The sky overhead was streaked with color, and the warm hues reflected off of the metal structures of Trigleph. Ludger sat still on the swing outside his apartment, watching as the oranges and pinks turned to deeper reds and purples, darkening to make a proper bed for the moons that slowly rose above the city’s skyline.
A sight that had once filled him with excitement and warmth now rang hollowly through his empty heart.
It was difficult to stomach the fact that he could become someone like Victor— that he had that potential within him. Killing himself— Elle’s father— was an unforgivable act, no matter how little choice he was faced with.
Ludger’s gaze dropped from the rising moons, and he hung his head, using his feet to rock himself pathetically on the swing.
Julius had once convinced him they could catch the moons when they set. It had been a ridiculous suggestion, but Ludger had been excited for Julius’s company, and eager for his approval.
“When we catch them, there’ll be one for each of us. I’ll hold onto the big one. The little one is for you.”
He wished Julius were here now.
Tiny footsteps slowly crunched through the grass of the park. Ludger looked up slowly, and found Elle taking a seat on the swing next to him. She didn’t meet his eyes, looking emptily up at the moons just like he had been.
Silence stretched between them for a while as the darkness settled in deeper and deeper. The soft yellow and green tints from the moons’ glow reflected in Elle’s eyes, making them appear brighter than ever.
“…You know,” she said softly, without removing her gaze from the sky, “my daddy knew how to catch the moons after they set.”
Ludger’s eyes widened as she turned her head to look at him somberly.
“…We never found them, though.”
A lump formed in Ludger’s throat. He’d passed down the same story from Julius, to Elle?
Not him. Victor.
But it came from Julius nonetheless. A clear familial connection.
“We thought they hid together in the lake,” Elle continued, perking up slightly at Ludger’s interest, “but Lake Epsilla doesn’t exist here, so they must have chosen a new spot.”
Ludger felt his lips curl into a genuine smile.
“I know where they hide,” he admitted, his voice regaining its usual lift. “Julius told me, years ago.”
The early morning sun shone warm orange over the highroad. Elle’s hair appeared almost golden— a shade so similar to Julius’s. Ludger let her lead the way, following behind with a smile.
“Are you sure it’s this way?” Elle asked dubiously. “I thought the moons would like water, this place is just dry.”
Ludger pointed West, where the moons had set a mere hour ago.
“They disappeared this way, though, right? It makes sense to find them where they set.”
“Maybe you’re right,” Elle assessed, looking off in the same direction. “At my house, the moons disappeared over the lake, so… my daddy thought we should go that way. Toward where they set.”
Hearing that Victor had used the same logic that he did, that Julius had— it made his heart twist and squeeze. He wasn’t sure whether to be proud or ashamed.
Elle grabbed his hand and broke him from his thoughts.
“My daddy said we’d share the moons when we caught them. The little one was for me, and the big one… was for him.”
She looked up at him with those green eyes that matched his own.
“I want you to have the big one.”
Ludger squeezed her hand, and the bittersweet smile she offered smoothed over all his insecurities and fears.
“Thank you, Elle.”
She nodded, then let go of his hand to run ahead again.
Ludger hid behind Julius ’s leg, peering around it at the dusty highroad around them. As far as he could remember, he’d never left Trigleph. There were monsters out here. Julius was big enough to fight them, but Ludger was scared.
“Are you sure it’s okay to be out here?” he asked nervously, the wind rustling his silver hair and making him shiver.
Julius ’s hand covered his head comfortingly, and his kind, bespectacled face smiled down at him.
“Don’t worry, Ludger. I’ll protect you, no matter what. You want to find the moons, right?”
“I do, but…”
“If any monsters come too close, hide in a crawlspace along the cliffs. I’ll take care of anything that gets in our way.”
Ludger ’s fears ebbed. He trusted Julius’s promise.
Elle huffed as she squatted down against the wall inside the dark crawlspace.
“We’ve searched everywhere!” she complained. “There aren’t enough places to hide out here!”
Ludger sat down on the ground beside her with a short, dramatic sigh.
“Well, damn. Where could they be?”
“You said Glasses Guy knew where they were!”
Ludger laughed and rubbed the back of his head.
“Well, maybe Glasses Guy doesn’t always know as much as he thinks he does.” He winked at her. “Maybe we should try out your theory, instead. Think they like water?”
Elle’s eyes lit up.
“We should check the seahaven!”
The sun was high in the sky by the time they rented a small fishing boat. Ludger had rolled up his sleeves, loosened his tie, and unbuttoned his top few shirt buttons in an attempt to stave off the heat that bounced off of the water.
At the bow of the boat, Elle sat excitedly, having shucked her own sweater and left it folded messily beneath her little wooden seat.
“Onward!” she shouted, pointing at the waves ahead.
Ludger smiled fondly and continued paddling Eastward, nearer to where the moons would rise in only a couple hours.
“C’mon, Ludger, faster! Faster!”
Ludger laughed breathlessly. “You try paddling, then.”
Elle looked back at him, and seemed to have a change of heart.
“No, that’s okay. You’re doing a good job.”
Ludger rolled his eyes, but couldn’t stop the grin from spreading over his face. He slowed to a stop, and let the little boat drift on, carrying them further out to sea.
“Do you think the moons can swim?” Elle asked curiously, leaning over the side of the boat to peer into the water, squinting as though trying to make out any life beneath the surface.
Ludger flung his paddle upward in a short, sharp motion, sending a little splash up into Elle’s face.
Elle wiped her hands over her wet face and glared in Ludger’s direction. Ludger laughed loudly, resuming his paddling to continue the boat’s motion.
“It’s not funny Ludger!” Elle shouted. She dipped her hand into the water and splashed it in Ludger’s direction. He tried to duck out of the way, but inevitably got wet.
“Feels good!” he insisted. He loosened his tie further and dropped it carelessly to the bottom of the boat. “It’s hot out here!”
“You’re weird!” Elle decided, crossing her arms and facing the bow again.
When the sun finally set, Ludger and Julius gave up their search. Taking the long trek back to Trigleph beneath the darkening sky, Ludger began to sway tiredly on his ten-year-old feet.
“You look like you hit your limit,” Julius said with a note of amusement.
Before Ludger could answer, two large hands were lifting him beneath the arms. He cried out in surprise, but Julius only chuckled, easily setting his brother atop his shoulders.
“Maybe from up there, you can reach up and pull the moons down.”
Ludger looked up, and found the very moons they ’d spent the whole day searching for, hanging low and huge in the twilit sky. He felt his eyes widen, and he slowly extended his arms upward.
“We’re too late, look!”
Ludger had long given up on paddling, giving his arms a much-needed break. He lay across the bottom of the boat, with Elle’s sweater bunched up beneath his head.
He sat up at Elle’s call, and looked out to find the first sliver of the larger moon poking out from the horizon. The soft light it radiated reflected off of the dark water.
“They’re too good at not getting caught!” Elle complained.
As they watched the yellow moon emerge, the smaller green moon peeked out from the water as well. Seeing them together felt like greeting old friends. Whether with Julius, or with Elle, they symbolized something important to him.
As the sky changed from hazy purple to deep navy, and the stars blinked into being above them, the water seemed to become a sky in its own right. Ludger paddled slowly back toward the seahaven, while Elle sat close beside him, admiring the view.
“Maybe it’s good we couldn’t catch them,” she decided quietly, with a sense of awe. “So we can keep making memories like this.”
Her little head rested against Ludger’s side, skewing her hat.
Ludger’s heart warmed, and he nodded. In the distance, the artificial lights of Trigleph joined the sky’s reflection in the water.
By the time they reached the seahaven, Elle had fallen fast asleep. Ludger carefully docked the boat, then lifted her up onto the shore.
If she hadn’t been so sleepy, she surely would have protested. Ludger could almost hear her complaints and demands.
Don ’t treat me like a kid!
But sleepy Elle was perfectly amiable, clinging to Ludger as he hoisted her up onto his back.
Victor had done unspeakable things— things that left Ludger terrified that he’d one day make the same mistakes. But Victor was never just a villain. He was a friend, a brother, a father. He passed down stories from Julius, and made up ridiculous games to entertain an eight-year-old.
He was human, just like Ludger. And yet Ludger wasn’t Victor— he never would be. He didn’t want to be. But this Elle, with her little arms wrapped snugly around his chest, was as much Ludger’s daughter as she was Victor’s.
The city was quiet, even as the street lights and lit buildings shone with life. The pale brick leading up to the tiny residential park would always feel like home to Ludger— with two moons shining over it all.
“I knew all along we couldn’t catch them,” Elle’s voice admitted quietly, from where her head rested on his shoulder.
“It’s a stupid story, you know. I didn’t believe it when my daddy told me, either. It’s obvious you can’t just find the moons in daytime.”
Ludger’s shoulders slumped, some of the magic being pulled from the moment— but Elle continued.
“I just wanted to see you smile. Just like I did with my daddy.”
Ludger stopped walking, standing still in the center of the park, facing the dark, lonely apartment ahead. Without Julius, it hadn’t felt right in a long time— but now he had Elle. He’d always had Elle. The apartment had never been lonely— his family merely rotated, rising and setting like the moons.
“Thank you, Elle.”
Maybe when this was all over, all three of them could reside together in this home of his.
The empty park was bathed in moonshine. Ludger sat alone on the same swing he’d occupied since childhood, while the moons danced together, ascending in the night sky before him.
The moons that were for him, for Julius, for Elle.
The moons that had combined to form Canaan.
The moons that had taken his family away.
He sometimes liked to think that if he sat out here long enough, someone would come out and find him. Julius would pat his head, Elle would tug on his arm.
They never did.
Even as his heart ached, he found a certain peace in the soft light that shone down on him. The big moon had always been for Julius; the little moon would always be for Elle. Maybe if Ludger really could catch the moons, he could drag them back into existence, where they should be.
But even Elle had known it was impossible. The moons weren’t meant to be taken from the sky.
Ludger closed his eyes, shutting out the ever-present reminder of those he’d loved, and those he’d lost. Tears welled up behind his eyelids and dripped from his chin.
He liked to entertain the thought that maybe Julius and Elle were watching him from their moons.
He wished he could believe it.