Oct 19, 2013

Le Lola

The full moon cast long shadows down low over the horizon.  Lola stared at it wistfully out her bedroom window, her stomach grumbling on the afghan that lay spread across the top of her bed.  She rolled over to tie her shoes, humming the last few snatches of Evita's Don't Cry for Me as she laced on her bright blue sandals.  Her mom growled up the stairs - Lola, are you ready for bed yet?  Lola groaned and whined back, almost!  Going to close the door of her bedroom, she yawned, and ran down to tell her mother good night.

Not finding her mother downstairs, she found herself drawn again to the window.  The moon filled the pane, a solid pale yellow suspended in the inky purple blackness that was the sky that late October evening.   Her mother seemed to have wandered into the back of the house yet, Lola found herself drawn out onto the small square lawn at the front of their clapboard family home, her sandals skimming the dewed grass.  It was a night dew, dripping from the blades.  Without giving it much thought her feet turned themselves toward the street, skipping aimlessly down her drive to the avenue.

The wind picked up and she shivered, uncertain of where she was heading.  Her nose picked up the scent of something earthen, like the sweet rot of new mulch, and the bodily smell of burning incense.  Her stomach grumbled again  -- strange to be hungry so late in the night. There was a faint howling coming up the east walk, someone's labrador letting loose in the heady glow of the rising moon.  She cowled for a moment, hesitated.  The howl came again, lower, a yogic ohm of midnight mystery.  Without hesitation, Lola's feet turned themselves in the direction of the sound, then she was skipping, then running along the ground, blue sandals leaving a trail of dewed footsteps across the neighboring lawns.

--

Within a few minutes, she was at the foot of a large hill, staring up at a dark figure near the top of it.  It was Paulo, her friend from physics class.  She now remembered that they had agreed to meet, here tonight.  He had the camera obscura equipment with him, and she found herself in its cross hairs as she approached.  He yelled something to her, what she didn't quite hear, but suddenly she felt unsure of herself.  Without another step, she crouched on the ground, resting on her heels as she stared more closely at the cloaked figure standing behind the large black box.  This was the place that they were to meet -- the top of the highest hill at Jone's Park.  The park was a few blocks from both of their houses nestled in a copse of trees.  The hill they were on was treeless and near the middle of the park, a great observation point for their grand experiment of measuring and capturing the phases of the moon.

The moon project had originally been Paulo's idea.  Their professor had just started their chapter on gravity -- tidal waves and Lagragian points had been all that Paulo could talk about for days.  He had decided to plot it out, to see if he could find earth men hiding on its face, or even capture a picture of it so clear that it would rival that of the ones in their tattered textbook.  That had been three weeks ago.  He had since plunged himself head first into learning about camera equipment, studying the patterns of the night sky and plotting which spot would be the best to capture the moon as it phased overhead.  Paulo had been coming out to this hillside every night for weeks, telling his parents that it for class research, which it had begun as originally.  Now it was just an obsession.  Tonight was the first night that he had asked Lola to join him.

She wasn't sure what had made him invite her out.  As of three weeks, when the moon madness (as she thought of it) had started ago they had never said two words to each other.  She sat at the far back of the room, keeping to the sides where she could doodle in her notebook and daydream while keeping an eye on the class proceedings.  Paulo sat near the front, had his hand up in the air more often than it was on the desk.  He seemed to know everything, especially about the moon.  But the day before, he had approached her, as they were picking up their books for the next class.  "Lola," she heard her name called out softly.  She turned around, dropping her bag on the floor in surprise at the suddenness of acknowledgment.  Paulo was right behind her, his dark intelligent eyes bearing impenetrably into her soul.  "Saturday night's the full moon. I'm taking a photographs of it," he said, like he was reciting a fortune bought from an oracle.  "You should come. I'll be at the Jones hill after night fall."

That had been two days ago.  Now, Lola sat crouched on the ground, staring up at the dark figure on the hill that loomed large above her.  She didn't remember Paulo being so tall and dark.  He was saying something to her, whisperings carried down to her ears on the chill October breeze.  She shivered involuntarily.  She felt cold, and then sleepy.  Without a thought to it, she curled into a ball, the moon looming behind her, taking up half the sky and illuminating the hill in a bright, uncanny light.  Her mind oscillating out between tiredness and urgency to run up and warn Paulo (of what?), Lola fell into a stupor, and then yawned, closed her eyes and fell asleep.

She awoke to barking.  The labrador that had originally drawn her out of her house was moaning in the woods somewhere near by.  It must have gotten out.  Her bones felt like liquid gold,  her eyes hazed over.  A fog had come up over the hill, it must be near morning. She stood up and wobbled on her feet.  She felt woozy.  Suddenly, she was aware of not being alone anymore.  She looked up the hill towards where Paulo had been when she first approached.  The hilltop where he had stood a few moments ago was empty now.  She exhaled and a slight low, graveled sigh escaped her lips.  Where was Paulo?

The moon had slipped behind some clouds, casting a pale glow over the hilltop.  Her bare feet slipped up and across the grass, as she ran up towards the hill, away from the lab's increasing frenzied barks.  She tried to whisper Paulo's name, but her voice came out grizzled.  She had drooled in her sleep all over her face, and she reached up to wipe her mouth clear it.  She stopped short.

Paulo hadn't left the hill.  His camera equipment was still there, laying on its side in the ankle deep grass.  The wind had scattered his negatives all over the eastern side of the hill.  Then she spotted him, curled in a ball, asleep.  She approached cautiously.  There was a rusty smell coming from him, and he seemed to be breathing quite shallowly.  As she reached out for him, he suddenly awoke, took one look at her face, and started screaming.

The labrador's howls burst into frenzied barking.

---

Lola awoke to bright sunshine streaming in through the window of her bedroom, lighting up her red walls in a pinkish morning glow.  Her clothes from yesterday were still on, sticking to her body.  She sighed, hopped tossed her clothes into the hamper and got into the shower to prepare for Sunday school that morning.  She skipped breakfast -- she didn't feel as if she'd be hungry ever again.

Paulo's body was found on the hillside, mauled as if by a pack of rabid wolves.  He shouldn't have been out so late by himself in such a remote part of the park, it was decided.  Her neighbors never found their labrador, who ran off the same night.  Roving band of wolves, it was determined.  They didn't come down much from the mountains, but strange things happen on full moons.

---

A few months later, Lola found a photo in the back pocket of her jeans.  It was made on instant photographic paper, the sort that just a bit of exposure will render into a picture within a few minutes.  She didn't know where it had come from -- it looked like a real life sketch of an internet meme: a wolf on its haunches howling before a full moon.




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