graphic by Luke Sweeney / equinox staff

Julia Messinger

Equinox Staff

The Moon Festival happens every half-cycle; it also happens to be the day that Aerus himself was born.

The festival was always the occasion Aerus and his siblings got most excited about; they didn’t care much for Grandelwand (the day used for celebration of their almighty Father) or the Chime of the Winds (they had four of these a cycle. At every season change, the fairies would gather at the oldest maple tree and kneel in appreciation for the shift of weather. Aerus remembers never being able to sit still enough on those days). The Moon Festival was something special in its own right; the elders would gather together and pool their magic to conjure the most wonderful of decorations. Gold-flecked, shimmering streamers would stretch from tree to tree, glinting in the fading evening sun. Floating white lanterns provided warm, yellow light to the grounds of the field. Tables sprung up from the grass, gnarled tree roots sliding up from the earth and twining together to create stools and benches for everyone to use.

The greatest part, the one that Aerus remembers the best, is that there would be an endless supply of the most rich, decadent foods anyone could think of. Roast duck, grilled potatoes and fresh broccoli; berry crisps and wispy sugar strands; mountains upon mountains of the best, most fresh fruits everyone’s ever heard of.

Yes, this celebration was the best way for Aerus to celebrate his birthday; most of the time he didn’t even mind that some of his community would forget that it was the day of his creation. He was just happy to be part of the festivities.

Aerus shook himself out of his fantasy. That’s another thing that has been happening lately; he hasn’t been able to bring himself out of his thoughts as easily as he previously could’ve. He gripped the blades of grass beneath his fingers, feeling their earthy texture ground his mind from where it had been floating in the clouds.

From that position, Aerus lessened his grip on the grass and pushed himself up into a sitting position. He looked down, smoothed some wrinkles out of his maroon tunic, tightened his braided twine belt, then hopped upright onto both feet.

Aerus felt his muscles rejoice in relief as he stretched them out of the position they had been sitting in for hours. He squinted down at his bare feet, then reached down to brush a small bit of dirt off one of his toes.

The fairy slowly brought his head up to survey his surrounding area. As he viewed the gloomy sky, a small tinge of sadness wrought his stomach as the revelation that he would never witness another season change again came to the front of his mind.

Aerus squinted his eyes closed, wishing that he could just remember what happened. That he could just remember where everyone went. That he could just remember why the seasons stopped changing.

Oddly enough, Aerus heard a branch crack behind him. Shocked, he whirled around, accidentally smacking his clumsy, gangly left arm against the tree next to him  in the process. He cradled his arm with his right hand, grumbling under his breath. He figured that had just been another dying branch snapping itself off of the trunk of a tree, too tired to fight having to hold itself there anymore.

He decided to investigate anyway. What harm could that do, right? He needed to exercise his stiff limbs anyway.

Aerus stepped around the tree trunk in front of him and scanned the surrounding area. Almost immediately, he recognized the offender; it was a branch laying quite in the middle of things, snapped very cleanly in half.

Aerus furrowed his brow. He had never seen anything quite like this before. What struck it as most odd to him was that it was placed right in the middle of a clean patch of sky; that is, it definitely hadn’t fallen from a tree unless it had managed to bounce itself about five feet into the middle of a clearing.

It was also, once again, snapped cleanly in half. By this point Aerus had stepped further towards the offending branch, squinting down at it from a small distance away. There were no splinters, no uneven edges, nothing to suggest that something else maybe could have crushed it in half.

Aerus closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. I must be going crazy, he thought. This is what happens when you spend ten years of your life completely alone.

Opening his eyes, Aerus sighed, then took another step toward the branch to at least pick it up to examine it.

In what seemed like half an instant, Aerus’ foot stepped on a patch of loose earth with nothing underneath it to hold his weight, and his entire body started plummeting down into a black, earthy hole. A scream became choked up in his throat, and before he could react, his back made impact with something hard and pain inducing, then, inexplicably, everything went black.