Fiction — May 26, 2016 12:18 — 0 Comments

ALMAGEST (an excerpt from the novel Najma) – Danny Sherrard

I didn’t hear about the skeleton they found on the moon until three days after they found it, which is a little late to receive that kind of news. I was at the bar Almagest (where I get most my news anyway) and two people sitting down the counter were talking about it with an iPad in front of them.

The closest one to me was saying that he thought it was a hoax to distract us from the fact that we’re at war.

The further one down, who was bald, said, Maybe, but what if it is something else? I read that some folks think it is the skeleton of a god or an angel.

I considered the idea of a skeleton of an angel and asked Tom what was going on when he came back behind the bar.

They found a mummy or something inside one of the craters on the moon, he said. How have you not heard about this?

I shrugged. I work on a bridge, I said.

You don’t even turn on the radio at work? Tom asked as he got a drink prepped.

Nah, I said. I pushed the straw to the far end of my glass and sipped my greyhound from the cup.

You’re like Ishmael up there, said Tom.

Which Ishmael? I asked.

How many are there? said Tom. He sometimes asked questions like that.
Three, I said.

Tom’s eyes went back and forth for a moment. I meant the second one, he said.

What’s it look like anyway? I asked.

Like a curled up praying mantis or some fucking thing, Tom said to the middle distance, shaking ingredients in a tumbler before straining them into a martini glass. Then he carried it down to the end of the bar and set it there for the server to pick up. He rifled through some old drink orders with both hands for some reason. He had probably just railed a few lines in the back.

The other two people at the bar overheard that I had just found out the extraterrestrial news and the nearest showed me the iPad. They asked me if I thought it looked “fake.” The glowing headline read:

 

CONTROVERSY ERUPTS OVER NASA’S DISCOVERY OF SKELETON MUMMIFIED ON THE MOON

 

And above the headline there was a grainy photograph of the creature on its side wrapped in reddish cloth, curled up with what seemed the backs of its wrists against its forehead and its long legs bent at the knee which met what I took to be its elbows. The overall impression I got was that the creature looked like the letter S. Or like a praying mantis. Why not?

I said that I wasn’t sure if it looked like anything at all.

I think it means the Shift is coming, said the bald guy.

Why would it mean that? asked the one in the middle.

2001: A Space Odyssey? I offered.

How’s that? asked the bald one. I’ve never seen it.

Never mind, I said.

Tom the bartender minded. He had returned to the space between the three of us and explained, with steadfast intensity, the general plot of that movie: the obelisk that appears and makes our more primitive ancestors evolve in consciousness (while Zarathustra plays in the background, which is significant, he added); how the obelisk reappears on the moon (Hence Jonah’s previous statement, he said gesturing towards me); the spacecraft’s computer that turns evil and kills everyone; the trippy ending involving the obelisk yet again, and a baby that swallows the world.  

Sort of like Interstellar? asked the third person down.

I shook my head.

Tom said, No way.

Why not, Tom? asked the same person.

Because Christopher Nolan isn’t smart enough to make a movie about a shift in consciousness, I said.

That’s true, said the one nearest me.

What? said the bald one.

And so on.

I learned there was already a cult-like fanaticism surrounding the lunar bones; I learned that the big deal at the moment was the process of excavating them and transporting the skeleton to the International Space Station; I learned some fanatics were against the removal of the skeleton in the first place; I learned that I felt my existence could go on unaffected by this as it had up until that point. What I did not learn was why NASA was inside one of the craters on the moon in the first place, or whether anyone one knew of what the so-called scarlet cloth “mummifying” the bones was made. I also failed at learning how to communicate to Tom that I did not want another drink that night, although they kept appearing in front of me.

I don’t get why they are calling it mummification, I said at some point. It seems to me that mummification is supposed to preserve bodies, not bones.

Why does that matter? said the bald guy.

I gave my head a scratch. I just agree with your friend, I said. I think there is something else going on. (His friend was not listening.) The bald guy looked away and we didn’t say anything else to each other.

 

After three or five more greyhounds and a shot of rum, I had the impression that someone was watching me. Turning, I found that there was only one other person in the restaurant area of the bar. She sat alone in the corner at a blue candlelit table. The fire of the candle cast a pyramidal shape around her. She was facing east, diagonal me, chewing on one of those deals they spear olives with. But when her eyes gazed towards me, I saw the candlelight wade across them as if they had become mirrors. I had another shot of rum, paid for my drinks and left for my apartment, somewhat disturbed by it all.

 

You can find out more from Sherrard’s novel, Najma, here

Bio:

Danny Sherrard is a Seattle-based fiction writer and poet.

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The answer isn't poetry, but rather language

- Richard Kenney