Chapter 1: Sunset
Shane had been alive for a very long time. He felt all of the however many insurmountable years lay between his present and his birth; he felt ancient. He’d been circling this ball of rock like a beacon, shining brightly in the dark, for centuries. Meandering his lonely path across the sky, a god of his domain. He’d been called many things since encountering the little beings that clustered together at night on this rock. They’d called him Yarikh, they’d called him Thoth. They’d called him Jutrobog and Bahloo and Fati. He’d been sung about and tales were told of him and his travels every night across the sky, bringing darkness and peace. Shane was the moon.
At twilight he awoke, throwing off the haze of sleep and stretching long limbs like the dying rays of light behind him. He ambled across the night, lighting the paths of harried travelers in the dark below him, setting the stars around him alight with jealousy. He was luminous and mysterious, a friendly face in the dark abyss. At his nadir, he shuffled, exhausted, but with every night he grew more and more animated until he shone with full brilliance.
For decades on decades, he never cared to wonder about his slumber, what might lay hovering at the edge of the horizon as he closed his eyes at dawn. Surely whatever deity walked his path behind him did a fine job keeping the little creatures warm and comforted and then followed him into sleep. He’d never get to see them anyway, such was the nature of their dance. When Shane slept, the other awoke. When it was time to rise, the day had already died. Sometimes Shane would hear chatter from the stars, those that kept watch through the rotation of his rock. The Lyre, Daysha, who kept a lovely spot in the heavens during the summer, told stories of the beautiful and radiant Other God. Shane joked that none could be more bright than he at his apex; amused and only mildly curious when regaled with tales of not only an exultant light but a burning warmth.
For all that Shane lit the night, he was regretful to admit that he could not warm those silly little men that roamed the earth below. He was distraught to see them freeze in the dead of winter, his soft moonlight not able to combat the wind and ice. Why then, he asked of Daysha, would the Other God drift so far as to allow this frost and death if he was as gleaming and burning as she said? She couldn’t say for certain but asked if could he control his own path. What choice did he have? Shane conceded and for many more cycles, the issue lay dropped.
Only she was right, he couldn't control his trek across the sky, and was helpless when one day he woke up a little earlier than usual. The sky was still slightly golden, not the dark purple and blue hues he expected. He brushed it off as odd and brought along the hush of night, as usual, the moonflowers blooming under his feet and the funny creatures huddled around dying embers. But it continued. Every night for the next few months he woke up slightly earlier and earlier until he opened his eyes to actual daylight. He sat up from the horizon and looked around, a little dazed and a little dazzled. It was so bright out. He turned and saw the tail end of a sweeping cloak, similar to his own, but so much more rich. He saw a flash of turquoise, gold, and jewels dripping like sweet honey off of the most gorgeous form he’d ever seen. Shane saw the Sun.
He disappeared below the horizon without a glance backward but Shane knew in his heart that it was the most beautiful face he’d yet to see. Of course, this wasn’t the first god Shane had encountered: he’d met War and Victory, the Earth and Sea. But none, even the smooth, rapturous face of Lust or the sweet allure of Love, would rival this glittering god. That night he floated across his domain, light-headed and awed. Daysha laughed and laughed, her stars twinkling with delight. The moon’s heart felt glowing, his ribcage shone. Shane thought for sure that he must not orbit the earth: his true purpose must be to follow that shimmering man for the rest of eternity.
All the stars in his path called him silly and besotted but he continued on this cloud of reverie for the next few weeks, each morning gazing at the dying footsteps of his golden god with still no glimpse of his face. Shane pressed his ear to the whispers of the creatures in the dark, searching for symphonies and psalms about his sunshine. He hungered for tales of him now, asking all the constellations for their favorite anecdotes no matter how many times he’d heard them before. They told him that they were present during the day, but couldn't even be seen he was so bright. Shane traveled to the other gods to beg stories of his beloved. They told him how he could scorch the earth, how he could boil seas, how he could melt the frozen winter. Shane held on to every word and stored them in his heart, nurturing each story like they were flowers. Shane fed on this garden.
The stars longed to tell the sun about the moon, waxing full to bursting with love. They could gossip at him during his reign, although he couldn't see them. They were all but ghosts to the sun. But Shane begged them not to, for the first time shy about his appearance. He was certainly dull in comparison to this shining deity; he couldn’t even stay fully lit for a month. He used to be proud of his waxing and waning, tied with his mirror Goddess: Sara of the Sea. They flowed back and forth together like the tide, energy exchanged between them in harmony. But how could he even dream to stand near the sun? A boundless stream of vitality and warmth, of kindness and strength. All of the pantheon spoke of endless love and heat and passion. Shane hungered for that passion but felt he had nothing to give, nothing to offer this paragon.
So Shane woke up eager and breathless to catch views of dark hair and toned arms and hear the delicate jangle of golden bells. One day he awoke to the Goddess of Lust draped across the clouds, lips pomegranate red, curled and pleased. She told him in amused murmurs that the Sun had been talking about him, how he too was flushed and starstruck. Shane denied this vehemently: his golden god had never once turned around. Kelsey need not visit him as he languished in unrequited musings and half-formed fantasies. She gave him a narrowed stare, assessing and mischievous. This was not a job for her she declared and then she blew away like smoke exhaled.
More and more days passed with Shane continuing to bolt awake to look at more and more of his beloved’s retreating form. He was shorter than the moon god by the looks of it, but cut and masculine. He yawned and stretched sometimes when disappearing over the horizon and it was enough to make the moon melt inside. This time when he looked around after waking up, Love was there with him, grinning. He lay next to Shane, just as playful as Lust but soft and understanding. He asked what was wrong with his little papi, to tell Curly all about his woes. Shane tensed and sighed, walking with the love god until they reached the dawn. He spun his tale of longing and gazing and the beauty of him, even though he’d never seen his face. The sky was cloudy with the Moon’s melancholy. He told of Kelsey and her teasing, about how his beau never once turned around. Curly then beamed and laughed, the feeling putting Shane at ease. And he told Shane to turn around. Bemused, the moon turned his head to lay eyes on his glorious Sun.
At first he just stared, frozen. His love was just sitting up, rubbing his eyes, sitting on the other edge of the horizon. His face was brilliant: his jaw was strong, his lips were full, and his eyes were heavy-lidded as he blinked slow and easy for the first time that day. His skin was like honey and he was glowing. Shane had previously thought that his pale skin shone in the dark but the sun was absolutely radiating light. He was resplendent. And then he focused sleepy eyes on Shane and he too froze. His eyes widened and the moon could write a thousand sonnets about the warmth in them. The sun flushed, hot and rosy. Shane felt his heart stop and restart at a rabbit’s pace. The sun scrambled to his feet and waved furiously, yelling but too far away to hear. Shane mourned that he couldn’t hear that voice. He only had a couple of seconds to raise his own hand in response before he tipped over the skyline into sleep. He never slept better.
Chapter 2: Sunrise
Ryan had always wondered who followed him when he went to sleep.
Ryan had always wondered who followed him when he went to sleep. Curiosity was often one of his more pressing drives, the lack of knowledge burning a pit in his brain and driving him towards the shadowed corners of his kingdom, trying to illuminate their secrets. He scorched forward on his path, relentless always. No dark secret or obscured truth was safe from his burning gaze. For decades now he would force himself to slow at the end of his path, struggling to stay awake, walking backward over the horizon, straining to catch a glimpse of Night. Imagine! An entire realm of darkness and mystery that was held just out of his reach. The thought both thrilled and terrified him.
He was secure in his understanding of his own Daylight Kingdom. The tiny humans that raced below, always chatting, always singing, always building. Sometimes Ryan himself marveled at how industrious the little things were, how high they climbed, how far they sprawled. He was pleased and proud at how much they’ve grown, from huddling in dark caves to basking under his cloak and soaking up light. Their curiosity mirrored his own and so fascinated him. Sometimes he’d bend an ear to listen to their prattle and praise, understand their fears - real and imagined - and lend light to their aspirations. They charmed him endlessly.
They also relentlessly saddened him, fighting and bickering and shedding blood in his name. Hearts to Huitzilopochtli and Tonatiuh, goats to Apollo and Helios, and those who toiled in hard labor or dance or heat under him. He often found himself melancholic that those that perhaps worshipped him most, those clustered in the stripe closest to him, were those who felt his burning stare most keenly. They longed to see him and he longed to see them but the more he looked, intense and awed by them, the more they burned. He saw them yearn for water and search for shade and the closer his eye tracked them, the faster they wasted. He couldn’t help himself. He gazed, unblinking, as they sweat and sang beneath him.
He also knew the majority of the other gods. Those that he felt a kinship with were those who sought to assist his beloved charges, like Home and Hearth and Love and Sleep. Love, in particular, was a long-standing friend who advised Ryan through fits and starts of passion. The four Elements that worked in consonance around him. He also chatted with the stars, once he figured out where they were. Suns like him but so far and so small. Arranged to form legends that took reverence as a whole. One of his dearest friends, Sirius, was almost visible in daylight even. Kelsey resented Canis Major and the whole dog fixation in general if she were honest. She stood as the brightest star in the night sky and would have much preferred “the Vermillion Bird”, or Sopdet. Even the Celestial Wolf would have been better than the “Greater Dog”. Ryan rolled his eyes as he heard this for the nth time in as many centuries. She was among the clearest voices he could make out in the sky, fainter constellations harder to hear. But oh, they gossiped. Constellations were night beacons arranged by human eyes and were meant to tell stories. And so they did. And it was from those stars that he learned of his mirror Moon.
The stars, Kelsey chief among them, began to bring tales of his counterpart over the world of Night. He was tall, they said. He was soft and friendly, they said. He shone in the dark, they said. And the dark, oh they spoke of the dark. Ryan could scarcely imagine a world without any light save a paler reflection of himself and lit by stars. Stars! He couldn’t even make them out in the the daylight, and he was often consumed by trying to picture them. He imagined Night as a cavern being lit by a candle. How strange! Oh, but Ryan, they said, pale though he may be, he is warm and kind. His light is silver water, his hands are fine and delicate. He is quiet in the nighttime. The humans lie sleeping and he watches over them for you. The stars wax poetic about him, as he is the Lord of their Kingdom. They may chat to Ryan during his walk across the sky - or sail if he feels lazy - but it is Night where they truly live.
Since he was Curiosity burning away, Ryan turned to the other gods. Joy, short and exuberant, talked of his boundless energy even among those that are fast asleep, a gentle giant among lambs. Lust whispered about his wide and gentle hands, his pale skin that extends for miles, and if it is hot that day on Earth, well who’s to know the cause. The Sea spoke most fondly of him, as they were in balance. He is understanding, she said. He is accommodating as well as encouraging. He is teasing, said all of the nature deities Ryan asked. His light is not constant, he wanes and then grows. He gives and takes in equal measure.
He was fascinating, Ryan concluded from his research. And so began his cycle of running towards the end of the day and bolting up when awake. Trying to push his cart or his skiff or his legs just a little faster, as fast as the wheels of Time permitted, so he might see for his own two eyes. And then, one day, he succeeded. And never was triumph more sweet.
One evening, as he turned around to walk backward into sleep, he caught the glimpse of a man waking up on the horizon. Just his crown mind you, just till the downward slant of his eyelashes, but it was enough. Oh, thought the Sun. Oh, that’s what I’ve been looking for. A nest of soft-looking brown hair, a circlet of silver starlight and jewels the color of twilight. Sleepy eyes, too hooded to determine the color. He was haloed in soft, cold light, it seemed to come from beneath his skin. Oh Ryan, this is what you’ve been looking for. Then the Sun tripped into dusk.When he awoke the next day, Love was already there, waiting on the clouds of dawn. Ryan’s eyes blinked up at Love, hazy and still twinkling. He had seen the Moon. Ryan sat up and clutched at Curly’s arm. He had seen him! But he didn’t feel satisfied. Rather than any questions solved, more mystery had unfolded in front of him. A knowing gaze settled on him and Ryan felt compelled to lay it all out for his friend, his research, his experiment, the desperate, manic waiting and watching. He spoke and spoke until his grip faded from Love’s arm as he fell back asleep over the horizon.
And after he rose, he was rewarded for his candor by a fast-dimming view of the Moon, walking his own path over the horizon. Jen was right! He was tall, he towered over the clouds, seemingly brushing the stars above with his hand as he waved to them. His cape was dazzling and sparkling, galaxies swirling and the whole of life contained in a transparent, shimmering cloth. Ryan continued to get longer and longer views of him as he awoke, barely even remembering to try to turn back to see him when left the sky, such was the excitement of this success. And the more he saw, the more he was entranced. The Moon was more graceful than the Wind, more placid than the Water, and perhaps more aware of his own body than any god Ryan had ever seen. He seemed to glide over the surface of the sky without hitting his, admittedly large, head on the celestial ceiling, or waking those sleeping on the planet. Ryan affected every surface he touched: warming, scorching, melting. But the Moon seemed to slip by without damaging anything with his light. He was soothing and cool.
More and more he sought out Kelsey to tell him stories of the Night Kingdom and its ruler. He would sit in his golden chariot, dragging Wisdom armed with ink and scroll beside him, and have these tales immortalized. To bring his love around with him. Ryan became accustomed to carrying a satchel with him, finally finding a good use for the skins offered up to him; collected and sewn together with threads of starlight. And he traced his hands over these stories in the day time now, head bent low in rapture, oblivious to the turning world. And each dawn he would be allowed to see more and more of his love’s retreating form. And more and more he wanted to talk to him. He secretly envied those that could, although he tried to keep such poisonous thoughts buried away. Love, one of his closest confidants, could speak to this glowing majesty and he could not. The thought burned like a toxin.
One dawn he roused himself gently, blinked heavily, and indeed, Curly was beside the Moon, heads bent low together. But before the jealousy could set in Love (blessed, blessed, sweet Love, who had his best interests at heart and who he should never have felt envious of) pointed at him. And the Moon’s gaze followed. Ryan felt himself burn like he never had before, could see the light blaze from him and he was sure he was as bright as he had ever been. He locked eyes with the moon and oh, the Moon locked eyes with him. He had a strong profile and soft eyes. Brown eyes, dark, glittering. His mouth was lovely and slack with surprise and - and Ryan fervently hoped - awe. He was dressed in silver, metallic clothing that flowed like silk. The Moon stood like a beautiful contradiction: dark and warm, tall and stooped, bold and uncertain. Ryan lifted his hand to wave, his most blistering dream to speak to this man finally in his grasp. His voice cracked on his shout of hello. The Moon turned a rose pink, motioned to wave back, and slipped over the edge of the World.