At the threshold of the end of all things, a moth lay sleeping in his cocoon. He had been asleep for a long while, slumbering through a dreamless depth to finally ascend in a silvered half-awareness. Then, he emerged to the shiver of cool air caressing newly formed wings and a soft breeze which dried them to a powdery, petal softness.
He listened on the wind for the voices of his kind, but all he heard was the stirrings of leaves and the rustle of twilight-dimmed branches. The full moon glowed dimly, far above, and as he stared out into the fairness of the night all thoughts of momentary loneliness were pushed aside. The moth began to sing.
He sang a song of beauty, praising the soft moonlight, and called enticingly to his brethren to emerge and join him. No other voices accompanied his that evening, but he thought he saw the moon grow brighter.
Night after night, the moth sang. Silence and the rustling of wind being his only reply. Finally, tired and heart-weary, his song ceased and the nights were quiet once more. During that time, the ageless moon dimmed and the landscape darkened until, finally, one night the moth sang again. No longer did he call out to his brothers and sisters and, though he sang of the beauty of the moonlight and of his joy at being alive, his song carried on its refrain something new: twinned notes – one of loss and the other of a bittersweet acceptance. The moon, so long alone, felt her immortal heart soften.
The next night, as the moth began to sing he looked up at the sky and found the moon had begun to move. Towards him it traveled, and though it grew no bigger as it approached, the orb slowly changed shape until before him settled a luminously glowing moth with gossamer wings of gilded creams and purples.
“Are you real,” breathed the moth.
“I am real enough, though I am not really a moth, and only half of me is here,” replied a voice that chimed with the rustling of the night wind. She pointed up at the sky and he made out a dark shimmer of the moon’s celestial self. It lay as if veiled partially in shadow.
“I am looking for my people. Do you know where they have gone?”
For a moment, the moon-moth’s face echoed a sympathetic sadness before it settled back into lines of ageless serenity. “I do not know,” she stopped for a moment, puzzled. “They were here, long ago-”
“But there are others? You’ve seen them,” he said. In a sudden rush of excitement he clasped her hands in his, momentarily forgetting his awe of her.
Half of her mind still lay sleeping far above, and the question in his words seemed to drift off on the breeze, yet the moth’s voice radiated such joy that the moon was startled to find herself smiling back.
“Tell me there are others,” she realized he had said again. A newly settling sorrow in his voice caused the moon-moth’s heart to squeeze in sympathy. Suddenly uncomfortable, she stepped back wings fluttering nervously.
“I, ah… I am sorry. I only came to listen to you sing. I don’t think I can help you.” The moon-moth turned to leave.
“Please, wait. Don’t go yet,” he said. When the moon-moth hesitated he continued, “I didn’t mean to upset you. Stay for a while and I’ll sing for you”. The moon agreed. The little moth sang with such beauty that as dawn approached she found herself glowing as brightly as a small sun.
The next night, the moth was surprised to see that the moon had once again assumed her earthly form. “I thought that you might like some company as you continue to look for your people. I know I am not a moth but I can listen and light your way as we go,” she said to him.
And so they traveled far, the moth always singing and the moon his constant companion. As time went on, the moon grew ever brighter until finally her celestial form began to glow and the little moth found the night landscape around him forever shimmered in soft golds and purples. Yet, as is the way with mortal things, the moth’s once powerful wing-strokes were starting to slow. The moon tried not to notice.
Finally, one beautifully glittering night with the silvered stars above mirrored on an impossibly still, wide lake the moth said to the moon, “Can we just stay here for a time?” She agreed. The moth, his old wings hanging ragged and grey by his sides, sat and sang out into the night. Age had not taken that from him, at least.
The next evening, the moon came down to find the moth had not yet risen. She fluttered to his side.
“I am sorry I have to leave you,” he said. He struggled but could not get up.
The moon gently moved him so that her wings cradled his head. “Hush, don’t say such things.”
“My people are long gone,” he said – a statement, not a question, but the moon nodded her head yes, anyways.
“I am sorry I never told you.”
“Do you know what happened to them, the other moths?”
“No. Below me was a constant din of life. I never thought much of it. Then, it was gone and, for a time I was glad of the silence. Then, I was bored, and then I slept. Was it cruel of me to not tell? I never meant it to be. You seemed happy to think that you’d find them someday. I didn’t want take that away. I know I could never take their place but I hope what I gave you was enough,” she stopped, feeling dazed at the strange wash of emotion pouring over her once-muted heart.
“Oh yes, enough and more,” he sighed contentedly.
“Has a moth ever traveled so far? Seen so many things?” He paused for a moment before continuing, “My only regret is that there won’t be more of my kind to sing to you after I’m gone.”
And so the moon sat with him through the night and they watched the stars twinkle out one by one for the last time. In the morning, the moon began to float back up into the sky but something tugged her down. For the first time in her immortal life, her heart was too heavy to let her ascend. Suddenly, an eternal life of endless slumber seemed unbearable.
My only regret is that I do this too late for you to see, she thought. Lifting the body of her friend she infused his tattered wings with a glowing sliver of her soul. She set the wind to carry off his iridescent scales and they settled, glittering across the landscape. Where each spark landed, a small cocoon lay gently swaying in the breeze.
Then, for the first time in her long life, the moon wept.