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The Moon in Her Doorway

Joy Kennedy-O'Neill teaches composition and literature at a small college on the Gulf Coast, where her husband, writer K. S. O'Neill, teaches math. They live in a small house, on a small pond, with two not-so-small cats. Her works have appeared in Strange Horizons, Flash Fiction Online, New Orleans Review, and in such collections as Zombies: More Recent Dead, by Prime Books and Cats in Space, by Paper Golem Press.

She didn't know why the moon had smashed into her house, trapping her inside. After working a double shift, she had walked home on tired feet under a night sky. The moon had hung large and low on the horizon, like a silver dollar. It balanced on the hill above her neighborhood.
She remembered thinking, "It looks like it could roll into my arms."
And then it did.
Or almost. It was larger than it looked.
The moon rumbled and rolled, throwing light and shadows like flitting bats. An earthquake of moon. A boulder of brightness. Coming right for her, spinning craters, scattering moon-dust, knocking over street lamps and smashing curbs.
She ran. Just as she flung open her front door and fell inside, bang! The moon lodged in her doorframe, cracking her sheetrock, burying the hedges, and throwing dishes from the shelves. Her front door landed in the living room. The moon, as big as a bus, had very nearly pushed over her tiny rental house that stood stucco-mottled and lonely at the end of the street.
She was a practical woman, neither beautiful nor brilliant. Calm. She tried to get out through the backdoor; it was jammed. The windows had burglar bars; she couldn't find the key. She heard car alarms and shouting.
She pushed against the moon. Soft dust glowed on her hands, like powdered twilight. It wouldn't budge.
Week 1
Her landlord refused to have the window bars cut. "Paid good money for those," he shouted to her from the backyard. "And you said you wanted to be safe."
"Yes. I'm sorry," she said, from inside where she was trapped.
She hadn't been dating when she moved in. But now she fingered the gold bracelet her lover had given her last month. Pretty, but not a ring. She wondered if he was already married.
The moon still glowed from her doorway. The Earth's axis had not tilted. The season had not changed. Seas were calm. But she felt strange penumbras and perigees tugging at her.
Her lover came to the window. "We'll get you out!"
"How can this be happening?" she asked. "The moon is supposed to be big."
"They say it was your perception," he said. "It fell just the way you saw it. Couldn't you see the difference between sky and land?"
"I'm sorry."
It was understandable, she supposed. She was always blurring lines. Someone would say "we should get together" and she would make plans, only to listen to them stammer their way out. She was a nice person. Too nice, people said. Naive.
She fingered the bracelet, and the moonlight showed it for what it was: cheap brass.
Week 2
Still searching for an escape, she took a hammer to the drywall. She discovered a family of mice with fur of grey velvet. She tried the attic but found bird nests, like cupped palms.
She had eaten half the food in her pantry.
"At night everything is so dark and pretty," someone told her through the window. "We take colored lanterns to the lake, just like a parade. You should see it!"
"I'm sorry I'm missing it," she said through the barred window.
"They say the moon will wane," her lover told her. "Then we can get you out."
"Of course," she said. "Sorry. I didn't think of that."
But the moon in her doorway did not diminish.
Week 3
She begged for someone to bring her food. She smashed a window and held her hand out through the bars. People said they would. But then the moon would distract them. They began to write bad poetry. Or sing.
The lake waters rose high and the stars gleamed bright.
Perhaps it's understandable they would forget about me, she thought.
Her empty stomach rumbled but she had plenty of water. In fact, her bathwater sloshed toward the living room, where the moon glowed and lit her half-destroyed house in silver and white. She thought she heard siren-songs moaning from the water pipes.
The phone rang. Her boss fired her.
"But I'm trapped in my house!" she pleaded.
"We need someone more dependable," he said.
"Of course," she said. "I'm sorry."
Week 4
She cried and couldn't understand why this was happening to her. She was kind to animals and children. But what good is kindness?
She heard that the town's lake was rising higher, putting strain on the dam. Her lover didn't visit her window much anymore. She could hear him giving interviews.
The woman sat in front of the moon, staring. It looked feminine, like a pale breast, or a pregnant stomach. She had been pregnant once herself. When the father was told, he had spun out of her orbit as fast as possible. And the baby....
Death is cold, she thought.
She traced the moon's features: dry seas, cracks, ridges, pockmarks. There was no man-in-the-moon. There were only impact lines, like stretch marks.
The city's water lines burst. Migrating birds weighed down the trees.
She took the brass bracelet off and threw it in the garbage disposal. The water in the pipes sang.
Week 5
She ate the moon. She dug her hands into it; it was not made of cheese. It was more like thick sponge cake. It tasted of ambrosia and honeydew, food for the gods. Like that sweet moment between waking and dreams.
The more she ate, the heavier she felt. And lighter. After years of waxing and waning in the brightness of other people, in the gravities of others' choices, she understood now.
And after one last bite and licking her finger, she was strong enough. She rolled the moon away like a stone from a tomb.
Cameras clicked. Video spun. She emerged to see her lover flirting with a reporter. His eyes widened when he finally noticed her.
Her eyes flashed like stars; the whites of her nails were crescent-moons. Her legs were strong and lean with moonlight.
She left a path of beautiful destruction behind her, and did not apologize. The tides had finally turned.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, May 26th, 2017

Author Comments

This story began as a prompt in my writers' group: "A prison of one's making." The structure of the story goes by weeks because I wanted the phases of the moon to be represented by the character's change, rather than the moon itself.

- Joy Kennedy-O'Neill
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