• Gary Bills

Full Eclipses and the Blanket of the Moon.

In the Bizarre Fable, "The Blanket of the Moon", the moon covers the earth with a blanket of shadow: which is what happens whenever there is a full solar eclipse; although in the case of a full solar eclipse, the effect is localised. In the Blanket of the Moon, the shadow covers the earth in its entirety, and it lingers. This is why a long-lasting night comes to the earth, and how the dead are able to rise and take over.

Strange to say, this story was written as far back as 1998, before Heather and I actually travelled out to Romania to see the full eclipse of 1999. There was an eerie prescience, then, in the creation of this story. However, these days, whenever I read the tale, I cannot help but recall the full eclipse we saw in Romania. Aside from the actual solar/lunar spectacle, there are a number of aspects that remain in the mind, and some of those verged on the supernatural, or so it seemed.

The creepiest part of the eclipse - which we saw on the banks of Snagov Lake, close the burial place of the historical Dracula, Vlad Tepes, was the way that animals responded to the natural spectacle. As the light began to dim, with the passage of the moon across the face of the sun, one could hear donkeys braying, dogs barking and chickens cackling from neighbouring villages, and there was the eerie sense of a threshold somehow being crossed. A kind of natural order, so it seemed, was being put into suspension. This particular atmosphere is perhaps impossible to convey. It was, as I've said, something that was sensed, rather than quantified. I remember turning to Heather and saying, "This is how it will be, when the world ends…"

I'm not quite sure now what I meant; I gave voice, perhaps, to a deep atavistic instinct - but Heather quite rightly told me off for creeping her out!

These days, we look for scientific explanations for anything out of the ordinary. Some of those explanations are most satisfactory, while others are inadequate, even risible. In the case of the full solar eclipse, science can explain that pretty well; yet there lingers even here the sense that facts and measurements can only tell half the story.

When describing the nature of a star, in "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader", C.S. Lewis one said that we know what a star is made of, but not what it is. Perhaps the same is true of a full eclipse - we know how it happens, but its full meaning is far harder to pin down.

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