He knew I’d be too large to pull down all at once, so he decided to take me in pieces. He arrived at the top of the mountain with rope and blade, bags and buckets. This close to me, he realized I was not as expected. I was more. He might need bigger buckets, better bags than the 99-cent Kroger reusables. He was surprised to feel my brightness radiated cold, not hot like light traditionally was, but he found he liked it better. I supposed it soothed the burning in his chest.
The man had fallen in love with me on a frosty night in October some time before. It happened when he stepped onto his porch in his house slippers, bony ankles poking sharply out beneath his too-short green-checked pajama bottoms. He carried a glass of red wine, which he put on the front step to rub his arms. He couldn’t sleep for the burning in his heart. His normal solution to heartburn involved pouring himself a glass of Merlot, putting on Sinatra, and sitting in his armchair until the fire burned out. That night, however, his Amazon Echo had broken, so he meant to take a walk. That was when it happened: on this night I was full, and the man, perhaps forty, for the first time in his life, tilted his head and raised his eyes to the night. In other words, he saw me.
Why now? I’m not exactly new to the sky. He’s not exactly new to the Earth. But now was the moment he needed something, and so he found it.
After he decided to take it, the first piece was easy to get. He threw the rope across my greatness and climbed the braided twine to my surface. With his knife he cut a silver sliver, a test. It peeled off like avocado skin against fingernails. He hoped the peeling didn’t hurt and suspected it didn’t, assuming soft things hurt less to lose. He promised with a pat it would be over soon. He kissed my dusty skin. His lips came away flaky with space dust, like dried and crusty frosting.
When the man first noticed me, he’d ran back inside so fast he knocked over the wine by the door. He ran to the attic, the highest point in his house, and turned a trunk upside down. He grabbed the old hand-telescope that had fallen out, brown and gold, collapsible, surprisingly heavy in his palm. He opened the window and pressed his eye to the telescope, the metal cold against his flushed skin. When he pulled away it would leave an indentation, a ring like a cage around his eye.
I suppose I’m easy to spot, the biggest thing in the night sky. He couldn’t read the stars or name the constellations, but everyone recognizes me. A few moments later he removed the telescope from his eye and, on an impulse, put it to his ear like a seashell. He heard nothing, not even the ocean, which I crashed upon the shore in halfhearted warning. He could not hear, they never do, despite a love of music, the quiet song I sent like starlight through his window. He didn’t know me at all but that didn’t stop him loving me for my beauty, big and blinding. He whispered into the narrow end of the telescope: Hello, hello, hello. He didn’t listen for an answer again, but gazed a long time, far longer than it took the metal to warm against his skin.
It always the same: From staring, pursuing. From pursuing, possessing. Atop the mountain he filled every bag and bucket he’d brought with pieces of me, a glowing Eve to Earth’s blue Adam. When the bags were full, he attached them to the end of the rope and gently lowered it to the mountainside, scurried down, untied it, brought up an empty other. Soon I was but a curve the size of his first experimental slice, able to fit in his palm, plucked from the sky like a smile-shaped apple. For the first time in his life, his heart burned and burned and not from something he ate. Bucket by bucket, he would take me home to have me, reassemble me so he may admire my light privately. More likely, he may consume me instead, swallow pieces for meals that will last weeks, or perhaps gorge himself on my brightness in one sitting, until his belly is as round as I used to be, until he feels like he could float himself, until his eyes shine, until my light leaks from his ears and nose and he can hardly open his mouth for fear of filling the room with my stolen starlight.
It does not take long to bloom wholeness again. I am, in many ways, used to this. I shrink. I regrow, right there in the same spot in the sky. I wait because there will always be a man, a rope, a blade. Would the man have stopped if I’d told him he was not the first, would not be the last? Or would he have only smiled, swung closer, knife in teeth and arms outstretched? After all, he liked red wine, routine, and Sinatra, but he was not a romantic.
Samantha Edmonds is the author of the fiction chapbook Pretty to Think So, forthcoming from Selcouth Station Press in 2019. Her fiction has appeared in such journals as Mississippi Review, Black Warrior Review, Pleiades, and McSweeney's Internet Tendency, among others. Her nonfiction has been published, or is forthcoming, in The Rumpus, Literary Hub, Ploughshares, VICE, and more. She serves as the Fiction Editor for Grist: A Journal of the Literary Arts and is the Community Outreach Director for Sundress Academy for the Arts. She currently lives in Knoxville, where she's an MFA candidate in fiction at the University of Tennessee.
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