They went out to Westwood Manor after the funeral. Luna releasing his ashes to the Lake, watching him float away before walking the wooded curve of the lake, arms casually linked in Chloe’s. Luna’s voice began to drift in the silence between them, hesitantly, in her soft autumn turning fall timbered voice, “It always begins with the dead. Every truthful story does. Twists and weaves into the knots binding us to ourselves and each other.”
“Do you think he would’ve liked being let go here?”
“No. He would’ve wanted to go to Tempenka for burial rites. They wouldn’t have. But I’m here and so shall he be,” Luna breathed in the denseness of the forest before she continued.
“The community I was born into was lead by Sashenka, the divine name of the divine leader, descendant of the divine spiritual line. Our Temple opened to the sky. Tempenka is used in self reference to not insult the name of the divinity, mixing the words Temple and Sashenka. I was born into Tempenka by parents who joined when they were both sixteen. They relinquished to Sashenka directly acknowledgement of any other life. I found this out when the FSA took us into custody,” Luna scrunched her nose.
“It had about a hundred and eighty five members by the time I left. About two thirds were generational members, the rest newer members who added their life to the binding. Tempenka itself is about a hundred and fifty to two hundred years old. They didn’t recruit and are super suspicious and paranoid about outsiders. New members had to know of Tempenka and actively attempt to join. Tempenka did not participate in a wider social community or integrated at all with the closest village,” Luna waited for the breeze to settle.
“The one ascending to the role of Sashenka is by divine prophecy and was considered divine by decent of bloodline, although, it is the divine coursing through your veins that purified you, not by descent of any human. Sashenka held together all five elements, the four existing on this plane — Earth, Water, Air and Fire — as well as the most important — Spirit. Spirit is fundamental to who we are, dictates everything and all four physical elements submit to Spirit. Sashenka wielded Spirit as if a weapon,” stepping through an uneven patch of ground, Luna paused to swallow before continuing.
“Tempenka developed its own language, Tranqi, a hybrid mixture of about three languages descending from the founders and meshed over time, melded and folded like paper with new members integrating. We were educated in Tranqi. Kai and I,” her voice corkscrewing as she said his name, “were born the same day, two women expelled us from their bodies in unison, fulfilling a sacred prophecy as births on the same day were considered fortuitous, the soil double-blessed with supplicant gifts. Births are regulated. Your sexual partners are definitively controlled. The community believes this is divine will, for it is written in our foundation documentation and our birth patterns recorded and tracked from inception.”
“Now, of course, I understand, this is done to prevent in-breeding. Sashenka decreed we were the single soul, dual bodied divine destiny to be bound at divine times. Bounding meant exclusive breeding. The destiny of this divine purpose is ordained by Sashenka, prophet leader,” the sounds of the forest fill the gaps hovering inbetween Luna’s voice.
“We’re named by Sashenka prophecy, and were destined to be the future leaders of the community. We would’ve become Sashenka. I told you my name, Luna de la Sky, means Moon of the Celestial Sphere and Kai-Tashka Semira means Tree with Deep Earthen Roots. Our names are a balance of each other, an ecliptic harmony. If we ascended our prophecy, the names of our breeding would’ve been Stellar Sphere Tellurian and Azure Elysian Vale. Both variants with the same meaning — sky and earth produce the celestial stars,” Luna paused, her eyes unfocused, drifting, trusting Chloe would not let her fall.
She quietly added, “we would’ve shed our names once on ascension to Sashenka. Part of the foundation prophecy is twins. The only other twin Sashenka were the first that ascended. They reformed Tempenka while in infancy. We were important, the fulfilment of so very much. Kai and I, born within a minute of each other. We were so destined, full of prophetic vision.”
“Your children were named?” asked Chloe, gently reassuring Luna she is listening.
“The divine spoke through Sashenka. All children belonged to Tempenka, or rather everyone in the community belongs to each other and the social ideology of group dynamics. Everyone equally responsible for everyone and for yourself. Community is everything, paramount in the lives we led, in the dimensions and within the sacred music we played, our bodies as we danced. Tempenka considered themselves curators of consciousness, even though they’re radical, anti-state, anarchist. Cities and the outside world were like unicorns. We were safe in our own enchanted universe. Cars and trucks were unfathomable. I didn’t understand anything existed outside of our reality until I left,” stopping, Chloe reached to fold Luna’s hands within her own.
“Coming here, it was devastating to see how insulated we were, and it made me angry we were, but as angry that in quite a few issues, they were right. Death is a natural consequence of life, not taken by any other than the divine. Murder is anathema. Still, I’m never used to the violence out here, this hideous brutality. We can’t escape our training. This is why most members were there. We may look like we fit, but we’ve never escaped our cultural conditioning, so trained into us is the priority of service to community,” Luna’s face so fallen Chloe heart thudded to the pit of her stomach.
The silence broke as Luna’s voice became a lullaby, “Everyone had a specific job. The teachers and child attendants, people who worked with animals, those who grew the crops, cooked. Children under a hundred and twenty moon are considered infants, after that you are trained in the ways all the jobs for the next seventy-two moons. Except for Kai and myself. We were only trained to be Sashenka. We were divine. We were rotated through all the jobs, but for understanding than functionality.”
Luna swallowed, “The council of six hold their position for four seasons and were rotated via age. The Council made day to day decisions regarding the community. You had to serve. If you wanted to change jobs, you could apply to Sashenka. Every three months there is a convocation of every adult member of the community, where community changes were allowed. Its both uniformity and unique.”
Luna saw the lake as they walked back down towards it, “Parentage is forbidden knowledge for anyone not Sashenka. We’re taught from birth how to lead, how the divine spoke. We would’ve eventually learnt the breeding lines Sashenka managed. The birth givers will know which child is biologically theirs, the adults of the community know, but they will not say, will not speak of any child with possession. When I left I eventually received a copy of my birth certificate. Every external soul who joined the community is given a cleansed, divine name, free of the filth of the world they discarded. They rarely changed it legally, though. I’ve a birth certificate because Tempenka was…is…very conscious of being legal as possible. I was told I was new blood, so I made some deductions. I guess its confirmed now. Meredith Ransley. But death seems to be the way of things, I guess.”
She pulled her arms out of Chloe’s and sat down, looking out over the water when really, she was lost in memory of farm, the curve of the earth and running barefoot everywhere. Her hands started to drift along with what her memory is showing her.
She felt Chloe sit down beside her, yet did not truly see her, as she spoke with inflected cadence, “We had our foundation documents, building organic rules upon these, an evolution of our community in language. Such focus on natural, agrarian policies naturally took us further away from this, mainstream culture, evolved further away from each other. Our insulation, severely sheltered us beyond normal. The distance between our settlement and anything from the outside is these thick forests. Come to life as you are and leave as you should be.”
“The community buildings are clustered inside a wooded area, off to the right, at the middle of the property. There is cleared farming fields with corn, wheat, an orchard and paddocks with cows, goats, chickens, alpaca’s and a thicket of trees running outside of this. A creek ran through our property, along a north-west to south-east delineation. It split some fields naturally and provided us with water. Where it ran across our property, the trees and plant life were left four meters along both the outer edges to protect the purity of the water. We had old aqua ducts to take this water around the farm. This is one of those things we need to know how to maintain,” Luna struggled.
“We didn’t use electricity, obviously, and much of our lives were dictated by the sun, but I remember making candles, their soft glow belaying the fact we made them out of the dead animals, tallow raised and boiled, cooled in moulds and glass jars made by the glass maker. Their was a pottery master, making all that we ate off. All of these jobs apprenticed at various stages, traditionally completely self-sufficient. The older you became, the more responsibility you were given in the community,” her voice crackled along with the memories, cluttering all of her words together, stacking them on top of each other. Chloe listened to Luna intently describing all of the labyrinthine small things involved in her life.
“Kai and I were inseparable, secluded and separated by our own difference, our joint divinity, as much as by our choice. When we turned one hundred and sixty eight moons, Sashenka announced our ‘Flowering’ another divine prophecy, an inspired co-joining of ancient and new blood lines. Kai’s genetic heritage is one of the founding families, bloodline legacy. We learnt more about the prophecy of our blood-lines than most in the community as we were in training to become Sashenka, and permission is needed to participate in ritualised bonding. We needed to understand the connections,” Luna snorted.
“Usually bonding for child flowering is for the ‘middling’ or people who are past two hundred and forty moon age. We were young and concern was raised regarding the flowering of us too early. There was a consideration this may inappropriate and would highlight our community to the outside unnecessarily. However, Sashenka called a convocation,” Luna, tapped into an emotional reservoir she is deeply remembering, fell into using Tempenka association.
“The council is one adult member for every one hundred and twenty moons over the age of two hundred and forty moons. Convocation is every adult member of the community. A week after the convocation, a ceremony was called, then a celebration. The convocation passed our bonding placement. We were placed in the ceremonial room, inside the sacred circle, next to the creek, hemmed in by trees. The cloth canvas green, to match the surrounding forest, and the floor earth covered in moss, for us to blend natures focus towards each other. Council guardians were assigned to watch us consummate the divination.”
Luna, tears twinkling in the light drew a rough mud map in the dirt before leaning back to Chloe. She gleaned a sharp spiked breath before continuing, her voice wavering.
“This tent is outside the edge of the village on the opposite side of the creek. The village is at the centre right of the property, within a forested enclave, after this there is the farmland the community tilled, and a thick, wide forested border for keeping the other world out and divine in. This creek running through our property was never stripped of its protection and was left with craggy, fluffy trees edging the snaking watery pathway out beyond the boundary. Kai and I did what we needed, what was expected for the bounding under watchful eyes before they left us, momentarily, to inform Sashenka and for us to meditate together and bond the sky and the earth together,” Luna shuddered with the memory and shuffled closer into Chloe, absorbing her love by osmosis.
“They breed you?”
“Bonded us, yes they’re very committed to fulfilling our prophecy, for us to complete the training to ascend, for our union to produce children.”
“Chloe, I understand what your asking, I really do, but no. Its not as bad as what your think. We were raised under vastly different circumstances. This, what they asked, was part of our training and culture…”
“Stop it. We were young, even for us, yet still we can’t be judged according to your expectations,” Luna quietened, her voice hollow with pain, swallowing the shadow within telling her she could never matter, “We celebrated each month and the change of seasons: Harbinger of death, rebirth, life. Times of loss, darkness, change and light. Our clothes changed, our pillows and blankets filled with the feathers of chickens, ducks and geese. Each moon was a rebirth for all of us, to shake off the old and welcome new, each month new lessons of renewal, change and responsibility.”
“There was silence when they retreated, temporarily to return to the continued celebrations with the rest of the community. It would’ve been like this the rest of the night, us bonding with an observing guardian, our silent meditation and the continued celebration of the community. Our bonding and the accompanying celebration was divinated into a six cycle contact. Kai and I would have to meditate in between these six cycles to channel the divine. We were still in training, still learning all the intricacies of the breeding program, we felt out of control, unable to understand why this needed to happen so soon,” Luna shrugged, turned away, turned back.
“Our bond of oneness had been violated, used against us, single soul in twin bodies, brother and sister reflections an illusion thrown back at us, innocent and in spite of our training we were thrown into a responsibility we hadn’t been taught yet. So I ran. We were only one hundred and sixty moons, still seventy-two moons away from our entry into the convocation in the community, our consideration as full community members,” Luna quietened for a moment, her recollection overwhelming.
Chloe wrapped her arms around her, drawing Luna in-between her legs, holding her, offering her the only thing she could give: comfort. Luna relaxed completely into Chloe, burying her face within. Her voice shattered as she started speaking again.
“We used the creek as cover. I can still feel the trees rustling quietly. We ran forever, the darkness thick surrounded us. I tripped over something and ripped my robe. It stung, so much. It wasn’t until Kai helped me up I realised he followed. The darkness held until we hit the fence line and tumbled onto the road where it hit the hard line edge of the creek. We kept going, walking shoeless and wrapped only in ceremonial embroidered robes over our nakedness. A trucker eventually picked us up, however kicked us out rather quickly due to our inability to speak or understand the language he was speaking. He looked at us as if we were alien and I guess we were looking at him the same. We were stranded, exhausted, terrified and alone,” Luna sniffed.
“We jumped into trailer’s, vans, trains, did whatever we needed to kept moving in case they followed us, for days and days until we eventually wound away across the scars of the earth to end up here. We became scavengers, living on the hard underbelly of this brutal place, on the streets for eight months, learning how to exist in this world. We did many things I’m not proud of. We were not proud of,” Luna paused, swallowing.
“Kahtya was able to hide us, mostly, and Violet Pier’s industrial estates, empty in the night. When they became too violent, we stayed in Ianthe, or worked nights. Ways and means. Jamere and Ash’s always good. As long as you were clean, looked like you had purpose and stuff, looked like you could belong, the police never noticed and you could escape their raids in Kahtya. We picked up this language, badly, hiding in all of these places, sublimating our accents to be just strange, rather than noticeable. We were taught to pay attention to cycles, to animal behaviour, and attempted to apply this knowledge to at least attempt to blend,” Luna’s voice is thick and muffled.
“We’d never done the basic things of this world like caught a bus, rode in a car, been to school, watched television, listened to radio, used a computer. We’d never seen any of these things. We’d never eaten anything deep fried, or drank anything that wasn’t from the creek. Yet we learnt, quickly, how to exist, how to shelter, learnt our voices for the first time. Eight months and we made a mistake. Food usually could be gained for free from a charity, or one of those mobile food vans. Clothes, however, were not so easy. We stole some and we were caught,” anger diffused through Luna’s voice.
“Family Services collected us from a police station. I’d so much rage and courage, emotionally disconnected and violently oppressed, yet ready to fight. I was scrappy. In either world we’re raised to be servants and slaves. Tempenka is not revolutionary in its intention to ignore industrial life for superficial and cosmetic reasons. Out here, it is the same, industrial life ignoring agrarian life,” Luna’s voice deepened, bitterness changing her cadence, the fear weeping back in.
“We still communicated mostly in Tranqi, separated by our differences. We refused to speak and were placed separately into foster care when the store did not press charges. It was devastating for us, never having been apart. We never considered separating. We ran from our first three placements and from the group home,” Luna waited a moment for squawking birds to quieten.
“I met Galla in that group home. We were in the same dorm, she in the bunk above my own. They’d gendered dorms, so Kai and I were more often apart and had restricted contact with each other. Meal times and the music room became our usual monitored interaction, we were watched so intensely. I think they’d have separated us permanently if they could have, but we would not function without each other. Galla didn’t speak much, mostly played this battered violin she had and belted anyone who touched it. She slept with it, breathed it.”
Luna, lost within the burden of her history compressing her heart, she remembered Galla’s face, her fingers caressing the violin that sung to her soul, “I think this is why Kai gave up music. Galla and I could make music together, he felt excluded. He was always super jealous of anyone closer to me then him. Not that Galla is, but he just thought she was.”
“The foster system can be toxic, and we survive when we hang on to the few things of beauty we have. Galla…we connected, music a language between us before anything else. She was placed into care before we escaped and returned before we were caught again, bruised from a beating with her arm slung in a cast. Our names written on water, lost when the breeze rippled across the surface,” Luna fluttered her fingers.
“Galla stayed with the state after her incident, battled and gained her emancipation at sixteen. I was placed with Gretchen, but we stayed in contact, burdened as we were by forces we could not control. Galla, Archer and I became close at around this time, most of those reasons you already know, or they’ve told you. Kai kept only me, really. In between all of this, we were surrounded with each other.”
Luna paused, waiting for the irredeemable dark memories upon her face to clear again before she continued, settling the wavering in her voice.
“We celebrated our one hundred and eighty moon birth month in a social service office, our case worker at a loss with what to do with silent children. This is where FSA and the Stokers became involved, most of which I told you at Amberlai. They threatened and separated us for seven days, yet this made us determined to hold our silence. We are both trained in the ways of power and understood our ability to leverage information we had against what they wanted. We’d been surviving for far too long to not smell their desperation. We were trained for service,” Luna waited for a second.
“We ate at Jamere’s and volunteered in feeding others. We served because we were trained to. Jamere is such a phenomenon, really. She took me into her heart when I had no right to be there. Kai and I tried to blend in, but we couldn’t help but stand out. All for the community. Trained too well, I guess. Even when we were able to communicate, we still didn’t blend. Our souls were so inexorably intertwined in the shreds of our lives. Their threats against our future meant nothing in comparison to our past. The only thing we really did not get was a joint placement, yet we understood this was not a permanent separation,” Luna sighed, swallowed as Chloe’s body murmured against her.
“How did you survive?”
“Abraxas and Jamere. They insisted we not supporting characters in anyone’s catastrophes, instead we’re all leads in our own lives. Being out here is all about conforming to this ludicrous brand of society, abnormally enforced efficiently by all participants. We needed to conform to laws not our own, a reality not of our own making. Any world is filtered by perception and our reality changed so rapidly. Those two taught us how to control our will.”
“They’re absolutely vital too you,” Chloe said, “terrifying though.”
“They are absolutely terrifying, like this uptown mafia and I couldn’t live without any of them. After Mitsuko, change was rapid. Our case manager changed. I was placed, as you know, with Gretchen, Kai with a married couple with a pair of daughters. In the end, I think it was a perfect choice, as we got to see something we wouldn’t have if we remained together; the world around us. It allowed us to forgive ourselves for the past. Probably the future. Due to my educational issues, Gretchen had me privately tutored and in the three years I spent with her, I managed to complete college level classes, as well as having a specialist linguistics minor,” Luna smiled.
“I was desperate to learn as much as I could, but also desired for mediocrity, for FSA to have no basis for destroying us further. I became very insulated, scared if I messed up, our consequences could be more than Kai could pay. I know how fortunate we were. Extremely fortunate. I’ve been working for Pacer since shortly after I moved in with Gretchen, and when we were lucky enough to be considered adults, Kai and I moved into our own apartment, actively controlling our own destiny instead of being part of cookie cutter set of rules,” Luna hooked her nose when she curled her lips.
“Actually, our education with Tempenka was very good. It was predominant in natural sciences, maths, music, performance, and theatre arts, although all in Tranqi. What we lacked in social, political and cultural development was made up for,” she swallowed a couple of times, “I wanted to be unseen. For all of that time is Tempenka, I was always noticed. Trained and feted, but always focal points. I liked being able to be unknown, until I lost that, too.”
“Not unknown by everyone?” Chloe ran her fingers lightly over her arm.
“No, I guess not that,” a soft exhale, “the irony is I ran from one responsibility to all types of others.”
“Some burdens can be shared?” Chloe’s reassurance drowning Luna.
“Yes,” Luna stopped and turned in Chloe’s arms.
Chloe leaned leaned in and kissed Luna deftly, attempting to convey that she is the tangible reminder of every single sacrifice made completely worthwhile. It is inescapable she belongs in her heart, in her life, in her bed, fitting perfectly, already nestled deep into her life. Luna drew back and smiled, asking, “You’re not scared?”
Chloe shook her head, “Of course not. You’re full of this tragedy and all it has done is make you magical. You’re staggeringly impressive.”
Chloe, always intensely meticulous and inevitably cautious, leaned into the woman who rebuilt her heart to taste her lips again. She understood why Luna sheltered the love that grew between them, how she was a gift that could mute both their pasts.
Chloe whispered against their lips, “You’re my light, how I negotiate the dark. You’re not simply Moon of the Celestial Sphere, not simply a name. Its who you are to me.”
“I loved you when I couldn’t hide myself,” whispered Luna.
“I love you,” as Chloe spoke, Luna let go, released her history as Chloe affirmed, “I love you.”
They kissed again, softly, lingering as it deepened, warmed, filled them. Luna leaned back, her breathing jittery. Chloe stood, pulling Luna up and lead them along the pathway, resting within the silence. As they came to the mansion, she tugged Luna in, seizing her lips with her own, “Thank You. Really. Thank You.”
Luna woke to the silence of their room, chilled with Chloe breathing deeply beside her, and as Luna rolled in towards her, snuggling in, seeing her resting, beautiful face. Chloe evoked inexplicable cravings in Luna as she moved her head close enough to feel her heartbeat in the darkness. Luna ran her fingers from the hip upwards over Chloe’s ribs, drew her body in tighter.
Chloe mumbled pulling Luna in against herself. Luna snuggled into her neck before lifting her head up to see a sleepy Chloe blinking at her. Luna leaned kissing, so tenderly it reminded her of everything within the abyss. Luna subtly shifted to curled their love together. Kissing within this entanglement always she could do for hours. She loved and was loved.