now and then, they were content. 

They hid from the light of their aunt the Sun, for her light and laughter were too much to bear.  The moths were creatures of night, and they answered to only one light, the light of the being that created them.  The Moon. 

Every so often, the moths who were large enough would even make a journey to the Moon, guided by her light when she turned to face to the Earth.  Those moths who were small, even if they were worthy, did not have the energy, the endurance, to make the long journey.

The moths who reached the moon often remained there, glad to be back in their ancestral home.  On rare occasions, some would return to the Earth.  They would return to visit.  Or they would return to encourage others to come back to the Moon with them. 

***

One night, a small moth, vivid red of wing, and fiery of nature, flew toward the moth ambassador from the Moon.  This little red-winged moth, whose named was Cinnabar, declared that she would go to the Moon.

The moth ambassadors were all large moths, but this one was the largest that the little red-winged moth had ever seen.

“The Moon smiles upon you,” the moth ambassador said.  His name was Cecropia.  “But you would not survive such a long and cold journey, little red-wing.”

“I welcome the adventure,” said Cinnabar.  “And I long to alight upon the Moon.”

“The Moon would be saddened to see you fall from the sky,” the ambassador answered.  “You are brave and full of fire.  Indeed, you must take after your aunt, the Sun.  But courage is not enough, little red-wing.”

Cinnabar was eager.  But she was not foolish.  She understood that the ambassador spoke the truth.

“How strong are you, ambassador?  If I were to ride upon your back, could you carry me to the Moon?”

The moth ambassador was taken aback at the boldness of the little red-winged moth.  “Each moth is only strong enough to carry their own weight.”

Cecropia left then, for she had many other moths to visit and to encourage to return with her to the Moon.

Cinnabar had heard the old saying many times, of course.  Each moth is only strong enough to carry their own weight.

But on this point, Cinnabar disagreed with the ambassador.  She did not understand why it should be so.

It was on that day that she devised a plan.

***

What the little moth did, she did in secret, for many would have considered it a blasphemy.

Cinnabar convinced a few of her friends to let her tether them to her body, one by one, so she could practice flying up and carrying their weight.  When she tired, she would stop flying, and signal her friend to extend wing and carry her in turn.  The little red-winged moth believed that by this method, she and one friend would reach the barrier that all small moths failed to pass.

“We need only break past the arc of the Rainbow,” said Cinnabar.  “Past that we would fall within the streams of moonbeams and be carried to the Moon with ease.”

They practiced reaching farther and farther up into the sky, closer and closer to the arc of the Rainbow.  At first they could not see it in the darkness of night.  But soon they could make out its violet edge.

As the days passed by they made progress, watching the Rainbow come closer and closer.

But soon, they little moths reached their limit.

They could fly no higher.

And yet, one night, Cinnabar pushed passed her own limit.  Her wings felt as if they were aflame.  Her companion cried out to her to stop, to fly down.  But Cinnabar would not listen.  Not yet.  She would go just a bit farther…

Her wings locked in place. 

Cinnabar could not flap them.  She willed it.  But will, like courage, was not enough.

She had no strength left.

She began to plummet through the sky.

And worse, she was dragging a dear friend down with her.  For her friend too had no strength left.

So no comfort was to be had in knowing that she would die having flown as high as she could.

They fell below the many-colored light of the Rainbow, and back into the dim light of a half-moon in the night sky. 

That light was cool and white.

Cinnabar kept her eyes open as she fell.  And so she noted the sudden cast of green that suffused that cool white light.

She imagined that her fall was slowing and slowing as she and her hapless friend dropped into the dark embrace of death.

But she realized that her fall was truly slowing.  She tried to flap her wings, but still they could not obey.  It was only when she felt her body touching gently upon the earth that she saw the face of the one who had rescued her and her friend.

The moth loomed over Cinnabar, flapping her wide wings.  In the light of the half-moon those wings shone a soft and glowing green.  Her legs and body were moon-white.  Her eyes were black.

“Rest, my friend,” the green-winged moth said.  And her voice was calm and cool. 

Cinnabar found herself slipping into sleep.

***

After that night, none of Cinnabar’s friends would help her, for she had betrayed their trust.  She hoped to win them over again somehow.  And she vowed not to ask them to help her again.

But first, she went in search of her rescuer.  For when she had woken, the green-winged moth had been long gone.

After all those nights trying to fly higher and higher, Cinnabar now flew only farther and farther. 

She was to learn that her rescuer came from a family of shy moths, who were rare to the sight of all creatures of the Earth, even other moths.  And she was to learn that she need not have flown so far.  Her rescuer lived close by.  It was no wonder that she had seen Cinnabar and her poor friend plummeting through the sky.

Cinnabar found the blessed moth and fell at her feet.

“I owe you the Moon!” cried Cinnabar. 

And for moths that was akin to saying that she owed the green-winged moth her life.

“It was my honor,” the green-winged moth said. 

She explained that she first witnessed Cinnabar and her friends at their practice by accident.  They had not seen her, for she was adept at hiding.  But she grew so fascinated by their courage that she remained hidden and watched them, cheering them on, hoping they would succeed in reaching the arc of the Rainbow.

Cinnabar observed how large her new friend was.  “Have you visited the Moon, then?  Could you tell me of her wonders?”

The green-winged moth extended her wings.  “Long have I and my family dreamed of visiting the Moon.  We are large enough, but alas, we love the Earth too well.  And we are afraid that once we alighted upon the Moon, we would forget the Earth.  But in truth, I myself am afraid of the journey.  It is so long and cold a journey.”

Cinnabar fluttered her wings.  “You need not be afraid.  If you were to take me with you, I would warm with my laughter as the Sun warms the Earth.” 

“Each moth is only strong enough to carry their own weight,” the green-winged moth replied.

And Cinnabar grew dismayed.

The green-winged moth folded her wings.  “So they have said, but the saying is not quite true, is it, my friend?  You and I have born the weight of our fellow moths.”

Cinnabar smiled, for she sensed a new plan brewing, and she saw that plan reflected in the eyes of her newest friend.  “I am called Cinnabar,” she said.  “What is your name?”

“I have taken no name, for I do not deserve one.”  The green-winged moth flicked her antennae.  “But if I take you to the Moon, I would earn one.”

***

When moths embarked upon a journey to the Moon, they were oft surrounded by kin and kith.

But Cinnabar and her unnamed green-winged friend prepared their journey in secret.  They both left behind messages for those who might miss them.  For once they reached the Moon, neither would return to the Earth.

They feared that the moths in the Moon might not welcome them.  But the Moon herself would surely welcome them.  And the moths in the Moon would follow her influence.

But if they were to return to the Earth, they would surely be shunned.

One night, when the Moon’s full face was turned toward the Earth, the two moths tethered themselves together.

The green-winged moth flapped her broad and beautiful wings, and she flew upward.

She flew higher and higher, so quickly, and with such seeming ease, that Cinnabar felt dizzied by wonder and a friendly envy.

Soon they spotted the violet edge of the Rainbow.  And sooner still they saw the Rainbow entire in all its glorious colors. 

Cinnabar called out to ask her friend if she was tired.  But the green-winged moth only answered, “I am flying to the Moon!”

And she kept on rising.

When she passed the point at which Cinnabar had failed, the little red-winged moth felt her heart lurch.  With a final glance down, she wished all the moths of the Earth well.

They passed the arc of the Rainbow.

And when they did so, they also began to pass beyond the warmth of the Earth.

Cinnabar was stunned by the sudden cold.  But the green-winged moth kept flying.

Tiny crystals of ice formed on the large moth’s wings, reflecting the soft green in brilliant shimmers.  Cinnabar noted that those glittering wings were flapping slower and slower.

They were only a third of the way to the Moon.

But now that they were past the arc of the Rainbow, Cinnabar felt the weight upon her own little wings lifting.  She flew closer to her friend, flying up under her.

“Wrap your legs around me,” Cinnabar said.  “I will warm you.”

This the green-winged moth did.  And Cinnabar told stories of her many reckless adventures, and she laughed at herself.  And her laughter warmed the green-winged moth.

Soon, the green-winged moth was herself laughing, for Cinnabar had so many stories, most of them ridiculous. 

Neither dared to say aloud that they were almost there, but both saw the magnificent face of the Moon growing larger as they flew closer and closer. 

They began to discern separate beams of moonlight.  They beams were still too far away for the two moths to ride.

So they flew and flew.  And for a small measure of time, Cinnabar even took the lead, tugging her larger friend behind her.  For the closer they came to the Moon, the closer they came to each other in strength.

They found a moonbeam soon enough.  And the green-winged moth flew into it, sliding along it.

The two moths laughed with joy and triumph as they rode the moonbeam to the surface of the Moon.

***

Only upon landing did Cinnabar see that her friend’s once-white legs had turned a deep dark red.  But before she could be horrified by what she had unknowingly done, the green-winged moth observed her legs as she walked upon the white surface of the Moon.

She laughed.  “Cinnabar, you scoundrel.  You have marked me as your friend till the end of our days!”

They laughed, but their joy was cut short when they spotted a large moth flying toward them. 

The two friends stood side by side and faced the moth.  His wings were as pink as an earthly rose.  And when he landed before them, he smiled.

“Welcome home, sisters.”

***

The calm warmth of the Moon was different from the lively warmth of the Earth.  Cinnabar was greatly comforted by that calm warmth. 

The green-winged moth had earned a name.  And for the next little while, she took her time in considering the many names she might take.

Cinnabar explored the Moon.  It was strange to see only moths in the world, and not to see all the other creatures of the Earth.  Indeed, she often looked upon the Earth.

To her surprise, there were many small moths who lived on the Moon, many moths of every size.  And some moths were as large as the largest of the earthly birds.  Cinnabar wondered why they never traveled to the Earth.  They told her that they were too large to abide on the Earth, and if ever they traveled to Earth, they would be too heavy to fly back to the Moon.  Cinnabar had never considered that being a large moth would be a hindrance.  And she never considered that the moths on the Moon would be as curious about the Earth as the moths of the Earth were curious about the Moon. 

The moths in the Moon were not satisfied with the stories of the ambassadors. 

They wanted Cinnabar’s stories. 

For many a turn of the Moon, Cinnabar and her friend lived happily. 

They even shared their stories with the Moon herself.

And they swelled with pride at her delight in those stories about their lives upon the Earth.

But while they were happy, having fulfilled their destinies, their thoughts turned toward their fellow moths.  Many upon the Earth longed to reach the Moon.  And many upon the Moon wondered about the Earth.

One night, Cinnabar found her friend, the green-winged moth, who still had not chosen a name.

“I must return to the Earth,” Cinnabar said.  “Even if I am shunned, and even if I cannot myself return to the Moon, I must show all the moths of the Earth that any can reach the Moon.”

“I will go with you,” the green-winged moth said.  “For I too must show my kin that I was brave enough to make the journey, and that they may too.  Moreso, we must show all the moths of the Earth that each moth can bear more than their own weight.”

***

So the two friends flew back to their birth home, the Earth.  They invited the moths of the Moon to join them if they would.  Only a few did, for the moths of the Moon feared offending their ambassadors.  And so too did they fear the long journey.  But most of all, they feared the Earth’s day, and the fierce heat and light of the Sun’s laughter.

As they expected, when the two friends alighted upon the Earth, they were greeted with suspicion from many, wonder by some, and shock by all. 

As they expected, they were denounced by some.  Cinnabar was denounced for not carrying her own weight to the Moon.  And the green-winged moth was denounced for allowing herself to be influenced and corrupted by her friend.

But in the time that followed, the moths of the Earth proved to be just as curious as the moths in the Moon. 

They asked Cinnabar and the green-winged moth how they had managed to reach the Moon together.  And one time, when a moth mocked them for their simple answered, Cinnabar’s old friends came forth and spoke to the truth of her plan.

***

Wings were aflutter upon the Earth entire when word spread of a little red-winged moth’s journey to and from the Moon, and a green-winged moth’s feat of bearing the weight of her friend.

Cinnabar and the green-winged moth had not intended to come as ambassadors, only as messengers.  But they found themselves teaching and guiding large moths and small alike.  For many more moths than had ever cast their hopes upon the Moon were now preparing to make their journey back to their ancestral home.

Ambassadors flew down from the Moon.  Some of them attempted to stop the preparations, claiming that there were far too many moths planning to travel to the Moon, and that there was not enough room for them all. 

Cinnabar knew this was not true.  The Moon was smaller than the Earth, but she carried far, far fewer moths than Cinnabar had expected to see.  And not only were they lesser in number but lesser in variety as well. 

Fortunately, some of the ambassadors were glad to see the grand preparation.  They encouraged the moths of the Earth, and told them that they were all welcome upon the Moon.

To be sure that no moth would plummet to the Earth, they would all travel together.  Those who did not have the endurance to fly themselves would ride upon or be hitched to those who could.  And once they all passed the arc of the Rainbow, the smaller moths could at last give relief to the larger moths, just as Cinnabar had done for her friend.  And if they traveled as a flock, they could keep warm as they passed through the cold between the lively warmth of the Earth and the calm warmth of the Moon.

***

So they gathered one night, the moths of the Earth.  They rose up into the sky, and they flew and flew.  The flock was not as quick as Cinnabar and the green-winged moth were.  Not every large moth was as strong as the green-winged moth.  This journey to the Moon took much, much longer than Cinnabar’s first.

Before the flock reached the arc of the Rainbow, night was already receding.

And by the time the flock was past the Rainbow, the first rays of dawn stretched up through the darkness of the sky.  The Moon’s light weakened in the light of her far brighter sister. 

For the Sun was rising. 

Cinnabar could see that the Sun’s bright light and fiery heat would strike the flock long before they could reach the moonbeams.  In the Sun’s light, she was not sure if even the keenest of eyes would even see the moonbeams.

“We must part, my friend,” the green-winged moth said, for they were still tethered together.  “You are strong enough to fly forth now and find a moonbeam.  I will encourage the flock.  Perhaps you can seek help from the moon moths.”

“The moon moths can see us now, and will help us if they can,” Cinnabar said.  “I will stay with my flock and my friend.  Let us fly together.”

And so they did.  They turned back and flew among their fellows, pushing those who could fly faster to fly farther.  Those at the front of the flock reached the moonbeams and rode them.  But so many had fallen behind.

The moths of the Earth flew, and they flew. 

The Moon’s face was turned toward them.  She watched them move toward her.

And she too began to move to meet them. 

The moths marveled, even through their weariness and fear.  For they had never seen the Moon move in such a way.

She moved between the Earth and the Sun, blocking her elder sister’s light and fire, if only for a few moments, to give all the moths time to reach her. 

And reach her they did. 

When the last moths were safely upon the surface of the Moon, she moved back into her orbit. 

***

From that time on, when the moth ambassadors visited the Earth, all the moths of the Earth, large and small, were invited to journey to the Moon.  And many did, but many were content to remain on the Earth, for the Earth too was a home to the moths.

Cinnabar became one such ambassador, for she found that she loved the Moon and the Earth in equal measure.  She came to live upon both.

The green-winged moth choose to live upon the Earth.  She told her kin about the Moon, and encouraged those who dreamed of visiting to make the journey and to take a friend along.  The green-winged moths became known for always carrying another moth up to the Moon with them when they journeyed there. 

The green-winged moth never did pick a name for herself, but she was given one.  Her bold red-winged friend suggested the name to the Moon, and the Moon agreed.

The Moon agreed to name the green-winged moth after herself.

So the green-winged moth came to be known as Luna. 

And it did indeed come to pass that Cinnabar and Luna were friends until the end of their days.

 

Copyright © 2020  Nila L. Patel

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