Issue 7 Spring 2005  
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Robert Bradley

Hydrogen Moon

The moon is buried under tons of unfallen, dark and soaring water. There's no room for anything. Not one more thing in the whole universe. But everything is moving and everything is wet and slick and dripping under a booming sky. And it's all just a dream flowing under your feet. And it's all coming to an end. You can feel it like anything else, that's soon over.

"It's hotter at night."

"It won't rain for another couple of hours."

"Listen to that."

Hugo's naked, standing at the open window.
"Fucking traffic noise."

"The end product of civilization." This from Talia curled up in bed.

"It's 3 a.m. Go to bed people."

"Don't yell."

He looks over at her. Her eyes are closed. Her hair is wet. Her bare breasts rise and fall. Only moments ago she was moaning in apparent agony. Now, she seems to him centered in a stillness that would never admit to pain.

"Smell that. How much breathable air is left in this city?"

"There's just enough, now come to bed."

He hears a neighbors' high pitched screeching in imitation of love, sees birds nesting in the hold of a stanchion that supports the traffic light that colors his view of the street. He thinks, after an eon of looking inward, that he may be unsouled. The world, too.

"It's said," says Hugo, "that if you take Hydrogen and leave it alone for a few billion years you get a race of spiny, talking worms hell bent on conquering the dust from which they came."

"So what?"

"I'm thinking of all the dead that came before us." He presses a thumb into his palm and rubs.

She sits up. "Are you kidding me?"

"What have we learned?"

She stares at him, says, "That we want the wrong things."

"No, too subtle." She flings a pillow across the room. He bats it away.

"This morbid streak after sex is a bit much, no?"

He digs a thumbnail into his palm, searching out the pain and consequently its relief.
"Pain and pleasure in equal measure."

"Tell it to the dead." She flops, stretches and curls.

He folds himself into a chair, watches her body; wrapped in damp sheets, swelling and softening.
She sleeps like rain, sudden and heavy.

Recently, he's come to the conclusion that he feels threatened by her. He fears the loss of his equilibrium, or the collapse of some inner void, or from her something completely unexpected. He tells himself that he loves her and that seems to work for him, to assuage his fears. But still, he has his reservations regarding her without going so far as to believe that he'll be torn limb from limb. Although, even this, he doesn't rule out completely.

"Some people came by," he says to her sleeping body. "They said that the whole world is suffering from soul sickness, and that we are, all of us, sick unto death. They said we were spiritually fat and lazy. And that I was a slave to darkness. I asked them how they knew this. They said, Calm down. We're here to help. They held up a clipboard and said, Sign here for the New Jesus Program and you'll receive certain blessings and discounts. In your very first session with a certified soul trainer you'll be initiated into the ancient secrets and silent ways of the Big Hats. I said, What's a big hat? They said, We'll show you the way back and forth between light and dark so that you'll be a slave to neither. They said, In order to get your soul into fighting trim, obliterate your ego and be delivered from evil, amen, that I would need to write them a check for fifty dollars which, they added, is fully refundable if I'm not completely satisfied. I told them that I liked my ego. They said that the ego was dead weight. That it had no life of its own. That it depends on and feeds off of and is animated by the life of the soul. They said, Stop feeding it and it will, like a dog, die or go elsewhere. Then, they smiled, and handed me the forms that authorized upon signing the transmission to me of certain brand name universal energies. The keys to your soul, they said. So I signed. Then they told me not to eat anything for the next three days and gave me a number to call when I was ready to redeem the coupon they gave me; and my soul."

He stands over her, "Talia?"

"Hm?" She stirs.

"Let's fuck. Do you want to?"

"Come here," she says and turns her bare back to him.

He tumbles into bed and hits his head against the wall, and lies there on his back, chin to chest. After a while he thinks, 'What does the surface of that mirror look like without its constant reflection? Where is there room for even one more question?'

Talia rolls over, moans and with the heel of her hand hits him on the nose. He lies still a long while: watery eyed, blank-brained, listening.

Then he reaches out and shakes her. "Shh, shh."


"Shh, someone's there."

"There's only you, Hugo. There's only you."

This only confirms his original fear. He swivels and sits on the edge of the bed, his feet planted on the floor, alert to the signs and symptoms of yet another night of wakeful dreams and visions. One in particular: He sees himself on the roof of his building, consigned to his fate. He thinks, 'This is how it will happen.'

He sees the moon as a mirror reflecting the suns dazzling emptiness and in it his own pale aspirations. He'll be right up against it, blurry in his white pajamas, barefoot, indifferent to the cold. He'll have some trouble measuring distances, but his ego will not be a hindrance to him.
He may or may not remember to record the event for posterity. Either way, it won't matter. It, the dream, will have come to an end.