Three Moons: The Pursuit of Happiness
CHAPTER ONE: THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS
“What in the world is the secret? How can we find our way to eternal happiness, without pain or sorrow?”
“If I knew that,” said my best friend Mara, “I’d be on the Illuminated Moon right now, and tell you how to get there.” We were both sitting in the basement at her house, her favorite place to play, which was cool and dry during the daytime. At night the basement grew chilly, so it was better to go upstairs to her room and watch the auroras from there. Today we were having an all-day get-together and a sleepover, which we often did while our parents were visiting. Whom or what they visited, we didn’t know, but our mothers assured us we’d be told once we turned ten. We were both nine, and looking forward to our birthdays. At ten, we’d start becoming adults on the Shadow Moon, and assuming adult responsibilities. Preparing to visit was one of them, and so was beginning to study the Illuminated Way. We’d heard that this was the path to being happy forever, but since were both still children, we weren’t ready to learn about it yet.
“Mara?” I asked her, sitting lotus-style on basement floor. “What do you think the Illuminated Way is?”
“Maybe it teaches us how to have fun forever and not get bored!” she blurted out, beaming. “Maybe it’s all about waterslides and ice-cream men and summer days and reading books. Lots of jokes, too. After all, when are we the most happy? When we’re having fun.” She ruffled my hair. “What do you think, Per‘dra?”
“I don’t think so,” I told her, “because if it was all about that, we’d be doing it right now, and wouldn’t have to be on the Illuminated Moon. I think it’s all about being good, and we’re on the Shadow Moon because somehow, we haven’t been good enough. Maybe we’ll have to study really hard once we start on the Illuminated Way.” This didn’t worry me, because I was usually good in school. “I like your idea better.”
Mara blew out a deep breath, puffing up her cheeks. “Being good? That’s no fun. Pick that up. Brush your teeth. Don’t get dirty. Work hard at school. Clean your room. We know that already, so what would be the point of studying more of it? It doesn’t take a genius to know how to keep his toys off the floor.” With that, Mara stood up from her lotus position and whirled around, making the skirt of her white dress billow out. “I want to be a ballerina. That would make me happy, and don’t get me started about all the other stuff. Really,” she said as she did a graceful pirouette, “do you think we’ll be sent to live back there if we don’t put all of our clothes in the hamper? That would just be silly, and unfair too. People can do worse things.”
“Like lie or steal,” I said, and Mara nodded. “Still, neither of us has stolen anything, and I try not to fib.”
“Me too, although it’s hard when I break something by accident and want to blame it on my little brother.” Victus, who was three, could be a pain, but right now he was at a play date with his friends. “Even when I do, why does that mean I have to live on the Shadow Moon instead of the Illuminated Moon? I told Mother and Father I was sorry, and they forgave me. Why won’t the Master of Illumination do the same thing?”
“Maybe it’s like what happens at school,” I told her. “Before we have a test, we do homework and quizzes to practice. The more questions we get right on those things, the better chance we’ll have of passing the test. Maybe the more we practice being good, the closer we’ll get to living on the Illuminated Moon.”
“I sure hope so, because I want to get there so bad! It hangs there in the sky every night, full as always, and it will never be dark like in the shadows here or back there.” I nodded in somber silence, because I knew what place she was mentioning. We tried not to say the Void Moon, because it was incredibly bad luck. Other children at school tried to terrify each other by telling scary stories about it and playing Voiders, but Mara and I never did. That game was creepy enough in and of itself, but what it represented was much creepier. You and your friends would go to the site of an empty ditch or shallow ravine, representing you-know-what, wear blindfolds, and stumble around. If you fell in, you were out. The last person standing was the winner, although we couldn’t imagine what you won. You were still blindfolded at the very end.
I dared to ask Mara, “What do you think it’s like back there, besides a never-ending game of Voiders?”
“Horrible,” she said, her voice shaky. “Unlike in the game, there’s no winner. I’ve even heard the screams.”
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