Selene


Selene waits for the coming day, swinging her legs like a child. Usually, she tries to maintain a regal posture suitable to her station, but tonight the flutter of anticipation is making her fidget.

She watches rain fall from her perch above the clouds, bound to a track on the celestial dome.

Since Helios is on the opposite side of the world, the only light is from her own reflected glow. She usually prefers it this way. Helios provides a glorious blaze, but mystery is burned away in the daytime. Her silver beams are like cat’s whiskers: a delicate touch that suggests shape. Her light leaves just as much obscured as it reveals. There are infinite possibilities still hidden in the darkness.

She angles her beams across the cloud field, playing with the shadows the clouds cast. Properly lit, they look like globular mountain ranges and valleys. However, this land is close enough for her to touch. She sweeps her hand above the surface, flattening out a plain, and drags her thumb across it for a river basin. A few pinches make some conical trees. Frowning, she tries to pat a few buildings into existence. Corners are difficult, and she sighs with frustration as air currents shift the clouds before she can get it right.

Clouds are Selene’s constant friends. Her path carries her across jet streams and weather fronts. She can forecast their movement better than a meteorologist. On her unchanging loop around the globe, clouds provide her with infinite interest and variety. In her silent, solitary existence, she has become a cloud aficionado.

Her favorites are the cloud-herd she has been playing with – grey puffs, pregnant with heavy rains. This group is taller than normal and very docile, letting her shape their peaks. In the back of the herd, the puffs have emptied and are starting to thin, opening small views to the ground.

Behind her, a line of thunderboomers crackle with self-importance. She passed over them an hour ago, tucking in her legs to keep them away from the jolts. Some clouds don’t like to be touched.

Her track is taking her farther from the storm front, towards the breaking of the cloud-herd. The puffs are smaller and lower now, revealing strips of earth between them. Electric light glitters from a city, and the edges of her clouds are backlit in yellow.

Cities are interesting – almost as interesting as clouds. They change much more slowly, but still there are bursts of growth and moments of destruction. Unlike the rest of the Pantheon, she doesn’t mind their evolution. Selene was never widely worshipped in the golden age; modern mortals have constructed more temples to view her than the ancients ever did. They even, on a handful of occasions, have managed to touch her.

And how the cities have changed! Until recently, the light produced by mortals was weak and flickering, thin like the faintest clouds forming over a desert. Now it is piercing and demanding. They seem to have created their new light in an imitation of garish Helios. It is disheartening, but she knows that light means safety for the tiny beings. And occasionally, when her attention follows her beams down to the dark areas of the world, she notices mortals lying in the grass, gazing into the night sky. Some of them still love the mystery of the darkness.

She traces the webwork of light running from the city to the horizon and notices a warm glow. Helios is rising. Even the new mortal cities can’t compete with his fiery brightness.

Selene turns her head to shield her eyes as he climbs above the horizon. Instead of trying to compete with his rays, she admires the colors cast onto her clouds, and reaches down to twist them into taller shapes to catch more of the horizontal light. Dusky pink turns to shades of orange, then to the clear white of daytime. The shadows shorten as she plays with her remaining puffs, making it harder for her to form pleasing shadows from their mounds. The light is too harsh.

She notices something on the ground below. Her own shadow. Faint, but there.

Her breath catches, and she peeks behind her to check Helios’ position on the dome. Finds his track and follows its path with her finger. Finds its intersection with her own. Works out the timing.

She smiles, silvery teeth flashing.

Showtime.

Selene sweeps her arms out. Clouds swarm to her hands, churning. With a few breaths of air, she clears the atmosphere of stray wisps. Her herds will re-form like they always do. This special occasion demands a proper backdrop.

Her shadow grows larger.

Flicks of her fingers stretch and smooth the puffs, arranging the water droplets within. She flips the clouds out like whips, forming a radial pattern around herself, and then blows one last gust of air, making sure that that there is plenty of clear space for the show. Everything is ready for display.

Selene’s edge slips in front of Helios.

Below, on a swath of ground thousands of miles long, mortals have stretched out in the grass to stare at the heavens.

Even the mortals in the well-lit cities have left their buildings to sprawl out under the deepening sky.

Their disks align. Selene shrouds Helios’ scorching light.

Fingers of plasma fan from her edges in a halo. Day turns to night. Stars appear. The ring of clouds split the corona’s light into a rainbow of iridescence.

Then, a noise! A chorus of gasps and exclamations from the lips of millions of mortals who are in the path of totality.

Enough voices combine for a whisper to reach Selene. The noise spreads and swells, ringing across the celestial dome.

Selene sighs happily from her circle of shadow and quietly congratulates herself.

By hiding the light, she has exposed the beauty of the dark.

A perfect eclipse.