The Bringer of the Moon
A Meeting from Another Realm
The copper gold of the twilight dissolved as the silent breath of night settled in the woods. Shanta hoped the moon would not shine as bright as it did the previous night. She could see it hidden behind a cluster of softly glowing black clouds. Please, please stay there, she prayed.
Her grandmother was asleep by her side. Her chiding had thankfully stopped. “You need to sleep, child,” she had grunted an hour ago, pulling at Shanta’s sleeves as she sat on the edge of the bed staring out into the woods beyond. “Ten years old and so stubborn,” she had mumbled as she sank into a deep slumber.
All was quiet. The big pause. Then she saw the glitters - a few near the cow shed on the right, and then others in the bushes. A few minutes later the glinting mini-lights flashed on and off through the woods and over the grass. A hundred. A thousand. Many thousands. The heavens had scattered the little stars right there. Some would float in the room through the open window. Magic glow-lights. She raced to the window, her heart expanding to embrace it all.
“Hello fairies,” she whispered. “You brought the stars with you!” She wished she could fly out there in the sea of twinkles like Tinker Bell. She closed her eyes to imagine what it would be like to float away easily from the window and join their sparkle-dance.
It watched her from the darkness beyond before gliding silently, smoothly - a phantom with long outstretched wings. Shanta took a deep breath and opened her eyes. She almost screeched out loud as she saw it perched on the railing of the balcony outside the window, watching her with the blackest of unblinking eyes. She stared back hypnotized. It tilted its heart-shaped face all the way left and then in slow motion to the right.
“Who are you?” she asked - the question in her head.
She thought she heard it answer - “hoo, hoo hoo.”
But it was silent, its head upright now, watching, always watching.
She heard it speak in her mind. They brought you the stars…I bring you the moon.
On cue, the moon slid out, slicing through the thick blanket of clouds. It was full, perfectly round. She pinned itself in the skies - unmoving. Her light poured on the front lawn. The trees and the woods glistened. How easily the darkness had flowed back.
On the balcony rail sat this watcher - this bringer of the moon. It stretched its wings out suddenly. As it glided back to the woods, it shone with an ethereal glow and melted into the night in a flash of silver.
It spoke to me, she said to herself. She knew it would not come back again - not this night. She slipped into bed. Sleep child, said the moon as it touched her face and flooded her pillow with light.
The cook had come in early morning. Steaming idlis, coconut chutney and sambar were laid on the dining table. Grandma shook her shoulders. “Wake up - the sun is out. This is why I tell you to sleep early and not sit like a doll looking out the window.”
Shanta threw the covers off and dashed to the bathroom to brush her teeth, have her shower and slip into her floral pink top and blue capris. She raced down the stairs leaping off the last three to the floor.
“Girl,” Grandma scolded. “You will give me a nervous breakdown. I will have a full report for your mother when she returns!”
Shanta giggled, hugging her Grandma and settled into the chair. Her thirteen year-old brother, Anand, looked up from his plate and shook his head. “You should learn to behave and show more respect to Grandma, twerp!” he hissed.
Shanta ignored him and dug into the soft white idlis. Grandma eased her portly frame into the chair next to Shanta, happy to see her eat with relish.
“There were so many fairies last night, Grandma,” she announced between mouthfuls.
“Don’t talk with your mouth full,” said Anand annoyed. “It’s disgusting!”
“Was there?” said Grandma.
“Thousands…millions. They were shining like a zillion stars…”
“They’re fireflies, twerp!” smirked Anand. “And don’t exaggerate - a hundred maybe. I saw them too from my window.”
“And did the fairies talk to you?” asked Grandma, dipping the idli in the sambar.
“They don’t need to, Grandma. They talk to you in your mind - like sick-ic.”
“She means psychic,” laughed Anand.
“Ah - and what did they say?” Grandma looked at her sweetly.
“Yeah - what did they say - your sick-ic friends?” Anand winked at her.
“That’s a secret,” she whispered to Grandma.
“Secret? Or did you not have time to make up your yarn,” mocked Anand.
Shanta ignored him again. “Then came this big ghost-like angel. Big wings - from somewhere. It sat on the balcony railing and talked to me. Its face was like a heart.”
“Really?” said Grandma, intrigued. “And what did it say?”
Anand squinted at Shanta. “What did it look like?” he asked.
“I told you - big wings, face like a heart. Silver colour. Shining.”
“Oh - that’s the same ghost that flies in from the woods looking for little girls who are awake. Ooooo - it will come for you again tonight”
Grandma glowered at Anand. He pursed his lips, but then giggled.
Shanta stared at him eyes wide.
“Go on, child…don’t mind him. There are no ghosts here - only fairies, right?”
“And it just sat there, Grandma, staring at me. Not even blinking.”
“It flew away - back to the woods. I knew it would not come again. It may tonight.”
“Child, you are going to bed early and not sit looking outside.”
“Ooooo,” said Anand under his breath. “It will come for you.”
“Enough!” scolded Grandma. “Let her speak freely.”
“But she exaggerates, Grandma. She is constantly making up tales. Ma used to tell her to stop chatting so much. She goes on and on each morning.”
“She is a young child,” retorted Grandma.
“She is ten, Grandma. Not five years old. Tell her - the fairies are fireflies and the big silver angel is a barn owl. I have seen it myself one night. It flew down from the fence and over the lawn to catch a mouse. She needs to get real. And grow up.” He shot a glance at Shanta.
Shanta’s eyes began to well up with tears.
“Now look what you have done, young man! I think you need to grow up and not be so rude to her. Your name is Anand - and you know what that means. It means happiness. Learn to make her happy. She is your little sister.”
“Sorry Sweets.” He stretched out his hand to hold hers. Shanta took it and nodded. “Tonight, I will watch the drama of the night with you, deal?”
She shook his hands, smiling. She was overjoyed to have her brother join her in these adventures.
Anand joined her as promised. They waited for Grandma to sleep. She mumbled for them to go to bed and then snored deep. They tiptoed to the window and looked out into the night. She is right, thought Anand. There were more fireflies on this side of the woods. He watched with fascination as they filled the darkness with their teasing twinkle.
Both did not see it approaching - but in a blink it was stationed on the balcony railing watching them with black liquid eyes. Anand was startled as was Shanta. It was a bigger barn owl - unlike the one he had seen from his window. He gazed at it with awe. Its heart shaped face tilted left and then ever so slowly right and then upright, its gaze unflinching and steady.
This is a bold one, thought Anand.
“It came back,” she whispered softly. “For us.”
I came for you tonight, Anand. He looked at the owl shocked. Did he just hear it talk to him in his mind, clear as a bell?
This is Grandpa, the gazer-in-the night told him soundlessly.
Anand’s eyes widened as he stood rooted to the spot. His mind raced back to the time of his grandfather’s funeral six years ago. He had sobbed uncontrollably as he saw his beloved Grandpa swathed in white on the wooden stretcher. The marigold garlands and petals adorning his shroud bobbed as the pall bearers, lifted him up for his final journey chanting, “Ram Nam Sathya Hai.”
His mother with streams of tears flowing from her eyes, had held on to his little hand. Grandma sank in a weeping heap on the steps consoled by aunts.
“Where will he go?” he asked his mother, his voice shaking but sharp through the tears.
“To heaven - to God.” she answered.
“Will he not talk to me anymore, tell me stories, walk with me to the river, take me on the boat?”
His mother was silent.
He tugged her arm. “Ma, tell me, I want him to talk to me from wherever he is going.”
“He will come if you call him in your prayers.”
“Will I recognize him?” Anand asked choking.
His mother had nodded. “He can come as a butterfly, as a feather, a crow…”
“Why can’t he come as himself? How will I know which butterfly is him?”
His mother had no answer. His questions had brought on a flood of tears.
He had watched the flames of the funeral pyre rise to the sky that evening. Shanta only four years old then, had gone to sleep early in the care of an aunt. Why did death feel so final even though his mother’s assured him it was not. He loved his Grandpa dearly. He had always waited impatiently for their school vacation time - when the whole family would travel south to visit and spend more than a month with his grandparents. Grandpa would scoop him up skywards joyous, while Grandma would scold him not to hurt his back. With that twinkling rebellion in his eyes Grandpa would carry him piggyback around Grandma. He remembered the squeals of shared laughter, the boat rides down the river, the walk through mushy paddy fields, chasing frogs, slurping on coconut water.
Grandpa was a ‘forever man’, the sun in his heart spilling out to everyone he met on the way. He would tell him what the crows were complaining about, the golden land beyond the clouds where the eagles journeyed to, what the frogs were plotting as they watched them from the wet mud, the conversations of the butterflies, the chorus of the pollen drenched bees.
One morning Grandpa had sketched a barn owl. His drawings were so detailed - they breathed from the page. “This is the wisest bird,” he had told him. “They do not talk much, they listen, watch, see what you and I cannot…especially in the dark.
He thought Grandpa would greet him one day as one of the sunlit creatures - a butterfly, or a host of rising starlings, even a cawing crow perhaps, or swoop down as a majestic eagle from the radiant clouds.
But he came now as a luminous phantom bird of the night.
“Grandpa,” he said aloud to the owl perched on the railing.
“That’s an angel of the night,” Shanta whispered looking at him, curious.
The moon swept up from behind the clouds, its silver shower of light bathing the forest and the lawn.
The heart-shaped face gazed at Anand. It blinked its eyes ever so slowly.
I came as the bringer of the moon, so you will see the beauty of life in the night. He flew away soundlessly from the railing, the moonlight shimmering on his wings.
“Grandpa,” Anand whispered. “You came!”
Shanta saw the glisten of tears in his eyes. “That’s a night owl,”she said.