Yesterday, I Saw the New Moon
By Jeff Baker
I was between jobs but I was seriously considering staying in town when things went all fuzzy. I was walking down the sidewalk in a crowd of people when the crowd blurred suddenly. I could see two different crowds of people, one set walking through the other, both of them vague and transparent. I didn’t feel dizzy but I grabbed the nearest thing, the door handle of a diner, and walked in. The diner was bright, the windows big and clear and there were few customers and a man in a chef’s hat arranging things behind the counter. There was a black-and-white T.V. sitting on top of a refrigerator. I sat down at a table and closed my eyes for a moment.
“Whaddya have?” the voice said. I opened my eyes. The cook from behind the counter was standing there.
“Uh, coffee. Black.” I said, pulling a dollar out of my wallet. “That’s all I got,” I lied. Since I’d been on my own, bumming across the country I’d gotten into the habit of keeping all my cash in my shoe, in an envelope under the pad. I had about a hundred bucks from my last job and I was saving it as best I could. I was just glad I looked older than I was. I’d been giving my age as nineteen. That was a few years off. I glanced outside through the window; there seemed to be less people on the street than before. And the blurring transparent effect was gone. I rubbed my eyes. The T.V. had the sound off but they were playing that really short Bicentennial show from a few years ago. They’d played it every night, but wasn’t all that over?
“Hi,” said a high wavering voice. The speaker looked to be about 25 or so, standing by my table wearing a green button-down shirt with a large collar and blue jeans. Nice, I thought.
“Mind if I sit down?” he said. “I think you’re…like me.”
I indicated the seat across from me in the booth. He sat down and grinned.
“I noticed you when you wandered in.” he said. “I’m Ray. Ray Scott.”
“Bryce Going,” I said. We shook hands. His hand felt funny, like touching something when you’ve been shot full of Novocain. “What do you mean, ‘like me?’?”
“The wild side. The other team. The third sex. In the life.” Ray was grinning broader. “But then, you’re not like me too.”
Rather than deny it I asked how he could tell, not “what makes you think that.”
The cook brought my coffee. I sipped. It felt good somehow. Good and normal.
“I can tell,” Ray said. “I mean, now I can. It would have come in handy about nineteen-sixty-nine, let me tell you.” He looked right at me. “You saw two different streets out there, didn’t you?”
“Yeah,” I said sipping more of the coffee. “I thought I might be passing out or something.”
“Not passing out, passing through,” Ray said. “You know what a double exposure is?”
“Sure,” I said. I’d taken a Photography class from Mr. Anders in High School. The darkroom had been built to one side of his science classroom, blocking off the windows. I’d made out with a couple of guys in there. “Double exposure is when you print frames from two different negatives on the same photographic paper. If you do it right, you can make someone look like they’re a transparent figure in a real scene, like a…”
“Ghost.” Ray was grinning broader. “Look.”
Ray raised his hand and put it in front of the window. I could see a couple of the buildings through his hand. I sat there and stared for a moment.
“I’m dead.” I said. “I’ve had a lot of weird things happen to me, and now I’m dead.”
“Naaaa! You’re not dead!” Ray said. “But you stumbled into a world of the dead. But you’re alive so you can’t stay. This world will force you out.”
I let out a long breath. “Do I have time for another cup of coffee?”
“Yeah. Maybe two,” Ray said with a laugh. I ordered another coffee.
“So, what happened in sixty-nine?” I asked.
“I picked up this guy at the showers behind the pool one night,” Ray said. “When the pool was closed for the season that was a local pickup joint. We were supposedly going to his place but when we went down this alley two of his buddies jumped me. They beat me up and left me for dead.” He sighed. “Which is how I wound up.” Ray shook his head. “I wish I could still drink coffee.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. What do you say in a situation like that?
“So, enough about me,” Ray said. “What’s your story?”
I told him all about my folks bailing out on me and how I ran rather than be a gay sixteen-year-old in a youth center. Ray listened attentively and then looked right at me.
“Listen; where I’m at right now, time has no real meaning. I can glimpse things. You need to be careful.”
“I know,” I said.
“No,” Ray said. “You don’t. There’s something coming, something bad. It could kill you. You need to take precautions.”
Ray outlined what he could as I drank my coffee. I didn’t quite understand, but I did listen. And afterward, I knew it was time to leave. Ray grinned again and waved as I got up. I looked out the windows; still bright, late-afternoon sunshine. When I walked out the door, it was dark. Early evening I thought. I looked behind me; the diner was closed and shuttered and probably had been for a long time. I saw a crescent Moon on the horizon, and I remembered an old poem I’d read once:
Last night I saw the New Moon
With the Old Moon in her arms
And I fear I fear my Mistress dear
That we shall come to harm.