Karen Ashe is a writer based in Glasgow. She writes short stories, flash fiction and poetry and is working on her first novel. She was awarded a Scottish Book Trust New Writer’s Award in 2016 and has been published in Mslexia, and was highly commended in The Bridport Prize.
Even from a distance, with the naked eye on a dark smoky night, without the aid of a lens and magnified, you can see it. Battle-scarred, world-weary, battered moon.
In the early phases it’s not clear, not in the hairline fracture of the first waxing. But as her profile emerges, the damage is evident. Gouges, bruises, blackened eye, cracked tooth. Clouds gather round her like curtains round a hospital bed. But this warrior moon rides without rest, bareback towards the dark side.
She turns her face in shame, or maybe it’s indifference, with a last glimpse, making way for the pampered pretty-boy Prince Charming sun. But floating over fields in the blue of days is easy. Ride the black night over the chants of a million witches, the stares of a thousand sailors, lay yourself like a balm over a sea of ink, rock the tides to sleep. Then call yourself traveller.
How to make a map of the sea? Endless blue, wave upon wave, shoving at the ship, covering everything in a crust of salt.
He’d managed a map of the stars, easy enough to look up, make a mirror image of the night sky on the parchment. Of course, the next night it would be different again.
A flotilla of gulls bobbed on the horizon. Or at least appeared to. Everything played tricks on your eyes way out here; the sun with its dazzle, the constant blue sea, the faultless sky. He made a few scratches with his pen on the straight line across the paper. They’d only burn it in the morning, but if he didn’t do his best they’d beat him first.
They said they were going to cross the horizon, go beyond the Earth’s limits, peel the sky from the sea like an eyelid and sail on through. But however long they sailed they never got any closer. That was fine with Joseph; he had no desire to drop like a coin through a slit in the Earth’s skin.
His mother planted a coin once. At least she said she did. Now he was older, he could see there may have been some sleight of hand involved. She covered it up with a handful of good soil, spat on her palm and pressed it to the ground with her eyes closed. She made him do the same.
You watch. It’ll soon grow, just like you and your brothers and sisters. At harvest time we’ll shake it firm and gold will rain down on us like God’s own blessings.
The boat swayed and rocked. From overhead a cry of Land Ahoy!