It’s not that Melodie is strange in some way, really she just wants in the same way that everyone wants something. She’s turned magical in her obsession. She is witch-like, she is reading cards, she is a blood sacrifice scraped across stone surface. Wolf tones are being channeled, night-sky directed, from the depths of her stomach. Some of us join her, we open our throats and let the animal rumble out of us, just to say we’ve tried. We yelp like pups and nudge at each other sheepishly afterward, aware we have appeared as if teenagers experimenting with something we don’t quite believe in. But Melodie’s eyes light up bright orbs, she’s not playing and she never has been. She delights in finally realising us as pack.
We still love Melodie in the same way that we’ve always loved her, maybe even more so because of the way her excitement catches and runs feverish through us. We want her to win and we discuss this want together in our kitchens and doorsteps and never-ending group messages. We discuss how we all think Melodie deserves the Moon more than anyone, ever. Paul says that he’s been trying to will the Moon closer every night, Andrea tells me she’s been researching space travel because surely that’s something to look into and because we’ve already done it once so what’s the problem, right? I’ve been watching Melodie, her round face, her outstretched fingers — each of the nail beds full of white crescent. During night she takes a candle to her garden, takes a dish, takes objects, trinkets, herbs. The smell of dandelion (for achieving your wishes and goals), rose (for self-love and compassion) and lemongrass (for optimism) hover over the neighbourhood. When any of us are elsewhere we still carry the scent.
In a night of full moon we are summoned and we stand, gathered beside Melodie’s heavy bunches of peonies. Melodie is naked and she lays herself down slow, lets moonlight reach inside her body. We see how the gravity of Earth pains her. We hold hands and repeat a mantra. In other circumstances, such as beneath the light of day or such as in the past, one of us may have muttered ‘lunatic’ under our breath but here we all are grasping hands. Here we all are mantra-repeating and who knows how much we truly believe all this. Paul has closed his eyes to contain the power of his willing, I have begun to lose the meaning of the words that we are saying and they roll out, as if one expression, over and over like a tide pulling. Before day returns we each go back to our own houses, all of which are quiet and cavernous-seeming after our chanting. I tiptoe across my own floorboards, blink at the normality of my furniture, the familiarity of the pictures on the walls. I take off my clothes as if ritual, in the light revealed by grey pulled back curtains. Think how cruel if nothing were to happen after making ourselves vulnerable.
When it becomes obvious the moon is now orbiting towards us we are pleasantly surprised but not alarmed. I don’t know now if it’s just me, or if it’s all of us who feel like we are being consumed alongside Melodie. Every day we note a new detail; a valley, a crater, a crag. We can almost taste the cold prick of metallic space rock when we open our mouths to speak. We howl for a wider taste of it. We howl and keep howling over new metal tongues because this time we mean it. We agree that we are happy Melodie will finally have the moon though the impact will surely kill us. We all need to get what we want eventually.
Kelsey Ipsen lives in France. Her writing can be found in PANK, wigleaf, Columbia Journal, Hobart and elsewhere. You can find her online at www.cargocollective.com/kelseyipsen
Photograph by Al Kratz
The NFFR and Kelsey Ipsen Interview
During the pandemic, what’s been your favorite artistic escape either book, music, or tv?
Books. Especially old favorites. Especially old favorites with magic and talking animals and the heroes winning in the end.
We’ve been thinking about the elusive definition of Flash Fiction and the different and similar ways we all approach it. What’s your working definition of it or thoughts on what it “is”?
For me I think it is a lightening bolt. It is a feeling or image that is left burnt into you.
What was the inspiration for this story?
Wanting something that seems impossible. Along with the frightening hope that gets entangled in this wanting, and the not knowing what exactly will happen if you do get what you want, or if you don’t. The obsession, pain and sacrifice of it. How wanting can become an entire world of its own that pulls other people into its orbit and makes itself bigger, more urgent.
In the film Midsommar there is a scene where the women crowd around the main character and they cry and scream and breathe with her and I’m obsessed with it. I wanted to explore that type of grief and the lack that comes after, as well as the community that can develop in those spaces. I think there is a very cult-like strangeness that emerges when we are faced with things we can’t control. It lies behind the phrases “I’d do anything for…”, behind our own invented rituals and superstitions, and behind our insistence that the moon and tides must have something to do with us.