Nearer Comes the Moon
by Tony Noland
She wasn't out. Not really. Not yet. He interrupted his long, slow, even breaths to make a small snorting sound, just the sort of sound made by a large man in a light sleep. She roused slightly and lifted her head towards his. His eyes were closed, of course; he could hear her hair on the pillow. After a moment, she sighed and lay back down. Within another half-hour she was fully asleep. He let her go deeper before he slid out of bed and floated toward the window. It was open only two inches, the compromise between her nighttime chills and his insistence on fresh air. Two inches was enough. He turned his skin to full black and flattened himself so he could glide noiselessly out into the moonlight.
Once out over the backyard, he reformed his body and rose as quickly as he dared, though that was far, far slower than he was capable of. As he always did, he regretted the limitations he had placed on his own power. As he always did, he immediately felt guilty about that regret. Sonic booms and lightning flashes did not belong in Ashland County, Ohio. Having chosen this life, he wished that he could learn to accept it in its entirety.
Once he reached five thousand feet he could open up and climb faster. He wouldn't be able to even feel the moonlight until one-fifty, but above five the crackle of his lifting power wouldn't be audible. Above seventy, there wouldn't be enough moisture to conduct electricity, and he could really stretch his legs. He would cover the last eighty in less time than this first five.
He probably wouldn't be able to linger tonight. Allison had been irritable all evening. She was bound to be sleeping only lightly. He knew he should have waited longer, or just stayed in tonight. After all, the day after the full moon tasted almost as good. He'd been so hungry, though, and the skies tonight were so clear. It had been raining all week. He hadn't even seen the gibbous moon.
He shook his head as the icy air whistled past him. Imagine! Him, not being able to see the moon! The moonlight on his blackened body felt soft, though he knew that was only an illusion, a memory of past feedings. There was still far too much air here. The feeling would be real soon enough.
He looked down at the dark and cloudless countryside. Glowing islands on the gently curving horizon, Columbus to his left, Cleveland to his right, Toledo ahead and the tiny firefly glow of Canton behind. He turned his face back to the sky, back to his true home. Lightning from a clear sky would be seen, but he couldn't wait any longer. He reached his mind within himself and pulled, hard. He exploded upwards, energy arcing outwards in all directions from the expanding volume of ionized air he left in his wake. His forehead glowed dull red through his carbon-black skin; his feet and fingers stretched out from the acceleration. When the air was gone he stopped pulling and he flew upwards on momentum alone.
Glory be to God, he thought, why do I always forget how the moonlight tastes! He turned himself over and over, the undimmed moonlight washing over every inch of his body. He stretched himself into a flattened man-like shape, then into an irregular sheet many yards across. He exposed himself as fully to the polarized moonlight as his body would allow. He rippled and twisted and coiled himself, straining and wallowing in it. He twisted into a tangled mass of threads, then flew outwards into a gossamer cloud form. In the near-vacuum, he floated and fed for hours, the joy of the moonlight making him forget everything but his hunger and the satiation of it.
When his cells were filled and he started to ache from the cold, he came back to his senses and resumed the shape of a man. With the return of his form came the guilt. He had been gone too long. Again. He spared a moment to look at the moon, her light no longer so delicious now that his hunger was no longer so keen. In the airless void, where no sound could carry, his lips moved as he said goodbye. He turned his head downward, leaving his home to return to his house.
The air was shimmering around him as he floated above the backyard, still glowing with the heat of his re-entry. He stretched into a long, thin tube and snaked out over the swimming pool. He slipped in, the water boiling off his tendril body as it went beneath. He twisted himself on the bottom at the deep end, dispersing the heat as rapidly as he could. He rose and shook the water off before gliding back through the window. His wife was still sleeping as he resumed his human shape with its pinkish-brown color. He settled gently back into bed, listening to her regular breathing. Then he heard her sniff slightly. Once, then twice more.
"Chlorine?" she murmered. "Did you use the pool to cool off again? Oh, honey, haven't I asked you to use the hose? You know I hate that chlorine smell."
"I didn't want to turn the water on and wake you," he lied. He had forgotten about the hose. "Sorry."
She sighed sleepily. "That's alright. How was it? How was the weather?" She was already almost back to sleep.
He twisted and put an arm around her as he spooned against her side. He kissed her lightly on the ear. "Everything was fine. Goodnight, sweetheart. I love you."
"mm love you too..." she murmured.
As she slept, he lay awake, as he always did, thinking of the sun, the moon and the stars. As he always did, he decided that had made the right choice.
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