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17

Grandpa said that once every hundred years, the Four Moons came into perfect alignment for a single night. At that moment, a celestial nocturne bursts in the clear night sky, and all would sing and dance, lacing their antennae together in treasured chorus, connecting, feeling, being as one, thanking the universe. We call this ritual the Gha’ma, the Cosmos. Grandpa said I was born that evening, when the moons aligned. He said my spirit was touched by the night, and my antennae were long and strong and always pointing towards the sky.

“Most antennae droop and weep to the ground,” he said. “But yours have a little something special.” Grandpa named me Gha’ma’l—of the Cosmos—and loved me every day.

My parents both worked in the mines. They were poor laborers, for the most part. Pa had strong feelers—some of the strongest in the community—so he was put to work at a young age. It was said that his senses were so strong, he could feel even the tiniest nugget of Qoma through a limb’s length of solid rock. Long ago, those strong antennae may have meant something more than cheap labor, but times change, Grandpa said.

“I have old ticklers Gha’ma’l. Before long, they won’t have any clue about the new world.” I laughed at the word ‘tickler,’ though now I understand what he meant.

Ma joined Pa in the quarries when they married, where she sifted through slag all day long, pulling the Qoma out of our dirt. We use Qoma to make homes, to make tools, to make everything really. So, in a way, my parents’ jobs were the most important in all the community. Because of them—because of all our miners—our people thrived. While the chiefs got fat and greasy, my Ma and Pa broke their limbs day in and day out to help keep our tiny wheel of the universe spinning. They hated the work, of course, but Grandpa and I needed food, as does everyone.

The mines lasted for many years, digging deeper and deeper, breaking rock after rock with diminishing returns, until our side of the planet was nothing more than a porous sponge. Soon the planet’s core was bulging, the rock shifting, the liquid core knocking on our feet. We don’t have anything like bubbles on our planet, so the concept of a thin membrane bursting was foreign to us.

“I’ll tell you, Gha’ma’l,” Grandpa would say to me, “there’s only so far you can dig until you poke a hole out the other side.”

Nobody listened to Grandpa.

One day, the bedrock gave, and molten stone began shooting to the sky, bearing a color we had never seen. Ma and Pa got lost in it, as did all the miners, and any Qoma that may have remained in the dirt. As people were screaming and crying, their antennae wilting from the head, Grandpa turned to me and said: “Gha’ma’l, you can stop this. You were born on the night of Four Moons. Your antennae are strong, and always pointed to the sky. You are touched by the night.”

I was only thirteen, but I knew what I had to do. Grandpa told me with many tears in his many eyes, and he apologized deeply to me about what my parents and my people had done.

I ran to the gushing mine. Then I stood, and looking to the night sky with my strong antennae, I brought our smallest moon down to the world, and laid it upon me and the pluming, liquid rock, plugging the destruction. I don’t know how I did it, and I don’t know when everything finally went quiet, but I do know that I saved our people. Me, the offspring of two miners, a child in the eyes of many. I was touched by the night. The deafening noise of hellfire ceased, and in its wake, the people slowly began to whisper my name in gratitude and reflection. “Gha to’tho,” they said. Moon Bearer.

Now I am among the Elysian energy of the universe. I wade the astral plane between moons and suns, caught in infinite gravity between them. I look upon the people I saved, and every thirteen years, when the remaining three moons align, my voice echoes in the celestial nocturne. Grandpa can still hear it, in his old age, and his antennae tickle when he recognizes the quiet aria of my voice in the night. He sits on the outskirts of the Gha’ma ritual and smiles. Smiles, and weeps.

I’m sending this message to you, people of the Earth, in the hopes that one of your many advanced instruments can hear my voice in the cracks between atoms. When I look at your planet, I see a mirror of the past. You dig too deep, spread too far. Your Ma’s and Pa’s are just like mine, forced to choose food over future. Your Grandpa’s are just like mine, sweet and wise, but old and frail. Because of what my people did, my song lives in the energy of space, not in the concreteness of air. I would give anything to sing once again from the mandibles of my true body, to be Gha’ma’l again instead of the Moon Bearer. But the past is past, and now I touch the night sky, as the night sky once touched me.

To you I say this: the future lies just beyond the tip of our antennae—we cannot see it, but we can sense it through the thin layer of grey rock that stands before us.

May you hear my nocturne, before it is too late.

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17

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Image of Gianna Wallace
Gianna Wallace · ago
Dan Witman, becoming the JRRT of our generation? I think so ;) Great piece!
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Dwitman15 · ago
You are too nice :) thanks!
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Image of Gregory Morton
Gregory Morton · ago
Dan well done, proud of you! Greg
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Dwitman15 · ago
Thank you, Greg!
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Gregory Morton · ago
You are so welcome..it is the least I can do..so sorry I always miss your dance telethon that you support..always escapes me, so am glad to help here a little!
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Image of Dwitman15
Dwitman15 · ago
Not to worry! It’s televised every year so you have plenty of opportunities to still watch
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