Good Night Moon, Good Night Air, Good Night Noises Everywhere
by Aimee Ogden
The world is ending, and only Sam remembers why.
"The moon's gone," he announces to the darkness of his bedroom. That white eye winked out three months ago and never reopened. The shadows don't believe him. That's fine--no one else does, either.
The sheets peel away like a shed skin. A brownout has killed the AC, not for the first time, maybe for the last. There are more and more lasts every day now. It's 1 AM and ninety degrees. The temperature will only climb after dawn. Many people have gone nocturnal to escape the scorching sun, and Sam is one of them. It's not as if he has a job to go to anymore. He dresses and leaves the house and walks down the street. Only starlight rains down on his shoulders.
Without its younger cousin to stabilize it, the Earth's seasonal variations swing wildly from extreme to extreme. If Sam's town survives the withering heat, it'll only be to endure half a year's ice age at the far end of the year. Drought and destruction, oceans gone still, rafts of dead creatures silently floating. The experts are stumped; no one can explain how things have gone so quickly and so horribly wrong. No one except Sam. He kicks a pebble down the empty street and it skitters to rest in a cracked driveway.
A few neighbors are out in their yards working the midnight shift. Certain crops still grow here, tropical plants sown into gardens that once grew spinach and snow peas. Sam wonders what they'll do when the Earth swings back into frozen darkness. Faces turn to him when he passes, then turn away. No one wants to hear about the moon, about how things were supposed to be, not tonight. Not at all. He picks viciously at his cuticles as he walks, a new bad habit. He doesn't stop until he tears a raw piece of skin away from the pale half-circle of his ring fingernail.
He doesn't know why he's the only one at the eye of this storm. Some poorly constructed genie's wish? An episode of mass hysteria from which he alone has been granted a hall pass? An explanation would make him feel better, he thinks. Or a listening ear.