Gran was astonished. I could tell she knew something about this. Something she didn't want me to know. But what?
"Gran? Do you know anything about this?"
She sighed. "This wasn't supposed to happen. I fixed this. Surely, I did. How could it not work?"
She sighed again. "June, I am very old, you realise that, right?"
Of course, Gran was 63 this year. But her actions and behaviour made her seem much older. She slept for most of the day, sometimes all of it. She could never do anything without help and appeared older too. There wasn't anything about her that called "younger than 70".
She recognised my expression and shook her head. "No, June. You don't understand. I mean old. As in, almost 150."
No way! Gran may look older than 70 but no way was she that old!
"I am, June. And I know I have lived for a very long time now. I feel my time may be near. But June, what you need to know here is about the ritual you saw. It's called "Ortus Lunae", meaning "the rising of the moon". The girl you saw, what was her reaction when those kids disappeared?"
"Umm...she just looked at me and ran."
"Hmm, I thought as much. This girl is most likely the host."
"Host?" I asked.
"The host is the chosen person who must once every 50 years, on the solar eclipse of the 25th year, provide offerings or a sacrifice to the moon. Here, we can infer that she lost something and needs it - or them - back. She is trying to make a deal here - trade, even - her lost possession with the moon."
"So what you're trying to say here is that this "host" lost something, or someone to the moon and now she wants them back?"
'But...! You're talking about a girl who is trying to trade people for one small object or something! How can we just stand by and watch? I mean, shouldn't we try to help her or something? You did mention something about helping this host in your 100 years of living-"
"150," she corrected. "I did. But that was a different host. This one has slightly less sense than the previous one, it seems. In fact, she's trying to change everything about the ritual. What were the elders thinking?"
"They're not human, more just voices you hear in the wind, and when they choose you, you better be damn serious about it, because they have great expectations for the person they choose. I don't see why they would just choose a random girl to do something this important."
"Why does the moon have to be so spoilt, then? Why do we have to offer it stuff every 50 years?"
"Can you go every year without a single birthday present?" Gran snapped.
I gulped. "Sorry. Gran? How do you know so much about this?"
"I discovered the ritual when I came across a lost boy dancing around this big chalk outline on the floor. He seemed upset, so I offered to help him with whatever. So he tells me about the moon and I realise he was doing something wrong the entire time. I realised that he had been trying to exchange something with the moon. He'd wanted to be with his parents again, who the moon had taken from him years ago."
"So what was he doing wrong?" I was now on the edge of my seat.
There was a pained look in her eyes which quickly disappeared as she turned to me and tried to smile.
"I..." she was about to say it, I knew she would!
My hopes plummeted when she suddenly appeared to gather her wits and her defences went up.
"150 years is a long time, as you know...So, I don't think I remember right now. Maybe I'll never remember it again."
Maybe you don't want to, I thought.
"But if I do recall anything, you'll be the one I tell."
I thanked her, waved goodbye and when I was halfway down the road, I let out the sigh of disappointment I had been afraid to let loose.
Then something rammed into my side and knocked me over onto the concrete pavement.
I was out cold.