A man sits on open ground, wearing a little braided bracelet coiled round his wrist. He broods. His eyes focus inward. Time passes. Night falls. Still he sits. Something glimmers nearby, on the ground. He looks at a puddle in a track. In it he sees a reflection of the moon. It shivers. He forgets his inner landscape. He watches the moon settle down as the water stills. He looks up and squints. He sees that moon hanging in the sky. He reaches out to finger its texture but his hand paws empty air. He stands up and reaches again. He points his toe and stretches himself up on a diagonal, pointing as much length as he can muster upward at the moon. His finger is extended, but he cannot reach the moon. He brings his hand down. He stands and looks around.
He sees: a bare tree not far away. He looks up at its high branches. He moves toward the tree, inspecting it. He circles the tree looking up. The tiniest twigs at the top of its crown criss-cross the creamy, gleaming face of the moon. He jumps up with a grunt, catching the lowest stout limb. He throws his leg over the limb and exerts himself, to pull himself up into the tree. He reaches up – but his hand doesn’t even clear the branches, let alone pass out through the night air into the sky. He climbs higher in the tree; he reaches again. Still he cannot reach the moon. He climbs higher still; the boughs become branches that bend under his weight. He inches close to the trunk, to stand where the trunk joins the bough, where the tree is strongest, and best able to bear him up. Still he cannot reach the moon
A cloud drifts across the night sky toward the moon. The man watches the cloud become illuminated, then luminous. He scrambles even higher, tries to touch its stuff. He fails. The cloud passes in front of the moon, blocking its brightest light. The man cannot reach it to brush it away. He settles back into the tree. The cloud diffuses the moonlight so that it sheds a wide, pearly-gray illumination over the tree and the ground; in seeing this, the man also suddenly realizes how high up he is, and he is frightened. He pulls his hand in from his up-reaching, and gropes for the trunk, gropes for small twigs he can grasp. He hugs the tree for a while, worrying his predicament. He can’t take his eyes off the ground.
Gradually he senses a brightening. He makes himself look back up. The cloud has passed off the face of the moon and drifts slowly nearby, drifts away. The moon hangs a bit lower in the sky and seems larger than before. Crouching in the high fork of the tree, the man reaches out again, tentatively, for this moon. He still cannot touch it, yet it is closer than ever before. The moonlight gleams on the bead that fastens his bracelet. The man’s eyes re-focus on this near distance. With his teeth he bites at the knot on his wrist. He undoes the fastening. The bracelet begins to unspool; he catches the loose end, knots it round the bough on which he stands. Then, carefully holding the far end out away from his body, he inches out along the string toward the moon. He takes himself a good way out along the string.
The implosion, when it comes, is abrupt and benign. Suddenly he sees himself doing all this. He sees the night plain, the bare tree, the moon in the sky, large and luminous, and his own figure laboring. He sees the string, pulled taut from the bough at the fork down to his heels, running level from sole to sole, and rising again to his wrist. He sees his arm extended, wavering slightly, uncertainly, side to side, bearing nearly all his own weight. He can watch his own wrist, flexing and dropping the next length of string. His path extended, he inches on, impossibly suspended. He sees all this and sees himself seeing it. What is outward becomes inward, what is inward is seen from outside.
So he moves out along the string, inching outward, having cleared the tree, and upward toward the great moon. Now when he looks down, the world is far; he is very high. Now when he looks up; the moon is enormous, bigger than the circle he can compass with his empty arm. He inches toward it. He reaches and stretches and reaches but still he is not touching its bright face, and cannot finger the frothy texture of its rubble. He has long since lost his fear of falling. He is too far to fall now, to fall back to the earth. When he falls, he will fall into the moon. He will get what he wants.