Inspired by this post, I wanted to try my hand at reverse chronology, a story told backwards. This technique was challenging to pull off. I have no idea if I succeeded, but stretching those writerly muscles is good exercise! This story is called “Moonstruck.”
“Fuck you!” she cried, tears streaming down her face. “This is it – I’m done!”
“Don’t you dare pretend like you don’t know who Selene is! She’s the only thing keeping me together right now!”
“…Selene? Lillith, you need help. I’m serious!”
“What I saw last night,” I said, “you are beyond help. I’ve tried to stop you. But I want no part in this. Selene is right – you’re sick.”
“What?! I was asleep at my MOTHER’S house last night! Because of this – because of you!”
“I saw you last night. I followed you into the woods. I saw you with blood on your hands! There were skulls everywhere and skin hanging from the fucking tree branches!”
“Lillith, what is going on!?”
“Why don’t you tell me the truth FOR ONCE, Pen! Don’t you think you owe me that much? After all we’ve been through?”
“Uh, I was at my mother’s house.”
“What were you doing last night, Penelope?”
“I’m confused,” said Penelope. “Are you accusing me of something?”
I felt overheated. Sweat beaded on my brow. Penelope’s guileless gaze filled me with rage. “Look, I’m just going to be honest. Part of me feels like I should call the police, but I have a friend who says that maybe – maybe – you can explain your bizarre behavior.”
With a sigh, Penelope removed her oven mitts. She approached me, arms akimbo. “We should talk. About last night. Actually, about the past few days. I’m worried for you.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Hey, Lillith! I’m glad you’re finally home. I made some cookies!”
A night breeze disturbed the curtains. The moon slanted through the open windows, silvery ribbons alighting upon my face.
With a deep breath, I opened the door. The smell of chocolate chip cookies wafted over me. It made me sick. But once I stepped through the door, once I entered the domain of what had been marital bliss for ten years, it was like a fog lifted from my brain. Maybe I was wrong. Penelope had always been faithful, loving, generous, great in the sack –
I stumbled backwards, collapsed. I didn’t feel the brambles tear my skin. I could only stare in horror as my wife charred the skulls in the fire. I staggered upright and dashed to my car.
Penelope, hands stained red, tossed curtains of human skin into the trees. Skulls ringed the fire.
“Penelope?” I would forever recognize those curves, the scar along her abdomen, the hair like molten obsidian. But what was she doing? I ventured closer and closer still, until I could almost feel the heat of the flames.
A sickly-sweet stench overwhelmed me. I stopped, coughed, eyes watering. But I saw something hidden in the depths of the woods: a blazing fire. A figure, clothed only in the fire’s orange shadows, darted in and out of darkness.
I could taste the pine trees before I stepped out of my bone-white corvette. The pines were darkly illumined, silvery shadows upon their needles. Only a soft psithurism disturbed the silence.
“That’s Penelope’s car!”
A wooded area, just on the town’s sprawling edge, glimmered in the moonlight. I blinked. How did I get here? Well, that’s okay. Selene was with me. I noticed something in the parking lot.
Selene agreed to come with me to find my wife. After I hung up the phone, I called Penelope. She didn’t answer. I called her friends. They didn’t answer either.
I rushed through the house, but she was nowhere to be seen. “Selene,” I said into the phone. “Penelope is gone! Is she with you?” Penelope wasn’t there.
The clock stands still when you love someone. Penelope slept soundly in the other room. At Selene’s behest, I left the balcony and the moon and tip-toed into the bedroom.
The sky was a divine dress: velvet and sparkling, the moon like a pearl, affabrous and round. I imbibed the silvery moonlight. My phone rang. It was her. Selene.
I don’t remember how we met. But she was always a good friend. Actually I couldn’t say much about her besides that. She seems to always be in her own world. She’s most alive under the moon’s soft rays. The moon, she tells me, is lonely. Surrounded by the dead abyss of space, it accompanies the earth through darkness, pain, the futile passage of time. No one rejoices at the coming of night.
My wife, Penelope, doesn’t know about my best friend, but I’d like them to meet one day.