in orbit


Chapter One: Moonwalking


In the distance, Earth shimmered with the reflected light of the sun and the faint glimmer of modern metropolises. 

Rigel and Eliana sat at the window of the Observatory, taking turns to use the telescope to observe the blue planet, lit up with the glow of distant city lights. It seemed to pulse with the sheer energy of being alive at a time like this: ripe with chances to map the uncharted.

The Moon Child, Rigel, sighed, running his hands through his hair. Looking at Earth always made him feel so big and clumsy, like how he was around children. The humans did not know of their presence: the Spirits that took care of the moon, the sun, each and every star since the start of time that had lived in a blaze of heat or died in a multi-coloured supernova. Yet, the Spirits were there, watching the cobalt planet of mystery and opportunity; surveying the fragile beings that would either fade away into a forgotten memory post-mortem, or serve as a Spirit for a hundred years, in exchange for ascension to the paradise of their dreams.

The humans, ever-optimistic and naive, were oblivious to most secrets of the universe, anyway. Perhaps it was a wise decision on the Higher Beings’ part. But still…

“I wonder what they do down there all day,” he murmured, deep in thought.

Eliana, the Sun Child, looked up from the telescope, her amber eyes questioning.


“I mean, it must be so boring. Wake up, go to school, eat, repeat. How… ugh.”

Eliana pondered a while, sitting back down as she thought. “Well… you were human once, Rigel. I was, too. Don’t you remember what life was like?”

“Not really. Don’t remember anything, honestly.”

“Ri… did you have no friends? Wait,  you were seventeen. You couldn’t have had… no friends. At all.”

“If I did, I don’t remember them. But to be fair, I don’t have friends now.”

“Okay, now I’m slightly offended, because I’m literally right here, and we’re friends. Best friends—”

“Um, I don’t—”

“Shut up, best friend. Second, don’t the humans talk to you? Must be fun hearing some angsty teenage girl in your head from, like, Germany, talking to you about her boy problems, or whatever teenagers talk about nowadays. On the sun, I just hear farmers from Vietnam complaining about how hot it is.”

“Actually… no one’s talked to me yet. I’ve heard nothing so far.”

Eliana jumped up, a half shocked, half confused look on her face.

“You haven’t?”

“No? Not yet, anyway.”

“Hm.” Eliana furrowed her eyebrows. “Weird. Chris used to hear them all the time.” 

Feeling his heart sink, Rigel sat down again, looking down to collect his emotions. Another reason to compare himself to Chris, of course. It did nothing for his already pitifully low self-esteem to hear how Eliana praised the previous Moon Child with that starstruck look in her eyes, since Rigel knew that he would hardly be enough to fill such big shoes. But now to hear that Chris had heard the humans all the time…

A mask of calm struggled to obscure the waver in Rigel’s voice as it punctuated the silence. “I—I kind of wish the humans knew about us, despite the Anomaly. Maybe then, they’d talk to us.” 

“Hey, don’t—”

Rigel looked up, a pleading, helpless expression on his face. Blue eyes glassy, he tapped his fingers anxiously on his lap.

“Do you think they even think of looking up? At us?” Rigel asked. “Do you think they do, even when they have so many reasons to look down?”

The silence that ensued said it all.

Some days, the hard knot of loneliness that lay stagnant and unforgiving in Rigel’s gut seemed to pull tighter, as if seeking to suffocate him. 

Of course, he had Eliana, but sometimes, she could be too loud, too bright, almost to the point where her sunny (pun intended) personality seemed to blind him. Around her, the air seemed to buzz with a golden electricity that stung him when he got too close.

Going to Earth was a possible remedy. The humans lived in a constant loop of routine, but there was a certain something, tangible or not, that kept them satisfied, living, happy. The many books stationed like soldiers on the mahogany bookshelf in the Observatory called it love, called it inconvenient and tiring and sometimes painful, but described all trials in pursuit of it as freeing, inspiring, ‘worth it’.

Rigel didn’t know how pain could ever be ‘worth it’, but he wanted to find out. There was just one obstacle lying in his path: the Anomaly. 

God, he wished that the Anomaly didn’t exist. One stupid Rule of the universe created by the Higher Beings at the start of time prevented him from remembering how to live in death, from exploring the planet that he was forced to sit and watch for thousands, millions of days and nights. 

On his first day, Eliana had given him a thick, hard-cover book, saying, “Here’s some light reading to help you out for a bit. Make sure you read it all!” Taking close to a month to finish the thousand-paged book full of information about the universe and its secrets had definitely not been ‘light reading’, and mind-bending enough that Rigel’d decided that he never wanted to read it again. But now he picked it up again, skimming the pages until he found what he was looking for: an explanation.

“The Rule Of Anomaly, commonly referred to as the Anomaly, dictates that if either the Sun or Moon Child strays from their post for too long, their source of power, the sun or the moon, will fade away; and by association, so will they, as their life force is tethered to it. They will increasingly fail to be tangible, evolving from human to poltergeist to a shimmering apparition, before becoming nothing at all. Afterwards, all time on Earth will stop, and their counterpart will be forced to harness their powers and destroy Earth for its rebirth: the Sun Child by burning using the sun’s flames, the Moon Child by using the moon’s tidal force to make tsunami waves large enough to swallow land. This is why both Spirits are forbidden from travelling to Earth unless absolutely necessary.”

In the end, he could never win, could never do what he really wanted. All he could do was watch Earth from his telescope at the large window of the Observatory as the humans lived their lives, the mundane ones they seemed to be so content with; never once looking up.

The first time Rigel heard her voice, he dropped his coffee mug. 

It hadn’t even been his mug; white, plain with the exception of the name “Chris” emblazoned on it in bold font. Chris’ mug; the previous Moon Child that people had actually talked to. How nice, Rigel certainly couldn’t relate. 

Her voice was eerily soft, almost pondering, as she, whoever she was, invaded his mind with one statement.

“Hello, Moon.”

It had taken Rigel maybe five seconds to react, before letting out a surprised exhale, mixed with slight jubilation. Finally! Someone! A blessing from the Higher Beings. Static silence had been the only thing that had invaded his mind these past five months, along with the single voice in him that spoke too much, and despite how soft it was, was deafening compared to the dead air in space.

The world was quiet here. Rigel didn’t know if he liked that or not.

Unnecessarily excited, he waited for what she would say next. It seemed like it had been years since he’d last talked to anyone other than Eliana, who wasn’t exactly light company.

“Well, here goes… My name is Amaris, and I don’t know how or where to start. I’ve never… actually done this before. Talked to the Moo—well, you. Honestly, I think it’s pretty odd? But I mean, it was Grandma’s last wish. She was always kinda nuts, but I’d do anything for her. I still would.” Pause. “Even though—even though she’s dead.”

Rigel couldn’t help but feel a little bit… let down. The first person in months, maybe years before he’d arrived, and it was all because of someone’s dying wish? 

“Grandma used to come out to talk to you every night, before she got too sick to even move. Maybe you knew her?”

I’m sorry, Rigel thought. But no, I wouldn’t have known her. You know who would have? Chris. How he wished he had been born as Chris, he thought bitterly. But no, he was just Rigel; awkward, clumsy, bumbling around with no clue of what to do.

A short bout of silence, and then a laugh. Full of mirth, slightly sheepish. Rigel didn’t think he’d ever heard a more beautiful laugh in his life. 

“I—I’m sorry,” Amaris said, in between embarrassed chuckles. “I really don’t know what to say. I don’t want to overshare everything now. God, this feels like a terrible first date. Not that I’ve had any! First dates, I mean. But I’ve messed up so much in the past five minutes that I feel like the main character in a bad rom-com.”

Rigel laughed. He felt the same way. He wanted to talk to her. Could he? Remembering the book Eliana had given him, he walked over to the towering bookshelf, tripping on absolutely nothing along the way, and picked it up; rushing to flip pages for an answer.

“Anyway, let’s try again. I’m Amaris, and I hope we can become friends, if what Grandma said about a Moon Spirit is true.”

Of course it was. He would always be here, at least for the next lifetime or so. Barely processing her words through the commotion of his own frantic thoughts, Rigel’s eyes skimmed over the text in the book. Energy, life forces: nothing about the moon.

“What’s it like on the moon, anyway?”

It’s lonely. It’s so, so lonely. Rigel’s fingers moved quicker, looking for a solution. In his desperation, he dropped the book entirely onto his foot. “Shit! Goddamnit—”

“Anyway, I should go soon. School tomorrow, and everything.”

No! Not yet. Rigel wanted so desperately to talk to her, his heart like a machine gun in his chest, his ears pounding as he picked up the book and, despite his throbbing foot, willed himself to look faster, move faster, read faster…

And then he found it. Page 492, under the heading The Moon Child’s Connection:

“The Moon Child is a source of comfort to humans, and unlike the Sun Child, can interact with them if they wish. The human will be able to hear the Moon Child’s thoughts in their head when they talk to them, but will think that it is just their conscience and not an external party. However, this two-way connection can only be established if the bond between both parties is strong enough; when the human feels some sort of connection to the moon, and talks to it regularly.”

There it was: a solution to his conflict. Rigel felt determination surge through his veins, but he could only hope that this girl, Amaris, would speak to him again. Hope. Another one of those concepts he’d read about.

“Anyway, it’s been… liberating, I guess? I’ll talk to you soon. Maybe. Probably.”

Please call again, Rigel wanted to say, and wanted her to hear, but all fell silent again, the faint silver strand of connection from the Observatory to somewhere on Earth severing.

His mind swirling with simultaneously everything and nothing at all, Rigel belatedly remembered the cup of coffee he’d dropped, and rushed to sweep it up. However, his distraction ended with him slipping on the puddle of coffee and falling, rather unceremoniously, to the floor. As he picked himself up, he got over enough shock for a coherent thought to surface:

I need to hear her again.

Isabelle Lim (Class of 2023) has dreams of becoming an editor-lecturer one day in the future. Until then, she’ll stare at her work until she decides she hates it, or watch sad movies for the emotional catharsis.