Ignis Fatuus


Purple skies grumpily darkened and the moon’s mark of absence was dotted by the twinkling stars; yet again. For fifth straight night, there was no sign of moon.
Another sliver of wind cut through me, making me raise the hood of my hoodie over my head. I felt cold. My teeth clattered, almost matching the rhythm of my strides. Upon turning down the dreary lifeless alley, I felt relief settled under me. I was back on the street. Glancing sideways, I found the whooshing blurs of cars streaking my vision. I started leftward, and walked along the sidewalk framed with dust, while lampposts dutifully lit my way. I kept my head low, lost in thoughts; my long legs still striding. Like the rise and fall of a seesaw, my shifting shadows danced behind and before me as I passed each lamppost.
1… 2…  3…  4… 5… 6… 7…  8… 9… 10… 11…
 
It took 11 strides to mark each passing lap of those series of lampposts. And hence, I forced my focus on making sure I cross each lap in precisely 11 strides. It proved to be a surprisingly engrossing hobby for a while. But then I got bored and sighed. Steam emerging from my mouth writhed in the air then dissolved into it completely.
Across the sidewalk, a busy overhead road flowed parallelly then declined like a playground slide before merging with the flat main road. It then passed from under the overhead bridge that rooted from across the Eden crossroads ahead of me. Adjacent to the overhead road stood patches of grove.
Crisscross of the winds whistled in my ears every now and then, but the cacophony of the whooshing cars were what dominated the auditory senses. Horns blared and tyres screeched somewhere distant.
I had already failed at keeping up with my 11-stride laps when a crowd of grim-looking pedestrians streamed through, brushing past me like a cloud over moon. I missed their warmth the second they passed.
My long legs started again. Against my dark skin, the neon hands of my watch glittered. It was 7:47 thanks to the extended University session; I had better pick up my pace, I thought.
My head had lingered earthward for too long, I realized. Looking up, I noticed the skies were still clear, festooned with stars. Jetting cars to my right-
Oh, wait…
Is that…? Is that… moonlight?!
My monologue wasn’t alone in its abrupt halt, my legs stopped too. There, beside the overhead road to my right, the grove was backlit softly by a milky light. Through the constricted spaces in between the foundation pillars under the overpass, I spotted the furtive light; painted behind the benign forestry; on the sky. It was the moon.
‘It has to be the moon,’ I thought.

Neglecting now the slicing cold, I ran.

The overhead bridge across the Eden crossroad was the only platform high enough from where I could have spotted the moon. I aimed for there. Was it really the moon? After five tedious days and nights, is the sky willing to fix us a tryst finally?
It has to be the moon, I thought again.
The hood went flying behind me, hovering in the wind – slamming against my knapsack that doddered against my back. My feet engined along the pavement. I was a panther against the wind; my eyes still set on that lit segment of the sky to my right.
Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. 
Blocks of buildings blocked my view of the just apparent moonshine as I neared the bridge. Crossing the road, shimmying past the cars, I reached and climbed the metallic stairs – three steps at a time. I felt like a mad machine.
From atop the bridge, all the unhurdled horizons were apparent. I treaded towards where the source of celestial light would be visible clearly… and stilled.
They were stadium lights… of course.

I sighed and suddenly felt my chest and throat on fire, as if replaced with the breast of a dragon. My lungs too were inflamed. I bent, rested my palms on my knees and tried to catch my breath, still looking at the nimbus of light above the opened-up skull of the sports stadium. Ignis fatuus, I thought, and chuckled with a shudder.

With my lungs relatively calmer, I stood up straight. After the sky’s inspection, it was confirmed:
“No moon…”
I fetched the pack of cigarettes from my pocket, took one out and slid it between my lips.
“Just great,” I grumbled, kindling up a flame.
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4 thoughts on “Ignis Fatuus

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  1. I love how, using the chase for the moon, you transformed an urban night scene into something from a more magical realm. The lack of moon sightings could be interpreted very literally in a real-world sense, but I read this like a fantasy story in which the moon’s absence from the sky held some kind of special suspenseful significance. My favourite line was the one where the narrator mentions he missed the pedestrians’ heat as soon as they passed him. That small glimpse provides so much insight into his character!

    Liked by 1 person

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