Note: Find Part One and Two here before jumping into the middle of the story! Can’t wait to hear what you think!
The next Friday, Luna shakes me awake early. “Come on, sleepy.” Her long, cream colored sweater and ripped jeans reminds me of the approaching fall season. I roll onto my right side to face her and get a mouth full of sweater. “Come on,” she repeats, this time more urgently.
“Why don’t you come here,” I mumble, pulling her body towards me and the bed. Her hands push against my body.
“I’m serious. Everyone will wake up soon, and if they see me missing…” Luna’s voice falters off leaving the empty space filled with thoughts of what would happen.
“Okay. Can you hand me my pants?” I hold my hand out with my eyes half-lidded. Luna throws my pants from five feet away straight into my face. “Thanks.” Swinging my legs out from underneath the blanket, I struggle to pull up the pants. “Are you sure these are mine and not a leftover pair of yours,” I tease. Luna’s laugh falters off at the end as her eyes flick around the Star Room finally landing on me after a thorough look-through to make sure no one else is in the room. I move over to stand by her and barely grab her hand before she drags me up the staircase onto the roof of The Mansion.
“Don’t ask any questions.” Luna whispers, standing a few feet away from the edge of the roof. “Just follow.” She takes a few steps back before sprinting across the rooftop. Luna launches off the roof into the air, a perfect picture of a ballerina jump, and gracefully lands on the neighboring rooftop.
“Ummm…” My mind races thinking of all the ways I could fail at doing the exact same thing.
“Just do it. Please,” Her voice cracks with worry. Stepping up to where Luna began, I sprint as fast as possible and jump across. My land, however, is nowhere near as graceful as Luna’s. I trip during the land and scrape my knees against the concrete roof. Luna grabs my elbows and helps me up to my feet before sliding her hand down my arm to my hand. She gives it a quick squeeze then releases it. Before I can ask any more questions, Luna scrambles across the rooftops in a similar fashion. She jumps across five alleyways, rooftop to rooftop, until I decide to follow her. Each time my lands get just a little bit better.
“Luna,” I whisper-shout when she waits for me on a red shingled rooftop. “Where are you taking me?”
“I need to show you… something. It’s… important to me.” Luna dodges my looks as she slides down the angled roof to the edge, feet first. “Just please, Theo, follow me. Trust me.” With a final glance back at me, still standing on the peak of the red roof, she twists her body and appears to fall to the ground. I rush over to the edge, sliding and trying to safely make my way there. As I approach the edge, I see a fire escape ladder and scramble down to the street. Luna grabs my hand, and we walk down the alleyway together until we approach a doorway. She peeks around the corner, hesitates, and then darts in, dragging me behind her.
When I turn the corner, I see what appears to be a flea market. I quickly realize where Luna has taken me. A bright sign hangs in the center of the old warehouse building with fluorescent lightbulbs telling customers and merchants where exactly they are, The Black Market. Luna weaves in and out of the customers and merchants shouting their prices back and forth in a constant battle. I try to follow her but lose her in the masses. Finally, I relax and meander around the marketplace, pausing at stalls to see what they sell. A variety of people mingle together for abnormal items. Merchants sell anything from food to housewares, organs to people. Up ahead I spot Luna’s bright colored hair bobbing up and down in front of one stall. Behind the counter, a man stands in front of multicolored bottles with liquid inside.
“Castor, come on. I’m a repeat! A regular. Are you really gonna sell them at this price,” Luna asks with her voice raised.
“Luna, you know how the business goes. Comes in waves,” the man, Castor, replies. His voice is gruff, deep enough to scare most people. Luna, however, appears comfortable with him, as if with a sibling or close friend. She leans over the counter to talk quieter about whatever fares he sells. Growing closer, I notice a sign taped to the front of the makeshift counter of crates. The sign says, “Emotions sold here.” Suddenly, it all becomes clear. I remember the night a few weeks ago when Luna confessed being addicted to this drug, these emotions.
“Castor, look.” Luna’s face loses her smile, her brightness. “You need customers. I need emotions. We can help each other out. Sell me it at what used to be regular price, and I will tell all the girls to come here instead of across town.” Her hands spread out across the countertop, pressing so hard against the crates until her fingertips start turning white. “I need it.”
“How much for them,” I inquire, walking up beside Luna. I shiver inside, thinking what “them” exactly is.
“How much money you got, bro,” Castor replies, tilting his head up and squinting his eyes at me.
Luna turns to me and says, “250 dollars for the mix. Lasts me a week at most.” Before she can protest, I grab a lump of cash from my tips in last night’s pants and count out the amount. Castor raises his eyebrows at Luna before accepting the money from my hand. He scans the shelves behind him before grabbing a brown paper bag and shoving bottles into it. Turning around, he reaches under the crate countertop and places needles in as well.
“There you go, sweet cheeks. Clean needles on the house.” Castor turns to me and says, “You her sugar daddy? Paying for everything she needs?”
Luna reaches across the counter and smacks his arm. “Castor, you know I ain’t like that! This is Theo. Theo, this is Castor.” I reach my hand out for a shake, and Castor begrudgingly accepts. “There! All good. Now let’s move on.”
Luna grabs my forearm and moves us expertly through the crowd. We don’t speak until back on the rooftops again.
“Do you go there every week,” I inquire.
“Just about. It depends on if I am part of the elite at night or not. Lately, your father has had his eyes on a few other girls. Lucky for us.” She pats my chest before turning and jumping her way back to The Mansion.
When we reach the Star Room, Luna plops down on my unmade bed. I stay standing, pacing back and forth with a simple question on my mind. “Why, Luna?”
Her face pinches together and she furrows her brows deep in thought. “I guess, no, I know why I do it.” Luna sits up on the edge of the bed and folds her hands on her lap before continuing. “Emotions create a person. My mother used to say these words to me whenever I would feel something intensely as a child. When your father takes away my emotions every few months, he takes away my passion, my personality, my life. I feel empty. Each day passed by, at first, and my emotions and memories left me. Then, one night, I got placed in the VIP section. Your father injected me with joy. Suddenly, everything became vibrant. Everything became clear.” Her face becomes animated as her story develops. Her eyes dart back and forth across the room recalling memories. “I tried to hide my addiction to the emotions, but one of the other girls noticed. She didn’t tell anyone. Instead she helped me. She brought me to Castor for emotions. The longer I took the emotions, the more memories I gained back.”
“What do you mean memories,” I inquire. Father only takes emotions, so the girls don’t feel connections to the outside.
“Without emotions, the brain doesn’t strengthen the connection each time the memory is recalled. Synapses don’t go off. It’s all a matter of science your father doesn’t bother to learn.”
“So he deletes your memories along with your emotions.” Her silence is all the answer I need for confirmation. I turn away before Luna can see my instant anger. My brain tries to reason with me about my reaction. The bed creaks as Luna stands up and silently walks up behind me. Her arms wrap about my stomach, and she rests her head on the middle of my back. She whispers a song to me, one I’ve never heard before.
Sleepless, this madness is walking me out to the ledge
And stands there beside me, shivering out on the edge
And oh God all I, all I ask is a little relief, just a moment of peace
Luna’s voice rises and lowers along with silent music playing in her background. I close my eyes and slow my breathing down, imagining us in a different place, a different life. “Luna,” I whisper and grab her clasped hands in front of me. I twist my body around in her arms in order to face her. Luna’s golden eyes stare up into my green ones silently hoping all will be well. I struggle to form the correct words to express my one main question, How do you live each day?
“While it may not be okay, I learned how to get up each day and face it as if from before,” Luna says, answering my silent question. “Seeing the stars each night helps me remember that the world is much bigger than I am. Each star has a story. Whether true or not, their stories remind me of the life I had outside of The Mansion where each night my mother would tuck me into bed and talk until I fell asleep about the different constellations. These ancient stories that traveled down the generations from ancient scrolls to me, a little girl with big dreams.” Luna continues to look at me as her eyes sparkle in the morning light, a reminder of the limited time we have.
Before I can ask her of her little girl dreams, we hear the opening and closing of the door at the top of the staircase. The Mansion is coming to life. I lower my head and give Luna a quick kiss before she grabs her bag and leaves.
What do you think of this new development? Losing their memories along with emotions?!?! It surprised me, too, to be honest. Are there any hopes for future installments? Let me know in the comments below!
Fun Fact: The song Luna sings is an actual song! It’s called Without You by For King and Country.
Much love, XOXO,
~A Writer Named Charley~