Help from a Moon Princess

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic


An astronaut is transported into a mysterious world filled with strange inhabitants.

Submitted: September 13, 2018

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Submitted: September 13, 2018

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Inspired by The Tale of the Bamboo-Cutter.

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When one beholds pure nature, it imparts feelings of both peace and awe. Peace from quiet isolation and awe at the range of wilderness. Standing in a field that stretched between uncultivated valleys, a fortunate person observed such a view. However, fear was felt rather than peace, because he had not voluntarily traveled to this location to appreciate the sights and sounds of undistilled air. He had been taken, this was his undoubted first guess, by a being that presided over the afterlife.

Moments ago, Operator Joseph relayed his periodic check while he was examining subterranean structures approximately eight kilometers meters away from base. The sound was distorted, as if another radiofrequency source was interfering. Before he could question Joseph about the sound quality, white gaseous clouds enveloped his field of vision faster than his legs could carry him away from its onslaught. Starry space dissolved into island blue sky, and rocky craters sprung forth into vibrant vegetation. If there was one blessing he acknowledged, if not the freedom to indulge in the harmony of heaven, it was the event of a painless death.

He fell to his knees under the sudden increase in weight, then fumbled for the helmet's release lock. He inhaled. The temperature and oxygen content were optimal. In a few minutes, he was left sitting half-naked in his wetsuit.

A shout startled the astronaut to his feet. At the upper crest of the hill, he noticed a moving white body. Upon closer inspection, the large body was comprised of smaller round forms, like ambling sheep, lead by a thin humanoid.

Following the noise, a flurry of blue sprung from behind the hill peak. At incredible speeds, four identically dressed uniformed persons, without uttering a word, heaved the puzzled captive by the arms and rocketed back up the hill with similar swiftness. When they passed the herdsman, his first impression was proven wrong. The sheep were long-eared rodents, like giant rabbits, and they curiously twitched their whiskers at the hurried body of people.

They departed from the pasture onto a dirt path beyond a thatched roof cottage, which he assumed belonged to the herdsman. Although he was overwhelmed by the rapidity at which they moved, he was able to examine his captors' faces. Identically white, with rosy red cheeks, tear drop eyebrows, and straight black hair. Their expressions were compellingly serious.

Unable to resist their grip, the man was carried around rows of farmlands until the troop reached a tall wooden gate, where he was permitted to touch the ground. Red wooden trim fixed the gate between two stone walls, and a decorative cherry tree was engraved along each door. He expected a foreboding spirit to arise and declare judgement, but the men standing atop of the entrances' posts simply opened the gate for the convoy.

Inside was home to what he assumed was the troop's village. They gently led him by the arms onto a cobblestone road that connected various wooden-paneled houses, some stacked very high. Most were marked with either banners or flags with symbols that likely advertised their business. The embroidered text was indecipherable.

As they walked through the square, villagers turned to either gawk or smile. He wasn't sure whether heaven had yet warmly received him. Some wore long pleated skirts while others were cloaked in simple linen shirts and pants. Few, if any, differed from the racial majority, and he wondered if this appearance was a prerequisite to reside in this town.

Eventually, he was guided to another gate, more distinguished than the previous with its golden polish. A massive circular emblem containing a black cherry tree was welded in the center of the heavy door. On the opposite side, a pair of guards lifted a lever at the signal of one of his attendants, and the pathway was opened for their access.

To his slight alarm, a silent congregation of people appeared to be waiting for his arrival. All eyes fell on the stranger as he was brought to the center of the courtyard. Behind a row of onlookers stood an extravagant palace with a central tower, each level supported by deep red columns and adorned with light fixtures and stone dragons and other protectors.

His audience wore silk dresses of pink, purple, and blue, along with red ribbons for belts or weaved into hair. Their faces glowed, and their eyes gazed at him with a soft curiosity. Two prominent persons stood at the palace's threshold, a man and a woman it seemed. Their regality was unrivaled; the woman was adorned with a long-sleeved rose-colored gown, patterned with orchids and magnolias. Her hair was folded into bell-shaped braids that nearly touched the ground, and her deep brown eyes, though her head appeared to tilt downwards, were entirely focused on the primary target.

The man beside her was thick in stature, also styled with long hair, though not as complex as the woman's, with a thin moustache that circled into a short beard. He wore a blue dress over a white collar. His dress did not distinguish him as much as his towering composure and the ferocity at which he stared at the unknown visitor.

The astronaut's dreamy state of mind was beginning to dissipate. Instinct caused his blood to run. He wanted to shrink under the unspoken attention. He was not dead, but an interstellar wanderer. Teleportation threw his body into a parallel world, which could only be accomplished through the right conditions; the correct pressure, frequency, gravitational force-

The man that held his right arm intimated something to the regal pair. The apparent leader responded in a deep tone. A conversation ensued between him and a few of his congregation. Their language sounded soft on the tongue, with few traces of consonants. From the speed and volume, he deduced they were not frantic, nor terribly upset, but the topic was obvious.

A hurried thump of footsteps interrupted the grey-robed soldier. Attention shifted to the palace entrance. Suddenly, one of the screens flew open, and a figure forced itself through the circle of villagers.

It was a young lady, and she surveyed the scene anxiously. Her eyes and lips were small and simple, yet overall beautiful. She wore a plain dress of satin green with a thick bow around the waist. When she caught sight of the man, she paused, and then turned sharply to the leader. They exchanged information, and at some response of the maiden's, the entire gathering hummed in relief. The young woman took post at the leader's side, facing the astronaut, and smiled contentedly.

The leader lifted his hand. Pressure on the astronaut's back, he supposed from the hand of one of his transporters, compelled him to bend down and bow.

"I see our problem has been resolved. Human, you have been allowed to cross the Celestial portal at the courtesy of my daughter Kaguya. You will be allowed to stay until evening, where she will escort you to your homeland. As for her reasons for deliberately summoning your earthly body, though I immediately understood them, she can better explain than I. Fear, especially before an earthly creature, is unnecessary. Our enemies do not threaten us and will not for many ages to come." At this declaration, the congregation was dismissed.

Once again, his head felt light. The following moments passed dreamily. Someone laid a robe over his back to prevent further offense with his nakedness. He remained unquestioned until the young woman, her parents, and several soldiers were the only persons left standing in the courtyard. The bearded patriarch approached him.

"Please refer to me as The Emperor, and my wife as the Mother, for that is all you will be required to know." The Mother bowed slightly, and the astronaut did likewise, although less gracefully. "You are not required to reveal your name. Outside information tends to quickly disappear from our memories, regardless of the number of times we repeat it. We, as Celestial beings, share in the sacred vow to protect the Celestial space and its inhabitants. We, in general, refrain from communication with humanity because of our separate purposes. Only when it is completely necessary do we cross the Heavenly Arch and affect Earth's destiny, but whether our interference leads to its survival or demise, we are ignorant."

The words registered in his ears, but their meaning fell short. The pressing question that had been tugging at his lips since his arrival finally exited. "Am I alive?"

"You are breathing, aren't you? You feel the warmth of the air, hear the sound of our voices, and see what stands before you, don't you?" The flowery woman reminded him kindly.

The man inadvertently squeezed his hands together, dreading, if he was in fact dreaming, the current state of his human body, the tank's oxygen level, and the life support's battery life. While his hosts seemed to welcome him as a guest, he feared for his life more than he feared committing a faux pas. "How do I get back?"

"Kaguya will show you, since she is the one that brought you here," the Emperor answered.

The girl's eyes twinkled. "Perhaps he's worried about Old Luna. Father, let me show him the lookout, and he will relax after seeing what's occurring in his homeland."

The Emperor agreed and directed two soldiers to oversee the visitor while he remained a guest. Kaguya clapped her hands excitedly. "Follow me then."

If he had not already been amazed or frightened, the astronaut was tested again. Using an unknown source of propulsion, Kaguya lifted herself into the air, gliding like a hummingbird, effortlessly circling and climbing the tall tower.

Once his attendants caught hold of both arms (he was about to protest), he found himself rising above the earth. In a manner reminiscent of his previous abduction, the soldiers supported his upper body while his legs dangled uselessly, all the while his stomach wanted to leap out of his throat. He willed himself to keep his eyes from glancing at the ground. They flew past the vicious dragons, stony guardians and flying banners, and descended gently at the peak of the palace.

Hair flattened by the wind and balance blown sideways, he attempted to stabilize himself on the outer fence. The tower was circular, so one could see the land in all directions if they circumvented the lookout. A distant mountain helped him focus and recover from dizziness. With his balance secured, he sought out the girl, who was engrossed looking through an optical telescope mounted between the fence and the palace wall's exterior.

"I can see Old Luna from here," she said, glancing at him with a smile. "See for yourself."

The man inched towards the telescope and adjusted the lens. Despite the sun shining on miles of tiny houses, farms, mulled forests, and fields, when he gazed through the device, all he saw was a pale, flat landscape. He turned away from the telescope and looked again to confirm what he just visualized.

"You can move it as well," she added and adjusted the focus. He saw someone outside the radio room holding a large plastic box. They entered the vacuum chamber.

"Where am I?" he asked, searching for his body among the moon rubble.

Kaguya examined his presence. "You're here."

"I need to get back."

The maiden cast her sight on the rice paddocks outside the village border. "I did not open the Heavenly Arch without a definite cause," she retorted. "I meant to greet you as soon as you arrived, but creating portals is a difficult task. The most that I could hope for, and have been grateful to receive, is that you are safe."

"As for why I summoned you- I have been alive for centuries. And six hundred years ago, I was able to visit Earth." She glanced at the astronaut; he looked incredulous.

"When I returned, I asked the technician to build me an eyeglass so that I could view Earth without leaving the Celestial world. I had already forgotten all of whom that I knew during those short days I lived on that planet, which is the natural fate of our communication, but I have never shaken my curiosity nor my compassion when I am reminded of that brief interaction with humanity. So I often look through this telescope to witness Earth's happenings, and sometimes I hope that I will remember those that I forgot."

"Celestial beings who have yet to experience living beneath Earth's atmosphere do not understand my sympathy. However, they understand my conviction, and I was able to persuade several Emperors, including my father, to temporarily refrain from punishing human-Celestial communication as long as I did not leave the Celestial heavens. When my chance to assist humanity would appear, I did not know, and neither did anyone else, which is why you were treated as an unexpected guest."

The sun sat high in the clouds, bestowing broad daylight over the exotic land. Earth's outline was absent. "Over the past century, I noticed the population on Old Luna increase as Earth started to show signs of infertility. I can only offer guesses as to the cause." She met the astronaut's stare, and her solemnity turned into glee. "I allowed you to cross the Heavenly Arch because I believe we can offer something valuable to humankind. There are many things inside the Celestial world that probably challenge your familiar physical assumptions. Unfortunately, I cannot explain Celestial science to a human. For one, you do not have the capacity to understand it," she said bluntly. "It would also be a severe offense to my Father and other Emperors who, by enforcing the sacred laws, protect the Celestial heavens from corruption."

The man did not protest. He felt as though he had already lost half his wits and was on the verge of losing all of them.

"What I can offer is knowledge that might obey your scientific laws, that can develop and encompass your proven theories." The spirited lady leapt over the fence. "So, if you will follow me." Omitting precautions, she began slowly descending, or floating, the length of her gown billowing in the air.

The man was assisted by his escorts again, and the second round of flight produced less fear in his body than the first.

Their destination was a sparkling garden on the palace grounds. Flat, buried stones winded around a shallow pond, whose clarity outmatched tropical island seashores. The body of water was banked by maples, thin shrubs, and lilies, and all around were waves of violet hydrangeas, emerald grass, and chrysanthemum, whose perfume attracted tiny birds and wonderous insects.

Kaguya was already crouched beside a small inlet, shaded under the umbrella of a cherry tree. She beckoned him to follow her, and as he reached her station, he noticed a slippery creature half-submerged on the bank. Its yellow eyes blinked, then closed in dismissal of its company. The maiden payed little attention to the slimy beast and produced a round cup from her sleeve.

The cherry tree was in full bloom. Hundreds of pink petals clustered around the rocky fringes and skipped along the grass. She grazed the cup through the water, catching a petal in the process, and offered it to the astronaut, who accepted it tentatively.

"Here, drink all of it."

He grimaced at the transparent liquid.

"It will supply what you require," she asserted.

Withholding all doubt, he drank. It was neither warm nor cold, and equally flavorless. Once finished, they both waited silently for the result.

Kaguya tapped her lip. "Perhaps it takes time to absorb." She rose and brushed away the flowery debris on her garments. "Now I am satisfied. I shall escort you to the Heavenly Arch."

The astronaut watched the maiden stroll out of the garden. Trailing after her, he asked, "Why did you choose me?"

"You were the closest to the Heavenly Arch," she answered. "And I used a little intuition."

The Emperor and the Mother were informed of his impending departure. He regained his abandoned equipment and one of the servants helped him redress in preparation for his return to space. Afterwards, he entered the courtyard. A troop of soldiers, several aristocrats, the Emperor and the Mother, and Kaguya had gathered to send him on his journey.

Kaguya guided the astronaut to the center of the square. "Is there a specific location I should try to send you?" she asked through his visor.

"The spot that I was looking at through the telescope, next to the big satellite."

He would finally escape this bizarre universe, open his eyes, and see Operator Joseph's sullen face. His body would be in the medical station and recovering after he fainted from lack of oxygen. He would return to the dismal world he remembered. His hands trembled.

"I will try my best to direct you there. It will feel exactly like your first crossing; quick and painless," Kaguya laughed. "Are you prepared?"

The astronaut nodded, so she retreated a couple meters. With her hands flat at her sides, she commenced opening the Heavenly Arch by the power of Celestial request. Her expression hardened, her body was still, and all became silent.

"Kaguya," he said to himself.

Thick clouds started to roll over the palace walls, creeping around his feet and wafting about his body. "Princess Kaguya?"

Her focus could not be broken. Light was beginning to fade from view, and all objects were disappearing exponentially. The skies and the earth, and the towering palace and its people became engulfed in hazy fog.

-----

The door opened. He glanced to see Mari taking a seat on a neighboring chair.

"How does it look?" she asked, her eyes examining the window box intently.

"It's growing at the expected rate," he replied.

She nodded, reading the latest datasheet. After a long pause, she said, "I just don't understand how you knew the exact formulas and conditions. Everyone on the bio-team thought you were joking, especially since you were so confident."

A camera connected to the monitor panned around the window box, showing different angles of the sample.

"I don't know how to explain it. I had an epiphany."

She folded her arms at his response. "You're gonna have to explain it better than that eventually, but because it was genius, you'll get away with it." At this dry remark, she rose and left the room.

Convincing the lead biologist to start a brand-new terraforming project presented only a minor challenge. Everyone worked to achieve the same end-goal, and were eager to attempt an original idea. The difficulty resided in explaining the idea's origins, as well as contending that he never cooperated with outside parties.

Even if he did not have ownership of the method's patent, he strongly expressed his desire to name his creation, and settled on Kaguya. The distant Celestial being could enjoy the reap of her efforts at the very least. Through her telescope, she could watch Old Luna transform into an image of Earth's previous life. In a decade, she might be able to witness Earth reflourish.

There was little chance of his return to the Celestial world, and even if he accomplished crossing the Heavenly Arch again, the memories of the Celestials would be devoid of any trace of his identity by the time he arrived. But sometimes, if he required inspiration, he would often open images of cherry trees and contemplate the basics of Celestial science.


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