Meg Max and Dante Jericho

Dante Jericho
“Finding Our Orbits”
Inspiration piece

Luna and the Bears
By Meg Max

The world was not what it once was.

When Jane and Rob were children, they’d been relatively safe. Their parents had worried about some things, about them being snatched by strangers and latched to a radiator in a basement, fed nothing but crackers and never seeing the light of day again. They fretted about them skipping school. Jane’s parents lectured her about getting pregnant, Rob’s about making sound financial decisions, and they met without having ever been kidnapped and starved, without unwanted pregnancies, with a nice nest egg in the bank, and walked, smug and happy down the aisle, certain that their future would be as beautiful as their past.

That was before.

Five years ago, on one unforgettable night, three things happened.

The moon rose red in the sky.

The animals ceased to creep meekly around the edges of cities, and rose, wild, to claim their homes back.

And Jane, beautiful, blond, simple Jane, gave birth to a baby girl who they named, quite fancifully, Luna.

Parents kept their children inside, away from the raccoons that fought garbage collectors on collection day, the foxes that snuck, like small red commas, inside of ice cream trucks and into the back doors of snack shacks, raiding refrigerators and grills, chattering to one another all the while.

Parents feared not just one another, but the wild things that crept closer, the click click click of nails on concrete down the street in the middle of the night. “Coyote?” They’d whisper, hopeful. Coyotes didn’t attack much. Coyotes were a bit like the dogs they used to have, before no one kept pets anymore.

No one talked about that, about the dogs and cats that went missing from back yards, about the screens popped out of window frames in the middle of the night, while owls swooped into bedrooms like bandits, knocking cages and terrariums to the ground with a bang that terrified everyone in the house. Back out the winged beast would go, holding whatever hamster or guinea pig, hedgehog or overfed lizard had been living inside.

No one had pets anymore. No one played outside. It wasn’t safe.

Except Luna.

From the age of two, Luna had devised ways to get outside.

Her parents would find her sharing her snacks with the birds, birds they used to leave feeders for, birds they now feared because they’d figured out how to fly together into the windows of high rises that used to kill them one by one. In a group, they’d bombard the glass again and again and again, shattering whole sides of buildings, fluttering into offices while grown men and women hid beneath their desks.

No one thought birds were cute any more, except for Luna.

She sat out on the back deck feeding them crackers, while her parents knocked on the window to get her attention, beckoning her back inside, neither of them willing to venture out to get her while there was a swarm of chickadees around.

Rob and Jane had to secure their house not simply from the outside, but from the inside as well. Other parents worried about electrical sockets and tiny fingers caught in cupboard doors. Rob and Jane worried about finding their daughter’s bed empty at night, about her showing up at the front door at the break of day filthy and exhausted, having spent the night with her “friends”, the raccoons and wolves, the filthy and feral animals that were taking over town.

They tried to hide it from the neighbors, Luna’s strange propensity towards befriending their attackers, but there was no way to do it. Some people thought she was mad. Others appreciated having someone around who would come rid their home of the mice that invaded regularly, Luna sitting on the kitchen floor and speaking in her high, piping voice to them, “Come, mousies, time to go back outside.”

As she got older and it became clear that this was no passing fancy, people stopped talking to Rob and Jane. In the grocery store, Jane would see other women gathered around the melons, flashing looks at her at her and smiling with their mouths, but not their eyes. At work, Rob was never given a raise, never promoted. He heard his boss, once, saying something about how the whole family must be weird for the daughter to be like that. Rob was ashamed that instead of sticking up for his daughter, he’d simply wanted to tell them, “I’m nothing like her. I’m as scared of these animals as you are. I’m a little scared of her, too.”

Rob and Jane had to make a hard decision. When Luna turned nine, they decided to leave town. She was simply attracting too much attention, and not the right kind. A reporter had been sniffing around, wanting to talk to the “girl who spoke animal.” No one in the neighborhood would let their kids play with Luna.

She had no fear, approaching wild things without hesitation, placing a hand on a haunch or a muzzle, stroking feather and fur with a tenderness everyone chose to ignore.

And worst of all, everyone said, was the fact that That Girl’s house was never plagued by the problems that befell the rest of them. Jane, Rob and Luna never found their windows broken by marauding birds. Luna hung compact discs in their windows, their reflections flashing warning at her feathered friends. Their garbage was left untouched by raccoons. Luna left anything edible out in big metal bowls each night for the raccoons to pick through as they pleased. She left out milk for baby wolves and foxes. She refused to let her father mow the lawn so the butterflies and bees danced through the grass and wildflowers all summer. Luna never ever let her parents fill in the holes where the groundhogs made their homes.

Sick and injured animals would present themselves to her, creeping from under bushes and porches, limping and whining while she fell to her knees in front of them and her parents dashed up onto the nearest high rock or back into the house, watching from behind a curtain as Luna went into the garage to grab her box of bandages and splints. As their daughter tried to fix the world, they watched from behind glass.

They sold most of their stuff, and packed the rest into their car. They made their way slowly through the city. The traffic was terrible, as that was the day the bears had decided to amble through town. They blocked intersections, reared up on their hind legs and roared, pawed through garbage cans and wandered into any building that had doors that opened automatically.

Luna loved it.

The bears still stayed away, mostly. Fearsome beasts like them fared especially badly when they tried to take back what belonged to them. The smaller animals, people were scared of, but kind of left alone. But bears and wolves, and, Luna had heard, the elephants and lions and jaguars in other parts of the world, had to wait until there were enough of them to create a real impact. If only one or two dared approach a city or village, they’d be killed on sight.

She was happy to see that there seemed to be many, many bears. So many, in fact, that the military had been called to clear them out.

Traffic slowed, and eventually stopped. Around them, buildings soared. Luna watched as streams of people in black suits, carrying huge guns, streamed past the car.

There were helicopters buzzing overhead.

They were going to kill her bears.

In one quick movement, Luna opened her car door and dashed into the street. She looked around wildly, and spotted a high tower near her. Running as fast as she could, she ran and ran, and then climbed and climbed, pressing against the tide of people coming down the stairway, trying to evacuate the city as per officials request.

She reached the top of the stairs and then threw herself against the door she found there. She was on top of the building.

She was on top of the world.

Down below, her parents had climbed out of their car. Luna didn’t try to find them, instead, she was fixated on the bears she could see in the distance, on the tiny soldiers, little black ants, moving towards them.

Luna waved her arms “Over here!” she called. “Over here!” As she saw the bears catch her scent she opened her mouth and roared.

Below, Jane and Rob watched their daughter stand on top of a building, calling the wild animals to her.

People had begun to point.

Bears started pressing forward, moving towards where Luna dangled off the edge of the building, easing them forward with her cries.

She knew that there was no point in trying to talk to the humans who were going after them, but she hoped she just might be able to talk some sense into the bears.


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