Phase of the New Moon
It wasn't day and it wasn't night. The moon was invisible in a celestial sphere, illuminated by the sun. A comet blazed across the sky, exploding over a tiny dwelling in the eastern quarter of the universe.
"You're under arrest!"
Luna looked up from her table. Two menacing figures stood in the doorway. With a swift glance they appraised her room. Invisible figures linked hands in a circle of red silk cushions. A tapestry depicting the Avenue of the Dead hung on the wall, flanked by the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon. They raised their eyes to the ceiling. A diagram of the universe hung on the ceiling. Luna sat directly under the nadir, one black gloved hand fingering the onyx choker around her neck. A single candle flickered on the table.
She stared at them. "What do you want with me?"
One of the men walked forward and snuffed out the candle. "You're engaged in subversive activities," he said, motioning for the other man to come into the room.
She looked up at the other man. He had a syringe in his left hand.
She sprang up from the table, knocking over the candlestick. "Get away from me!"
The first man walked up to her and grabbed her hands, slipping cuffs on her wrists.
"Let go!" She screamed as she felt the needle pierce her skin. She struggled, staring up at the ceiling. Light shifted, faded to black. Voices whispered between the dark shadows of the lunar mountains….. "Take her out to the van"….echoed across the Milky Way …. "Secure the back"……
dissolving in the lunar seas….. "Keep the cuffs on…."
. She woke up in a foggy haze. It took a moment to regain her bearings. She was in a moving van. She glanced out the window. Fluffy white clouds hung in a brilliant blue sky, throwing shadows across the open fields. Her eyes focused on a line of white billboards, appearing in the distance like a mirage. A man and wife with his two children cowered underneath a black cloud with red glowing eyes. "The specter of terrorism ….." In the next billboard the cloud had grown larger, enveloping the whole family. "Hangs over us all….." In the last billboard the cloud had disappeared, replaced by two soldiers with guns, standing in front of a beaming family. "Protect your loved ones! Join the military!" Luna glanced up. A plane flew across the horizon. "J O I N T H E W A R A G A I N S T S U B V E R S I O N" trailed in white smoke against the blue sky.
The highway faded into city limits. The van wound its way around tin buildings and walls with graffiti. One wall caught her eye. "THE RISE AND FALL OF X." A panorama of a man's life unfolded against black concrete. In the first scene he was throwing himself over a huge waterfall, his life flashing before him. A choir boy in church. A man and a woman with a heart between them. Then a crack in the heart. An old man in a wheel chair wearing a death mask. And a single hand sticking out of the frothy waves.
The last 24 hours caught up to her. She drifted into unconsciousness…She was dreaming…a panorama of her life unfolded in a banner of mist. Praying at Sunday school… Looking out of stained glass windows at the palm trees swaying on the beach. Seeing a vision of a little girl drowning in the blue green sea, her long hair entangled in the seaweed, floating along the waves. Running down the dark corridors to tell the nuns. Still feeling the sting of their slap against her face. You're an evil child, a child of the devil. Watching them drag Sonia's body from the sea. Seeing the fear in their eyes. And then waving good bye to the children from the back of the truck. Bye Bye..She was in a maze, silvery and opaque..shadows..darkness …she ran down one passageway….a dead end…she turned and ran into another passageway filled with moonlight…she ran and ran…she was free.
First Quarter ….The moon turned at a right angle to the sun, illuminating half of the daylight hemisphere…..
When she opened her eyes everything was black.. It must be night. Her head felt a little clearer. Her stomach growled angrily. Her long hair felt dirty and matted. Questions ran through her mind. What time was it? Where are they taking me? Why did they choose me? She closed her eyes and tried to think of something pleasant, something to take her away from this madness. She imagined that she was a famous psychic being interviewed on TV.
So Miss Xavier, what made you decide to be a fortune teller?
Oh, I don't know… I've always had an interest in the occult, psychic phenomena. Hypnosis. That sort of thing. And then …something happened in my childhood
May we ask….what?
Well,.. I was walking alone in the woods one day. I had stopped to look at some moss on the bottom of a tree, because it was such a beautiful green….then suddenly…the moss caught on fire…it was a …vision.
Now Miss Xavier, when you say vision, can you please clarify that term for us?
I mean… it wasn't really happening… I mean it was, but…it was as if I was watching a film…it was so clear.. Anyway, the fire spread to a huge tree… It seemed to be human…its branches were swaying in the wind. The whole tree was on fire…. I was so scared… Then I saw a face…It became clearer…it was a man…. Mr. Diamond….our next door neighbor…His face was ghastly….his skin…it was melting, like wax from a candle….. I turned and ran home…I told my mother…We went next door to tell Mr. Diamond…
and…he got so angry…called me a witch… That night I woke up in the middle of the night…there was a commotion outside….I looked out my bedroom window…. Mr. Diamond's house was on fire..I was crying…My mother came in and held me….She told me I had a very special gift..that by seeing the future I could help people….
I'm sorry Miss Xavier, our time is up. You've been a most interesting guest.
The van halted to a stop. The doors flew open.
Her captors stood at the back of the van, their feet planted squarely apart. She stared at them. One was tall with pale white skin. His eyes were dark hallows, set in a bony matrix. He reminded her of a skull. The other was short with dark hair and eyes. She decided he resembled a fox.
She stepped out of the van. They were parked outside a dark building with barred windows. It looked like some sort of detention camp. Two guards dressed in black turtlenecks were posted at the entrance, flanking the door. Like two sphinxes guarding the underworld she thought. Her captors pushed inside the building and down a long corridor. "Welcome to Xanadu" was scrawled on the wall. Screams of torture followed her down the hall. Her heart felt as if it would jump out of her chest. They stopped beside a small room and pushed her in. She glanced around the room. A small cell, empty, except for a dirty mattress on the floor. A tattered calendar hung on the wall. June 17, 2020. She stared at the black chalk marks on the walls. "The Manifesto of the New Order." 1) To destroy all enemies of Christian values 2) Eliminate subversion and terrorism 3) To declare the terms "atheism" and "materialism" obsolete.
The man with the skullface stood in front of her. "We're arresting you for engaging in terrorist activities. You're an enemy of God!"
She said nothing, staring at the floor. Her heart was thumping painfully in her chest. She closed her eyes and tried to concentrate on a positive energy force. The Book of Changes….K'un…..Mother Earth….Gentle..kind…giving.
"Behold, the name of the Lord cometh from far, burning with his anger, and the burden hereof is heavy, his lips are full of indignation, and his tongue as a devouring fire!"
She looked up.
His face was red, and the veins on his neck were standing out.
She stared at him. Her eyes widened and her face drained of color. K'an. Abysmal. Water. Danger. His voice rose. "For through the voice of the Lord shall the Assyrian be beaten down, which smote with a rod!"
Chen. Arousing. Thunder. Earthquakes. Say something!.
"And the wicked will be destroyed at the Lord's coming! For behold, the Lord will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire!" She twisted her hands to stop the shaking. "Isaiah 66:15." Thank god for Sunday school.
He looked as if he had been slapped in the face. "Where have you studied the Bible?" he asked.
"I'm.. I'm interested in the prophecies of the Bible," she stammered. She chose her words carefully. "I studied it when I was a child."
He opened his mouth as if to say something, then closed it again. He stared at her for a moment. His skin was returning to its natural hue. "It's a good thing you haven't forgotten the Word of God. Your mind isn't entirely poisoned." He looked at her disdainfully, letting his eyes run over her beaded skirt, silk blouse, and silver earrings, finally resting on her face. There was a quiet elegance in the shape of her face and lips. Almond shaped eyes stared back at him, unblinking.
"Nevertheless you have committed a crime against the government and shall be dealt with accordingly!" he spat out angrily. He nodded to the other man, then turned to walk out of the room. They both walked out, leaving her alone.
She took a deep breath and sat on the floor against the wall. She put her hands over her stomach to stop the growling. At least you're alive. She fingered the gold snake pendant her mother had given her when she was child. It's for good luck. She closed her eyes and thought about the two men. The man with the skullface was dangerous. She knew that he was a top officer in the junta, and an instrumental figure in the coup d'etat of last year. June 18, 2019. The day the country's military regime had seized power and overthrown the government. Capitalizing on the millennium fervor sweeping the country, the military had instigated a massive brainwashing campaign, exploiting Christianity as the prime weapon in its arsenal of indoctrination techniques. She clearly remembered newspaper headlines during the first few days after the coup d'etat. "The Millennium has arrived! Protect your loved ones and destroy terrorism to ensure one thousand years of peace! The Christianity of the New Age will lead you to eternal salvation!" She had remembered seeing his face in the newspaper, but couldn't recall his name. She would have to be careful. He had a volatile temperament. She thought of her Tarot cards. The King of Swords. The other one possessed a quiet intensity, a subtle loyalty to the first man. He seemed more malleable, yielding. I dub thee The Page of Swords….She began to drift off to sleep, when she suddenly jerked up with a start. Tomorrow was June 18. The anniversary of the coup d'etat. She felt a strange feeling overcome her, almost like an electrical current. Her mother's face came to her suddenly. Use your power to help people. She tried to keep the image in her mind until her eyes could no longer stay open. She fell asleep, exhausted.
The sound of a TV woke her. It was quite loud. She could hear almost every word. A commercial.
A man selling cars. "Only one percent financing. That's right, only one percent."
Silence. "And back to our Movie of the Week- "Mystic Money." A door opening. A woman's voice. "Hello. Can I help you?"
A man's voice. "Yes. I want you to tell me about my future."
Woman's voice. "I see. Did you have a particular question?"
Man's voice. "Yes. When and how can I become rich?"
Woman's voice. " Well, let me look in my crystal ball. I see something. It's coming in, a little fuzzy. Coming in now, a little clearer. I see some other words…They're getting clearer…Fidelity Trust…Wallis Simpson….Sun Technology Systems….I'm getting that you should invest in a company called "Sun Technology Systems" with Fidelity Trust. The secret to your wealth seems to lie in investment."
"Fidelity Trust? I've never heard of them, but I'll definitely check them out." Silence. "How much do I owe you?""Twenty-five dollars please." Sound of rustling money. "Thanks and good luck." A door slamming.
Silence. A door opening. A man's voice. Deeper than the other voice. "Hey, you were great honey. You deserve an Oscar for that performance."
"Anything for you Wallie." Silence. A kiss.
Man's voice. "Well, I should get back to the office. He might be on his way over there now. Bye." A door slamming. A commercial. "Bennet's is having their summer clearance sale. All items 50 percent off….."
She heard footsteps. The door opening… Light flooding the room.
The King walked into the room. The Page followed, carrying a plate of bread and cheese. "You must be hungry," he said, setting it on the mattress.
She said nothing, trying not to stare at the food. The King looked at her. "You have a chance to redeem yourself."
She stared at him. "What do you mean?"
"Tomorrow you start working again. For us." He paused, taking a cigarette out of a gold case. "People will come to you asking about their future. You'll tell them all the same thing." He lit the cigarette. "Your future is in the military," he said, exhaling.
She glanced at the Page. He looked away, shifting to one foot. Something jangled. Her eyes widened. Keys on the outside of his belt.
The King walked up to the plate and nudged it with his toe. "Eat. You start work tomorrow."
She waited until the door slammed behind them, then stuffed the food in her mouth, eating so fast her jaws ached. At the moment all she could think of was filling her empty stomach. Her hunger slowly dissipated. She mulled the plan over in her head. She essentially had no choice. If she refused to comply with their request, they would kill her. On the other hand she would be stoking the furnace of the military propaganda machine, sacrificing her standards of morality to the flames.
She lay on the mattress, and stared up at the ceiling. There was her universe, west of Xanadu. There were no angels or burning crosses or heavenly gates. There was only her heart, bleeding, in a circle of swords.
The next evening they drove her to a small tin shack. She walked inside. A crystal ball sat on a table, along with a stack of Tarot cards, some Chinese coins, The Book of Changes, and a bowl of tea leaves. I feel so alone.
A chipped enamel sink with brown stains. A copper teapot. Two spigots. Hot and cold. She turned them on and let the water run over her hands. Cleanse thy soul.
She walked to the window and looked up at the moon. A yellow orb in a sea of stars. They twinkled down at her, offering some celestial comfort. We that are of purer fire….imitate the starry quire…
She walked back to the table and sat down. She put her head in her hands. I feel so tired.
"Are you open?"
She looked up. A young boy stood in the doorway, holding a skateboard. . He couldn't have been more than nineteen.
He walked in and sat on the chair across from her. Soft brown eyes stared out from under a crop of blonde hair. "Can you really see the future?"
She smiled at him. So young.. Was there a…problem or particular question you had?"
He shrugged his shoulders. "Not really. I was just wondering what my future looked like."
She heard a cough in the other room.
"Very well." She picked up the Chinese coins and tossed them on the floor. I can't do this.
She slowly opened The Book of Changes, glancing at the coins. Fu. Return. Number 24. A chill came over her. He's in danger. "This hexagram indicates six in the third place, which means, uh…it means.. Repeated Return, danger. Thunder within the earth. "The image of the Army. Good fortune. No blame. The king bestows a triple decoration."
He stared at her. "What does that mean."
"It means you're destined for a life in the military," she blurted. How can I say that?
He grinned. "Really? Well, maybe I should enlist."
She said nothing, staring at the ground, fingering the gold pendant around her neck. Tell him the truth.
He stood up. "Well, thanks a lot." He gave her some coins, then walked towards the door and set the skateboard on the ground.
Her mother's voice. Use your gift to help people.
He started to skate off
"No wait!" She ran after him. "Wait!" She stopped. "I..I didn't tell you the truth..I didn't see anything about the military."
He looked back at her, his eyes wide.
"I saw-" She froze. She felt a gun in her back.
"Get inside and shut up!" She slowly walked back towards the shack.
It was the King. He pushed her down on the floor. "Why did you say that!"
She looked up at him. His eyes were bulging, his face crimson. "I had to warn him! He was in danger!"
A huge explosion sounded outside. He turned around and shouted to the guard outside. "Go see what happened!"
She closed her eyes. Oh my god.
A minute later the guard ran up to the doorway. "Some kid stepped on a landmine. He's dead."
Her captor turned around and stared at her. She saw fear in his eyes, then anger. He knew that she saw his fear and it enraged him. "You witch!" he screamed, striking her head with the butt of the gun. Again and again….. She lost consciousness.
When she woke up it was still dark. It felt like a bomb had exploded in her head. She rolled her tongue inside her mouth, tasting blood. She crawled over to the door and turned the knob. It was locked. "Let me out!" she screamed, pounding the wood. Her hands came away with splinters. She leaned against the door, stifling the sob in her throat. Keep calm. She tried to think. It was only a matter of time before they killed her. She had to escape. But how? She fingered the snake around her neck. Her mother's face came to her again. Use your gift to help other people. By seeing the future you can help other people. She sat up straight and tried to think clearly. If she could see the future, she could stay one step ahead of them and prepare for any obstacles. She took a deep breath and lay down on the floor and closing her eyes. Her breathing began to deepen.
Slowly, she fell into a trance….. Images came to her. It was cold and windy. She was dressed in a nun's habit, a black veil around her face, standing in snow….The King sat on a white horse, dressed like
Napoleon.. A red satin cape lay draped across his shoulders. He leaned down. "Will it be safe to cross the Alps?" "No, absolutely not!" she said, pointing up. He looked up. The Page's face was in the moon, asleep. He wore a gold snake around his neck. The snake began to move, twisting and slithering its body into different shapes. A gold key shaped like a cross. The cross divided into numbers…. 2 ..0..2000… The numbers melded together into a golden sun rising over the Alps, melting the snow. Wildflowers sprouted out of the mountainside, blooming in the golden rays of the sun. It was a new age. The dawning of the millennium.
She jerked awake. The room was very still. She looked at the tarot cards and the bowl of tea leaves on the table. A smile came to her face. She lay back down on the floor and fell asleep.
The moon faced the sun, a fully illuminated disc in a glowing atmosphere. Luna sat at the table, mesmerized by a flickering candle. The flame dipped and danced in the moonlight.
She looked up. The King stood in the doorway, gun in hand. He walked over and sat at the table across from her.
The glow from the candle cast him in an unearthly light. He stared at her from across the table, his eyes boring holes into her.
"We're planning an attack tonight. Can you see the outcome?"
Of course. The Alps are lovely this time of year.. "I suggest we do a Tarot Card reading." She put the deck on the table. "We'll do a three card reading. Pick three cards."
He picked three cards and laid them on the table.
Her heart was beating wildly. "The card on the left represents the past." She turned over the card. "Three of Swords. Sorrow. Delay. Separation. Dispersion. Opposition"
He said nothing, his eyes shooting daggers "The card in the center represents the current situation." She turned over the card. "The Ace of Swords. Excessiveness in everything. Strength. Power. A great force in love or hatred."
He stood up. "I don't want to hear the past or present. Just tell me the future!" he spat out angrily.
She turned the over the last card. "The Moon. Card of trickery, deception, great danger. The chance of making error is very great." She stared down at the card. The moon smiled back at her, over a background of blue mountains. There were two hounds baying at the bottom between two stone pillars. Help me.
His eyes narrowed. "What does that mean?"
"If you pick a card of the Moon, you must be careful." She paused. "It means you're in great danger."
His face paled. "What kind of danger?"
She hesitated. "I'm not sure, but last night I had a vision. I saw…I saw you kneeling, praying before God. I think it meant…that you should take refuge in the church."
His eyes stared at her. "You're a lying witch! You must take me for a fool!" He took out his gun.
"Wait. She was right the first time."
She looked up.
The Page stood in the doorway. "Maybe you shouldn't take any chances."
The King stared at her. "If you try to escape, it'll be your first and last attempt." He turned to the Page, motioning him over.
She turned around, pretending not to hear them. Bits and pieces of whispers floated up to her ears. … "short of men.. needed for tonight's operation….sentry is sick.." She stared at the table, locking her eyes onto the candle flame.
The King's voice rose. "I'm going to see the chaplain. You watch her." He walked out of the room.
The page walked to the window and looked outside. He occasionally glanced at her, looking away when she looked up.
She ran her fingers lightly over the Tarot cards. As the spider waits…
"Can you really see the future?" She looked up. He had walked over to the table. Welcome to my web.
"Did you have a particular question?"
He sat down at the table. "I want you to read my future."
She smiled. "Why don't we do a tea reading?" She stood up and filled the teapot with tea. Her hands were shaking. Calm down. Chamomile with valerian root. It should be strong enough to make him drowsy. Induce relaxation. She ran the water until it turned white, then filled the pot. She let it steep, then poured the tea in the cup and twisted it three times, anti-clockwise.
It's ready." She poured the tea out into a bowl and looked down at the cup. The tea leaves were distributed in patterns and figures over the walls of the cup. "It's customary for you to drink the tea while we're doing the reading. This enhances the effect." Lie or die.
He drank the tea.
"Now what we're interested in are the signs to the right of the cup's ear. Those indicate the future. Now what do we have here….This figure suggests a ship …you may travel in the near future. These circles predict money." She glanced up.
"How much money?" He looked relaxed.
She poured him some more tea. "That I'm not sure of….Oh, look, an airplane. This figure suggests promotion.."
She looked at him. He was starting to nod. She took off her necklace and held it in front of him. "I use this to enhance the effect." She began to sway it back and forth. ….. "Yes, an airplane suggests promotion. Imagine that you're in an airplane….silver, sleek…Now you're flying though a cloud cover…Soft, sleepy clouds…white and fluffy….like…pillows…A warm bed… so soft and warm…. you're feeling so sleepy….so sleepy…..so sleepy.." She looked at his face.
He was out, snoring deeply.
She carefully got up and tiptoed over to him. There were his keys. Be careful. She held her breath as she took off the keys from his belt. Slowly, slowly. He moved slightly, then settled down again. She took a deep breath. Now for the hard part. She stood him up and gently maneuvered him to the wall. God he's heavy she thought as she slowly began to undress him. Hurry hurry before he comes back! Her palms were sweaty, fumbling with the buttons. She slipped off his pants and shirt. Okay almost done. She squirmed out of her dress and skirt and put on the black uniform, donning his black cap. Shoving her hair underneath the cap, she tiptoed to the door, unlocked it and ran outside into the black night. She glanced around. There was no one to be seen. "We're short of men… The other guards were on the operation. She spotted the van she had been transported in. Please let me have the right key she thought as she ran across the cool grass. She reached the door and glanced down at the keychain in her hand. There were at least twenty there. She didn't have time to try each one! She took a deep breath and closed her eyes. The vision of last night came back to her. A key shaped like a cross. She glanced down at the chain. There it was, gleaming in the moonlight. She unlocked the van and started the engine. She sped off, crossing her fingers until she was out of city limits. She relaxed in her seat, fingering the gold chain around her neck. She now knew her mission. She could use her power to help unite the nation against the military and return the government back to the people. She stared out at the open highway. It stretched before her, an endless horizon of opportunity. Above her, the stars glittered in the sky like celestial signposts, guiding her home, and to a New Age.