Aaron slipped through the darkness, trying to remember the way out of the village. The cloudy sky was a mixed blessing, as it made it easier to stay hidden and also harder for him to see his way. What he could see he did not recognize, but he reasoned that if he kept going in one direction, he would eventually reach the wall. Then he could follow that to the gate. As long as he wasn’t discovered.
Jonon seemed nice enough, despite tying him up. Eres, too, though he had only just met her. But even if Ara was a good person, he did not want to risk her judgment. He was not ready to give up on his life just yet, however difficult it might be. So as soon as he could after nightfall, he snuck out.
The guard was distracted. Or asleep. Perhaps it was not a usual duty for him. Whether because of that or something else, it had been a simple enough matter for Aaron to avoid him on his way from his hut.
In addition to the darkness, the silence around also cut both ways, though he suspected it worked against him more than for him. He had to keep moving and do so quietly. Others in the dark may be still, not giving him any clues as to their presence. Yet he listened for sounds, and went slowly as he walked along unfamiliar paths.
He stayed near walls of buildings, touching them to help guide his steps. After some time, he did hear sounds and began to drift in their direction. As he drew closer, the sounds grew into the clear snap and pop of a fire.
Even more cautious now, he backed away from the noise to continue on his way. Keeping the sounds on his left served as a guide to keep his bearings. The village was bigger than he thought, but it couldn’t be much further. Wishing for a bit more light, he kept moving.
“Who are you?”
Aaron’s heart stopped. Behind him, he could just make out a child looking at him. The boy was rubbing one eye as if he had just woken. Aaron was grateful he was alone, but what should he do? So many options spun through his head, most of which he quickly dismissed. But he also could not let this child give him away.
The boy perked up a bit. “Are you the storyteller Jonon brought back?”
“I guess I am.”
“Are you going somewhere?”
If only he could guess what the boy would do, Aaron might have had some idea how to react. Were the children as fearful of outsiders as the adults? Yet the boy seemed excited by the prospect of a storyteller. Perhaps that was a way out of this.
“Do you like stories?”
The boy nodded, a big smile on his face.
Aaron sat down and gestured that the boy should follow suit. This was a risk, staying in one place, but so was every other option. “We need to stay quiet, so we don’t wake anyone else, but I can tell you a story.”
An even bigger smile.
“Many years ago, long before you were born, human beings wanted to unite the moon and Earth.”
“There are many reasons that have been given. Some suggest that one village sought a weapon to defeat another. Others believe one man was trying to win the love of a woman. I like to think it was curiosity and a desire to learn.”
“Whatever the reason, one man set out to reach the moon. He tried many times to make the journey, but each time ended in failure. He had nearly given up when he was approached by a woman who said she could get him to his destination.”
“She could? What did she want?”
“Very good. There is always a price, and there was this time, too. It was small enough. She simply required that nothing be brought back. The moon was to be left intact. He agreed. She showed him how to use a special fire to launch himself away from the Earth. The trip was spectacular, as the ground grew small below, and the moon loomed large ahead. Finally on the moon, he explored for a day and a night, amazed at everything he saw. When it was time to leave, he picked up a rock and put it in his pocket. Upon his return, the woman knew immediately that he had broken his promise. She took the rock from him, and forbade any human beings from ever visiting the moon again.”
“But why did he take the rock?”
“That’s enough, Mason,” another voice interjected. Aaron turned to find Moth Ara standing behind him. “Off to bed with you. I need to speak with the storyteller now.”
“Yes, Moth.” The child quickly stood and hurried off into the night.
“Aaron, please follow me.”
He moved slowly. The thought of running tugged at him, but he shoved it away. He doubted she would be alone. Resigned, he walked behind her back towards the fire.