I WAS dreaming of haunted churches and falling angels until the Moon woke me up, its cascading light smoothing over the gloss of the maps and posters taped on my wall. Outside the glass doors leading to the balcony, the ledge glistened while the mahogany angels sculpted by my late father stood guard on both sides, their trumpets raised to the Moon as if welcoming it, or rather, Her.

“Gabriel. Come here, Gabriel,” the Moon’s soft voice drawled seductively.

I sat upright on my bed, panting and bathed in cold sweat. I took a wary glance at the Moon from the windows and to my relief, the clouds were obscuring Her. She was a sliver of brightness peeking maliciously through the shadowy fingers of the night.

“Gabriel,” she whispered again.

The voice was still hushed and sweet but I knew—if I took a long while and tried to disobey Her—She would send the stars to haunt me. I glanced at the digital clock on my nightstand and it blinked a quarter before three. This was bad. The sun was still hours from waking. I had to hide myself and fend off the Moon and the stars alone.

Nobody else could hear or see them. Nobody would believe me.

It was three summers ago—I remember well—when the Moon first sang my name. It sounded like a lullaby, the stars humming in chorus. Every night, I would perch on the ledge of the balcony, mesmerized by their enchantment, while the inhabitants of Aurora village dozed off in their detached terraced homes, oblivious.

On the evenings the Moon was hiding, I could not sleep. I learned to pick up my brush and my easel and I would paint Her—sometimes as a beautiful young goddess, sometimes as a hunter playing a flute—until I collapsed into the dawn, stains of white, silver and black on my hands and clothes.

Unfortunately, my body was too frail to keep up so I was hospitalized for quite a while and—oh how I suffered not to heed the summons of the Moon! My mother would force pills—to counter what the doctors referred to as my insomnia or “chronic night sleeplessness”—into me just so I would sleep. On worse nights, they had to inject me with those powerful potions and I would wake up in the morning crying for I missed the Moon and the stars.

After a few months of struggle, I could almost sleep normally again, and soon I was brought back home. I was feeling better and for a week, I did not hear the chants of the Moon or the stars. They were just watching me quietly as I dreamed.

However, the peaceful nights did not last very long. One night, the Moon began calling me again and I went out to the balcony, and told her to let me go. I did not want to get sick again and worry my mother or my older brother, Rafael.

The Moon was enraged! She claimed that I belong to her and the living nightmare began. Her lullaby turned into a piercing cacophony of screams and teeth-chattering scratching of violin strings, and the stars would curse and spit white fire from the heavens. I would fall asleep with my pillows pressed to my ears and my sheets splotched with snot and tears.

There was a night my mother went to the hermana mayor’s house to discuss the line-up for the Santacruzan next month. The stars were running after me. I barged in on Rafael’s room, which reeked of burnt leaves and rubber from the pipe he had been smoking. He cursed at me at first until I told him what was happening. He accompanied me back to my room, and stayed with me until morning, saying that he saw angels dancing in the smoke that evening. We kept it a secret.

My living nightmares worsened and mother found out, dismissing them as my “tantrums” but she eventually decided to bring me to the local psychiatrist at my brother’s insistence.

At the clinic, the psychiatrist asked me a lot of questions, as my mother recounted my sleeplessness, my inability to recall parts of recent incidents, my agitated gait, how I “spaced out” often, and my “hallucinations” about the Moon and stars.

He seemed to cue on my anxiety as he turned to my mother. He broke the news to her that I was showing manifestations of schizophrenia, pointing to the complicated word flashed in red, bold letters listed on a chart of known mental illnesses, saying then that there is no cure for this kind of condition, but therapy and rehabilitation could be considered.

The rest was a blur until I recalled my mother dragging me away from the stark white clinic and lashing out at the psychiatrist, fiercely objecting to the verdict on her son being “disjoint from reality.”

Nevertheless, I was homeschooled after, which did not bother me much. In the last few months, the long, far side wall of my room was filled with paintings, and they stared back at me like a surreal mosaic of the real and the unreal conjured from the beauty and darkness inside my head.

Faint rays of moonlight shone on them: one featured two-headed seraphim falling from the moon, silver wolves howling beneath them; and another a midair battle between one-winged angels and many-headed monsters, their swords and spears flashing against a crimson sky, among many others obscured in the shadows.

Now, I felt dread clinging to my bones and the panicked butterflies swarming wildly at the pit of my stomach. The Moon would catch me if I did not hurry!

I shoved all the canvases aside, and took the little jar of black acrylic paint among the chaos of colors. I dipped my largest brush in it and began spreading black all over my skin and my white pajamas, trying to blend with the darkness.

“Gabriel, where are you?” the Moon called out, louder this time.

I was about to run to the door when I caught a glimpse of the mirror opposite the window and saw Her—full and bright, beaming at me. Suddenly, the voice grew more thunderous and I heard the cackling of a thousand stars coming from the window. They told me it was only a matter of time before they come for me.

I collapsed on the floor, trying to block out the noise by covering my ears, but it reverberated in my head like an orchestra of howling creatures. I watched in horror as the shadows began to dance over the patch of moonlight adjacent to the glass doors and windows.

I desperately wanted to close my eyes but I was afraid that if I did, the darkness would swallow me. I transfixed my eyes on the neon red lines flashing on the clock, praying desperately for dawn to come and save me from this nightmare.

I lost sense of what was happening to me until I heard the door bang open and then my mother and Rafael rushed to my side. It was only then that I realized I was screaming my lungs out. Several voices were screeching, hissing, speaking to me all at the same time. They were all demanding answers!

“They’re coming! They will descend from the sky and take me! Go away! Leave me alone!” I yelled hysterically, flailing my arms and body as if possessed by some malevolent force. “No! I don’t want to!”

Suddenly, the lights in my room were tuned on, momentarily blinding me as the voices died down a little, and extinguishing some of the shadows although a few remained.

“Gabriel, darling,” my mother said and I flinched at her touch because just then, the Moon echoed her voice. “Why are you coated in black–what is this? Paint?”

The stars snickered, and I felt naked and vulnerable.

“Oh mama, help me hide please! I’m begging you!” I cried desperately, dipping my fingers into the jar of black paint and frantically reapplying them on my skin where the black disguise was already peeling off. “The Moon! She was calling me!”

“What are you, a little kid? Stop doing that! You’re seventeen for goodness’ sake!”

Rafael sat beside me, rubbing my back and whispering “Shhh, it’s all right,” over and over.

“Brother, they’re hiding in the shadows! You have to—”

Then my mother’s hand hit me like an unforgiving strike of lightning. I dropped the paint jar and it shattered, thin shards of glass popping on the cold marble floor.

“Wake up, will you!” she screamed. “It’s all in your head!”

I heard the Moon giggle until the red fingers of the dawn took Her away.


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