SATURDAY TALE - La Luna by Liam Hogan

Between Night and Day
Kings and Queens
Dusk and Dawn...
Once, the King of the Night and the Queen of the Day shared the narrowest of borders, a mere moment wide.

As they exchanged passing pleasantries across that knife-sharp boundary, a shooting star arrested them in its spectacular demise. In the fading afterglow the Queen noticed, for the first time, that the King’s black cloak was studded with sparkling gems. The King looked past the Queen’s gown of startling blue and saw that it was softened by a shawl of softly spun cloud.

In that instant between Night and Day, these two mighty monarchs fell helplessly in love.

Exactly a year later the Queen gave birth to two beautiful babies, a boy and a girl. The boy was smoke skinned, dark haired, Kohl-eyed, lips like bruises. They called him, Dusk. His sister was fair haired, pale eyed, her cheeks a delicate blush of pink. The doting parents named her, Dawn.

But the King of the Night had a kingdom to rule, the Queen of the Day her lands and people to protect. They could not neglect their regal duties, not even for a single pirouette of the Earth around the Sun. In which of their kingdoms would the children be raised? In the Kingdom of the Night, or in that of the Day? Which of the two monarchs would be left bereft, totally alone, for their newborns could not bear to be parted?
These thoughts plagued what should have been a joyous occasion as they wrestled with the impossible choice.
Desperate, the King asked his most trusted advisor to find another way.
At her wits’ end, the Queen asked her most trusted advisor for some other solution.
“Your Majesty,” the advisor said after a moment’s careful consideration. “There is one wise woman who might be able to help. Though I fear she will demand a hefty price.”
The Queen/King shook their head. “Anything. I’ll pay anything!”
The advisor bowed. “Then I’ll write down her address.”

The lanes were a warren of narrow alleyways, the buildings slumped together, crowding out the sky. Shrouded shops sold mysterious potions, deadly poisons, and dark secrets. As the King/Queen made the last turn indicated on the advisor’s map, they looked up to see the sign that hung there.
A flat disk swayed above their head. A disk cut into two, one half painted black, the other bright silver.
Ancient memory chased a shiver down the Queen/King’s neck. With tremulous hands they pushed the creaking door open. And there the wise woman stood, peering sternly at him, at her, seeing through them, reminding them of the promises they had made and long ago broken.
The King coughed in embarrassment.
The Queen blushed.
“La Luna...?” they said, wondering how a youthful love could wax and wane and be so utterly forgotten.
“Your Majesty,” the wise woman inclined her head. For a moment, the King/Queen hoped that she, too, had buried their shared past. But one glance at those gray eyes told them otherwise.
Haltingly, they told the wise woman of their problem. Wincing at each mention of a love that had bloomed so fiercely, that had resulted in the birth of their adorable twins, that might remind La Luna of another, earlier love, gone stale.
Surely that was long enough ago? Surely time had healed the wounds, and look! here La Luna was, alive and well, if a little thin, a little greyer, a little more reluctant to smile.
There was a long silence as the Queen/King drew to a stuttering close. The wise woman traced a finger in delicate patterns across the smooth surface of her writing desk, a pattern that raised goose-bumps on the Queen’s flesh, that tugged at the King’s loins.
“What if I told you that you could both spend equal time with your children? For that, would you be willing to give up a portion of your vast territory?”
The King clenched his jaw.
The Queen’s fingers curled into a ball.
“Oh, not for me,” the wise woman quickly added, resting a hand on the monarch’s arm, the touch cold but familiar. “For your children, for Dusk, for Dawn. A small sacrifice, a tiny portion, no more perhaps than an hour?”
The King considered this. To give up some of the Night, so that they might all be together.
The Queen thought. To give up part of the Day, so that they could be a happy family?
They both nodded.
The wise woman raised her knife, a foot-long kukri, a fat crescent of curved silver, and sliced.
The King never knew that he shared a lover with the Queen, that both of them had once made promises to La Luna, only to break them as she ebbed and flowed around them.
The Queen never fully understood why the wise woman cheated them so.
For while the King and the Queen now spent equal time with each of their children, in that uncertain period between night and day, day and night, that fuzzy no-man’s land that now stretched between their Kingdoms, they no longer shared even the briefest of moments with each other. Night and Day could never touch again.
But La Luna is even crueler a mistress than that. Because the twins were also rent asunder. Dusk would never again see his sister Dawn, Dawn would never again see her brother, Dusk.
The children were young, unable to fully understand their loss. The pain has settled over the intervening years. But the birds still remember when it was fresh, still mimic the infants’ anguished wails. The mournful lament of the owls as night descends, the strident cries of the rooster as day begins. The birds remember the hard wrench of their infant separation, even if the twins, grown now, have half forgotten and are cursed by their envious parents for having done so.
High above them all, La Luna mournfully rises and falls, watching. Saying nothing.
Liam Hogan is an Oxford Physics graduate and award winning London based writer. His short story "Ana", appears in Best of British Science Fiction 2016 (NewCon Press) and his twisted fantasy collection, "Happy Ending Not Guaranteed", is published by Arachne Press. Find out more at http://happyendingnotguaranteed.blogspot.co.uk/, or tweet @LiamJHogan

Cover: Amanda Bergloff

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Comments

  1. Haunting. After reading this story, a part of me inside cannot help but attribute human qualities to the Moon and Sun, Dusk and Dawn, and mourn their loss.

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  2. I love the personification of Night, Day, Dawn, and Dusk and details such as "a mere moment wide" and "lips like bruises."

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  3. This wonderful story gave me shivers up and down my back and it is still morning

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