by David Cook
On clear nights, the moon would talk to Isabel. When a mere sliver, it would whisper gently. When full and bulbous, it would laugh boisterously. But no-one else could hear their conversations. It was a secret just between she and it.
One crisp winter’s evening, the moon asked Isabel to come to it. And she asked how, and it said it did not know, but had faith that she would find a way. And she did love the moon, she knew. She loved it more than she ever had or ever could love any man, and determined to be with it.
So, behind her lonely shack in the countryside, Isabel strived to build a rocket. She hammered chunks of wood and banged together scraps of metal. Any detritus she found in the fields and ditches around her home lent themselves to her cause. Slowly, steadily, evening upon evening, it grew taller and taller, towering over Isabel in her rags. The moon murmured, chuckled and shouted encouragement. Isabel trembled with anticipation with each blow of the hammer.
One day, a rambler came across Isabel gathering armfuls of debris and asked what she was doing. She told him she was building a spacecraft to journey across the stars to meet her love, the moon. The rambler excused himself hurriedly.
Eventually, her rocket was ready. She crawled into the tiny space she’d left for herself to travel in, no more than six foot by six foot, leaned out, struck a match, lit the fuse and slammed shut the door. This was it! She peeped out of a tiny crack in the casing of the rocket. The moon beamed its blessing down upon her craft. “I love you,” whispered Isabel. The flame whizzed along the fuse towards the fuel tank. “I love you.”
People saw the flames tower over the treetops from miles around and felt the explosion of metal and wood echo down their spines.
The story made the newspapers, but this was of no consolation to Isabel, who by then lay in an unmarked grave in a cemetery not so far away from her shack. In a follow-up story, the rambler spoke to the papers about his conversation with Isabel that day in the countryside. Now, on clear nights, when the moonlight illuminates the weeds already creeping across Isabel’s resting place, some people say that, if you look closely, there is a tear in the eye of the man in the moon. And other people say, don’t be stupid. It’s just the moon. Nothing more.
But from the mess of weeds, a single red hollyhock flower has emerged. Each night it grows a little taller, stretching and stretching, higher and higher.
It’s almost as if the flower is determined, one day, to reach all the way up to the moon.
David Cook’s stories have been published in Spelk, Ellipsis Zine and the National Flash Fiction Anthology. He’s a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee. He lives in Bridgend, Wales, with his wife and daughter. Say hi on Twitter @davidcook100.