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In the Light of the Supermoon
Samantha Rose Panepinto
Saga stretched to her full length on the velvet blanket, trying to ground her swirling thoughts by touching as much of her body as she could to the soft fabric. She described it to herself as fully as possible, feeling her anxieties unspool little by little as she did. It feels like laying on one of those fuzzy caterpillars from the energy gardens. It’s the color of the hydroponic aubergines mom used to grow in the window. If I stay still, I can feel the vibration from the vivium crystal powering the building.
But nothing could ground her quite like looking at Faun, who was standing by the window looking pensive, and, if Saga was being honest, sexy as fuck. Wearing only the black herringbone trousers they’d worn out to the Monastery earlier, with their broad shoulders and glowing tattoos and affirmation surgery scars on their bronze chest, all lit up by the full moon that hung low in the window.
“Babe, you look sexy as fuck,” Saga said.
Faun raised their eyebrows, moonlight catching the shimmery highlighter on their cheekbone and making it sparkle with blues and yellows. Then they pulled the face to its logical extreme: eyes widening and lips tightening into a pucker until a laugh burst out of Saga like a shooting star.
“This face?” Faun asked.
“Yeah, that face,” Saga responded, smiling a black-lipsticked grin. The dark thoughts of a moment before were subdued for now, beaten back into their creepy basements by Faun’s smile. “Get over here.”
Faun took a step and hurled themself onto the bed, catching their momentum just short of crashing into Saga, but letting their broad, soft chest and belly settle on top of her. She wrapped her long arms around their neck, the dark shimmer of her tattoos flashing on her forearms. Oil-slick ink, it was called, after the way crude oil shone with blues and greens and purples, even as it sucked in all the light it touched. The image of the Gulf covered shore-to-shore in the stuff had been fresh in the collective consciousness when the ink was invented. The last big disaster before The Alliance ended oil drilling.
Saga, who in her more pretentious moments, liked the juxtaposition of beauty with destruction, had chosen the ink for the swirling botanicals down her arms as a way of reminding herself that death was always right next to life. In her lighter moments, she admitted to herself that she really just thought it looked cool. The way her tattoos changed hue based on the observer’s angle, and stood out against her pale skin.
Faun nestled their face into the spot where the bridge of their nose fit perfectly under her ear. Their soft weight acted like a soothing calendula cream to her anxiety. “Are you nervous?” Saga whispered.
Faun picked their head up, disentangling themself from the long chains hanging from Saga’s ear. They looked at her, brow knitted, earnest. Saga loved when they looked at her like that—like she was worth taking seriously.
“A little,” Faun admitted.
“Yeah, me too.”
The two were quiet, staring at the tiny package that sat on the nightstand, wrapped in blue tissue paper. The only sound was the constant low hum of the building, drawing its power from the vivium crystal at its heart. A group of people, who sounded drunk on honeyliquor, passed on the walkway below the window, shouting about how big the moon was tonight.
Faun, propped up on an elbow, ran a finger down the emerald gemstones inlaid along Saga’s sternum. They shook messy hair out of their mismatched eyes—the one dark, almost black, the other a startling grayish lavender. People always assumed it was a mod, but Faun was born like that: with a full head of jet-black hair, a widow’s peak, and one impossible eye. Their mother looks uneasy in the photos from the birthing center, holding the squalling baby Faun like she’s not sure how the little creature in her arms grew out of her own cells.
“What are you nervous about?” Saga asked.
“Mmm. That things will slip back to the way they were. The Alliance for Earth will fall, food shortages will start back up, and it’ll be like when we were kids. I think going through that as a parent would be even worse.”
Saga nodded. Their childhoods had been a whirlwind of wildfires and oil spills and famine. She remembered her father’s quiet rage at the scantily-laid dinner table, just as Faun recalled their mother’s breakdown when they were diagnosed with malnutrition at age five.
“Yeah, I think watching that really drained the life out of our parents, how they couldn’t do anything to help us. I’d really like to avoid ending up like them,” Saga said.
“Well, you’ve already got your mom’s face, so…” Faun tapped the tip of Saga’s nose, with its high bridge and distinctive curve. They flashed a small, teasing smile.
“Shut up,” Saga said, pushing Faun’s whole face with her hand, and they bit it, holding on to the fleshy palm with their teeth.
Faun kissed Saga’s palm where their teeth had left a gentle indentation. The moon behind their head filled almost the entire window now. A supermoon, they’d called it at the Monastery: an official scientific term that sounded like a child had named it. During a supermoon, the monk had said, the effects of all offerings are heightened.
“What are you nervous about?” Faun asked.
Saga took a deep breath. She’d said pieces of it all before, in the hundreds of conversations the two had had about this. But now, with the thing imminent, all the worries came rushing up. They swam through her bloodstream instead of fluttering around her body.
“I’m scared that this won’t work. And then, I’m also scared that it will work but that we’ll end up regretting it. That things will get bad again, and we’ll wish we never created new life.”
Faun considered for a moment, frowning. Saga loved them for this—the way they never lost their patience when Saga hashed out her worries, again and again. The way they understood that every time, her fear felt new.
“Well, first of all, if it doesn’t work, we can still go to the sperm bank,” Faun finally replied. “I know we want the baby to have parts of both of us, but it will, even if those parts aren’t cells.” Faun paused to kiss Saga, to let what they said hang in the air.
Saga knew it was true, and she also knew that on some level, it was silly to want their child to share both of their DNA. A lot of the reasons for wanting it felt superficial: to see how their features would combine, to be able to poke fun at each other for passing on certain traits.
But still. Why should a stranger have to be involved for them to make a child? Why shouldn’t they be able to create life between the two of them?
That was where the Monastery came in. A place they’d been before, to get hallucinogenic plants. Those always worked exactly as described—the Monastery was a well-respected source for recreational substances.
But the package they picked up earlier was from a special room in the back, for experimental strains. A monk scientist wearing long white robes had handed them the package that sat on the nightstand now, wrapped in blue tissue paper.
Faun spoke again, looking right in Saga’s eyes.
“And second…I don’t think we could regret anything that’s built from our love.”
Saga opened her mouth, and Faun quickly shook their head at her expression.
“I know,” they continued. “It sounds naïve. How can I think that, with everything we’ve seen?”
“Yeah, how can you?” Saga whispered.
For the millionth time in their relationship, Saga felt certain this would be their breaking point. That her darkness, her struggle to see the brightness in things the way Faun did, would become too much for them. That they’d say, you know what? I can’t do this anymore. I’m going to go find someone who’s less work, who sees the world the way I see it.
But for the millionth time, Faun just took her hand. Kissed it right next to the serpentine ring that wound up her finger.
“It’s true, things might get bad again,” Faun said. “We can hope the Alliance will stand, that we’ll keep going in the direction we’re going, but we don’t know for sure. But that’s always been the case, for all of human history. A future has never been absolutely certain. But I do know things are good now. And I know we’re going to be amazing parents. We’re going to love the shit out of this little booger. And the kid is going to be weird and smart and curious, and hopefully have your executive functioning and my patience. The rest, we can figure out as it comes.”
Saga nodded. Trying to drink in the silvery light pouring out of Faun’s mouth.
“I hope they have my nose, too,” she whispered.
Faun smiled big, the kind Saga couldn’t help but mirror. Faun leaned in and kissed her on a nostril, then on the bump that ran down the length of her nose. Saga reached up to Faun’s hair, smoothing the silver streak into the rest of the dark waves. She kissed them back, each one punctuating the affirmation in her head: we won’t regret anything that’s built from our love.
Sometimes, words Saga tried to tell herself just bounced off, like her heart was made of raincoat. Like when she tried to reassure herself that she was worthwhile, or that the thing she was obsessively worrying about wouldn’t matter in a week. But this sentence snuck in the edges and sank in, and she felt it right down to her bones.
“Okay. I’m ready,” Saga said into Faun’s ear.
Faun pulled back, propped themself on elbows on top of her.
“Me, too,” they replied. They glanced back at the couple’s entangled legs, watching the moonlight creep up their bodies as it rose. “And I think the supermoon is, too.”
Faun sat back on their heels and pulled the paper-wrapped package from the nightstand, the crescent Monastery symbol pressed into its burnt-umber wax seal.
Saga pushed herself up to sit cross-legged, and the two gently pulled the package apart to examine the contents. On the icy blue tissue, demanding to be seen against the dark bedspread, lay two mushrooms and a handwritten note on black paper.
“Okay, let’s double-check we’ve done everything properly,” Saga said, pulling herself into logistical mode. She twisted her long black hair into a knot at the nape of her neck, straightened her back, and picked up the note. It was written in silver ink, lines and lines of neat, sensible writing.
“The carrier must align ovulation with a full moon…check. Strongest results occur during a supermoon…check.” Saga glanced out the window as though the enormous orb might have retreated since she last looked. “So we each eat a mushroom, and then basically we just fuck in the moonlight. And supposedly I’ll come out of it pregnant with a baby that has parts of both of us.”
“Sounds like a standard night,” Faun said, but their smile was hesitant. They felt it, too: the cosmic weight of what they were about to do. That the two of them were about to entwine themselves with the universe, with each other, in a way that would be messy and permanent and beautiful and painful. They cupped Saga’s face in both hands, their lighter eye flashing behind dark lashes. “It worked for Tai and Red. It’ll work for us.” Saga nodded, nuzzled her face into Faun’s hand.
“It’ll work for us,” she repeated. “Okay, this round mushroom is for me. I’m the carrier, the note says.”
“And I’m the impregnator,” Faun grinned, tilting their head to read the note. “I kind of like that. It sounds like I’m some kind of secret operative. I might need you to call me that all the time.”
“If this works, I definitely will. All the time. At the public energy gardens, in front of your mom—”
“Ah, okay, I regret my choices already,” Faun shook their head. “Maybe just for tonight.”
“Perfect. Ready, Great Impregnator?” Saga picked up the round mushroom, holding it up to Faun like a honeyliquor cocktail. Faun took the other, a speckled white trumpet, and tapped it against Saga’s.
They chewed carefully.
“Whoa,” Saga breathed, staring at Faun’s chest. Their skin was lighting up from within, a rich silvery glow like they were filled with moonlight. The constellation of freckles on their soft stomach stayed dark, an inverse of the night sky. The scars on their chest seemed to concentrate the light, shining more intensely than everywhere else.
“You, too,” Faun whispered, running a hand over Saga’s skin, which was seeping gray-purple smoke.
“This is supposed to happen, right?” Saga asked, resisting the urge to check the note again.
“Yeah,” Faun breathed, as darkness poured out of Saga. “This is supposed to happen.”
The two pressed their bodies together, and bright encircled dark, and the dark split itself again and again. Moonlight wrapped around, refracting, until every color imaginable hung above their heads. The tessellation grew, infinitely complex, filling every crevice with light.
Sam (they/she) lives in Seattle with their partner and two lawless cats. Her short stories have been published in places like the Voyage YA journal and Night Sky Press. They won the $20,000 first place prize in Vocal Media’s 2021 Doomsday Diary Challenge. Sam is an alumnus of the Tin House YA Workshop, and was a mentee in DVMentor 2021 with H.E. Edgmon.