The Last Lunar Eclipse of the Year – Shannon Frost Greenstein

I lost her during the last lunar eclipse of the year.

During our honeymoon, when she wore flowers in her hair as the waves washed over our feet, she told me her greatest fear was dying alone.

If I do go first, promise you’ll stay with me the whole time, she made me swear. Be with me at the end.




At the beginning, the scientists thought things might still turn out okay. Sure, the tides were unpredictable and the seasons cycled too quickly; sure, the eclipses were eerie and came without warning. But for a time, the astrophysicists and meteorologists and inorganic chemists all thought we could still adapt. We’re humans, after all; adaptation is how we got this far in the first place.

But then people started disappearing.

There has to be some explanation, I remember her snapping at me. This was after the Event, when it was becoming impossible to ignore the swaths of missing person reports that would emerge after every eclipse.

Maybe it really is because of the moon, I had voiced, echoing the theory we were starting to hear at the grocery store and in line at the bank, and that’s when she got angry.

People don’t just disappear, she stated definitively. Whatever’s happening to the moon, it has nothing to do with people going missing. That’s just preposterous, she added.

I see now that it was fear. I see now that she was even more scared of nothingness than she was of death.




Eventually, over the years, we started to understand a bit more.

We now know that we won’t make it off the planet before the next Event – that the next one will likely be extinction-level. We know the ocean is warming with every eclipse, and the eclipses are lengthening with every lunar year, and the year is shorter with every passing day. We know the darkness is coming, and we know it will stay.

Eventually, over the years, we learned how to talk about it.

It’s hard to live with purpose when the future has been cancelled. The birth rate dropped. College admissions plummeted. A recession set in and took up permanent residence. We learned to accept our own mortality – the mortality of our very species – and we learned to accept we would lose everyone we had ever loved, too. But we never did learn why people disappear, and we never did learn where they go.

Eventually, over the years, we stopped filing missing persons reports.

I spend a lot of time trying not to visualize this, but sometimes the horror of it all pierces my lizard brain like a lightning bolt – something unbidden and intrusive and barbed – and I cannot stop the image from blooming behind my eyes: Daughters and fathers and coworkers, soulmates and enemies and strangers and friends, masses of people, a sea of bodies, trapped and clamoring and lost in spacetime; an interdimensional purgatory, and our families desperate to get back to us.

Eventually, over the years, I would forget the color of her eyes and the location of her freckles and the label of her favorite craft beer. But I never did forget the sound of her voice. It keeps me company in the darkness now, now that the darkness is all there is.




Our last night, we were having dinner together in the kitchen. She had spent all evening cooking my favorite risotto. There was still wine to be found at that point; we had opened a bottle of Bordeaux.

Do you want to move? she had asked. This was back when we still thought we had a chance; when we thought humanity had a chance. I hear it’s happening slower up north.

The evening was frigid and crystal-clear. A few lights twinkled outside, the half-hearted attempts of our Christian neighbors to garner yuletide favor with whichever deity lies beyond the pull of the moon.

We discussed the benefits of an international relocation in a world living on borrowed time, but never came to a conclusion. We spoke of the recent typhoon on the East Coast; she reminded me to buy more bottled water at the store in the morning.

When the eclipse came, we were washing dishes by the sink. I was scrubbing plates and she was drying pots and moonbeams were streaming through the window, throwing an austere glow over the shabby lawn furniture outside. It grew imperceptibly darker, then darker still.

Looks like another one, she commented.

Yup, I agreed, fishing through the dishwater for silverware.

We continued rinsing and polishing as the moment of totality approached and the sky began to glow a sickly red. I craned my head upward to catch the shadow of the Earth against the face of the moon – even then, even with everything that was happening, I still found the movement of celestial bodies oddly captivating – and watched until it retreated.

When I turned back to the sink, she was gone.




It’s been many years since that night, and many more eclipses.

These days, it is just me on my own, lingering in the heretofore-unknown limbo that is a dying galaxy. There aren’t enough people left to grow the food, or deliver the babies, or rebuild the infrastructure that has all started to fall. The rest of us are just waiting for the next eclipse; we are all just waiting to vanish ourselves.

I can deal with the loneliness. I can deal with society breaking down. I can deal with the existential angst of crossing Darwin himself, of living in opposition to every instinct we as humans possess – to acclimate, to progress, to further our species and continue our timeline.

What I can’t deal with is breaking my promise.

I told her I’d stay with her until the end. I swore, if she went first, I wouldn’t make her go alone. But she did go first, and she was alone, and whatever is happening, wherever she is – we will not be together when everything stops.

So until then – until everything stops – life leaves very little to look forward to and nothing to enjoy. There is no longer any wonder or awe left in this world. Everyone knows whatever happens next is inevitable; everyone knows exactly how this will end.

The only mystery that now remains is how much time I have left. And the only way I can abide the discomfort of that suspense is to hope – childishly, naively – that my turn also comes during the last lunar eclipse of the year.

Maybe that way, maybe somehow – we will get to be together again.

Shannon Frost Greenstein

Shannon Frost Greenstein (she/her) is the author of “These Are a Few of My Least Favorite Things,” a poetry collection with Really Serious Literature. She is a former Ph.D. candidate in Continental Philosophy. Follow Shannon on Twitter at @ShannonFrostGre or on her website at

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