“You won’t believe me, of course. No one ever does. But soon enough, you’ll all see.” Luna Teagarden pats her round belly and settles heavily into the lawn chair outside her motor home, gesturing that I should take the adjacent seat. She reaches for the glass of water she keeps on the folding table between us. “You’ll want to come back to photograph the baby.”
I study her, slight frame held defiantly upright, chin tipped up, lingering baby fat making her look like a girl playing at being a grownup. She’s perfectly calm and gives off a vibe like she’s humoring us pitiable fools who won’t listen to her truths. Cassandra of the Countryside. I should use that in my article. My editor loves alliteration. I tap my pen against my leg, carefully deciding what to ask next. If I seem too credulous, she’ll think I’m patronizing her, but if I’m too argumentative, that might also put her off. “Let’s start with how you came to live here. It’s remote for a young woman, especially a pregnant one.”
“Well, I certainly wasn’t pregnant when I got here! I was just done with all of it. I think I told you I was a waitress when I met Bobby. I’d left home for reasons that need not concern you and I had to support myself. He always sat in my section and tipped extra and one day he up and asked me to marry him. My rent was due and I was a bit short, so I said yes, and off we went to Vegas. When we got back home, it turned out he wasn’t the nicest, but praise be, he had an accident just a couple of weeks later. He’d left everything to his daughter. She’s older than I am, and she felt sorry for me, so she gave me his motorhome to keep me off the streets. People were still talking about how I must have pushed him down the stairs, and I’d always liked the woods, so I set up out here.”
I’ve heard a few things about how Luna got by, including a rumor that her husband had left a substantial life insurance policy. I’ve also heard the one where she was a successful phone sex operator and the one where she was a brilliant hacker who just stole what she needed online. I don’t really want to open that can of worms and I doubt I’d get a straight answer anyway. “How do you get groceries and things like that? How will you get to the hospital when it’s time for the baby?”
“There’s a boy in town comes once a week with everything I need. I don’t really need much. And I’m not going to any hospital. The daddy says that won’t be necessary.”
And here we come to the delicate part of the interview. I take a deep breath. “About the daddy.”
She shakes her head. “I know, you think I’m delusional. Poor Loony Luna, living out in the woods, finally cracked up. But how else did I get this?” She pats her belly again and something inside kicks in response. I actually see something pushing outward, the faintest red glow briefly illuminating her pale dress. She smiles triumphantly. “Ever seen a human baby do that?”
I sit back. It must have been a trick of the light. Or I’m sure there’s some way she could have rigged up a light to give that effect. She’s watching me carefully to see how I respond. “Does it do that often?”
“He. They’re always male. Then they find a female human to have their babies.”
I doodle a moth on my notepad. “I see. He told you this? He speaks English?”
“You ask better questions than the others did. No, he doesn’t speak at all. It’s more a pulse of light that transmits thoughts into my head.”
I nod, like this makes perfect sense.
“So how did you meet him?”
“I sit out here most evenings. Sometimes I just look at the stars and listen to the crickets. Sometimes I get bored and watch 90-Day Fiance or Real Housewives on my tablet. Reminds me I’m not missing much by staying away from people, you know? Well, it turns out moths are attracted to the light of reality TV just as much as anything else, and one day, when Ashley caught Jay looking at Tinder, this creature just sat next to me. He said he’d been listening from behind the trees, but this was just too juicy. So I shared my popcorn with him and got him a beer.”
“To be clear, this is Mothman? Mothman eats popcorn and drinks beer?”
“I know, crazy, right? I never really thought about what Mothman eats but I mean, ‘man’ is right there in the name. He’s not all moth.”
“So that was the start of your…relationship?”
“Yes, we watched the rest of that season together. And one night I had some music on and he came over and asked me to dance. Dancing with him was amazing. Those fluttering wings around me, and obviously he’s light on his feet.”
“What kind of music does he like?”
“This was Swedish House Mafia.” She looks at me expectantly.
“Oh!” I say, as the penny drops. “‘Moth to a Flame.’”
“Anyway, we were dancing, and suddenly this red glow surrounded us, and I just knew.”
“I knew I was going to have his baby. He said he’d chosen me, and not to worry, the baby would just appear outside my body when he was fully formed. No pain or anything. I was surprised.”
“Well, of course.”
“I would have thought he’d be a caterpillar at first, but no, I guess the mammal part means they’re born as a baby Mothman. Mothbaby? I like that.”
“And is the dad…around?”
“He said he has things to do to get everything ready for us. Obviously we can’t live here once the baby is born.” She laughs. “How ridiculous would that be? Mothman’s baby in an RV?”
Yes, that would be ridiculous, I think. “I believe you said you have a photo?”
“Right!” She jumps up, fumbling with her phone. “I took a selfie. He’s shy of photos, for obvious reasons, but he wanted me to have something to sustain me as I wait for our baby to be born.”
I peer closely at her phone screen. The background is very dark, and the figures are blurry behind a red glow. I can just make out Luna’s features. “Very nice,” I say. “I’d love to take a family photo when the baby is born.”
“Of course. I haven’t liked the others who have come to ask questions, but you really listen. I’d love for you to meet the baby.”
I hand over the gift bag I’ve brought and she’s delighted by the plush Mothman and the LIVE LAUGH LURK onesie I picked out. “I wasn’t sure about the…anatomy…so I don’t know if it’ll fit.”
“Oh, it’s fantastic! Thank you!” She jumps up and hugs me. We set a date for me to come see the baby and I’m strangely reluctant to leave. I look back as I walk to the car and see her still sitting outside, hair glowing in the light of her tablet. She gives a little wave and I wave back.
I don’t have a photographer with me today. Budget cuts. My phone camera and I will have to do our best. Do I believe there’s an actual Mothman baby to photograph? I’m 99% sure that Luna will be in that RV with a regular human baby. Maybe she’ll have made it some wings or something. She was so earnest, but of course the whole Mothman thing is ridiculous.
I had pinned her location, so I turn where the GPS tells me to, and for a moment my heart sinks. Has she moved on? But no, there’s the RV. It looks dingier than I remember, and a lawn chair is lying on its side out front, a vine curling around its armrest. I’m pretty sure it’s abandoned, but I knock on the door anyway. It swings open. There’s nothing in there. It looks like she’s moved out. I feel a pang of guilt that I hadn’t done something to help an obviously troubled woman. I’d treated her like a curiosity.
I tug the lawn chair from the grip of the vines and set it upright. I’m not ready to go yet, so I brush off the seat and sit heavily. The afternoon shadows lengthen and finally dusk settles in. I wonder where that poor woman and her baby are tonight. Are they warm and fed?
I turn back once more when I reach the car to look at the lonely RV and a light from the tree cover stops me. It’s a red glow that becomes brighter. I squint. There are two figures silhouetted against the red glow. I fumble with my phone to pull up the camera app and drop it. As I scrabble for it in the dirt and dead leaves, I realize that one of the figures is holding something. It lifts an arm in a wave. I manage to snap a photo as the group turns back to the woods and the red glow recedes from view.
I drive back to town in silence, thinking about what I saw. I pull off the road to take a look at the photo I took. A red glow with maybe some blurry figures. Fantastic. It’s absolutely unprintable and failed to capture any of the strangeness of that moment. The figure holding something, the wave. I know in my gut that was Luna and her family, emerging from their new home in the woods. I hope she has a good life there.
I sit down with the reporter. She’s doodling in her notebook and I think I see the hint of a smile around her mouth. “So,” she says.
I take a deep breath. “You won’t believe me,” I say. “No one ever does.”