This all began when I was a kid — back when I used to think that the Moon followed me. I’d watch it pass through the clouds as my mother drove her aging sedan down the dark highways, always keeping pace with her erratic turns and speed changes … never falling behind. I’d watch it through the rear window, bouncing from treetop to treetop in time with my bounces in the backseat. Tagging along as the car leapt potholes and divots on the midnight country roads where we sent gravel and dust billowing out behind us.
I was an only child and homeschooled (if it could be called that at all) by my single mother in a one bedroom apartment. She raised me on a shoestring budget consisting of money collected panhandling, selling herself and selling drugs among other things. It wasn’t a very nurturing environment and there was next to no stability. We were constantly being evicted. I was constantly hungry. There was nobody around to provide stability, least of all other children. There was little normalcy or escape from the loneliness, living as we did, sealed in the secret box that my mother had constructed for us.
The only friend I had at all was the Moon. Staring out at the night sky; the bright city would wash out the darkness and paint it hues of the glowing orange of artificial light that shone from every direction. Void of wishing-stars, the Moon was all alone above a city that was killing starlight. It stood to reason that if I couldn’t see the millions of other tiny lights that surrounded it above, it couldn’t see them either. So we two, forlorn and lonely, were both in spaces filled with hope we couldn’t tap. It seemed only natural that I’d be drawn to it’s cold light in the night for comfort. I thought we seemed so alike, the world around us blaring with so much fluorescence and we hid among shadows.
Before long, the Moon began to visit me. It would wait until the rest of the world was fast asleep and dip down from the sky to tap on the glass of my window and I would let it in. The Moon was tall in stature. It stooped to avoid the ceiling when it came and was always dressed in tailored suits of black. Its round cratered face would bounce its light from the walls of my bedroom. We’d talk about our dreams and it would entertain me with elaborate dances and it’s odd brand of humor. They were mostly corny jokes.
“What did the Moon say to its therapist?” It might ask.
“I don’t know,” I would say, keeping my voice in hushed tones.
“I’m just going through a phase!” its shout and its laughter would fill my head and shake the walls.
I had to keep my voice low so as not to wake my mother, were she home those nights. The Moon could laugh and carry-on at extraordinary volumes and nobody near would ever hear it or be the wiser for it. It told me because it lacked a face and mouth, it spoke to me from inside. I alone was hearing its voice in my mind.
Before long, I grew older and grew out of needing the Moon in the ways I once did. The ways I needed it for comfort when I was young and scared. I came to accept that our interactions were most likely flights of fancy and when I decided to leave my mother’s apartment at 16 I never looked back. By this time I understood the Moon was nothing more than an imaginary friend, and though it still continued to follow me in the night sky, it stopped coming down to visit as frequently.
I wish I could say I broke the cycle the moment that I left my mother’s house. I wish I could say I haven’t struggled with drugs. I wish I could say I haven’t sold my body to strange men, but the world is unfriendly. It’s dark and cruel. Living on the streets, inside your head the world feels like midnight, even in the day. Imaginary friend or no, the Moon still found me in my darkest moments. It reassured me that it was still my friend and we two were alone in our bond. When I thought I might not have the strength to continue, the Moon would urge me to carry on.
I began to turn my life around in my early 20’s. Sort of. Mostly, I just became better at hiding my faults. The Moon came to me and told me how to do it. It was out of character for him to present himself in the daylight, but not unheard of. I sat on the cold ground of an alley, spinning in the throes of ecstasy — the needle still hanging from my arm. The broken glass glittered in the rising sun; shattered beer bottles of green and brown set alight by the sunrise like diamonds pocked with imperfection. A rustling came from the dumpster nearby, and out from beneath crawled the Moon. Its spindly limbs struggled as it clawed for purchase. Articulated wrongly, it bent and contorted itself as it emerged, legs first, then torso and finally, arms. It pulled its head from beneath the heavy steel bin last, its large round orb lifting it as it came, sending the dumpster crashing loudly to the ground once it was pulled free. It rearranged itself before floating forward to me. Sharp hands tilted my chin, lifting my face, caressing my cheek.
“What are you doing out here, idiot child?” It asked.
I simply shrugged in reply. There was nothing to say. I knew it had been watching me this entire time. That was why it had come now, afterall. It helped me to my feet and plucked out the needle, crushing it underfoot and squared my shoulders before slapping my face hard.
I thought it was the Moon. I remember the Moon saving me in that alley.
I learned later that it might not have been the Moon at all, but a nurse — a woman named Gloria and she says she hadn’t slapped me. I’d fallen forward and landed face first on the dirty asphalt.
Gloria worked at the local LGBT homeless shelter. She helped me get a little better than I was. I’m still getting better. Just a little bit every day. That’s what I say.
I’m a rare case. I was overdosing when she found me and rushed me to the hospital. There are hundreds of LGBT youth not as lucky — turnaways who’s own families have shut their doors to them. I began working days and taking classes at night. I wanted to give back. My goal was to become a counselor at the very place that helped me find the means to change…
Or at least the means to project myself as changed to the world.
I’m not sure how I got to the ocean. The last thing I remembered was being asleep in my bed. I dreamt of power tools. I dreamt of blood.
I think something bad happened. I didn’t do it though. There are a lot of bad people in the world, and I was in their company once, but I’m a good person now. I recycle, I pay my taxes. I help kids who are like me. I’m not perfect but who is?
Occasionally, I might still dabble, but I’m not addicted. Not by a long shot. Not anymore. It’s recreational now — no dependency. I still have so few friends and it’s so much harder now to get the Moon to come sit and watch Netflix with me. Sometimes if I get a little high, I can see him again. I can feel whole again.
I’ve kicked the addiction though.
I heard something over the roar of the waves at the inlet… It was muffled. It sounded like a small voice.
”You’re a turd.”
It sounded like Craig’s voice, but for Craig to call me a turd — if it weren’t so impossibly ironic — was audacious.
Then memories flitted back to me. Not whole memories mind you, but pieces. Something bad happened.
I wasn’t in my right mind, but I assure you, he got what was coming to him.
Sobriety is a difficult road to stay on. Sometimes you veer from it. Sometimes you find yourself back in familiar alleys that you should have learned to avoid. I didn’t do what I did because I was high, it was a slip-up. A tiny slip-up. I didn’t even start this at all. I was asleep.
It was the Moon.
We’d been friends for so long, I’d never imagined he might kill someone. But Craig was there and then the Moon was there and I had to protect myself. I promise you if I make it through this, I’m done. I’m done with the drugs and done with the Moon once and for all. I just wanted to break the cycle. I was slowly rising up above it — and now I’m down in it once again.
“You’re a turd!” the voice said again, louder this time.
No one else around who could have said it:
“Hey you!” his voice broke out, a shrill phantom, shivering through the chilly air of March. It had been quiet on my walk out here and startled, when I heard his voice I dropped the bundles I’d been carrying to the ground. They scattered haphazardly at my feet with seven hollow thumps. I looked around, wondering who else it could have been. How? Who spoke those words in his voice when there was no other soul around?
“Me?” I whispered.
“Yes you!” The voice said again from near my feet, “stop being a turd.”
I knelt down next to the collection of garbage bags and hissed: “Shut up you horrible sack of shit!”
There was no way he could be speaking at all. Craig was well and truly dead. I’d seen to that, for sure. I kicked the black plastic Hefty I supposed might hold his head. It was hard to tell which parts were in which bags in the dark, as I walked out to this place, the clouds had blown in from off-shore like waves in the sky and I remembered the weather report predicted rain; I could smell it swirling down from the starless heights as it commingled with the salt that rose from the black waters of the sea.
I could not hear what I was supposed to do next. The Moon wasn’t coming back down. It came down to help me with the first part of this, but then it’d gone back to the sky. It was speaking to me, but it’s voice was garbled, obscured by clouds. If I just had one more — no. That’s how addicts think. The moon is my friend. It has been forever. It talked to me before the drugs. I should still be able to hear it, clouds or not.
I really just wanted to go home and back to bed.
“You’ll never get away with this, turd.” Said Craig’s head.
“It wasn’t me!” I insisted, “you were going to hurt me! The Moon did this to you! You saw it! You screamed when you saw it.”
“I guess.” Said Craig through layers of opaque polyethylene. He was rummaging through my things in the dark. He shouldn’t have been in my house at all. I woke up when he screamed, just in time to see the moon pressing its form out through the wall behind me, “I shouldn’t have been in your house, sure. But times are tough. What was that thing?”
“The Moon,” I replied casually.
“No. It wasn’t. That didn’t look anything like the moon.” He insisted.
“I don’t know what to tell you then asshole, that’s what the Moon looks like.” I said, “I only saw the Moon.”
“Well, you didn’t have to get the skillsaw out.” He said, “They’re gonna find you and you’re gonna fry.”
I looked up and begged the sky for a roll of duct tape. I should have taped him quiet. I ignored him as well as I was able to do, but he kept on.
“The postmortem screwdriver in my eyes was pretty extreme too.” From my lower periphery, I could see the bag clearly now. Moving, plastic pressed against his mouth, Craig resembled some sort of macabre puppet, a dark moving silhouette within the bag of neck and head.
“Shut up!” I shouted at the bag on the ground, “why were you in my house in the first place?”
“Thought I could get something I might be able to hock.” He said, “I don’t have a lot of scratch right now.”
I have enough trouble hiding my addiction without helping to fuel yours I thought, but kept it to myself. Nobody could know. Not even stupid Craig. There wasn’t anything he could do about any of this now. Maybe I just didn’t want to listen to him deny he had a problem.
He continued: “A jury’s gonna send you right to hell. I’ll save you a spot, Thomas Vale.”
“Don’t say my name!” I hissed. “Someone might hear you!”
“THOMAS VALE! THOMAS VALE! HEY EVERYBODY THOMAS VALE! I’M DEAD FROM THAT GUY.”
I stomped on the bag with my heel and he let out a yelp. “I said shut up.” He needed to be quiet. I didn’t know what to do next and with the clouds billowing above and his stupid garbage face, I couldn’t hear the Moon. “Please tell me what to do next!” I called out.
It only told me to come here. It didn’t say what to do after.
“THOMAS VALE THE TURD!”
“You’re the turd.” I said, “you leave empty garbage cans at the curb, and play music too loud.”
He snorted. He called me ‘Grandpa Turd.’
I chucked all seven of the garbage bags that held him into the inlet. I started with the head and I could still hear him gurgling out insults on his way down. Fuck you, Craig. Eat shit in your watery grave…
But it was a mistake. I didn’t realize it until too late when the sky cleared and the Moon spoke once again in my head.
“They’ll find him there.” It said. ”You’ll have to dive down and fish him out. There is a kayak in the bushes ahead.”
“I can’t believe you!” I shouted back. “You wait until now?!”
“Don’t make me show you my dark side.” It replied. Then it laughed at it’s own joke.
“I’m not gonna dive down there and get all wet,” I muttered to myself. I didn’t think I was speaking loud enough for the moon to hear. “This is fucking crazy.”
I heard the Moon laughing again before it replied: “Crazy! You might even call it ‘LUNAcy!’ Get it?”
Shut up stupid Moon.
“They’ll find him there on Sunday,” the Moon said again, “Dive down, pull him out. You were meant to take the canoe and row him out a bit.”
That would have been nice to know moments ago, but now I was just about done with this business. No. I wasn’t swimming. I was staying dry. I was going home. I headed back to my car instead. Irony is a little bitch when she rears her head because just as I came in range for the fob to unlock my door, it began to pour.
“Go back.” It said in my head.
“No.” I replied. “I’m done listening to you. Go away.” I put my elbows on the steering wheel and cradled my head. “I want to change,” I said.
“Change?” It taunted, “I’d help you but I’ve only got a quarter.” Then it laughed again, “get it! A quarter!”
Fuck all of them. My asshat prowler neighbor Craig and the drugs and the Moon for leading me to this.
I decided to drive myself to the police station instead. Well, maybe I will. I sat there for a while to think. I might just go home. Who even knows if the Moon is right? Besides, I’m about to cut the Moon out of my life for good anyway. God I needed something to take off the edge just for a little while. I can’t do that anymore though. I don’t know what’s real when I’m using. The urges always get worse when coming down. Is any of this real? It had to be. I saw the things the Moon did to Craig when it climbed out from the wall. Craig saw it too. He even screamed.
Maybe they’ll never find Craig…and if they do, maybe I’ll be able to fake insanity well enough to convince a jury.