Sarah Borsten



The Moon, Ever Watching

By Sarah Borsten


Silence is the darkness that crouches in all men.  Prison encourages that darkness.  Saul uses this place, this feeling.  They’ll never let him out– that much is apparent.  I see him catch invisible songs from a pucker of wind and free himself.  Floating, straining to join that airless melody in his mind.  No way to soften the silence, the burden of the deaf.  Saul continues ever on, unrelenting, although the silence is deafening.  It is enough to send a man mad.


            I don’t like the moonlight touching my bed, my cot.  The moon– it’s always watching me.  When I was a child, I was fearless.  Nothing could harm me– not even the moon.  Then, when I was a little older, my mother told me of the man in the moon.  At first I’d look up every evening– searching for a face.  The face of the man in the moon.  But soon I realized that there was no man in it watching me, but the moon itself. 

            It is the moon that took away my precious sounds.  I am deaf, it is deaf.  It chose me, I am chosen.  Cursed.


            I don’t know how he got here, nor when.  Old Saul, this is his place.  No one ever bothers him– he has enough troubles rumbling through his head.  They say he used to hack out pictures in all of his free time.  When the police arrived and broke into his house to arrest him, they found wall after wall after wall of pictures of the moon.  He was sitting Indian-style on the floor with a butterfly knife in his hands.  The knife that lost him his hearing.


            It tells me what to do– always has.  I just never bothered listening to it at first.  It would blink at me; glow angrily when I tried to ignore it.  I’d hide in my bed and cover my face with piles of sheets.  The moonlight– it would touch my bed.  Touch me, hidden.  Always hiding.


            I often wonder what happened to Saul’s ears.  I just can’t bring myself to believe that he simply stabbed himself because he was feeling crazy.  There are others in here who would, but not Saul.  Not Saul.  The moon is strong.  Pulling tides, creating cycles, attracting … but nothing more.  Never more.  “Nevermore, nevermore.”  Poe’s The Raven– I’ve always loved it.  But when the bird casts a shadow over the man’s soul and Poe writes that the shadow will never depart, lifted nevermore… it just gets to me and shivers run whispering up my backbone.  There is a shadow over Saul.  To be lifted nevermore.


            I often think back on it.  I remember times before-when I could hear.  When the moon was forgiving.  When life was less complicated.  Then, the tasks became daunting.  I’d see how much I could endure before the moon became upset.  It would come up with new punishments for me so I would do the things it asked. I’d cower in a corner.  The moonlight always knew where I was.  It would seep into my brain, time after time after time.  Driving me mad, compelling me to do things.  Horrible things.  Nightmares still devour me.  The blood dream always visits me: the knife taunts me, pouring milky-white butterflies out of the blade.  They chant songs I used to listen to.  The dream takes me back to the street.  Holding the butterfly knife, holding the girl’s shirt, willing myself not to use the shiny cold weapon. 

I remember after it happened, I was sobbing back at home, drenched in sweat and blood, refusing to clean up after myself.  The moon became more violent than I’d ever seen.  It didn’t just glow milky white, it oozed drops of malice down onto my head.  I could feel them fall one-by-one down my head and into my ears, filling them with the cold sounds of silence.  I knew what I must do to save my wretched soul.


            It is night.  A full moon.  No wonder everyone in here is so restless and unsettled.  I sit with my chin in my hands, staring out through the bars of my cell into darkness.  I hear a moan and wonder who is messing around.  Suddenly there is a clawing noise and a choking gasp.  It echoes through the cages of our prison like the thoughts of a trapped animal.  There are reverberating footsteps outside the prison.  Out of the swallowing darkness marches our prison warden brandishing a dim flashlight for protection against this fading noise.  He stops abruptly in front of Old Saul’s cell.  There is then a silence that hangs in the air.  One minute, two, more.  This silence is the eerie type not uncommon in horror movies.  I sit waiting for a conclusion, a story, of what has happened.  We are paused, all of us in here.  Still, not a sound.  Not a movement.  I glance out the window and watch gray clouds swirl around the moon as I wait for any signs of life.  Something.  Anything.


            I am sitting in solemn silence.  I have given everything up.  I will never do another thing for the vile moon.  For the first time since I lost my hearing, I sense a sound.  My heart.  I hear my heart–beating!  Tears linger at the corners of my eyes.  I am hearing the most beautiful sound in the world.  I raise my head and look towards the heavens, but all I see is the moon.  In my entire life, never have I seen such a milky, hulking sphere as this.  I gaze awestruck into its depths and it begins suffocate me.  I gasp with the breath I have left.  Suddenly I need to escape.  I claw blindly around, but I am already being taken.  My sounds are in my ears.  I am a thousand butterflies with blades for wings.  I am milky white nothing.  I am glowing in its light.  I am leaving.


He is gone.  Saul has left.  The moon glows ever brighter in his memory.  Tonight I think I see a man in the moon.  It knows things, I can tell.  The moon is here– Saul is not.  Like us all.  Saul has left.




* * *

…And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted- nevermore


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