This piece originally appeared in my story “Cinderseed” which can be read here. The tale was shortened during the (necessary) hack and cut of editing, so here it is in full:
THE MOON PHOENIX
There once was a bird that lived on the earth-circling moon. It pecked at moon-rocks for food, and laid empty eggs that crumpled into anti-matter and vanished. The bird was alone, but didn’t wish to be alone. However, it was no longer young, and living on the moon for so long had brittled and whittled its bones. Returning to the heaviness of earth would break its wings.
In its despair, the bird ceased laying, in hopes that the negative presence of its unlaid eggs would erase it from the moon and subtract it from the cosmos—a more permanent, fitting death than the crush and color of the earth. But the bird didn’t die.
The hunger of the creature’s belly-locked eggs flared into a clutch of resilient sparks that revolted against its despair, and began to forge in the bird a slow change. Its beak hardened to a needle of obsidian, and its skin and plumage iced over. Inside the bird’s chest, however, its heart warmed and blistered with heat, and after endless days of enduring this pain, the burn became too much–the bird had to pluck out its own heart.
The bones in its neck creaked and cracked as it bent its head. The needle of its beak frosted-over when the bird pricked its freezing skin, but thrust deep before the cold could break it. The bird’s bill seized its heart, plucked it free, then tossed the organ up–a bloody thing, gold and dripping as the sunset–and swallowed it down.
The heart, broken open by the gnaw of the bird’s stomach, became heavy and hungry as a black hole, and ate the bird from the inside out, leaving only a few puffs of down. Soon, though, light crackled from these featherlings and a new bird rushed forth, blue as the aurora that raced across the earth at night. Its wings were greater than the moon, and beneath the bird’s weight, the lunar rock broke and plummeted to earth.
The bird watched the rock fall until nothing remained of it, but a haze of moon-dust. And then, instead of following its path, the new-born creature took flight into the deep of space.