The Last Crone on the Moon
by C. S. E. Cooney
1. At daybreak she espies them twisting through the curls sneakily they glint, the vanguard just a few threads yet tangle-snaked and gray she auditions similes against mortality: hair like rain, like winter rivers, like quicksilver, spiderweb, wolfpelt (fails, feels instantly endangered her mouth a quarter quavering mostly wry) later, they multiply strand by strand miles on the road deadlines, payload lean times, deathblows friends made, faded, more and more she braids gray with gold 2. "room enough for all gods' children on the moon! step right up, sit down, lean back — aaaand freeze! all the rest'll keep, so here's a little somethin-somethin to help you sleep, sweethearts, sleep a hundred years (give or take), and we'll wake you with a smoocheroo, and we'll have the stuff by then to make you young and beautiful again" up and out they go smooth-browed, serene and clean unbreathing whole generations by the rocketshipful she watches. the world empties. 3. when the last is decades gone in a fastness of iron-and-diamond caskets tended by tender robots she coils her hair into a coronet, takes her cane by the carving of the crow's head walks briskly but with stiff steps to the kiosk where the android with the ticktock heart reads her retinas and greets her by name "just once," she says, "I want to see my shadow cast by earthlight." "that i can do," smiles the android (ticktock) "but the flight itself might murder you you ain't no spring chicken, miss daisy more of a Methuselah, I'm thinkin' maybe a Tithonus, sort of shrunk and sunken shriveled like a cricket however spry." "all too true, my gearish dear — I agree with you! yet here I stand weatherworn worm-eaten as I am applying for the post of last crone on the moon see, when at last tomorrow's children awaken on that barren rock, in that vacuum vastness shaking in the dark and cold I reckon they'll be wanting something old to cling to."
C. S. E. Cooney's fiction and poetry can be found in Rich Horton's Year's Best Science Fiction Fantasy 2011 and 2012, SteamPowered II and Clockwork Phoenix 3, at Apex, Subterranean, Strange Horizons, Podcastle, and Mythic Delirium. Her book Jack o' the Hills came out with Papaveria Press in 2011, which will also be releasing her poetry collection How to Flirt in Faerieland and Other Wild Rhymes in April of 2012. She was the recipient of the 2011 Rhysling Award in the Long Poem category. She is blog editor for Black Gate Magazine and also keeps her own blog.
When asked what creature, landmark, or place would appear in Neverland when she visited it, she replied as follows: "In Neverland, just south of Cannibal Cove, there is a mighty volcano. It erupts every dusk like clockwork. You may always see the sun setting to its left, and the moon rising to its right. Inside the caldera is a tower, where the bathwater is always warm and there is always enough light to read by."
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