This photo, for Sue Vincent’s #writephoto prompt, gave me a hard time to begin with. I thought I’d post both pieces as an interesting study in how a piece of writing can change and develop as new ideas and angles impose themselves on the original thoughts.
This is the first response to the image, which I saw as the sun rather than the moon.
Once the sky was bright, they said. Once the world was the colours we see in films. Once things grew outside, beneath the bright blue sky, and birds flew free, and there were animals that lived their lives in the growing things beneath the blue sky. People were different then, they didn’t know how to make their world safe. They allowed birds that were not edible to use up resources. They allowed wild animals that carried diseases to wander near human settlements. They allowed wild things that were of no use to proliferate, savage and dangerous.
The big change was the fault of the sun. It upset the climate with its rays, sent tidal waves and droughts, freezing winters and baking summers. Then it began to die, and we had to learn how to do without it. Now we manage the planet so much more efficiently. There is no waste, no disorder. Our crops are protected, beneath an artificial sky, lit by artificial light, from all harm and disease. Our animals live safe beneath the ground, fed and watered and butchered in a humane and sanitary way. The parts of the planet that are useless are abandoned. The people who proved unable to adapt, we abandoned. We have kept only the best.
They say the sky in the day was the absurd colour we see in the films, and at night they claim we could see the stars! They say people dug in the dirt for pleasure and listened to birds calling. They didn’t mind that the earth was creeping with wild animals, and they even kept unhealthy tame animals in their homes. People loved all these things and protested in their millions to preserve them. It’s hard to believe people were so stupid once.
Looking at the picture again, just before I went to bed, I wrote this. I know which version I prefer.
On the plain beneath the black sky and the pale light of the cooling sun, the grass withered and died. No colours glowed to mark the end—the reds and rusts and yellows of distant autumns gone with the light, and dust blew across the crumbled dirt and desolate stone. When the last mouse had been eaten and the last cricket, and nothing more stirred in the dead earth, the last vixen curled her brush about her nose and drifted into a place of ancestral memories, where long grass brushed her glowing flanks as she padded through morning dew, where moonlight fell from a clear sky where stars glittered, where the earth swarmed with warmth and life and food. She shifted and curled tighter. In that place, there were bundles of warmth huddled close beside her, cubs, fidgety and quick, sleeping only when they were sated. Slowly, she let go of life, taking with her the last vivid splash of colour in the world. In her darkening mind, the cubs wriggled, and the grass bent beneath drops of dew, and the pale gold sun rose on a new morning.