The Absence of Light

MACY DELL. Yesterday, Mr. Colquitt knocked on our door and told my parents they were blowing up the moon. He and my dad stood on the front porch and my mom came out afterward and gave Mr. Colquitt a sweating glass of iced tea that matched hers. They watched minivans drive down the street and talked about the piece of moon that had hit the bus in California. Then they were mumbling and boring and Brendan texted me and said to come onto chat so I did.

Brendan is not cute. He is fourteen and has acne. Anyways I am sort of in love with Mr. Colquitt. Sometimes Mr. Colquitt will drape an arm around Mrs. Colquitt’s shoulders and she will lean up against him, and I will think, aww, that would be nice, in the way that you look at clouds and think about running across them barefoot and you think, aww, that would be nice.

I’m not sure what I think about them blowing up the moon.

MR. FRANCIS DELL. Ben Colquitt came over two days ago and said they’d decided that destroying the moon was the best course of action. What the hell do I know about the best course of action? All I know is that the moon is suddenly shitting pieces all over us and now you don’t know if you’re supposed to go out to work with an umbrella or a tank.

Forty-two years and I told Sara that the worst thing that’s ever happened to us as a family is this recession.

And now look, the damn sky is falling. 

What the hell are we even paying NASA to do anyway?

BRENDAN COLQUITT. Recently, I’ve been doing tarot. I try to pretend that it’s because I really want to know more about my inner self and my future, but I know it’s mostly because my parents were talking about tarot and how it was an evil thing. They said the same thing about the Playstation, and that’s been fantastic, so obviously, I had to try tarot. I have been doing spreads for my future, but they aren’t really very specific. I spend a lot of time reading the book that came with the cards. I keep getting The Tower, which is confusing because it’s about things falling down that you’ve built up and please, I’m fourteen and haven’t had time to even build up my arm muscles, and Death, which is confusing because they say it’s not really about Death. So I keep reading the book. And my parents keep talking about the moon. You know what the book says about the Moon? It says that it’s the eighteenth card of the Major Arcana, and that it represents “confusion and uncertainty rooted deep in our subconscious, demanding change.” Whatever the hell that means.

I say hell because my parents say that’s evil too.

Hey, you know what’s not evil? Macy Dell. I texted her: come here i’ll tell you your future.

She texted back: my future is this bowl of cereal.

MR. BEN COLQUITT. They are going to blow up the moon tomorrow. My wife Margo is wondering if this will just make more pieces shower down on us. I am wondering, myself, what this will do to the tides and to the circardian clocks of animals and the night animals in the ocean who had moonlight to rely on. On the news, I saw a scientist say that it is going to tilt the axis of the earth. I don’t know if that’s because of the moon being gone or the effects of the explosives. Margo switched the television over to the Disney Channel before they could explain. Margo said she didn’t want to frighten the Dells’ children, who were here while Sara and Francis went shopping. Macy is too old to be frightened. She’s headed for a whore house. And Billy is four and oblivious. Margo worries too much about things that don’t matter, but I guess that’s one of her charms. Anyway, the scientist said the Earth’s axis will be changed and it will make the Earth spin faster and give us a seventeen hour day. He said that was better for business anyway, and would help with the recession.

I don’t remember voting for this guy.

MRS. SARA DELL. We watch from our backyard. The sky is a very lovely dark purple, and the moon is full above the black leaves of the oaks. From here, you can’t see anything wrong with it. It looks round and two-dimensional, a communion host. Brendan is slapping mosquitoes on Macy’s arm — I think he likes her, I think he’s a nice enough boy — and I’m sure the mosquitoes are biting me and Billy too. But I can’t really focus on that. On myself. All I can think, at this moment, is that the moon is mysterious and essential, and that four-year-old Billy on my lap will probably forget that he ever saw it in anything other than a book. It seems like a crushing loss. I feel like man was never meant to do this, to play God, crushing satellites in his fist. I wonder if the Earth will really turn like they say on the news; if we’ll feel it happening. I wonder if the tides will stop. I wonder if plants will still grow. I look up at the moon, so far, far away that we shouldn’t be able to touch it, and I wonder.

MACY DELL. For one second, the moon is dim. Like someone has turned down the brightness on a computer monitor. We have to squint to see it through the shadow.

Suddenly, for the first time since I heard the news, I realize I am very, very afraid.

I clutch Brendan’s hand, which is sweaty. I feel even more powerless than I usually do. We never said we wanted the moon blown up. We never said we wanted things to change. No one asked me. No one even asked my parents. I thought we lived in a democracy. Doesn’t that mean there should be a box you check that says, yes, change the planet’s rotation?

Everything is silent, because the play is being held thousands of miles away from its audience.

Then there is acres of dust and an empty night sky.

Author’s Note: roughly based on a dream I had a few nights ago.

image from eye of einstein.

62 thoughts on “The Absence of Light

  1. Well, that’s like Goodnight Moon. Forever.
    I hope your dreams don’t tell the future. I would miss the moon too much!


  2. Oh. Sighhh. I love some of the lines in this so much that I want to kiss them on the mouth.

    Like this one: “They said the same thing about the Playstation, and that’s been fantastic, so obviously, I had to try tarot.”

    Or this one: “It looks round and two-dimensional, a communion host.”


  3. Wow, all these perspectives are so distinct! Even without the names beside them, I feel as if I’d be able to tell them apart by the voices alone.

    And the story…awesome as always, but yii! I love the moon so much that the thought of it ever being blown up terrifies me. And since you’ve made it seem like such a real possibility… *shudders*

  4. I would miss the moon a lot if it were to be blown up. I like that the parents find everything evil for poor Brendan.

    Poor Moon.
    I will miss you.

  5. I really liked this – sense of impending doom… nice.

    I particularly liked Macy’s concluding thoughts:

    We never said we wanted the moon blown up. We never said we wanted things to change. No one asked me. No one even asked my parents. I thought we lived in a democracy. Doesn’t that mean there should be a box you check that says, yes, change the planet’s rotation?

    I think it’s reflective of the thoughts of many in our society right now, of course it’s not blowing up the moon on their mind, but still…

  6. This is shiversome and creepy, but somehow gorgeous too. I think the sense of this little community of two families, even though none of them fully understands the others, lends a warmth to it.

    Two lines in particular stood out to me: I don’t remember voting for this guy. and And now look, the damn sky is falling.

    Very distinctive voices for each of the characters, and I love the chilling way it ends with Macy’s fear and indignation, and then the sense of loneliness without the moon.

  7. Thank YOU. That was what I was playing with and trying to do with this one — see if I could really make voices distinctive with just a paragraph.

  8. That was the main part I remember from my dream — feeling very disenfranchised. Not necessarily about the moon.

  9. Thank you. The distinctive voices was my main reason for writing this story — I wanted to see if I could do it. So thanks. 🙂

  10. I hate you. I am now utterly afraid. This was like when I read The Monstrumologist, only more compact and…lunar?

    Nice, but scary.

    And awesome.

  11. I love the dichotomy between Macy’s crush on Mr. Colquitt and his thinking she’s headed for a life of prostitution. Also, “my future is this bowl of cereal.” is just about the perfect teenage response.

  12. That? Is utterly brilliant. Love how each character’s voice really comes through. Mundane with surreal, which is decidedly not easy to do!

  13. That reminds me about how my mother felt about the playstation…;)

    I liked the distinction of each voice and how they filled in blanks left by the other points of view.

  14. Way good and a little bit scary. As a science geek myself – the whole idea scares be bejesus out of me.

  15. I like the many parallels that can be drawn about “others” making decisions for all, whether it be the gov’t or other institutions, and the different ways that those decisions will affect everyone (either in perception or reality).

  16. You have freaked me out. And somewhere in the middle there I forgot that you were writing it, which is very good in terms of voice.

  17. 😦 I had to run out and make sure the moon was still there. Wasn’t up for the night yet. Gave me goosebumps. LOL How on earth would you think you needed to work on voice? Didn’t you just finish a HUGE series full of separate voices? :p

  18. NOOOOO!!! I don’t want to moon to go, I don’t want the moon to go!!! Oh, it’s just a story. 😐

    It was really great, and makes me think of the last day on earth, but I don’t like it. You wouldn’t like things about moon’s being blown up if you loved the moon.

    But, the way all the voices were so different, that was amazing.
    And the line ‘my future is this bowl of cereal.’ was funny.

    Amazing, in short.

  19. I’m not quite certain that blowing up the moon would be a good solution for ANYTHING, but hey, we often do things that are not good ideas. Especially NASA. >:D


  20. I seem to write a lot of stories that result in o_O.

    I can’t say I’m DISpleased by this.

  21. I write about things that scare me and horrify me. I remember waking up and thinking WAIT THERE WOULD BE NO MORE MOON? And I had to expand upon that, because it was such a terrible idea to me. Which seems so odd because really, I can go for days without thinking, “oh, hey, you know how the moon was doing this the other day?”

    And thanks you. 🙂

  22. I made someone happy this early in the morning? My work is done. 🙂 Now if only I could call it a day and go back to bed instead of working on a state report. Only 3.8786777 (or whatever) days left at the office. Yay!

  23. I guess it’s good to see that even wildly successful authors are still trying to better themselves. It makes you more human and less “OMG! It’s Maggie Stiefvater! And she’s RESPONDING TO ME ON LJ!!!!” *ahem* It’s also just damn good to know that practice will win out.

  24. What are you talking about? I look in the mirror and say OMG IT’S MAGGIE STIEFVATER every day.


    But no, Tessa and I already pinkie swore that the day we stopped trying to improve or thought we knew it all when it came to writing was the day we quit and did something else.

  25. This made me cry. Like, actual tears running down my face. What an odd reaction to have!

    Either I need therapy or my own lunar cycle is making me a bit crazy. Or both. Probably both.

    This was entirely too real. *turns to the Disney channel*

  26. I’m not sure if I should say ooooh thanks! or . . . I’m sorry!!!


    Also, did you notice that if you’d never seen the movie The Little Mermaid, you’d think that Ariel had a bird sitting on her head in that icon?

  27. I once had this dream about Kermit the frog announcing the apocalypse while sitting on a fence post with atomic bombs going off in the background. I sure am glad you didn’t have that dream as there’s no telling what you would have done with it.

    So much to love in this story. I loved how you laid the mundane daily life stuff in juxtaposition to such a devastating event. It wound up adding an emphasis of impending doom to that event, as others noted, it had my insides yelling “no!!! look!!! you’re going to let them blow up the moon!!! wake up!!!.” I loved all the little details you drew out, it was like what one reader said about wanting to kiss some of the lines on the mouth, true.

    Thank You!

  28. I ❤ this comment.

    Also, I think that Kermit stuff would be fantastic. Um, aside from the copyright implications.

  29. Ugh. I frequently freak out about NASA’s moon blow-ups. This story, mixed with my panic disorder do not a relaxing afternoon make. Though, why I even expected to relax after reading one of your short stories, I do not know. And the fact that I read it twice, and LIKED it despite the resulting freak out, makes me question my sanity. 😀

  30. Though, why I even expected to relax after reading one of your short stories, I do not know.

    Hee hee hee.

    Thank you for that!

  31. Bye Bye Moon…

    I feel a tiny bit creeped out by this story.

    *rushes to window to make sure if moon is still there…*

  32. Beautiful, really and truly. Your talent always inspires me Maggie.
    *Sidenote on last line. Would it be “then there are acres of dust”? jw.

  33. Indeed! Can you tell these things are typed right into the window? I’m amazed there aren’t more typos . . (I don’t even want to know).

    Thank you. 🙂

  34. ‘…my future is this bowl of cereal.’ I thought we lived in a democracy too. No one listens or takes notice of what’s happening now! Blowing up the moon is like forgetting old people or not noticing our children. Once they’re gone it’s like ‘the play is being held thousands of miles away from its audience.’ This made me cry a little. I think I blew up the moon. I don’t want to do it again.

  35. It should. I’m usually aware of who’s writing and how they’re implementing different elements and analyzing and such.

  36. Not the moon! Anything but the moon!! I love the different points of view and how each point of view helps tell the story. Awesome.

  37. I loved this story! It sort of reminded me of Life As We Knew it… but it sort of freaked me out more. This probably isn’t the best place to say this, but I love all of your books!!! Thanks for being awesome!!!

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