The Adventures of Luna and Danzi: Episode Three
- The Adventures of Luna and Danzi: Episode One
- The Adventures of Luna and Danzi: Episode Two
- The Adventures of Luna and Danzi: Episode Three
- The Adventures of Luna and Danzi: Episode Four
- The Adventures of Luna and Danzi: Episode Five
- The Adventures of Luna and Danzi: Episode Six
- The Adventures of Luna and Danzi: Episode Seven
Orange Cat Staring at the Moon
Illustrations by Morgan Wagner
The SUV was beginning to have a mind of its own. Either that, or Luna was ready for repose again as the vehicle rolled to a stop in front of Ed’s house of its own volition. She noticed that their need for sleep was starting to fall in synch with the solar cycles. The sky of indigo was an indicator that both diurnal and nocturnal people probably overlapped their slumbering around this hour.
According to the landmarks, they were officially in New Orleans now. So far, they had seen nothing particularly iconic that matched their tree pulp guidebooks about the city. But Weeb assured them that they would see plenty of the area’s unique traditions soon.
The five beings emerged from the vehicle into the cheery driveway light, yawning, stretching, and whickering. The humid air was thick with some sort of floral scent that the women found almost intoxicating. It was hard to distinguish the dark blue single-story cottage against the night sky, but the candles ablaze inside the windows looked inviting. The door swung open to reveal a man roughly Weeb’s age with ruddy brown curls and thoughtful eyebrows that did little to conceal mischief.
The two men clapped each other in a firm embrace that didn’t appear to be tender, but not lacking in compassion. Danzi, her eyes still full of stars, noticed that nobody kissed on the mouth.
A split second later the door banged open even wider, and a trio of baby goats came tumbling out. The horses trotted over to investigate, and soon the driveway was full of rearing, head-butting, nipping animals chasing each other in circles.
“So, while I’ve been away trying to establish some hippie utopia, you’ve been playing Doctor Dolittle?” Weeb joked. He lightly cuffed his friend on the upper arm in a manner that the Narians observed males tended to interact with one another.
Ed chuckled. “Well, with your choice of beasts, that’s certainly the cloud calling the sheep Fluffy, isn’t it? I can keep the horses out back with the goats. They already seem to be making friends…” He paused, as did everyone else to watch their odd formation. Hoobie and Froobie stood side by side with a goat balanced atop each back. The smallest kid stood atop the animal pyramid, a tiny hind hoof planted on each of her siblings, rearing and bleating at the stars.
“I’ve never seen Jasmine, Basil, and Frisca act that way before,” murmured Ed. “Well, let’s get you all situated.” They grabbed their bags and headed inside, weary from the journey but curious to see what treasures this earth dwelling held within.
Ed’s home was a wonder. The walls were replete with paintings, many in the bright colors that the women had come to associate with the images they had seen in the tour guide books. His shelves were full of astrolabes, globes, books, and crystal geodes. And in the corner of the living room…musical instruments! They had figured out enough about social mores to know that it would be rude to make a beeline for the guitars and other strange stringed instruments sitting in their stands like a clique of youngsters sharing a secret. Luna hoped that Ed would notice the hungry looks in their eyes and invite them to play some of them.
“I’m sorry…I didn’t catch your last names,” Ed pressed the women politely.
Luna glanced at the bookshelf for help. “Um…Madden. Luna Madden.”
“And I’m Danzi Highwood,” chimed in her companion brightly, already transfixed by oboe lying out of its case.
“Please, make yourselves at home,” he told them. “There are three bedrooms you can choose from. Can I get you anything from the bar?”
“What sort of libations do you have?” Danzi chirped, suddenly realizing she was parched.
Ed beamed, transforming his demeanor from a suave host to a child about to reveal pirate treasure. “Come have a look.”
He opened a folding door melodramatically to reveal a cooler full of locally brewed beers. Above there were several shelves of fine malt whiskey, wine, rum, and…
“Pi nacol adamix!” they squealed in unison.
The men exchanged baffled looks.
“Where we come from, uh…” Luna paused. While Weeb knew their planet of origin, there was no way she could explain that it was a sacred beverage.
“It’s hard to find, right?” supplied Weeb, coming to their rescue. “If you like piña colada mix, then you have to let Ed whip up a couple of real piña coladas for you.”
“Weeb tells me you two are quite the musicians,” said Ed. “I’m sure you must be tired, and no guest is ever required to give a command performance. But if you’d like to serenade us, I can think of no better way to pass the night with drinks, good music, and friends. Feel free to play any of my instruments.”
Danzi’s heart leapt with the excitement of investigating all of Ed’s instruments. Luna, having figured out the guitar on their previous show, chose one of Ed’s four guitars, and Danzi chose a strange eight-stringed instrument that he told her was called a bouzouki. It took them a few extra seconds to invoke the music that usually burst from them instantaneously. Danzi shot Luna a worried look, but the brunette raised her piña colada glass to her partner with a reassuring nod. It’s just the alcohol, the gesture clearly said.
Taking a cue from the soft glow of the lamps and the flickering candlelight, they launched into a song about the flames, something that also existed in their world. I cannot wander far without my fire was the message. They fell into a trancelike state as they improvised, losing all track of time until the morning sunrise was beginning to paint the sky striking colors. By this time the travelers were finally happily exhausted and gratifyingly tipsy. Everyone headed to their respective bedchambers with music ringing in their ears, and not even the occasional whinny or bleat from the back yard could keep them from falling into a hard slumber.
The women had begun to understand that most earthlings had jobs, providing goods and services in exchange for currency, which in turn they used to procure goods and services. It seemed more complicated than it needed to be, unlike the self-contained economic units of Narius, but they decided that as long as they had to learn how to care for the horses, they should learn as much as they could about how society worked. Weeb told them that the best way to learn was to be tourists, whatever that meant. Both men seemed eager to show them around the city.
The next few days were a blur of sensory stimuli as their earthly hosts played the roles of tour guides and the women took in every new sight, sound, and taste. Streetcars, museums, and parks with oak trees as thick as temple columns filled Luna and Danzi with endless wonder. They had always archived emotions, but here they walked among the avatars. The people were flesh and blood sources of energies that were complex, even contradictory.
The French Quarter was at the heart of it all. Unique architecture, rich foods, and colorful murals blew their minds. And music was everywhere. They watched buskers on street corners, sometimes solo or in duos, trios, or full bands. No sacred building or even a stage was needed to create strange wild sounds. The rhythms were often quirky and the melodies were raw and honest. This was far from the complex but sterile art forms of their home planet.
Most astounding were the long-eared equines they saw hauling motorless vehicles the drivers called “buggies.” The huge beasts, which Ed called mules, were the size they’d expected horses to be. He told them that they were a hybrid of the former with a related animal called a donkey.
“So let me get this straight — two creatures that look similar can perform the mating dance?” breathed Danzi with a dreamy look in her eye. “I wonder if Gabriel and I are compatible enough to…ow!” She glared at her companion, rubbing her freshly assaulted ribcage. “I was going to say ‘produce a mule,’ okay?” she grumbled at Luna, who only smirked.
“Don’t count on it,” whispered the other woman. “Remember that earth men only have one…”
The blare of a trumpet drowned out Luna’s sobering lecture. A split second later, they felt the interplay between a snare drum and bass drum resonate up their spines. Like a series of gears that turned one another, a makeshift band of drums, brass, saxophones, and clarinets came marching down the street, practically commanding all who heard to move to the rhythms. Revelers trailed the parade, waving handkerchiefs and thrusting parasols into the air.
“That must mean that someone recently died,” murmured Ed.
Weeb cut in and explained before the Narians could ask any questions that betrayed them as aliens. “This is a jazz funeral, called a second line.” he informed them. “It’s a way to honor someone who has recently passed away, usually a fellow musician. It starts out with somber music as a way to say goodbye, then it becomes upbeat as a way to celebrate the life of the person.”
They felt the energy. Joy and sorrow seemed to reinforce each other into a single defiant power that drove back oblivion.
This is the point at which souls are transformed, thought Danzi. Thought is energy, which cannot be created or destroyed, only transformed. The ritual will send this soul-thought to the next realm, to be reborn as an idea for an invention, a song lyric, or a random crush that leads to new beginnings.
They weren’t quite certain what Ed did for a “living” (another term they found strange, since most people they observed on their jobs seemed less animated than during recreational time). But the following day, he had to go back to work. In preparation for their coffeehouse gig, Luna and Danzi decided they should give busking a shot in the French Quarter. Grateful to have had their orientation, Luna asked Ed if they could borrow his guitar and bouzouki.
“Oh, and a map.” Danzi added.
Ed started rooting through a drawer in the kitchen. “I think I have one in here somewhere. Aha!” He triumphantly pulled out a folded tattered paper, nearly sending the rest of the contents spilling out onto the floor. “Hmm. 1964. Yeah, that should still be good.”
Weeb offered to tag along to show them where to find a streetcar stop, grinning at the prospect of hearing more of their unusual tunes.
The streetcar was a strange green metal capsule tethered to a sparking wire. It was filled with people radiating everything from curiosity to boredom to despair. The metallic grinding of the wheels and the clang of the bell were a clash of angry protestations and delight. “It’s like riding an energy current,” Luna whispered to Danzi, “but with analog machinery.” By this time, they didn’t mind if Weeb overheard their alien observations.
They took their time wandering the Quarter, studying the other buskers more astutely this time. They exchanged pleasantries with a rainbow clad couple named David and Roselyn, who seemed to play about twenty instruments between them. They were startled when what they thought was one of the many statues in the city suddenly came to life, only to freeze again. “Is he caught in a time warp?” Luna wondered aloud, and as Weeb laughed, she decided to act like she had been joking. A lone violinist scratched out a maudlin melody that reminded them of their native microtonal music. “Listen — notes that fall outside the usual chromatic scale!” Danzi squeaked to Weeb. Then she realized that this was probably not the violinist’s intention when she received a piercing glare from him.
By the time the sun was beginning to set, they located a spot in front of the grocery store on the corner of Royal and Saint Peter where a band was just packing up for the day. This seemed like a fine time to get out their instruments and look to one another for cues. Usually they could just create music as easily as people switched on their record players or devices, but something was wrong. Were they were beginning to think like terrestrials and actually having to give some advance thought as to how to manifest a composition?
People wandered past them on the blockaded street, peering into store windows and guzzling beer and assorted mixed drinks, oblivious to the two women. An orange cat wandered up to them and sat down on its haunches in front of them, tilted its head up and gazed unblinkingly at the moon just rising over the rooftops. It was the perfect cue, and they spontaneously launched into an improvisation about this helpful little feline gazing into the heavens, wondering what it secretly knew. It didn’t take long for a crowd to gather.
“Play something we know!” shouted a woman with a tall red drink from across the street. “Do some Skynyrd!” Danzi glanced up to take assiduous mental notes. A recent crash course in pop culture made her think of Alvin the Chipmunk on twenty cups of expresso and anger issues. She locked gazes with the whiny bully sporting a retro flip hairdo. The Narians didn’t know what to make of this unexpected display of hostility, and Danzi empathized for the violinist she had accidentally criticized earlier.
“C’mon! Y’all suck!” the heckler continued, approaching them into the unbarricaded cross street.
Luna did not say a word but cocked an eyebrow at a passing taxi. At that moment, the driver seemed to lose control of the vehicle, rolling just inches from their antagonist’s foot sending her drink all over her shirt.
The tormentor shrieked, “Son of a bitch!” and stormed off looking like she just stepped out of a slasher movie. The driver was clearly trying to stop the car, which was still rolling at a snail’s pace. The women watched its single working brake light flare, as if the taxi were throwing them a wink.
Luna’s uncanny ability to communicate with cars had provided them some quick comic relief, but they were both still bewildered by this unexpected conflict.
“Not all crowds cheer,” Weeb consoled them.
Danzi muttered to her companion. “Maybe this is why human celebrities are called ‘stars.’ Those rare moments of synergy light up the endless darkness, but the space between them is greater than most people can comprehend.”
The third morning at breakfast, the women announced that they wanted to explore on their own, confident that they could handle themselves in the French Quarter. Weeb’s brow furrowed in concern, but he clearly couldn’t voice his reservations in front of Ed.
“I need to try to find a job, and I’m headed in that direction anyway, so I’ll go as far as Jackson Square with you,” the bearded man insisted.
When they reached the Square, Weeb left them to apply for some jobs in the Bywater. When he was out of sight, Luna whispered, “I didn’t want to say anything in front of Weeb, but let’s try to find out about these cultists who somehow know about our home planet?”
Danzi nodded in agreement. “So how should we do this?”
“Well…” Luna pondered, looked around at all the people wandering through the park. She stepped in front of a well-dressed young couple walking towards them. “Excuse me, but do you know where we might be able to find the PORN headquarters?” The terrestrials stopped in their tracks and stared at Luna as if she had tentacles growing out of her head like a Narian ten-armed Jabjub fish.
For the next hour they walked the streets asking whoever would listen, the responses typically being wordless scowls or the hurried shielding of children’s ears.
Finally, an unwashed-looking man with a guitar strung over his back directed them to a shop on Toulouse Street. The strange marketplace was somehow reminiscent of the nudist colony, and only confirmed how odd human male anatomy was, but there was no sign of PORN.
Weeb must have seen them enter the store because he came barreling in as Danzi was examining a life-size plastic statue of a human strapped into a strange swing hanging from the ceiling. Danzi beamed at their companion. “Look, Weeb!” she squealed. “I think we’ve found some sort of harnesses for Hoobie and Froobie. But there seem to be a few missing parts. Could we make unicorn costumes with these?”
Weeb rolled his eyes and whispered, trying to avoid being overhead “Look, it’s obvious what you two are doing. I’m telling you that this is a secret organization. The average person isn’t going to know about P-O-R-N,” he spelled it out with his hand shielding his mouth, “and if they did, they certainly wouldn’t tell you.”
“Well, speak for yourself,” said a voice behind him. The trio turned to see a smiling salesclerk. “I’ll be happy to assist you, if you wish to see our video collection.”
“Do you have any footage of cults or interplanetary relations?” Danzi breathed.
“A cult classic has been remade into Plan 69 From Outer Space! If you’d like…”
Weeb grabbed Danzi’s arm and pulled her toward the door. “Never mind. Ladies, we’re leaving now!”
The clerk’s face darkened and Weeb stopped. “Sorry, that was rude…” He snapped up a lollipop that resembled a little space rocket from a $1 clearance bin by the door, handed the clerk a dollar bill and hurried out, with the women trailing reluctantly in his wake, puzzled.
Back at the house, they lounged in the living room sipping wine, waiting for Ed to return home from work. Luna studied Weeb’s face. He was clearly trying to look annoyed, but he couldn’t contain his amusement.
“So, are you two dead set on trying to figure out how to infiltrate PORN?” he chuckled at last.
Luna nodded. “That’s the plan, anyway.”
Weeb shuddered. “Those people are nuts. Uh, that’s what I’ve heard, anyway. I’m not sure you can reason with them. You would have to have some sort of effect on them that would make them docile.”
“You mean in the same way that the shopkeepers just handed us stuff in the mall?” replied Luna with a wicked grin.
“That’s nothing compared to what you ladies seem capable of,” Weeb said, shaking his head. “I’m still trying to figure out how you two had access to an interplanetary portal.”
The two women exchanged glances. An unspoken signal passed between them, and Danzi gave her companion the barest nod.
“You might not believe it, but we are high priestesses,” said Luna at last. “You see, our planet is close to a nebula that acts as a huge receiving dish for vibrations, which we can decode into either sound or emotion. We’re more or less emotional archivists, bottling the essence of memories and storing them in our library…”
“Is it some sort of library that can be destroyed, like Alexandria?” Weeb cut in.
Danzi sniffed. “Please! As I said, we’re near a nebula, so it’s all stored on a cloud. Anyway, all sentient energy finds its way to us. But since the Anthropocene era of your planet, the waves sent out by mankind have polluted everything else. Greed, fear, destruction…this is upsetting the balance of everything we are trying to preserve.”
“So, what’s this fascination with horses? I thought aliens abducted cattle,” Weeb continued with forced brightness.
Danzi rolled her eyes. “We’re not abducting them. Number one, you gave them to us. Number two, they seem to have bonded with us.”
“But those theories about the Narian overlord planning to annihilate Earth?”
Luna fixed her blue-gray eyes on Weeb’s with an infinite sadness. “They’re true,” she confessed, glancing at Danzi.
Weeb looked stricken. “So…you’re here to save us?”
Danzi sighed. “I’m not gonna lie. We initially came here just to collect a few horses to populate our planet. But since then we…”
She never completed her disclaimer about how they had become fond of this strange world. Even all of its anger and pain seemed to make the joy shine that much more brightly, and Luna struggled to find words for how much this surprising depth had come to mean to them both. But it was too late. The man who had become their friend turned on his heel and stormed out of the house.
To Be Continued…
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