The moon sang its familiar tune, always the same, never changing. It howled into the night and cried out during the day. No one could hear it in those days and, even if they had, no one would have understood because they didn’t want to. The moon speaks its own language.
The shadow crept closer to the village. Everyone understood it because it spoke the common language. If anyone had spoken another tongue, the shadow would have learned it. It communicated in the ways the people liked and, because it was often the only voice anyone listened to, was believed. But the shadow lied, always, even when the truth would have worked better. It liked to lie. It liked to deceive. It liked to trap.
Petal was small, simple, blue and pale blue. She hung on the edge of a flower and danced in the breeze. She didn’t have much to do. She lived to be beautiful, to be delightful, adored. She longed to fly, but petals only fly when they are dying and blowing away.
The water rushed by. It saw its friend Petal each day. They called out to one another and waved. Once in a while, Water would puddle up at the base of Petal’s flower and sit a while. The two old friends would talk about the goings on in the world around them, which usually meant a few pleasantries and a lot of woes. The days were growing darker. Everyone could see that. The shadow was everywhere, cropping up even in places no shadow had ever been seen before.
Petal recognized the lies. Water, too. They were astonished at how quickly the forest had changed around them. One day they were lilting in the sunshine, or roaring over the falls in Water’s case, and then the next, the forest told them lilting was no longer allowed and the falls were dry. What had become of their world?
“It’s the prophecy,” said Bird. “It says things will get dark and then we should hide.”
But Petal knew that wasn’t what it said. The prophecy did not say hide.
Everyone was hidden anyway. They thought it was the right thing to do. After all, things were horrible or about to be horrible. There was no hope. They repeated it to themselves and one another, “Give up.” And most of them did.
The shadow knew this too. He honestly was surprised they were so easily fooled. Hide, he thought, and laughed. He knew if they fought him they would win. So, he continued tirelessly in his plan, each tiny success merely encouraging him on to the next. If he could put himself between them and the sun, or them and the moon, or them and each other, well, he would be all they had. The petal and the darkness, the water and the dry ground, the moon and the misunderstanding people, the bird who cowers, that was all that would be left. He looked forward to it. All he wanted was to make the forest into his image, because he loved himself and hated them.
Petal was at rest most, all, of her days. She hung on a flower. She didn’t have much to do. Her purpose was to be beautiful, to enjoy life, to live and be. But as Petal hung there in the flickering sunlight, she realized she would soon be being beautiful in total darkness. Then no one could see her and why would she be there at all? She had to do something. She had to get the moon to speak clearly, get the sun to shine, get Bird to see--- just see. But Bird had stored up his supplies and locked his door and taken to hiding under his nest to await the prophesied doom. He would be of no help.
“Water,” said Petal. “It’s you and me.”
Water didn’t know what that mean. Neither did Petal.
They had an idea. It was remote and feeble and probably impossible. They would teach the moon to speak. Not just shine and hope for the best. Not just mumble or shout or sing in that mysterious jumbled language. They would teach the moon to say, to raise its voice, to be understood. But how can a Petal reach the moon? Or water for that matter?
Petal strained. She tried to pull herself free from the flower and float high up on the breeze to reach the sky. It was a good idea, well, good enough. But it wasn’t her time to be released from the stem and so she was not. She only moved to and fro, slightly, and beautifully. She could not leave the confines of her existence. She could not be a messenger to the moon any more than she could be water or sky or bird.
Water thought of it first. He breathed a heavy sigh before mentioning it to Petal. She sighed right back, because to be honest, she believed one of the shadow’s delicious lies. Bird can be of no help. He doesn’t even fly. He has stored up everything he will need and is cowering until the day of doom. We won’t even be able to get him to come out.
Water didn’t believe that. He remembered when Bird was young. He would play at the edge of Water. He sang, like the moon, and looked up into the sky. He was preparing to fly, thinking about it at least. He had the idea he could fly. In fact, he had even flown a little when his shell was first cracked. He had been free for a bit before the shadow’s lie convinced him he could not fly, could not be that, could not, could not, could not.
Water thought Bird could be inspired.
Petal sighed, the lie now heavier in her heart. But Water reassured her and, so, she was willing to try.
Water rapped on Bird’s door with a slosh. He was ignored at first, but continued anyway, repeatedly striking and pounding on the door. Bird came out from under his nest and from behind his piles of dried goods to admonish water and tell him to hide.
“Don’t you know what’s coming?” Bird demanded.
Water could do no more. He could get the door open, but he did not know how to convince Bird to help. Petal tried. She waved in the breeze, her beauty now almost completely covered by the encroaching shadow. Suddenly, an idea came to her.
“Bird,” she said. “Don’t give up! What if we can stop it?”
Stop doom? Bird was shocked. Water, too. Up until then he was certain doom was coming and they could not even delay it. Petal thought they could stop it. Or at least try. Out of the box thinking, he marveled.
Bird was explosive, forceful, enraged at the thought that someone could stop the day of doom or even put off the prophesied suffering that was coming on all of them. Couldn’t she see the shadow? Vile words came from him, some he’d never even heard before, all about how Petal couldn’t stop it, Water couldn’t stop it, and he couldn’t stop it. Doom was coming and they should hide.
Petal was almost convinced.
Water sort of believed the lie and “sort of” was enough to stop him in his tracks. Listening to Bird, he was becoming a puddle. Petal was hearing it too, and wilting, slowly. If she did not look away from Bird, he would die and so would she. Then the obvious occurred to her. Just say it, plainly, to Bird, to Water, to the whole forest, the village, and the moon itself.
“It’s a lie,” said Petal.
Petal who could only hang on a flower and wait for her time to be up so she could fly, who could only be beautiful and delightful, with nothing much to do, Petal could speak.
“A lie,” Bird repeated.
“We aren’t supposed to cower,” shouted Water as he caught on. “We are supposed to fight!”
He was breathless as he turned from a puddle back into water and then grew stronger. Petal was encouraged, and she needed every bit of encouragement by then.
Bird was not convinced.
“But I have these supplies,” he said, proudly, then added, “And I won’t share them with you if you’re wrong!”
Water sighed, but not in disbelief or wrong belief or in fear of doom like before, now water sighed because he was fed up. He roared like he was going over the falls. He reared up. He was inspired. And water flooded into Bird’s safe abode, crushing his hiding place, diluting the supplies, decimating every false thing Bird was willing to hide behind. The whole place came down in an instant because, to be honest, it wasn’t very stable to begin with.
Bird shrieked. He was devastated. He was alarmed. He was furious with Water. But Bird was not yet angry with the lie.
“Now I have to rebuild my hiding place,” he said, his voice tinged with manipulative self-pity that was supposed to control any further outbursts from Water and Petal.
But Petal sighed then, drawing the wind up within her, and exhaled onto Bird. He was annoyed at first. Water joined in the fight, rising also, until Bird had very little space to stand.
“You two,” He squealed. He was distraught. But he blamed his friends, not the lie. Not yet anyway.
“Fly away,” said Water.
“You can,” prophesied Petal.
But Bird repeated the lies in quick secession. I can’t fly. We have to hide. It’s not safe. I need supplies!
And the Water rose. The wind blew.
Bird was slowly lifted from his feet and forced to fly.
He was amazed. He really had not thought it possible. He had believed the lies fully, without question. He had no concept that he could be wrong. He could fly!
Bird flew higher. And higher, until he was eye to eye with the great, mighty, shining moon. Its light embraced him. Bird could hear it. The moon was singing, the same song as always, the same measured and consistent words, never changing, always the same. But now Bird understood every word. The moon was speaking his language and he realized it always had.
It said, simply, “Don’t be afraid.”