Dedicated with love and a healthy dose of frustration to Henry who, in a tantrum, demanded a story about nothing.
“Do not feel lonely, the entire universe is inside you.
Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.
Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.”
Once upon a time, there was nothing, nothing but the Moon.
She loved the vast, velvet darkness of the Universe. She loved the light airiness of it, the endless distance of space, the vacuum of sound. She did not know day or night, she only floated though the void, sleeping when she was tired and waking when she pleased. This went on for eons, and she never despaired or wished for anything different. She was content as she could possibly be, alone in the Universe.
Until she had a dream.
Behind her sleeping eyes she saw beautiful colors and shapes, things she would one day know to be waterfalls and lush rainforests, oceans and mountains and flowers and trees. She awoke overwhelmed by the astonishing splendor of it all, and then, as quickly as amazement came, she felt sadness for the very first time – for she knew that nothing like this existed anywhere in the wide universe.
Full of brand new and confusing grief, she tried to rub the dream from her eyes, erasing it from her memory. Instead, she found tears. They fell down her cheeks and instead of falling away into the vast nothingness, they began to form a puddle, and then a creek, and then a vast ocean like the one she had seen in her dream. She reached again to wipe the last of the sleep from her eyes and came away with soil on her fingertips. She sprinkled it over the ocean and land was formed. Soon came the mountains and flowers and trees, and then the creatures.
At first, a butterfly, and then a dove – creatures of every size and color, some who walked and some who crawled and some who swam deep in the oceans. And then, Human Beings.
The Moon was quite taken with them, the way they crinkled their noses each time they encountered something new, the way their lips turned upwards for joy, the way they embraced one another, the tenderness of it in contrast of the giant, bold features of the world they lived in.
But the Humans did not even know the Moon existed, for the world was dark, so dark they could barely see. Their beautiful, smooth skin blended into the endless darkness, and they did not know where nothingness ended and they began. They new nothing of the vast rainforests or the snow on the mountaintops – they only knew Each Other, and the warmth they found when they embraced.
But sometimes, that was just not enough. The Humans shivered and huddled together, but only some of them could stay warm at any given time. The Moon watched in awe for a long time. She wanted to help but had no idea how. She knew nothing of heat, nothing of light. She only knew that her brand-new world and her beautiful Humans were sad and scared, and that made her feel sad and scared, too.
The Moon remembered how the Humans sometimes embraced each other, and how their lips turned up after, and she wondered if she could embrace them too. She inched her way towards them, but when she did, great swells erupted from the oceans and drenched the Humans with salty water. They cried out, and they kept crying, for they were cold, they were confused, and now, they were wet.
Their cries pierced the Moon to her core, and, shocked by this new and terrible feeling, she bolted away, faster than she had ever moved before.
She flew through the Universe in a frenzy, haunted by the sound of her Humans’ cries and propelled by the insatiable empathy they had awakened inside of her. She knew she had to help them but still did not know how.
The moon zipped and darted through space, searching for something she did not have the words or experience to describe. She moved in whatever direction her heartbreak led her, stopping sometimes to wail into the vast, velvet darkness she had once adored.
After one bout of wailing, she heard something. It was faint, but undeniably present. It sounded like something wailing back at her.
She wailed again and heard another wail in response. She did not mean to move but felt herself being pulled slowly and gently towards this sound by something deep within her.
As she moved, she began to see things in the empty space around her. She saw glittering stardust, the beautiful shimmer of massive nebulas, and the long, dancing tails of comets as they passed.
In awe, she felt herself being pulled deeper into this magnificent dreamscape, convinced it could not be real. Just as she told herself she must be dreaming, she felt something new and wonderful.
She felt warmth upon her cheek.
She did not know she had cheeks, and she did not know she had lips, but she felt them curl up, just like her Humans’ did.
The warmth from her cheeks spread, filling her entire being with a deep, abiding comfort she never knew existed. She realized, with a complicated joy, that she had been freezing cold for as long as she had been.
The Star that illuminated this galaxy smiled at her.
“I’m glad you’re here.”
Though she was overwhelmed and amazed, the Moon had no time to waste. Words tumbled and stumbled out of her as she tried to explain her creation, her Humans, and how they were so very cold.
“So, you have to come with me!” she finished in a frenzy. “Help me make them warm!”
The Star nodded thoughtfully.
“My place is here. This is my creation. I have no Humans, but the comets and nebulas are my friends. I cannot leave.”
The Moon, exhausted by her long journey and frustrated that the Star would not help, felt tears begin to gather in her eyes. Before they could fall, the Star swiftly gathered them up. They twisted and stretched them, adding a sprinkling of Stardust, and breathing warmth into them. The Star handed the Moon’s tears back to her, now a beautiful, swirling galaxy all her own.
“This was always inside of you,” the Star smiled. “The entire Universe is inside of you. That is why you were able to cry rivers and waterfalls and wipe mountains and soil from your eyes.”
“But you added Stardust! You gave them warmth!” the Moon insisted.
The Star’s eyes grew glassy, and their voice soft. “Sometimes,” they said, “we forget just how powerful we are, and we need a little help to remember. The Stardust will help you see the shimmer in your own magic. The Stardust itself will fade away, but once you can see it, the shimmer remains.”
The Moon was still not quite convinced.
“I have no warmth! I did not even know it existed until I felt yours on my cheek!”
“Ah,” said the Star. “But how do you feel now?”
The Moon realized she was now full of warmth, so much so that she had a slight glow. She was able to see herself for the first time. She examined her curves and craters and practiced curling up her lips.
“If we have never known warmth, it’s easy to not even know it exists. But it does, and it is within every single being. That’s why your Humans know to embrace one another – to share their warmth. That’s why you wanted to embrace them.”
The Moon nodded slowly, and the Star smiled again.
“Speaking of your Humans, I expect you’ll want to get back to them. They need you.”
Without another word, the Star turned away, and the Moon was left with the galaxy of her tears.
The Moon was not exactly sure of the way back to her Humans, but just like a great something had brought her to the Star, the same something pulled her back to them.
When she returned, they were still crying. The sound was just as piercing as ever, and the Moon rushed to offer them the galaxy, so that they would know warmth too.
The galaxy began to expand around them, and the Moon wondered if the Humans would be scared. But as light began to fill their world and they felt warmth upon their skin, their lips curled up in a symphony of smiles. They were not scared, because they recognized warmth as the same feeling they got from embracing Each Other.
Now embraced by the galaxy and the Moon, they stopped crying and began to see their world for the very first time. They saw the lush rainforests and towering mountains; they saw their beautiful skin in every shade of black and brown and cream. Their lips stayed curled up as they examined the butterflies and the doves, crinkling their noses each time they saw something new.
The Moon was overjoyed. The joy kept building, rising within her until she was sure she could not contain it anymore. She let out a deep, soulful laugh, and from her laughter came the Sun.
The Moon and Sun watched the humans for a while, delighting in their joy, in their crinkled noses, and in their upturned lips. After some time, the Moon wanted a rest, so she and the Sun agreed to take turns watching over the humans. The Sun would keep them warm and give them the light of day, and the Moon would glow at night as they rested, an ever-present reminder of the endless light within.