This story is actually older than many of my followers, and anyone who has read Dear Jack: Diary of an Addict has already read this story, but I loved it so much I wanted to share it with the entire world. I wrote it when I was in my late teens, early twenties. It has been one of my favorites, and one that truly solidified my desire to be a writer. I hope everyone enjoys this one as much as I do, every time I read it again.
Ladies and Gentlemen, my short story, “Orange Moon”
“Did you know that when you turn around, bend over and look through your legs, the moon will appear regular sized.”
The moon was low in the dark sky. Large, blue, and beautiful. In the middle of the battlefield the lights from the city couldn’t dim out the stars or the moonlight. The battlefield was always the place I went to clear my head, to talk about life with my friend.
He was quite possibly my best friend, not that I had all that many other people to confide in. He was always there for me whenever I needed to talk. I would just call him up, and we would head out to the battlefield and talk as long as it took for me to get over the most recent depression of my life. He had been loyal to me since we were five years old, when we first met. Eighteen years later and still here we were, side by side.
He had watched me grow up and change into a man. At an average 5’9”, with my brown hair and brown eyes, I had grown into the average male of America, hell, my name was even Mike.
I turned and looked at him as he said this, at his large 6’2” frame, thick blonde hair, and deep blue eyes. He was the vision of the ideal male, at least that is what I gathered from seeing the covers of trashy romance novels in the supermarket.
“What?” I asked.
“If you turn around, bend over, and look through your legs, the moon will appear regular size. It has to do with the blood rushing to your head and the way it counteracts with the equilibrium in your ears and eyes. When the moon appears large, it’s actually an optical illusion, your eyes are just playing a trick on you,” he said, hands in pockets, looking completely relaxed in the brisk autumn night air.
“Where do you learn this shit?”
“I picked it up somewhere along the way.”
I bent over and looked through my legs, giving my moon to the night sky. The moon was suddenly regular sized, small enough to hide behind the tip of my thumb. I stared at the moon in that position for a while before the alcohol and King Green that I had taken tonight decided it was time for me to continue in the down and over direction, tumbling out my somersault, once again looking at my friend.
“It’s amazing how many illusions are in our lives, isn’t it?” I commented, trying to sound profound.
“We all have images that we put into our lives to make them seem a little better.”
I fell onto my back and stared up at the Milky Way that spanned across the night. I had to wonder if any of it was real or just something that I had created in my mind to make my life seem more bearable. With the loneliness I had thriving in my life, the possibility that there was something else out there would be the type of thing I would want to create in my head. I watched as the essence of my life climbed through the air, toward the heavens, and dissipated never to be seen again. I was going nowhere and my life showed it.
“What happened this time?” he asked.
He knew why I had asked him to join me here. He always did. He knew that something had triggered my most recent death of the soul. He knew I was searching for an answer to make it better, a piece of advice to get me through.
“You know, I don’t even know this time. I was in my cubicle at the office, staring at my picture of me with the cardboard cutout of the President, and I was just hit with this sudden feeling of being completely alone.”
“You talked to your parents a few nights ago, right?”
“Yeah, two nights ago.”
“You probably just started remembering how it was back home. You haven’t been the same since we moved out here. Probably just remembering what life was like, you compared it to your life now, and suddenly felt alone.”
I pulled my glass bowl out of my pocket and lit the loaded bliss bringing my high up a notch. I felt it as the smoke moved down my throat and permeated my lungs. I hardly ever smoked, but on some nights, it was the only thing that kept me in this life. Being a social pariah has never been a lucrative career. I was determined to be as dramatic in my agony as I could without being caught by the law.
I held my agony aloft, and in the dark-cloud above my head style, I warned everyone who came near me of the danger of self-destruction. I was on the eternal search for the large orange moon, the great garner of hope and dignity from the night. The only moons that I ever saw were blue and cold, beautiful to the eye but ugly for the soul.
“Have you met anybody at work?” he asked.
“No, I don’t seem to be able to meet people anymore, the office water cooler is not as popular as it was back at home.”
“Maybe you need to go out, hit some bars, try to meet people that way. You need to make an effort to meet people.”
“How do you know that I haven’t been going out attempting to meet new people?” I asked, suddenly defensive, an obvious side effect of the pot.
“You have called me out here almost every night this week. When would you be going out to meet people?”
I rolled over on my stomach and stared at the horizon. The darkness seemed to go on forever. I tried to find a comeback for his last question but my search fell short. The only real way to tell where the night ended and the ground began was by the line of stars across the ground. I had learned long ago that I hated the day and loved the night. In the day everything is visible, and nothing is hidden in mystery. At night though, the question exists on what is real and what isn’t. The shadows that are cast leave questions on the reality of everything and everyone.
“How do you take these long nights with me, talking about my asinine problems?” I asked.
“When was the last time you saw me during the daylight?”
I chuckled as I thought about it. Ever since we met, we only hung out at night. Even during our school years, he went to a private school, and I never saw him during the day. After high school ended, he worked night jobs and slept during the day. He was always willing to call out to talk to me though. How he kept his job was a mystery, especially since we moved here.
“Point well taken.”
“Why are you afraid to meet new people?”
I glanced over at him, he was still standing relaxed and comfortable, completely unaffected by the night air. I shivered as a cool breeze passed through the impenetrable fortress of my windbreaker. I had no answer for the question. I hadn’t always been that way. At one point I was very outgoing, very confident about who I was and what I was going to do. People respected me then, and I had a lot of fun being myself. Recently, however, my personality was the exact opposite of what it used to be. No longer confident and strong, I was now stand-offish and quiet.
“Fear of rejection,” was the only applicable excuse that I could come up with. “I am afraid they would rather have a friend like you than a friend like me.”
He looked down. A look of despair came across his face. Apparently what I said had hurt him but I didn’t understand why. I looked up at the stars and stared into the infinite space above. A star shot across the night sky pulling a trail of light behind it. I closed my eyes and made a wish. I wished for freedom from illusion, freedom from solitude, and freedom from him.
“Are you sure it was real?” he asked.
“The shooting star you just saw,” he replied with a grin.
“Of course it was real, what else could it have been?”
“An illusion that you created just so you could make a wish. You had a desire to wish for what you did, and you may have just created the star in your mind so that you had a valid reason to make a wish.”
“Of course it was real, I saw it with my own eyes.”
“Mike, haven’t you ever seen something, looked away then looked back only a second later to realize that it wasn’t there at all? You saw it with your own eyes, but it wasn’t real. Your mind will create things that trick you. It attempts to reconfirm things that you want to believe, sway issues that you are on the fence about, make you feel more comfortable in the life that you are living.”
“What you are saying is that we can never really know what is real and what is not? That life is more or less all an illusion, all figments of what we believe, or want to believe?” I asked cynically.
I jumped to my feet, and a quick rush shot through my body from rising too quickly. I shook my head, attempting to regain composure on my body. A sense of anger and fear overcame me as I pondered the possibility that most of my life had been a farce. I couldn’t tell if anything was real or just a part of my mind that I had dragged out to make everything seem real. I didn’t want to accept the fact that life was not as real as I had hoped.
“What is the point of living if nothing is really there? Why would we live in a life that isn’t real?”
“Each of us has an ideal form of life that we are striving for, it doesn’t matter that it is only in our mind. We crave it; we need it. It isn’t real, but we strive to achieve it. We don’t just stop living because we believe that all of our hard work will result in a better reality. It doesn’t even matter that we could sit back and, with a clear head, see that none of it is real.”
“I don’t see my life getting better with my illusions and dreams. It keeps going further and further down the pathway of loneliness and solitude. What if I just ended it all? What would change if I left this world of falsehoods and illusions forever?”
“In all honesty, nothing would change. Your parents would feel sadness and depression for a while, but soon they would create some image of happiness that they would believe in and rely on to get them through the days. They would never forget about you, or forgive you for that matter, but they would eventually get over the untimely passing of their son and go on living their lives.”
“And what about you?” I asked.
“Mike, you know what would happen to me.”
I realized what he meant by that, nothing would happen to him. He would go on with his life as though nothing had ever changed. His illusions made his life better, and he could fill the void of me leaving with one of his illusions. He had done it his whole life, he was a master at creating false truths. He had always been happy even though his life was never great. He thrived on his illusions and loved them. He could get through any problem that he faced. Even the brutal and grotesque death of his parents never took him down that much. He lived through it and turned it into motivation to make him strive harder for a better life that he had given to himself. And it pissed me off.
“How do you do it?” I asked. “How do you go through life without worrying about the defeats, the pain? Why does everything roll off your back like…?”
“…water on a duck?”
“I control what I conjure up, I control what I believe. You make things up spontaneously, without thinking about what your illusions will result in. I think about my illusions before I make them, I try not to create anything that could possibly hurt me or bring my hopes up to a level that I could never reach.”
“And I do?”
“Yes, you create things that set the bar too high. Things that make your life seem lower than what it truly is.”
“How do you know what I make up in my mind?”
“The same way you know everything I create in my mind.”
That is when it hit me, like a punch from the heavyweight champion. Suddenly everything was explained. The reason I never saw him during the day, why he was always there for me, why he seemed to live such a great life. I had created him in my mind. He was an illusion that I had made as a child. Suddenly I understood why he always hung out with me, why he didn’t know anyone else, or at least never talked about them. He was my imaginary friend, and for 18 years, I had treated him like a real person.
“You never can tell what is real and what isn’t,” he said.
“You should be able to, things shouldn’t seem that real.”
I was having trouble breathing. The only friend that I have had for my whole life was an illusion, someone that I made up for some reason, a way to make my life seem somewhat better.
“Why?” I asked stunned. “Why is it like this? Why do I believe it?”
“Your life is the definition of average—your build, your job, even your name. You are at the paramount of ordinary. I am not. I have the exceptional build, a job that you only wish that you had, and the looks of a Greek god, and I have a super human ability to make anything work toward my advantage. You tell me why.”
He was right, of course. I made him up so that I would have someone above ordinary to talk to. Someone who was extraordinary to balance out my mediocrity. It was because of him that I couldn’t make friends anymore. I was trying too hard to live up to the standard that he set. His existence was fatal toward my social recognizance. Until I could get rid of him, I would always feel as though I wasn’t good enough to be around others.
“To make up for my inadequacies,” I said quietly.
“If that is what you believe, then yes, that is the reason why. You and I are here for whatever reason we choose to be here. It is all about illusion. You can be whatever you would like to be in your mind. If, in your mind, you are an inadequate little peon, then that is what you will be. But if you believe in yourself and what you can accomplish, then you can be whatever you want to be.”
“And what do you want to be? I want to know what you want.”
“I want to be happy. I want to see that my friends are happy. I don’t want people to be upset with who they are or what they do. I want people to realize that life is what you make of it.”
“You want to make sure that your friends are happy? That is why you are destroying my life by telling me that nothing in it has ever been real? You want me to be happy?”
“Yes, by learning this, you learn that you can improve on your life using only your mind. Your mind is a very powerful thing and can change so much on the way that you perceive life.”
The moon had fallen lower in the sky. I turned and looked as the bottom tip of it rested upon the horizon. I knew that shortly the sun would be rising in the east. The end of this night of revelations was nearing.
“You know everything that I think?”
“Yeah, just like you know everything that I think.”
“What number am I thinking?”
“79,” he said with a smile.
I was aghast as the two minutes and thirty-six seconds of the moon setting began. The blue was gone, and the moon now shone with a deep orange hue. The great garner of hope and dignity from the night was staring right in my face. I looked down in shame, for no longer did I deserve hope nor dignity. I realized at this moment how truly alone I was. A tear began to drip down my cheek and off my chin. I tried to wipe it clean before he saw it but to no avail.
“Mike, why are you crying?”
“Because I know that I have no real friends in this world, only the made up images of you. I created someone to trick myself into believing that I had a friend, someone that would follow me to the end of the earth. I created you. I created someone that I wished I could be. I guess to be honest, I have known all along. I just never wanted to come to grips with the fact that nobody alive wanted to be close to me. Even my parents and I were never very ‘Cleaver.’ It makes perfect since that I made you up as a child. I needed someone to rely on. I guess I still do, eh?”
I turned and looked at him. A smug grin was plastered across his face. He still appeared comfortable in the frigid air. I made up this person that could be bothered by nothing. He was the cool guy, the guy that I wanted to be.
“Mike, what is your address?” he asked me.
“What is your address?”
I thought about it for a second. I couldn’t remember it. I tried to shake my head clear from all the substances that I had put into it tonight, but that didn’t help. I couldn’t remember what the street name was. Before I could open my mouth to tell him, he asked, “Where do you work?”
“At the computer company,” I answered.
“Well, what is written at the top of the checks that they give you?”
Once again I blanked. I had been with this company for a year and could not remember the name of it. I was completely flustered by all that had happened tonight. I just wanted to go back to my home, wherever it was, and go to bed. I would call out sick to work tomorrow.
“I don’t know, I can’t remember.”
“Does this strike you as odd?”
“Yeah, a little, nothing to be worried about. Everything is in our mind, right?”
“Mike, when is your birthday?”
He wouldn’t even let me try to answer this one. He knew that I didn’t know, he knew that I couldn’t know.
“You don’t know, Mike, do you? You want to know why?”
I looked at him confused and somewhat frightened. I wasn’t sure how to answer that question.
“Mike, the reason that you don’t know the answers to these questions is because I am not the imaginary one, you are.”
A sudden chill came over me. I realized that I hadn’t changed my whole life. It explained why he was my only friend. And why he reminded me of things that I didn’t seem to know. And why someone so extraordinary would be with someone like me. Everything I had ever done was exactly average. I graduated in the exact middle of my class; I was getting paid the average yearly income; I was always the average height, the average build. I wasn’t anything special. That was why I was created.
“How do I know that is true?” I asked defensively.
“Because, Mike, I am not thinking of you anymore.”