During the second week of my unemployment I experience a bizarre phenomenon. It happens on a Tuesday night, or more accurately, a Wednesday morning. All rational people are sleeping soundly. I have drenched the sofa in sweat while watching the Last Samurai, a movie I have seen several times. Sleep escapes as usual. I pace. I look out the window. I imagine the neighbors, placid, comfortable, snoring their way towards a normal day. Brilliant light streams in the window. This can’t be right, I think. I open the back door and stumble outside.
The largest moon I have ever seen hangs in a bitter empty sky. No trace of cloud shields the moonrise. The moon is literally the size of a skull. It’s so bright now you could read the newspaper. I shiver. I’ve never seen anything like it. I walk around to the front of the house. My shadow stretches before me. I stare unbelieving, and measure the length of my shadow with footfalls. Seven paces. I look at my bare feet. Approximately seven feet. What does it mean? For two days prior rain and lightning have punished my garden, creating stillness in the air that seems odd. Silent, unforgiving. The moon stares down as a bullfrog croaks. Bullfrogs are not supposed to sound like that. He sounds like a drunken fat man burping after eating too much spaghetti. Why can’t he croak like a normal frog, or at least like the funny ones in that Bud commercial? It’s freaking me out. The scene reminds me of the strange landscapes featured on album covers from the 70’s, something from Yes or maybe Rush. For a moment the album cover seems real, or worse, more than real. Everything seems so far away.
The thought occurs to me, no one but me will witness this strange atmospheric phenomenon. I have lived for forty-one years and never seen anything close to it. It’s as if the moon is mocking me, illuminating my despair. I look at the sky and wonder.
I tiptoe back through the door and slide quietly into the bedroom. My wife and daughter are asleep in my bed. Quietly I open the shade. The light spills in, splashing the family with an obscene blue light. I am engrossed in thought. What dreams fill their slumber? They look so peaceful. It’s as if they are carved from alabaster. Don’t they know what is happening? Don’t they sense the desperation of the man before them, a man unsure of what his future holds, a man that casts a seven foot shadow in the savage moonlight? I lean forward, hearing the softness of their breath in the small hours. In, out. In, out. They sleep the sleep of the just. One day I will sleep like that. One day the moonrise will be gone, and soon after that, the memory of the moonrise will be gone. I alone have seen it. My ears are ringing. I cannot sleep. Moon, forgive me. Have mercy on those I love. Do not wake the family. I don’t want them to see the terror of this endless night and its impossible sky. I don’t want them to see the creature I have become, skulking around measuring shadows in the small hours. Watching, wondering, worrying.
A large koi slaps at the water of the pond as the moon stares down. I cannot sleep.