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Chapter Three

Hours had passed since Mercury left the lighthouse. After their conversation Moon returned to his usual chair and spared not a drop of whisky. He grabbed the glass and quickly swallowed it whole before pouring himself another drink. It was not very often that his emotions were stirred so intensely and Moon wanted to bask feverously in them. There had been many predictions from different time periods about the Aquarian age but what they all had in common was that its impact would be revolutionary.

He had been disappointed by Mercury’s reaction but not at all surprised. It was natural to fear the unknown. And, as much as he valued his friend’s intellect, he had to remember that his vision was as short-sighted as the rest of the council. They were all motivated by self-interest and couldn’t see the amazing transformation heading for humanity. Moon didn’t know the outcome to the story, but he appreciated the possibilities.

For the first time in their entire history the material realm were going to be given an element of control. They would be given resources, scientific knowledge, technological advancement and spiritual awareness...and most importantly of all, the freedom to apply their gifts for the betterment of society. If they so wished.

In his wisdom Moon knew there were no guarantees the material realm would succeed with their newfound powers. They were still very immature as a species and weak in their minds. There was a reason why humanity had passed through the other stages in the Zodiac and had experienced plenty of disasters, tragedies and losses in the process.

It had been the Age of Pisces which was supposed to raise their consciousness and lead them further to the truth of their existence. The results had been interesting to say the least. With the rise of many different religions, the explosion of two world wars and the arrival of global communications, Moon had been impressed with their capabilities. Had the Aquarian age simply come because they were ahead of schedule?

These were the thoughts which passed through Moon’s mind as he sat at his desk, reflecting. It all seemed and sounded perfect but over the years he had learned to keep logic and rational thinking in their rightful place. Instead, he listened far more to his own inner-feelings and intuition because they were almost never wrong. And the truth was that he had many nagging thoughts at the back of his mind which told him that there was something missing.

He couldn’t help but feel that the new age was coming too soon...and not necessarily for the right reasons. It was rushed, somehow. Humanity had shown a bit of potential, but they were hardly ready to challenge the order of the astral realm. They simply did not know enough. Moon was excited for their progress – he just wanted it to happen naturally.

Throughout his life Moon had always been known as the puzzle master. His thinking was slow, meticulous and unyielding. He simply didn’t know how to give up and could stay with a problem for months, even years. He had always been different to the others. Moon was branded an outcast because he simply didn’t need people. It wasn’t that he was anti-social. He quite liked a good conversation. But he could do without it if needed.

He had a mind which didn’t like to play tricks...yes, he was inquisitive, even questioning, but he was never existential. Moon never challenged his own purpose nor sought out meaning for the universe. There were many complications in the world but the reason for being itself was actually very simple as far as Moon was concerned.

So as he sat at his desk he turned over the many different possibilities in his mind and came to various conclusions. He enjoyed the process. Perhaps, he thought, the Aquarian age had come early because of the discovery of Pisces. He also wondered if its beginning would not necessarily bring with it many changes and in actual fact simply ease the material gently into a new level of thinking across hundreds of years. There was also the distinct probability that the predictions had been inaccurate. Was it possible that the Aquarian age was just an extension of another time, like the turning of a century? There were after all more cycles to come after Aquarius.

A small voice in his head told him that this was not the case. He knew without any doubt that this was a revolutionary age. Then, for no real reason other than pure instinct, he returned to his papers on Pluto and determined to look through the rest of the documents. There had to be something in the files which had some connection. Pluto had not been a pleasant colleague and he knew his personality well enough. Just as he was beginning to lose interest he stumbled upon a sight that left him baffled. It was a transcript which had been buried right inside.

Moon moved the paper into the light and then sighed, unable to hide his disappointment. It had been so clearly marked at the top but the entire page was inkless. He didn’t know how old it was but it must have run out years ago. Despairing, he downed yet another whisky and by this point he noticed a change in his biological makeup. He felt almost giddy. His eyes were watery. The weight dragging his body down suddenly lifted and he found himself feeling lighter – and he had to say, a little more free-spirited. He knew there had been a reason why he had been drinking the stuff.

He was about to really say goodbye to his faculties when something on the page suddenly grabbed his attention. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t noticed it beforehand. Although the ink had practically faded, Moon traced the handwriting carefully and instantly recognised it. His twin had written in the exact same way. It was a style not easily copied. Why had Sun written and recorded a conversation which belonged to Pluto’s most private files? No one was actually allowed to read these files unless under strict circumstances. Moon knew this because he was reading them right now and was doing so illegally. For the right reasons, he felt. But that didn’t explain why Sun had been involved.

Then his attention was drawn away by screams coming from outside, which were very different to the usual noises that came from the sea. He’d been so lost in his investigation and the effects of alcohol that he hadn’t observed the sudden changes to the weather outside. He rushed over to the balcony and, not thinking about the consequences, looked directly into the sea to find the entire ocean was coming in like a tidal wave.

Some of the fishermen had made it to land and managed to reign in their boats to shelter themselves against the traitorous sea. Those who had been too engrossed in their work were swept away. The waves were relentless and drowned the innocent sailors without exception. It unnerved Moon because he had been just like those men who were so entrenched in their task. They had been killed for their attention to detail.

The change in the weather was not the only circumstance which frightened him. At that point Moon thought back to his conversation with Mercury where he had been inspired by images of what was to come. He had been gazing into the sea at the time as if under some spell. His gut feeling told him that the transcript had been a clue to his puzzle. Now, he realised, the second clue was happening here and now, right within the very waters surrounding the lighthouse.

There was a reason why he had always been unpopular in the upper regions of government. Moon was many things but he was not short of guts. He was also one of the few armchair intellects who didn’t mind taking the bull by the horns if push came to shove. So when Moon decided that he had no choice but to abandon his safety net and journey right into the lower decks, in order to speak with the others and interrogate the waters, it was not a secret to him that he had almost certainly lost his marbles.

God worked in mysterious ways. And in His great wisdom, he had given one of his followers access to whisky – numbing his thoughts and making him foolish enough to go straight into the devil’s lair. Moon didn’t think twice as he rushed down the crooked steps. He’d been waiting a long time to finally be in the driver’s seat.

It came to him that he had entered into a race against time and that there was no going back to his safety post. Throughout most of his life Moon had always been a look before you jump type; keeping an analytical eye for everything. It was always think, and then act; or not at all if that was on the cards. So it came as a bit of a shock to him that he found himself running with an impulsive spring in his step, moving down the different levels of the tower into the middle of a watery graveyard. And somehow he felt oddly liberated. There was something freeing about what he was doing and he wanted to hold onto the feeling.

There were more screams coming from the mariners. His view was blocked by the high walls surrounding the flight of steps and so he struggled to make sense of what was going on in the depths below. The beacon from the top of the lighthouse fired like an arrow directly into the sea’s abyss but didn’t explain what had triggered the titanic eruptions that ruthlessly overpowered the small figures in the distance.

Despite running as fast as his long legs would allow, Moon couldn’t help but actually feel each scream as if they were his own. He shared their agony. It dawned on him that he had no real plan. All he knew was that when he got to the bottom, he would have a closer look to the source of the problem and then...well, what? He didn’t know. He was blindly following a hunch and that was exactly the reason why he had never really belonged on the council. Moon was a man of faith. It didn’t seem much use to be anything else.

Finally Moon reached the very last layer of the tower after some drawn out minutes that had cost lives. There was no chance this was just some natural occurrence. He didn’t understand it but somehow Moon knew that this was not the consequence of something but rather someone. It wasn’t lost on him that it had happened soon after his predictions were voiced. No matter how much he regretted the prophecy, Moon also knew that fate had forced his hand. Karma had been in a long slumber and was now finally waking up with a vengeance.

“What are you doing?” one of the mariners called out as the wind shrieked its shrill song and cut through the air like a needle. “You – Moon – you’re at risk here! You need to get right back to the tower, and quick! The waves are coming in thick and fast and we’ve already lost some of our crew. We’re trying to anchor in everyone behind the pillar b-but it’s not safe out here!”

“Relax!” Moon yelled over the disturbance and not without a sense of irony. “I’m going to need your help in a minute so you might want to shake a leg and get yourself to safety.”

He scanned the tight-lipped surroundings around him and then, without thinking about it, Moon rushed for the docking board as if possessed. He called out to the other mariners who were still away at sea. He saw outlines of the men but the rest of their bodies were obscured by the misty skies that crept in around them. Feeling helpless, Moon latched onto a piece of rope and he threw it as far as his skinny arms allowed.

“Hook this line in and follow my lead!” Moon cried. There was a sound of acknowledgement and a vocal struggle as they reared the boat in and knotted the rope. Moon held onto the other end while his eyes rested steadily over the open waters. He couldn’t see anything ahead but kept his gaze firmly fixed on them, consciously forcing himself not to think too much about the aggressive waves coming from a few feet away. He was taking action to save their lives when in reality he was only delaying the inevitable. They were barely above the sea levels themselves. They would have to climb up the stairs to safety and wait for the storms to end. Eventually they would get in contact with the outside world and be taken to safety. But first…

His hands locked around the rope like iron and he clenched as the material burned away into his skin. He used every bit of his strength to rein the mariners in and heard their excitable noises in the distance. Just as the wind turned in their favour towards him there was a loud whoosh as the boat rocked violently – triggering terrified reactions from the mariners. Moon stubbornly pulled in the boat and cursed after hearing one man dropping into the sea like a helpless animal. He gave a boyish scream and then disappeared into the night. Soon after another fell and even cried for Moon’s help before being claimed by the blue depths.

Eventually the boat emerged from the fog with a mere three men aboard. Moon darted his eyes around the high walls but couldn’t see anything else to tie the rope around. He tightened his grip and almost felt as if his arms were being pulled out of their sockets.

The boat slowly moved across the waters and prepared to land at the dock, much to Moon’s relief. For the moment, at least, the restless waters came to a gradual halt and reeled in its assault. Moon’s adrenaline didn’t stop there, however. He made one final yank and watched with gritted teeth as the boat finally nestled itself into the available space. Moon walked onto the deck and helped the men onto the land.

“You saved us.” The captain said, clapping him powerfully on the back. The two other mariners, who both looked to be no more than eighteen, looked at Moon with admiration. They tried to voice their emotions and what came out was a kind of garbled noise – something which, in spite of Moon’s physical agony, left him feeling a touch amused. He then noticed the strain in his body and pressed his lips together tightly.

“Thank me later. We’ve got some work to do. I need to find out what’s caused this sudden storm. I’ve lived here for a long time and I tell you now, we’ve never had any problems like this,” Moon said. He walked with the three men trailing closely behind. The mariner who he had spoken with came to greet them and gave no acknowledgement to the new survivors. “Okay. I can still hear some screams out there so I’m guessing some of the mariners are still alive. Just when I was bringing you in I saw something in the sea that might explain what’s going on…”

“What do you think?” The captain asked. There was something odd about him which didn’t sit well with Moon. He was breathless and shaken up but not in the same way as his crew. It felt somehow forced. “There can be no other explanation other than nature itself taking a turn for the worst.”

“I don’t think so,” Moon said. “When I was pulling you in I caught a reflection in the water. I thought it was unusual because it was so serene compared to the rest of it. When I took another chance to look I saw a silver thread and I’m quite sure it was undisturbed by the madness. It looked like it was being used as a gateway to something else, almost. If I’m right, then that thread has been enchanted with some rare material. I’m not sure what this means but I am guessing there’s something more to it than just nature biting back.”

“You’re good, Moon,” The captain said. He smiled wanly. Moon sensed the energy field and gave a loud sigh, knowing what was about to happen next. It was fortunate that he was gifted with both psychic sensitivity and a sharp mind.

“I’ve heard all about your detective skills. You were inquisitive to the end!” He looked pleased with himself as he swept underfoot and moved to swing his knife right into Moon’s heart. His eyes were wide with feverous intent as he waited for the blood to come pouring out. Moon moved aside and elbowed the mariner in the gut before cutting through the air with his fist, burrowing right into his skull.

“Assasination. How sweet,” Moon said casually. He quickly took stock of the other mariners and saw by their gaping mouths that they were no threat. Then, before his well wisher could from the attack, Moon twisted his wrist and forced him to let go of his knife. Without any hesitation he then stabbed the man directly in his Adam’s apple and watched as he fell onto the ground like a carpet unrolling out. It was only afterwards that he thought to interrogate him. It didn’t really matter. Moon knew he wasn’t alone and likely had company on the other boats.

He looked at the two boys and they made no move to take revenge. Moon decided that he could trust them. They were green and he guessed this was likely their very first expedition. For that reason they were unlikely to try to attack the man who had just dominated their tribal leader. He then turned his attention towards the older mariner who had been there from the start and addled over towards him suspiciously.

The man stared back without expression. He was smarter than the other two, but that didn’t mean much. What he did know is that he wouldn’t be able to keep his back turned for long. He also knew that the boats would eventually anchor in with or without his help unless the sea came in for a second helping with a vengeance.

That left Moon feeling a little more anxious before. He now had a time limit. Somehow he was going to have to get close enough to the silver thread to see if it was as he expected. He decided he was going to have to use the two boys to his advantage. Moon held onto the knife and spared a thought over how he was going to approach his new task. He was not usually the threatening type and didn’t much like using them as bait but his options were limited. After killing the captain he now had a reputation to live up to.

“Right…I don’t know if I can trust you. I think you’ll understand that I can’t afford to give you the benefit of the doubt. So I’m going to ask a favour. That silver thread over there needs a yank. I want you to move your boat towards it and take a chance.”

“You can’t be serious,” The silence told him that Moon was indeed deadly serious. “I don’t know what you think it is but it’s too obvious. If that thread meant something it would have been planted somewhere beyond our reach. It can’t mean anything at all.”

“I think you and I both know that’s not true. And I’m confident you’re as curious as I am. There are two reasons. It might be there because they want us to find it. We could be falling right into their trap. Or, you might say they didn’t have a choice in the matter. They might not have a choice over the coordinates. Technology is not always what it’s cracked up to be.”

“They?” The mariner said. His expression was innocent and child-like, causing Moon to doubt his own judgement. There was a strong chance this man was a real mariner and had been in the wrong place at the wrong time. “You can’t mean to say that someone is actually behind all of this…”

“That ship sailed some time ago. I’m confident that’s the case. I’m just not sure about anything else. You won’t be going over to it alone. Our young apprentices and I will be coming with you. I just want you do the rowing.”

Moon handed out instructions to the apprentices and they shuffled over towards the docking board. He then jumped into the boat and carried out a safety check. After a few minutes of uncomfortable silence between the two men the apprentices gave an all clear and they moved into the deck. Moon grabbed the dead captain’s pistol and held it out, trying to keep a friendly expression to hold out the balance. He didn’t want them to think he was a brute, by any means.

They climbed into the boat with Moon stepping onboard last. The young men had already taken to the oars at the front while the old sailor glowered at him miserably. Eventually, after having had a good look at Moon’s pistol, he took to the seat and went about his business. Moon was careful to keep the distance and sat near the end of the boat, taking in the cool sea air that breathed new life into his lungs. After taking a few whiffs of the air he couldn’t help but succumb slightly to the dizziness and the lethargy left over from the whisky. In his own thoughts he gave a few prayers to the gods – it was likely for the best that he wasn’t rowing the boat.

Moon squinted and tried to take in the world around the lighthouse but could see very little except for the heavy mist. There were still the occasional cries coming from the abandoned mariners far away but Moon guessed they were quite a distance away from the dock. He knew they would be struggling to navigate through the thick fog and that was the least of their troubles. He noticed the sea was smoother now but that didn’t leave him feeling very hopeful. There was a very strong chance that it would come again and when it did, they would either be swallowed up by its iron force or swept away by the strong currents.

Yet Moon quite simply had to know and was prepared to pay any price. He couldn’t settle without at least having tried. And despite the reluctance coming from the older man Moon could tell from his eyes that he was interested. They told a story of a man who had been doing the same work for all too long and had now just been given a new assignment.

They rowed back and forth for some time in the direction of the silvery sparkle. The distance between them seemed to stretch far and wide before Moon finally trigged that there was a definite disturbance with the object. As they pulled in closer towards the thread it seemed to move further away and maintain its remoteness beyond their reach.

Eventually Moon realised they were falling right into the hands of its owner and were moving into a kind of mirage. He guessed their plan was to drag them so far away from the safety of the dock that they would be completely at their mercy like frightened mice in a trap, but Moon didn’t choose to go back. Trying to turn tail and run would just result in the inevitable so that they would drown almost instantly. By choosing to stick to the path there was still the chance they would at least reach the thread and satisfy Moon’s curiosity.

The mariners tugged away endlessly as they wrestled with the unsettled waters, leaving them drained and irritable. Every so often they looked contemptuously at Moon which made him feel uncomfortable. He didn’t want to risk their lives in pursuit of something intangible but he had been left with little choice. He was blackballed the moment the captain decided to move in for the kill.

For a time Moon believed the journey would carry on for an eternity. There was a strong feeling of stagnancy in the air while they rowed along, neither really here nor there, as if cemented into a purgatory world with no chance of redemption or conclusion. It almost felt like they had been cast away into the ocean where they would live among the vultures and the scavengers with no judgement at the end of it all. Then his eyes peeled onto the silver thread with rigid concentration after feeling an atmospheric shift in the air around them.

Within an instant they were moving closer to the silvery object while the air pressure thinned considerably. It felt like the shedding of a snake’s skin as the invisible cocoon protecting them flew up into the air and disappeared into the night. Moon had never noticed it before but the astral realm was like living in a compressed bubble with a lightness that had suddenly become thicker and smothered them with its enveloping blackness. The sudden change had brought back his own mortality to home and upon reaching the silver thread at last his body bore on him like a weight.

The sensation of passing back into the physical realm was almost as unpleasant as being born again and Moon had never expected to fall into such an illusionary trap. He had suspected that the thread was being used as a gateway between the two realms and that somehow the mariners had been projected into Moon’s lighthouse. He had walked between worlds once or twice but he had always been in control of the process. This time he was being pulled like a puppet on a string that was being ushered into invisible hands. He looked at the mariners and saw that they too were frightened and bewildered by their physical rebirth.

“Time to land, I think,” Moon said. They looked at him and with sunken eyes stopped rowing at last. They had reached their destination but somehow it didn’t feel like a victory. Moon looked at them and, keeping his pistol to hand but without meaning to be threatening, waved his hands as if apologetically. “I have a feeling you weren’t part of their plans and I’m sorry about that. I’m afraid I’ve been swindled.” Then, amazingly, Moon slid over to the side of the boat and grabbed the thread tightfistedly. He pulled it towards them and silently prayed for a peaceful ending.

It didn’t come.

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