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Room Of The Desert Moon

©Heath Yonaites

 

Deep within the labyrinthian streets of The Stone City was a forgotten room, open to the sky, hidden from those who did not believe. When the sun would set into the desert, having desecrated the Moon's palace with it's rays, the shadows of evening came. They crawled over the pitted walls, consumed them in their darkness. A prayer for the death of the day was uttered in some unnatural language and the night was returned to it's rightful glory. The room welcomed it's king, the Moon, with twisting nocturnal veils that danced across the stone walls. The roofless chamber came alive with the soft light of the lunar god, it carved shadows totally unlike those of the sun; they breathed along the walls, flowed into and out of one another, lived. Only in the Room of the Desert Moon did such things occur. Whatever strange denizens still inhabited The Stone City wanted nothing to do with this nighttime parlor and it's unholy alliance. It had become a fable, this room, but those who knew, those who trusted in it, kept out of it and asked no questions.

The guides had taken him only so far, they would go no further. With great assurance they provided him with directions and as much provisions as he could carry. He figured he had almost a week's worth, which should be enough for a round trip. They would wait ten days for him, but no longer. He accepted this compromise and set out alone. The man traveled for days without contact, had pushed on full of faith, his only friend. When he finally reached the massive, jagged entrance to The Stone City he fell to his knees. The place seemed deserted. It reeked of inhumanity, smelled of time immemorial, felt alien and confusing. This was the place he had sought. No one knew who had built the city; it was in it's way an eternal city. Eternal in the fact it had always been written about for as far back as things were written. He doubted it was truly eternal, but it was old, older than recorded history and even though it was thought of as a cursed place, he needed to find an answer. It was time to learn if the question he asked was to an answer he didn't want.

The streets twisted in such an illogical way that he quickly became lost. The roads were covered in sand, everything was burnt and blasted from the relentless sun and the hammering of the wind blown grit. Huge walls erupted from the ground, like the city had grown from the land as a mountain does, or perhaps it had once been a mountain but been cunningly hewn into a city. It was a massive metropolis, a gargantuan circle of rock fifty miles in diameter. Everything here was stone; dark oppressive stone. Carved into the buildings were openings, some human sized, some much larger, and others much too small. Windows poked through in odd places, the walls fell into each other, twisted spires climbed for hundreds of feet. There was no logical design here, to his mind, but in a way he knew it made sense. The sun caused the odd structures to cast bizarre shadows into the lanes, sharp strokes of darkness crisscrossed others, painting abstract geometric designs on the walls. Every so often he would look down and catch the distant remnant of a foot print. There were others here besides him. He saw no one, nothing. After half a day's journey around the city, not knowing where he was, he found a small antechamber. His provisions were still adequate and he quickly satisfied his craving. He sat down and watched the final rays of the sun course through the towers of the obsolete city.

He woke to a strange sound, jumped up and searched his abode. The man cautiously walked out of the opening into the street and peered around. He saw only darkness. The moon had come out, it was near full and seemed to glow with a slight blue hue. Exhaustion took over and he shrugged off the strange color; a hallucination due to his lack of sleep. He did not wake till the next morning.

Again he stalked the streets, weaving deeper and deeper into the city. The furnace that was the sun constantly bore down upon him. He tried to remain in shadows when possible, but he had recently developed an almost uncontrollable urge to find what he sought, even though he didn't know what it was consciously. In his own way he was traveling a straight line to his answer, a straight line that was impeded by the broken reasoning of the street's coiling paths. Down a final road did he walk, where before him ascended a sheer wall over one hundred feet high. In the center of the massive barrier was a circular opening six feet wide. He climbed through the mouth and into the proceeding room. It was cool and dark. He turned around and saw the street behind him, watched as it got darker by the minute as the day came crashing down. In the back of the massive room was a darker hole, a doorway. Passing through this threshold he found himself in another room. It was crude and the walls slightly sparkled from some crystalline deposits. In this way the man proceeded, through seemingly countless doorways and rooms, deeper into the bowels of The Stone City.

Some rooms were small and dark, others had distant roofs with vents, allowing air and light in. Others looked to be the burrows of giant beetles, dug from the bedrock. One was full of old mounds reminiscent of a burial chamber. He kept moving forward, forward in his mind, not by conscious design. A force seemed to compel him in the correct direction and he listened, finally nearing his destination. The penultimate room soon arrived and he felt a chill. It was more than cold air, it cooled him in a way previously unknown. Ahead, through this room and out it's door, was a roofless chamber that glowed with the nighttime air. He had found what he sought. Not forty feet away was the Room of the Desert Moon. Each step carried the weight of the previous step, all his answers were to become questions, and he couldn't turn back; he walked into the moonlight.

The lunar God stood watch over this interloper, it brightly shown down and illuminated his movement. Tonight he was full, round and blue. The man looked up and witnessed the moon in all it's glory, softly exuding a cobalt haze that turned the fifty foot room into a reflecting chamber like deep, dark ice. The Room of the Desert Moon was a large circle, having one high, smooth, ring-like wall. The only way in or out was through the doorway the man had come from. Shadows cast from imaginary objects crawled upon the circular wall, scaled the twenty foot heights to where the ceiling should have been, then somehow managed to travel across the ceiling, even though it wasn't there. Above him danced an array of nocturnal haze, non shadows on an intangible ceiling. The rocky floor joined in and the milky apparitions swirled around his feet, yet they never touched him. All the while he remained uncovered by these strange shadows.

He stood motionless in the center of the room, an observer to the dark dance of the moon's minstrels. The man had been carrying a sack with him and he removed it, placed it on the floor in front of himself. Kneeling, he pulled out an obsidian sphere. It was shaped exactly like the moon, inky black and delicately carved with craters. A miniature black moon, the inverse of the real satellite. The shadows that had been slowly floating across the walls began to race. They spun and darted, they seemed to try to fling themselves off and onto the man. An improbable wind picked up, hundreds of tiny vortices spun across the space, blowing in all directions. The moon turned bluer, it intensified and hung even heavier in the starry, cloudless sky. The man lifted the orb over his head, challenged the moon. He was battered by wind, surrounded by shadows, and he stood his ground. Then the voice called out.

Deep within the impenetrable stone he heard the cry. It was a human sound, a lost and forlorn yell. He waited. His eyes shut, his skin pelted by the wind, the voice floated forward. Finally, after what seemed years but was only minutes, the voice ruptured forth from some dark corner of the room and came screaming into existence. He had never imagined it would be so loud, so painful and so lonely. When he opened his eyes he saw what no one alive had ever seen. He saw the Moon's Mistress.

She wavered before him, a ghost of white intensity, a spirit solid enough to be seen and blown by the wind, yet immaterial and ethereal. She was beautiful, young, haunted and he desired her. He reached his hand out, passed it through her milky body. It was ice cold, inhumanly frigid, and he instinctively pulled his hand back. She smiled into him, smiled with her mouth but not her eyes. Those eyes were gelid and black, like the orb. A slow step took her closer to the man. He couldn't move, still wanted to feel her embrace, even though he knew it would be his last. She stopped and spoke with a voice like dust blowing across granite.

"You have a question, no?"

He remembered he had come with a question, but now he feared the answer. "I can't ask you, but I have to know. Please tell me the answer."

The Moon's Mistress paused, she flickered like a candle, then spoke. "In everything there is no one."

She stepped forward, into the man, consumed him in her chalky radiance. He felt his soul dry out, he became nothing, everything. The orb he had held crashed to the floor and the moon above sighed in relief, lessened it's blue anger. The ghost continued forward and returned to the comfort and concealment of the stone walls, gone from view. Left in the middle of the Room of the Desert Moon was the man, or what he had become. The delicate embrace of the Moon's Mistress had turned the man to sand; his flesh and bones and hair and blood had been replaced with tiny grains of desert dust. The wind slowly blew him apart, spread him over the room, carried him into the sky, swirling out into the desert. By morning nothing remained of the man, only his answer, the question forgotten.

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