The Adventures of Luna and Danzi: Episode Two
- 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
Savor the Light of Day
Illustrations by Morgan Wagner
The two held their tongues and counted five long breaths before Luna asked flatly, “Did you say ‘Narius’? What…are you talking about?”
“Oh, there’s this crackpot cult based in New Orleans that follows some sort of prophecy. They believe in this utopian planet on some distant planet called Narius,” Weeb supplied, his cheerfulness undiminished.
“Well, ‘utopian’ isn’t the word I’d use to descr—ow!” Danzi decided not to finish her sentence, rubbing her bicep from a pinch mark instead.
“Tell me more about this crackpot cult,” Luna pressed on.
“Oh, these nutjobs believe that the all-powerful ruler is going to annihilate us someday,” Weeb chattered blithely. “They believe that the whole earth is beginning to become toxic to outer space, and that extraterrestrial civilizations are beginning to regard us as some sort of pestilence. I mean, let’s face it…humanity kind of sucks, doesn’t it?” He was oblivious to the women’s stone-cold silence as he rattled on. “So this leader wants to do a little universe-cleansing, but not if PORN—that’s “People for the Ousting and Removal of Narius”—can fight back. They believe that a common enemy will unify all of mankind and bring about world peace.”
Neither woman dared look at the other and took turns glancing at the night sky, the stars barely visible with all of the light pollution. One of the horses broke the tension with an explosive snort. A different scent filled the van, not exactly pleasant but not toxic either.
“Weeb, do you know anything about how to care for horses?” Luna piped up. This was the best time for a subject change. With luck, the women might be able to have a private conversation if they stopped the car for a quick tutorial about equestrian care from their earthling companion.
He chuckled. “Well, now, I do know a thing or two about farm animals. Why don’t we pull over at the next rest area? I just saw a sign that there’s one up ahead. We’ll need to do a little cleaning of your vehicle while we’re at it.”
Sure enough, a reflective blue sign that read “rest area” loomed in their headlights. Was this a dormitory of some sort?
Luna took notice of how the other vehicles were parked and guided the Sentient Universal Vessel smoothly into a designated space.
Weeb emerged from the back, laughing and lead the tiny beasts out in a clatter of tiny hooves using the straps that wound around their heads. One of the miniature horses was a buckskin pinto with a white face and blue eyes. The other, a dun with faint zebra stripes on its hocks, seemed slightly more aggressive and quite interested in its companion.
“You’ll need to have this bad boy gelded if you’re not planning on populating your destination with little hooved hellbeasts,” said Weeb as he pointed to the underside of the dun. “They’re small, but they have an attitude. A Na-pony-onic complex if you will.” He paused for a reaction but when none came, he resumed his task. “Now, if you ladies hold onto their halters here…” The man guided their hands to the face straps with an unexpected gentleness. “I’ll see if I can find a newspaper or something to clean this poop out of your car. Have you decided on names for them yet?” Without waiting for an answer, he strode briskly toward the lit building, leaving the travelers to have a moment of private discussion.
When his footsteps were out of earshot, then began speaking at the same time.
“How are we going to succeed if people already know that Narius exists?”
“Hoobie and Froobie!” Danzi exclaimed.
Luna set her jaw. “Priorities, Danzi!” she snapped. “Focus! What are we going to do now?”
The blonde woman cautiously scratched her horse between its ears. “Well, I think we should go to this New Orleans place and find this PORN. Perhaps we can start a rumor that Narius doesn’t really have such an overlord.”
“But how much of the truth are we prepared to…”
The approaching clomp of shoes silenced them. Weeb reappeared with a stack of dead tree pulp. “I don’t know why people still feel the need to create hard copies of anything anymore, but this sure comes in handy for occasions like this. Not that having a horse take a dump in your car is an everyday occurrence.” He rolled up his sleeves and began scraping the dung onto one section of newspaper with another.
“Are they usually unable to control their bodily functions when they ride in the back seat?” Luna queried, fascinated.
The terrestrial man laughed as if she’d told a joke. “That’s a good one!” he guffawed. “We might have to invest in a little trailer or something depending on how far you ladies intend to travel. Now if you two want to stretch your legs for a bit, I’ll give them some hay to eat.”
The Narian women headed to the restrooms to have a quick word.
“I can’t believe the toilets flush straight down!” Luna hissed, thunderstruck, emerging from the cement block building. “The contents must go directly into the water supply. Has this planet never heard of compost towers? I didn’t realize how beautiful our structures were until we landed in a place devoid of them. Imagine all the refertilized soil that’s never going to be redistributed to coastlines and farms.”
“Maybe there are no coasts here,” suggested Danzi, a little helplessly. “What if there are no waterways at all, and the aquifers have to be created by…”
“Hsssst!” Luna warned. “We’re getting close to the vehicle. Act – earthy or something.”
“So, have we decided where we’re headed?” asked Weeb, enticing Hoobie and Froobie into the back seat with a handful of hay before settling in between them.
“New Orleans,” Luna said as she closed her door. “I’ve heard so many interesting things about it.”
“Hmmm, I know just the place for all of us to stay. My friend Ed Schilleci has a house across from the levee, and it would be a fine place for these critters to graze and exercise. I’ll shoot him a message right now.”
The women exchanged glances. Technology was so different here, and they were going to have to figure out a way to learn it fast before someone caught on as to how foreign they really were.
“I wonder what this button does?” Danzi wondered aloud, trying to sound casual as she hit a button on the dashboard.
All five passengers—three human and two equine—nearly jumped out of their skins at the sudden blast of music. Some husky-voiced man sang about being together tonight.
“How is it possible that fellow musicians can transmit their sounds from so far away?” bawled Danzi at the top of her lungs.
“What?” her companion shouted back. The three humans ejected themselves from the car.
Luna reached back in, hit the button again and all went quiet. “According to time, space, and logic, there are no people inside the mechanical engine. Therefore, they must have a way to teleport sound the way people can with their bodies.”
“Okay, you ladies are really starting to freak me out,” their male companion spluttered. “How can you have never used a radio before? And teleporting bodies? That’s impossible!”
“You mean that isn’t done in Texas?” Luna clapped a hand over her mouth.
“I mean, it isn’t done on earth!” Weeb yelped.
Luna put her hand on her hip in what she hoped was an assertive posture. “Isn’t it possible that in some areas people follow different customs?”
The earthling appeared on the verge of panic. “Look, I’m not saying that you’re wrong,” he replied, “I mean, there are communities of citizens who reject technology, like the Amish. But why would anyone readily assume that teleporting bodies is no big deal?”
“Because Narius is real. Okay?” Danzi blurted out. “That’s where our music came from. That’s why the audience was so enthralled, and why we don’t know anything about horses!”
Luna’s words died in her throat as Weeb collapsed to the ground with a meaty thud. One of the tiny horses whinnied plaintively.
“Is he…um, expired?” Luna breathed.
“I don’t think so,” said Danzi. “If his energy force had fled, his body would have dissipated into stardust.”
The man stirred, groaning. “Nar…nar…”
Each woman grabbed a hand and helped Weeb to his feet.
“Um. I guess we have some explaining to do, and we could really use your advice,” Luna sighed.
“And maybe a nap,” said Danzi, yawning. “Are there any rejuvenation body capsules nearby in which we might slumber?”
For a man who looked like he’d just witnessed a leprechaun riding a dinosaur, Weeb was remarkably calm. “No, but there’s a Red Roof Inn down the road, I think they allow pets.” he said shakily, scratching his beard. “I guess if we’re going to enlighten each other, we might as well start with the basics.”
The night sky was beginning to hint at a pre-dawn glow by the time Luna and Danzi were on the edge of sleep, still trying to fathom the primitiveness of their hotel beds.
“It’s kind of quaint, isn’t it?” said Danzi. “No amorphous gelatin to slide over your body to assess your preferred temperature. Pulling up these covers by hand reminds me of that terrestrial book about paper-folding, orgasmi…
“Origami,” corrected Luna.
“Whatever. This is a lot to digest at once, isn’t it? Exchanging money for goods and services, televised footage of fictional events…”
Hoobie let out a whicker from the foot of the bed, her blue eyes gleaming in the single nightstand’s light.
“And emotional support animals. Do you think earthlings can see our auras when we’re lying, Luna?”
Her sable-haired companion did not reply, already dreaming of the floating crystal transport discs of home.
A trip to a strange place of commerce called a shopping mall was Weeb’s first lesson in teaching them how to assimilate. Even for extraterrestrial beings unaware of social codes, they had a hunch that the man was displaying incredible patience.
They weren’t accustomed to multiple-story buildings, which were only used for sacred places on Narius. Stairs were easy enough to figure out, but escalators nearly threw them into a panic.
“Then how do you ladies ascend the multi-tiered houses of worship?” Weeb had done a fairly good job of giving them as much information as he could without demanding reciprocation, but even this time he couldn’t contain his curiosity.
“We ascend the currents of vital force that surround these areas,” Luna replied as if he were dense. “Doesn’t everyone?”
They observed Weeb as he demonstrated the exchange of cash at a men’s clothing store where he tried on several items in their presence before buying a stylish jacket for himself. Then he tried to explain how a debit card somehow contained money, even if they couldn’t see it. He led them to the food court, gave them each a twenty-dollar bill and sent them off to practice commerce for themselves.
They returned forty-five minutes later with Luna dragging a Tiffany-style floor lamp and Danzi hugging a giant stuffed Winnie-the-Pooh half her size. Each woman also carried a cup of frozen yogurt. They looked rather pleased with themselves.
“The money thing works, but I don’t understand why it’s necessary when the cashiers just seem inclined to give us stuff,” said Danzi through a mouthful of sprinkles. “We paid for these chilling-but-not-altogether-unpleasant treats, but as we wandered around, all we had to do was focus our intention on things that caught our eyes and the people working in the markets wandered over to us and said things like ‘it’s on the house.’ We were not even expected to perform services in return.”
“I think next we must figure out how to interact with earthlings in a casual manner,” suggested Luna. “What if we go to one of these ‘bars’ you told us about, Weeb?”
“Nooo! Uh, I mean, I don’t think that’s a good idea at this point,” the man clarified. “Besides, I’ve found an event that we can all enjoy where you can observe some live terrestrial music and observe how we interact.” His blue eyes twinkled. “Remember that music you heard when you turned on the radio? That was a famous musician named Sting. I got tickets for us to see him perform in Houston tomorrow on the way to New Orleans.
“But first…” he said with a sigh, “let’s go return the things you didn’t pay for. The world here isn’t supposed to work like that. You ladies will have to tone down your ‘intentions’ if you want to blend in.”
The Cynthia Woods Pavilion was abuzz with more people than either woman had seen in one place. The sun was brighter than Yurik, the more-distant star that Narius revolved around. As the first dim stars began to appear, the women savored the final light of day. Luna thought how much she was starting to like this crazy blue lump of clay so far from her beloved Narius and wondered if Danzi felt the same.
A soft bump at Luna’s calf brought her back to the present. Froobie, wearing his bright orange blanket that read SERVICE ANIMAL—DO NOT PET—was eager for them to take their places on the lawn where he could graze. His tiny counterpart let out a high pitched whinny, drawing smiles from festive-looking people everywhere.
“So many people of all shapes, sizes, and ages! And what is a Cynthia Woods?” breathed Luna. “Na’ lil-ah!” she said to a rather handsome fellow. The man ignored her, and Luna frowned.
“Don’t the men respond to women’s advances here?” she asked Weeb.
“Well, of course they do. But he probably didn’t understand your words just now. It’s more common for men to make passes at women anyway.”
Luna’s blue-gray eyes went wide. “What? That’s barbaric!”
Weeb chuckled. “Yeah, I’d have to agree with you there, for the most part.”
Luna tossed her long dark hair. “Where we come from, the women initiate courtship, and most men do not refuse. They are trained at birth to be beasts of burden, but Danzi and I believe that they are people too.”
“Of course, some of them come into power and don’t know how to…ow!” Danzi pulled her foot out from under Luna’s. They were both wearing stylish leather boots now, but Luna could still manage effective communication.
“Right,” she said, as if she hadn’t just stomped on her companion’s toe. “It’s still forty-five minutes until the show. Na’ lil-ah.” She wove her way back into the crowd.
“Was she flirting with me just now?” Weeb asked with more than a hint of longing in his voice.
Danzi’s smile was amused but not unkind. “No,” she said, shaking her head. “Without the vocal inflection, it means, ‘I have to go to the bathroom.’ Gee, I hope she can figure out how to find one in this place.”
Weeb looked too confused to be crestfallen.
The musicianship was top-notch, the crowd was enthralled, and from their distant spot on the lawn, they could still see everything projected on a giant screen next to the stage. The blonde man called Sting was engaging, conveying veneers ranging from empathetic to sinister. Both women took mental notes of the terrestrial guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, and horns, as well as the vocal harmonic tradition. Luna tried not to bother Weeb with too many questions, as he seemed to be enjoying himself so much, but one issue was nagging in the back of her mind.
“Okay, this Sting guy. Is he a priest?”
Weeb nearly choked on his beer. “Hardly,” he guffawed. “He’s also an actor, and if anything, he likes to take on roles of devils and villains and whatnot.”
“Devils and villains?” Luna was perplexed. “Never mind. I’ll figure that one out later.” She silently wondered what a whatnot was. Must be horrible.
Danzi, meanwhile, had noticed a young man a few feet away who kept shyly glancing over at her. His lank brown hair looked like it was deliberately trying to hide thick glasses that made his eyes appear disproportionately large. When he moved, Danzi detected a slight limp. He was the most beautiful creature she had ever seen.
By the third song, they were dancing together.
“His name is Raphael!” she whispered excitedly to Luna between dances. “He’s named after an earth angel. Did you know that earthlings believe in celestial beings?”
As Sting finished his final encore and bid the audience good night the music swelled to a magnificent crescendo. The crowd reluctantly dissipated and Raphael vanished into the night, leaving Danzi looking dazed and blissful.
“He put his lips on mine,” she hissed in Luna’s ear as Weeb grabbed the horses’ lead lines. “If we had the technology of home we would definitely need to…well, you know what our sacred duty is,” she trailed off as the man returned to earshot. “Here’s the odd thing. I want to do more than just to revisit the memory over and over like a scroll or a hologram. I…want to experience it again. In real time. Is that normal?”
Luna shrugged, but she couldn’t conceal a faint smile. They all strolled back to the parking lot in the cool night with stars in their eyes.
“Glad you ladies had such a monumental time.” Weeb’s blue eyes met their own in the rearview mirror. Not even the clog of traffic of a concertgoers all trying to leave at once could dampen their spirits.
“I heard back from my friend Ed in New Orleans,” he continued as Luna drove back to the motel. “He’s more than keen to host two talented ladies with a pair of delightful little pets. If we leave first thing in the morning we can be there by lunch.
“As a matter of fact,” he continued, “Ed already put in a good word about you two at the Neutral Ground Coffeehouse. It’s for tips only, but it’s a good place to try out new material. Are you up for playing again next week? He said he can do a little extra promotion about you on WWOZ – that’s a radio station in New Orleans – since you’re from out of town.”
They both remained silent for a fraction of a second too long. An impromptu show at the nudist colony was one thing, for there had been no advance publicity and it had allowed them to achieve their main goal of acquiring Hoobie and Froobie. But their names out there on the airwaves – what if Lord Snord had some sort of way to track them, especially if he picked up the radio signal?
Danzi recovered first. After all, if they were mentioned on the radio, perhaps her beloved Raphael might hear it and find her again. “Sure, that would be great!” she squeaked.
Luna shot her a worried look, and Danzi countered by rolling her eyes toward the back seat. The driver nodded in understanding. If they suddenly refused to play, Weeb might catch on that they were on the run, which they weren’t ready to reveal. And they certainly couldn’t tell anyone about their true mission.
Danzi hummed softly, and Luna picked up on her mood. It sounded sweet enough to the untrained ear, but any Narian would know that she was troubled. The horses would be a wonderful addition to their world, but Luna was already beginning to reconsider their plans to carry out Lord Snord’s bidding. She had no doubt that her companion felt the same way.
To Be Continued…
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