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Once In A Blue Moon

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It's funny how these things work out, really. These patterns. Perhaps it's some form of cosmic joke and we're merely the chicken, the Irishman, the 'Who's there?' The universe does have a certain- dark- sense of humour, it's true. Perhaps it's us, as well, reading order where it isn't. We do like our conceits.

I remember when I was a small child- staring at the night sky- that although I thought the stars were pretty, it was the moon I felt most drawn to. There she hung- so close compared to everything else- but while the stars would slowly turn through the year and the sun would rise and fall like a giant-child's ball, the moon would wax and wane; glow orange and blue… The very image of mutability. Back then I didn't know why she did what she did, but I knew I loved her best.

How apt, then, that I'd fallen for myself. Rupert calls me selfish and egotistic, but I don't see it as an insult. If you were me you would suffer Narcissus' fate too.

But ah, I must not let my musings get away from me. So much time alone makes one forget how other people can't see inside your head the way you can, that things need explaining. It's a mistake I often find myself making, forgetting that not everyone can think as I can.

I said that I had fallen for myself and it's true to a point. To the point that anyone's fancies can be. I made the connection several years ago (I will not abase myself to low punning and say 'many moons ago', because there is little as painful as a bad joke and I flatter myself above all that).

Ripper had not long since left- or was it much later? Time fuzzes at such a distance, after so many arguments and recriminations; so many re-writings, accusations and justifications that it's difficult to say for sure who did what, when and why. I can't trust my memory any more than I can trust his. Those few years are a jumble of what did happen and what we said did happen.

I found myself in Oxford, lying in Trinity college's quad on the grass that begged for attention; long-ignored thanks to the signs politely lining the lawn, asking the students to kindly take it elsewhere. Bollocks to that.

I was surprised to find I didn't even know what college he was in. You think you know everything about someone, when you are in love. Think you know them down to the very core, when you don't even know that they eat things like rarebit and always hung their socks up to dry in their pairs before they knew you- or even what college they went to. It's afterwards when you see parts of the jigsaw you hadn't known existed that the scales fall from your eyes and you know just how blinded you had been.

Magdalene, I thought at first. Magdalene college for a maudlin soul. But when I got there, I knew it wasn't him. So I danced and drank my way around those old, dead streets until I found it. Trinity. Tucked away in the middle, quietly. Small. Old. Cramped and formal and reeking of all the too-sweet decay my Ripper had smelt of when we first met.

I wasn't surprised to see him there, though I was surprised he was out of bed so late- no, it was early morning by then. I grinned up at him, fingers threading through the slightly damp grass. There were trees, too, and I wondered if they would feel as nice as a wall.

"Out after curfew? Oh Ripper, you always were born to be a rebel," I crooned, tipping my head back and baring my throat to the chill whispers of a breeze. I'd drunk enough that the world seemed twice as heavy as it normally did, pressing me onto my back and holding me in place. Never one not to make the most of the circumstances, I revelled in it.

"What are you doing here?"

His voice- oh, it was so strange. I'd always known the Cockney twang was for show. You can't keep an accent up forever, no matter how hard you try. Shock might bring you out of it; tiredom; just waking or even screaming in breathless pleasure. Still, I hadn't known quite how cultured my lover had been under his veneer.

"Sabbatical, Ripper mate. Thought I'd arrange an exchange visit. Can't say I think much of your digs. Are there any good ghosts? Suicidal old students? Deans bumped off by the resident Cawdor?"

I'll claim it was the alcohol, but to be fair, when he's in a mood to be, old Ripper can be quick off the mark. He had me on my feet and pressed into the tree before I could say 'Hallelujah'. I decided I liked trees after all.

"I thought I told you, there is no Ripper anymore. He's dead. Now kindly leave my college before I call the porter."

"You mean the old bloke in the lodge? I don't think he'd be much help to you, now."

Quite frankly, I could have done without the fist in the kidneys, but one pleasure is as good as the next. He's glorious when he's angry. All fire and passion and pure, driven focus. I laughed and curled into the blows.

"Why Ripper, nice to know you still care."

Poor love mustn't have had any kind of release since he'd left. He gave me one of the best thrashings of my life, while I taunted him on and on- enjoying that I could still reach beneath this mask of bookish, quiet obedience he'd built up.

I only really stopped enjoying myself when he rendered me incapable of following, of fighting back (as if I would! Well, physically, anyway) and left.

There's something to be said for the periods of horrible lucidity you find when you're cold, wet and sore in the dark on your own. When there's literally nothing left, and you're left wondering how you never noticed this gap- hole- void before. This aimlessness.

Because I was lost. For the first time, I had no idea what to do. I'd done drink, drugs, debauchery. I'd lived the life of a hedonist, of a practicing magician. It was old. The thought of going back felt as repulsive as the idea of Ripper coming back here to dead hallways and corridors. There was supposed to be something else, but I was buggered if I knew what.

He wasn't supposed to leave. Not so easily. Again, I didn't quite know which of the myriad possibilities I had envisioned would have been best, or even possible- but this?

He wasn't supposed to be able to leave me without something more powerful, more potent than this. Some sign that I was his arch-nemesis, perhaps, his shadow. Something that haunted him, not just something he could leave behind. I started laughing, even though it hurt my jaw.

When I'd finished, I just stared at the sky through the trees and I saw her and knew for the first time we were kin, the moon and I. Ripper was my earth. We danced around one another in elliptic, eccentric orbits, held together by forces of attraction that were as invisible as they were strong. I danced around him, but he orbited the sun.

I could still affect him, oh yes. I could tug at his depths, pull him in tidal waves of destructive fury, direct him to lap now at this shore, now that. Attract and repel.

It would be me who lit up his night when I cared to show my face, looming larger than any of the other celestial bodies. It would be me who forever kept once face turned in his direction and another he never saw. How very Janian. Strange how these things intersect in ways you never expect.

My interest in him would wax and wane, of course. But even when I didn't deign to illuminate his darker side, I would still be there, hidden, pushing and pulling. Sometimes, I could even eclipse his precious sun.

I was feeling very sorry for myself that night, of course, and the realisation that I was merely a satellite was rather depressing. But save your pity, sweetheart, I've no need of it right now. Some days I can't stand the thought of it and my skin crawls. Some days I'm Machiavellian enough to see how malleable sympathy makes people and detached enough to use it for my own good. But tonight- tonight I neither need it, nor detest it.

It is not a terrible thing to be the moon, you know. Many cultures revere her as a goddess. The Aztecs saw the sun and moon, brother and sister, descend to the first people to teach them and rule over them. She's one of the oldest and most powerful of gods, still invested with the awe of those first people who gazed up and wondered. She's the mad one, who causes lycanthropic change, who steers the female cycle, who calls to the lunatics. You can count by her, like the Romans did, you can predict the swell of the oceans. Time and tide- and she waits for no man, not even Ripper.

I invoke her, sometimes, because we share a connection and her dominion is so wide. But she's not my only cipher, of course. Some nights I will play dot-to-dot with the skies and make my own constellations. Sometimes I am Mercury, Jupiter, Venus… Sometimes I am Persephone, Set, the monkey, the rat. I am the enlightened one, the Buddah or Guru- or I am the fool. Perhaps I will be Loki and Rip will be Thor and we will go wreak havoc amongst the giants with his hammer- but then, who would be Odin?

It doesn't matter, because none of these images are ever perfect. There's nothing could ever be more me than I myself am. Sometimes the stories come to life and you find yourself twisting to fit the archetype, follow the pattern. But just as often, though, you will find yourself breaking one mould and looking for another.

An idle fancy, perhaps, but I use whatever I must to get what I want. If that means to cross the bridge and defeat the troll I have to find billy goats gruff- well, why ever not? We have the story for a reason, you know.

The world- my Ripper, has grown old. The crust has cooled and the fire only burns deep down low. Tides still move, it's true, but it's not the same as it used to be. He's heavy, ponderous and dull. The magnetism is still there, I admit, but it's heavy, leaden-weight, not electric. Poor, poor Ripper. I would never have wished this on him. Much better to be a satellite than a dead world.

Tonight, though, I will enjoy being the moon. Tonight the thought of stealing some of the sun's light (with a jaw bone, perhaps?) and weaving it like a garland in my hair to shine as my own appeals to me. I'll glow bright and beautiful, dazzling everyone and touching that spark of insanity that resides inside us all. I will bring about all those promises people didn't know they'd made.

'Once in a blue moon' they say. Well. Tonight is the blue moon and I'm coming for you. And won't it be fun.