The City of The Moon

On a moonlit night, a lonely man sat in a church in the city and wondered about the meaning of life. He’d searched religious texts, read philosophical books one upon the other, and consulted with wise people of all ages. Each of them had their own way and meaning, but he had nothing.

He rose from the bench he was sitting on and looked at the religious symbol on the wall. It meant a lot to people, it had thousands of years worth of history, but for him, it didn’t mean anything. It never would. He strode out from the building and into the moonlight. As he walked down the road, he saw some corporate buildings, an old disused playground, and shops that were closed for the night. As he kept walking, on a whim, he turned to the moon and told it that he wanted to know what the point of everything was and that reality was horrible, because it wouldn’t tell him.

The moon quietly kept shining its light, illuminating the countryside as he kept walking, wondering what to do. Soon enough he found that his random wandering had taken him out into some neighborhoods where houses were lined up on both sides of the road. He walked past them wondering what realities everyone inside of them had, if it caused them to sleep well, safe in the knowledge that they knew, or if they were staying up late like he was, wondering about it all.

A small side road led to the edge of the city where the houses stopped, big firs were now obscuring the moon somewhat, making it very dark. Strangely enough though, the man saw a pale light coming from a small altar down in a ditch that was still wet after a rain that had come by the day before.

Feeling oddly compelled by the sight, the man started making his way down into the ditch and soon stood before the altar that was made out of planks that had definitely seen better days. It was heartbreaking to see that it had been neglected this way because it was obvious that someone had spent a lot of effort to create it once, and now it was just like this. Forgotten. Neglected.

On it was an octagonal wooden container the size of a hat box that had a moon cast out of metal on its surface. The moon had an enigmatic expression on its face and the man reached out to trace the bulbous lines on the metallic face.

Suddenly the metal face spoke to him, “All that is, and all that would be, was and is inside and outside of the box.” and then it fell silent.

The man suddenly felt a strange feeling that he’d never felt before, an enormity of sorts, he couldn’t place it. But he knew this was one of those moments where he had to choose. To open the box or not? He had to know, was there another meaning inside? He opened the box and as he did, he found a folded-up piece of cloth that was very thin and that had roads printed on it on one side. He also found a myriad of small buildings and statues and things you would find in a city. How odd.

Getting back up to the road, he now saw that the pale light of the moon was somehow illuminating something much further down the road leading out of the city. Leaving it behind him, he walked for an hour until it wasn’t almost visible anymore. He felt free and happy and… that strange enormous feeling was also there inside of him. Like cracks on an old pillar maybe, or a mountain, no maybe a race of animals, or the laws of physics, oh it was so hard to pin down, so impossible to put into words!

He stopped once he’d reached the new thing that glowed and he realized it was a wooden table, with a chair next to it. Nodding to himself, he unfolded the big piece of cloth onto the table and looked at the small buildings in his hand… now where to begin? He placed the biggest one in the middle and as it touched the canvas, both it and the building transformed. He was now looking at a perfect miniature of an area around a city hall. It had an impossibly detailed quality to it, small streetlights, windows in the building, and even grass and bushes. He was afraid to touch it, knowing something that delicate surely must break. But he looked at the other pieces in his hand and he knew precisely where they should go now. For the next hour or so he marveled as he placed all of the things right in the city, creating it as he went, the miniature growing and becoming more and more elaborate.

Finally, after what felt like eons, he was finished and it was complete. The city was so beautiful, but he found that it had no people in it or animals. He nodded again to himself as he took out the small figures and placed them on the table, but for some odd reason, they didn’t integrate into the model like the buildings had done before. He tried moving them around, thinking maybe there was some reason why they didn’t become part of it, but soon enough, he gave up as nothing he did had any effect.

When he had the last figure left, he looked down at it and felt anger. Why wasn’t it working?

He spoke to it “This one’s me” and placed it down at the edge of the city. Suddenly he felt a shudder all around him and he looked up from the table and saw that he was no longer outside of the city, he was now close to a new city, and it was dawn. In a panic, he looked down at the table only to find that it was gone. The man’s hands were shaking in fear as he turned around only to find that a desert was behind him. His city had vanished behind him along with everything he knew.

Suddenly he felt that sense of enormity was starting to fade, he desperately clung onto it, hoping to keep it, but it was as if his mind was a broken balloon where the air just kept pouring out. Soon enough all that he could do was just stare at everything around him, wondering what to do next. Where would he go? Could he go back?

He walked into the city as the sun started rising and all around him, people started coming out of their houses and apartments, getting ready for all the things they needed to do that day. He walked past a playground where children were happily playing, he walked past some shops where an owner of one was talking to a woman, obviously happy in selling her something. He passed by the corporate offices where the reflective glass, bright with the sun had reflections that partially hid the people working inside of it.

Feeling extremely lost in this new city of his own making, he went to the place where he’d started it, city hall. When he looked up at the building, he saw that in place of what would have been a clock in his city, this one had the same big metallic face of the moon having that same enigmatic expression on it as before. At this point, the man felt more confused than ever and yelled out in anger at the moon on the building “WHAT DO YOU WANT? WHY DO THIS TO ME? ALL I WANTED WAS AN ANSWER!”, for the next few minutes, he kept screaming other things until the police came and took him away as he was scaring the people around him.

The rest of the day, the man spent in a jail cell while they were trying to figure out who he was and where he’d come from. He’d calmed down after one of them had given him a cup of tea and something to eat, but soon enough he found himself feeling extremely sleepy. So, he laid down in his cell and fell asleep, and woke up several hours later when it was evening again. It was quiet as the grave in the jail, only the attending officer was on watch and also half-asleep watching something on a small TV on the desk next to him.

Getting up from his temporary bed, the man saw that again, the moon was shining brightly through the window and looked out through the bars at it in the sky. He whispered to it that he was sorry and that he was done trying to find any answers because all he really wanted to do now was to go home again. The moon of course didn’t answer him, but a sound behind him made him turn around. The door to his cell had opened and the lights in the building were now off.

The man didn’t spare a single second getting out of the jail, which was now abandoned, not a soul there. When he entered the city streets only the streetlights were on now. Not a single house seemed like it had someone awake inside. As he retraced his steps outward towards where he’d come from, on a whim he went up to a house and knocked on the door, wondering if someone would answer. When nobody did, he tried the door and found that it was open. He looked into the darkened doorway and went inside, the house was in perfect order, but nobody was home. Going back out, he entered another house that also turned out to be as empty as the first one.

The city was empty now, everyone had gone away. He nodded to himself, feeling a trace of that strange emotion welling up in him again, that totality of… something. When he made his way further toward where he’d started, that feeling swelled up inside of him now, stronger than ever, he felt like it was almost impossibly powerful and before he knew it, he came upon a small altar next to the road and a table next to it. Rushing up to the table, he found that the city he’d created was still there and he quickly pulled off the buildings from the cloth which made them turn back into the small wooden figurines that they’d once were. Meanwhile, the ground turned back into the cloth and soon enough only city hall was visible, but this time, the man noticed that the strange moon face was on one of its sides. Bracing one hand against the cloth, the man pulled off the city hall block and then neatly folded up the cloth, returning both it and the figurines to the box. But… wait, it wasn’t enough, was it? There was one thing missing, after all, the small wooden people!

He shrugged, there was nothing to do about it now was there? Closing up the box with the metal moon on it, he returned to the shrine and placed down the box and talked to the moon on it, and said “Look, I’m done looking for answers, I just want to go home again.”

The moon again spoke to him, but this time what it said was subtly different: “All that was, and all that will be, has been inside and outside of the box.” And then after a long pause, it added, “On and on again.” then it fell silent.

Leaving the shrine, the man felt that again, the strange feeling was pouring out of him like before. This time though, he welcomed it, it was clearly not something that was meant for any human to ever hold onto. He made his way up to the road and found that his old city was there again, he laughed and shouted with happiness as he ran into it. When one house to his left had a light coming on and a door opening, he saw that it was his old friend who was coming out, obviously annoyed at the sound that he was making. He shouted to his friend that he’d finally seen the point of all, that he finally understood, but the confused look on his friend’s face scared him as the friend started backing off inside his house again, telling him to go away, that he would call the cops on him if he didn’t leave right this instant.

Confused, the man walked through the quiet city in the moonlight and finally made his way home again. His apartment was precisely as he’d left it and soon enough, he collapsed on his bed and fell asleep again. His life went on as before after that day, but nobody that he knew ever remembered him ever again.

Knowing now his own individual answer to what life was about, he had found that it’d been taken away from him at the same time. However, he never did talk to the moon after that night, because now he’d learned that some experiences in life do come with too high of a cost attached to them.

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