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BBW Hunter's Moon - by Marlow

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Marlow

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~BBW, ~~WG, expansion, intrigue, horror - relating the academically un-verified experiences of Dr. Cecelia Grosvenor, antiquarian


Hunter's Moon

by Marlow​


Chapter 1


It was a calm midsummer night, but the lake was lonely. Only a handful of people walked the little beach at the west shore. Only one light shone in the house to the east. The water was still. A loon called.

A smoky haze stretched the colors of twilight the whole length of the sky, deep and drifting and diffused. The air smelled faintly of ash.

The light in the house went out as its lone occupant prepared his telescope. From the attic window he could see the entirety of the little lake and the silhouettes of those walking along the far shore. He peered through his lens and studied their shadows.

Two of them, the pair pacing unhappy circles at the water’s edge, he recognized immediately. The third, though, wandering along the rocks, he was certain he’d never seen before. She must’ve been new to the area; she was dressed as though she hadn’t believed Wisconsin could be so warm.

A clock chimed deep in the house and he swiveled the telescope upward, making adjustments. The moon was rising. It was safe to begin. Once the telescope was in place he pulled up the dark hood of his robe and opened the book on a nearby table.

Bhel, bhlewaz mehns,” he intoned, gazing at the moon, “yemh swesor hepo dheghom hen temhosdhwer kwelhti…”

The moon was full and enormous and shone an unusual, almost bluish light. It was such an eerie, unnatural color the couple on the beach forgot their argument and turned to stare at it in silence. The lone woman up on the rocks adjusted her glasses and exhaled, grateful for the moment of quiet.

The couple—the ex-couple, rather, based on everything Cecilia had begrudgingly overheard so far—pulled out their phones. They tried to take pictures. Of course they did. Cecilia shook her head and tried to ignore them.

“How’s it doing that?” wondered the girlfriend. “I didn’t know it could turn blue.”

“I think it’s something in our, like, our magnetic field,” offered the boyfriend, very obviously lying. “Solar flares mixing with, uh, signals from our cell-towers and stuff.”

“Oh gosh. That’s a thing?”

“No,” said Cecilia, who could take no more.

“Ohmigod—” cried the girlfriend. “I’m so sorry. I had no idea someone was up there. So sorry. Totally didn’t see you. I feel so dumb.” She apologized again, with that particular sorry only to be heard in the upper-upper-Midwest.

Cecilia cleared her throat. She tried not to judge townies; she tried very hard. “No, it’s a very rare coincidence of orbital and atmospheric factors. The moon’s at its apogee, we’re seeing our third full moon in a seasonal cycle of four, in a year with thirteen, and there’s a partial lunar eclipse beginning. All that, plus this ash from the wildfires up in Canada, has created a very specific atmospheric refraction that makes the moonshine appear blue.” She folded her arms and admired it. “North America haven’t seen anything like this since 1866.”

“Oh gosh. I thought moonshine was just a drink.”

The boyfriend—the ex-boyfriend—forced a sudden desperate laugh. “Hey, hey, remember that night we tried apple-pie moonshine at your cousin’s?”

The girlfriend rounded on him. She was a round, impressively obese woman and her silhouette eclipsed his scrawny frame. “Bradley,” she said, “stop trying to make me feel nostalgic or whatever. It’s way too late for that.”

“Brynn, please. I—”

“No. I don’t want to argue in front of this nice stranger. Sorry, nice stranger.”

Cecilia turned back to the lake.

But Bradley wasn’t ready to give up. “I just think it’s good for us to remember the good times.”

“Because you want to ignore everything else,” Brynn groaned, hands on her flabby hips. “You want to ignore all the hard work that goes into an actual relationship. I’m so sick of doing all the work. Frick, I even had to decide where we met for dinner tonight.”

“I’ll pay you back,” he murmured.

“Let’s just go up by that girl and check out the weird moon. Maybe she can tell us more science-y stuff.”

Cecelia bristled. She’d come all the way out to this lake, away from the city lights, to observe her astronomical rarity in peace. Bickering townies were the opposite of peace.

“I might hang here,” muttered Bradley. “My legs are sore.”

“Of course you’re sore. You just sit there playing computer games all day.” Brynn started up the slope. She was even fatter than Cecilia first realized, but moved like a woman half her size. “See? I’m almost three hundred pounds heavier than you and even I’m in better shape.”

“And who helped you with fifty of those pounds?” he called.

“Not you, Mister I’m-Taking-Cooking-Classes-And-I’ll-Start-Looking-For-Jobs-Soon-I-Swear. Now come on. I thought you’d want to drag me to a romantic vista.”

Cecilia retreated and crept further down the shore. The trail led into a thicket of reeds and wet, plashy sand, but it was worth it to get away.

“A romantic vista?” Bradley echoed. “Does that mean—”

“No! Frick, Bradley, I was being sarcastic.”

“Well—”

“No. Listen…it’s over. It’s been over. I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to say this, but if you’re just going to keep going…ugh. Look, I’ve been seeing someone else. It’s serious. I’m moving in with him…”

Cecilia finally got far enough away she didn’t have to hear his dumbfounded response. She silently wished Brynn good luck. Maybe the new guy could help her get on a badly-needed diet.

It was something Cecilia had never understood. She’d never had any trouble staying slim. She was seeing a lot more fat people now that she’d moved to Wisconsin, but Brynn was even fatter than most. Any amount of moderation would’ve prevented that. Moderation was perfectly logical—Cecilia liked things logical.

She’d calculated the probability of tonight’s lunar spectacle herself, just to check the astronomy website’s work. It truly was as rare a sight as they claimed, it appeared just as they said it would, and it was even more ethereally beautiful than she’d expected. It was sublime.

Homesteaders in 1866 had seen it and wondered at it. Seafarers in 1477 had sung about it. Monks in the first millennium had chanted about it. And another thousand years earlier Diotima of Mantinea had used it as an illustration for a higher, more philosophical form of love. Cecilia had translated the passage for her dissertation and the image had never quite left her mind.

Headlights flared to life. The ex-couple got in their car and left. Cecilia glanced at her watch. She had the lake and the moon all to herself and she had the whole night ahead of her.

Diotima of Mantinea—now there was someone to look up to. A mind beyond her time, not blinded by sex and selfies and superficialities, wholly self-composed, self-possessed, moderate in all things.

A voice wafted through the air, a whisper so faint it might’ve been nothing more than reeds rustling. The loon called again. The world was serene. Cecilia sat on a rock among the cattails.

She watched the moon. She watched the moon’s reflection in the lake. A ripple distorted it.

The whisper reached her again. She looked around, but was still alone. The whisper came and went, rose and fell, wavered, with a slow and enchanting cadence.

Cecilia couldn’t make out any words or where they could’ve been coming from. The ripple settled and the moon’s reflection returned.

But the reflection was wrong. The shapes of the lunar seas had shifted. Cecilia cleaned her glasses and squinted. One of the leaves behind her tickled the nape of her neck. She brushed it away and stood; she accidentally stepped a foot into the lake.

She recoiled and shook it out. She listened; the whispering had stopped. The night was darker than seemed right. The moon’s reflection was normal again, but the moon itself was much higher in the sky.

Cecilia checked her watch. Four hours had disappeared.
 
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