“SECURITY: WE WOULD LIKE TO INFORM YOU TO NOT LOOK AT THE MOON TONIGHT, 10TH JUNE. STAY INDOORS UNTIL 6 AM. POLICE DEPARTMENT”
Confused, still not entirely awake, Serena stared at the alert on her phone. The silence at 3 am made her apartment come alive, every sound–the humming of the air conditioning, the growing pains of the building as it moved with the temperature, a child wailing downstairs somewhere– amplified by the stillness.
The alert drowned under the deluge of messages from friends and strangers alike.
“I can’t wait to see the photos you’ll take of the moon,” one of her friends wrote.
“You awake? Don’t miss the moon tonight, it’s never been more beautiful,” wrote a stranger.
How she wished Michael, her boyfriend, was lying next to her that night and not away on business in another city. Just the muted sound of his breath was enough to fend off her fear of darkness, of silence and whatever her mind thought was creeping underneath.
She sat on her bed, her legs still under the blankets, and as she leaned to turn on the light on her nightstand she noticed that the light trickling from outside through her cream-coloured curtains was too bright and warm for 3 am. Turning to her phone again, she wrote a quick message to Michael, hoping he, for some reason, was awake, too.
“Are you getting the messages?”
He replied quickly. “Yeah, they woke me up. I don’t see anything strange here, though. It’s really cloudy so I can’t see the moon.”
“But isn’t it very bright and warm outside, as if it was 4 pm?”
“No, Serena. It’s 3 am. It’s pitch dark outside. What’s going on there?”
“I’ll find out. Call you in the morning, OK? Love you.”
The hole in her chest grew bigger with every minute she spent in silence, so she got up and turned on the television hoping a human voice in the apartment would take the fear away. Nothing was going to happen, she told herself, breathing heavily. It was just a strange night and it’d be over in a few hours.
Carefully, looking down to avoid catching a glimpse of the moon, she approached her balcony and opened the sliding glass door ever so slightly, but the streets below were dead quiet, not unlike any other Wednesday so late at night.
Before she had the chance to turn her phone off and return to bed, one last message caught her eye.
“So, did you have look? Maybe having a look outside will give you some peace of mind. Send me a photo, will you? Can’t wait for the weekend to see you again,” he wrote.
“Can’t wait to see you, too. I may have a few photos to show you.”
Maybe he had a point. Maybe there was a reasonable explanation for the warnings, the dozens of messages on her phone, the warm light outside like a second sunset. She’d never know until she went outside and had a look. Quickly, she grabbed her camera from her desk and set it up on a tripod on her balcony. Only a few of her neighbours were outside–she did notice an old man with a child pointing at the moon in the building across the street.
The moon was huge and bright orange, almost like a sun, so large she could see the details of the craters. Stunned, she forgot about the camera for a few seconds. She couldn’t explain what she was seeing, but she knew she wasn’t afraid. The warm light around her and the cool March breeze comforted her. In her mind, the moon had been reborn, larger and brighter than before, to keep them company if only for that night.
Slowly, she took the first photos and moved the tripod to get different angles. She knew Michael would love one of the moon falling over two apartment buildings like a fireball ready to explode above them.
Satisfied with her photos, Serena returned inside, finally ready to go back to bed. The silence in her apartment was no longer a cold hand running its fingers down her back; it was a soothing company for the night ahead. For the first time in years, she was not afraid anymore.
She put the camera next to its bag on the couch and returned to her bedroom and to her dreams.
A loud knock on the door pulled Serena out of her dream. It was 7 am and the morning light looked soft and fresh, as usual. The upstairs neighbour paced frantically in what sounded like high heels, perhaps already late for work. Confused, Serena rushed to the door putting a robe on.
At the other side, two men stood large as shadows, arms crossed, black clothes impeccable. They said nothing. One of them grabbed her by the wrist while the other put a dark hood over her head before she had the chance to scream.
The apartment was unusually quiet for a Thursday night when Micheal arrived after cutting his trip short. He hadn’t heard about Serena in a couple of days, and his concern was the perfect excuse to leave the exhausting marathon of meetings and brainstorm sessions. When he arrived the door was unlocked, the bed unmade, and her things still lying on the bed as she did every day to get ready for work quickly.
Suffocated with anguish, he sat on the couch, next to the empty camera bag without noticing the camera was not there, and checked his phone again, reading over and over the last message she sent him: “I’ll find out. Call you in the morning, ok? Love you.”
Originally published at https://notesmetro.substack.com.
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