A Darker Side of the Moon

Tomorrow we are all promised the most spectacular total lunar eclipse in 30-odd years! What do you do on a night like that? – You have a party! Eagerly I call up a couple of friends and we all agree that the party idea is entirely appropriate for such a significant event and that the viewing of the Blood Moon certainly deserves a few Bloody Marys.

Being all excited and only too eager, I intend to set up all the available gadgets which will capture and immortalize every sequence of the remarkable happening from its beginning until its glorious end!

The night is perfectly clear – not a cloud in sight, the ink black sky is filled to the brim with stars, planets and constellations; the moon is unquestionably the sky’s crowning glory and is so bright you could easily read by its light!

I must explain here that I live in a small French village where they turn off all the street lights at midnight, allegedly to save energy, but if you ask me, the tight-fisted bastards who run our community just want to save money at the taxpayers’ expense, which gets me on a high horse every time without fail.  This time, however, the lack of a coveted lamppost glare is rather an advantage: once you step away from the lit-up houses, the only thing lighting your way is the moon.

 Thus, our small but fearless company, armed to the teeth with mobile phones and torches, and invigorated by vast amounts of recently consumed alcohol, bravely sets forward towards the edge of the village where I know a secluded spot with a bench overlooking the river and the opposite mountain, that will provide a perfect viewing point of the Blood Moon.

 We are walking slowly through the silent village. Nobody is outside and the night feels a little uncanny with the dark lampposts hovering over the empty streets. By now there are no visible lights in any of the houses either; looks like all the villagers are safely tucked up in their comfy beds. We seem to be the only idiots adventurous enough to go out and brace the elements at this time of the night in our quest for the Blood Moon. It is really quiet and, little by little, even our rowdy company loses its drunken unruliness and we walk on in silence.

 Eventually we get to the bench and here, to my utter dismay, I perceive an unexpected and totally unwelcome silhouette of a man already sitting unobtrusively on it, contemplating the river, the mountain beyond it, the sky above… in short, brazenly violating the perfect place I have chosen for  our little caper!

We come up to the intruder and I see an elderly man whose features are vaguely familiar – maybe I have seen him in the village sometime? – although no matter how hard I try I cannot attach a name to him. So, I just mumble “Good Evening” politely. The old man looks up at me and suddenly all of the moonlight is reflected in his eyes, giving them a deep silvery hue which makes him look considerably younger.

“You must have come to see the Moon, Madam?” – asks the man

“Oh yes! To see and to photograph!”

“…and to celebrate!” –chirps in one of my tipsy friends waving a bottle that he has thoughtfully brought along in an attempt to sidetrack the somewhat somber mood of the situation.

The old man looks up into the sky and very slowly begins to talk:

 “Yes, certainly! …  But tell me frankly, have you ever tried to ponder, to visualize how this unfortunate Moon is being continuously photographed by oceans of humanity all over the globe for the last few hours?”

“Well, – I manage after a lengthy pause, – not really … now that you mention it … indeed … hmm …”

Looking directly at me the old man’s next words are:

“Have you ever by chance heard of an old belief among the Chinese, the Amish, some of the Caribbean and numerous other people who think that every time somebody takes a photo of you they take a piece of your soul at the same time?”

A soul, I think … These days loads of us have difficulties with the mere concept of a soul, let alone all the rubbish about stealing bits of it while taking photographs. I must have sniggered, for the man turns his quiet silvery gaze back towards the Moon, and it makes me feel stupid, as though I were back in school and have just come up with a lame excuse or a transparent lie for why I haven’t done my homework. The silver in his eyes reminds me of how the mirror is made possible by a silver lining. Also, for some obscure reason, the expression that “the eyes are the mirror of the soul” runs momentarily through my mind.

I must be more drunk than I thought for suddenly, I somehow stop seeing and hearing my friends and at the same time lose the ability to tell whether it is the old man talking or myself who is thinking out loud:

“I am very much troubled …  It has not been such a long time since the mobile phone has placed into the hands of every other human being on this planet the ability to chronicle every second of his or her life with a photograph and a link to social media. It is quite impossible to imagine the ceaseless number of images which are continuously being taken, imprinted, reflected, duplicated, reproduced, or stored in some whimsical cyber space or other.

“What worries me is that not all of the pictures taken are perfect: as a matter of fact, none of us are looking our best every second of our lives and none would want to be immortalized while looking our worst! …So, it can be safely said that, for example,out of each hundred or so selfies, only a few survive. Can you tell me then where the deleted ones end up?”

I do not have an answer to all these questions, I am only here for the … photographs …

I see the man’s eyes, the two moons, or is it only the one moon reflected in both of them?  Now he is staring into mine and I cannot avert my gaze any longer and it hurts, hurts, hurts and the pain is taking over my whole body, and through this pain I hear the man’s voice which is by now filling up every little corner, nook and cranny of the very essence that is me. 

“… and then, there is, of course, another question to which there never may be an answer: Do we lose a piece of our souls inside a mirror? – after all, it also imprints and reproduces our image! Which in its turn brings us to the ultimate inquiry about the nature of the true vision: would it be the one copied by the mirror or that taken by the camera?

 “And where do the colors used by the Photoshop come from?  For after the picture has been enhanced and modified it becomes so vibrant, so colorful and so much better than the original! Don’t you think that there must exist somewhere the one authentic piece, the original, the true essence of this very image? Shall we call it its soul, perhaps? Continuing this thought, would the Moon possess such a soul? One that has been photographed, reflected, copied… so many, many times and, if so, where do you think that the soul of the Moon can be found?”

 I can’t tear my gaze away from the pair of eyes: now they are filled to the brim with the cold and threatening moonlight.

I am drowning in a bottomless silvery pit …

With a start, I find myself sitting on the bench with a flask of something strong – it smells like cognac, – in my hand and a worried face of my best friend hovering over me.

“Are you all right?”

“Yes… I think I am … Where is the old man?”

“What old man?”

“The one I’ve been talking to?”

“Are you trying to spook me? We have just come up here, you sat down first and here I am, diligently passing you the flask like a true friend, and you are jabbering something about old people, and the TOTAL! lunar eclipse is just about to begin … Get your mobile out!”

At this point indeed the moon, which is noticeably bigger tonight, is getting a great shadow over it and a part of it is beginning to turn red, the red which is getting darker and darker by the second. Every one of our company is already aiming their gadgets towards the great disk in the endless dark sky and I try to scream, but only manage a horse whisper:

“Don’t!”

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