The common name for the common jellyfish is ‘Moon Jelly’. But this is not what their mothers call them.
Moons, in common with vampires, are associated with the night but can go out in sunlight; it just weakens them. When you see a moon hanging in the daytime sky it is so reduced it is almost transparent. If you peel such a moon away from the pale pottery blue of the firmament you will notice it is thin as a flake of laundry soap.
When these moons fall into the sea they become sodden, and then gelatinous, and then slowly they billow into bell-shapes, and are seduced by the watery element.
The three Ladies of the Moon are Selene, Diana, and Hecate. They know by now how their daughters wander, and how they fall. They let them go. In the ebb and flow of the tide, they rock their wayward babies to sleep.
When Natural Philosophy came to name the world, he put on his best embroidered slippers and stuffed his pipe with Nicotiana tabacum. The lists were long and sometimes he ascribed unworthy names. Resting his eyes he fell, perhaps, asleep. If he did sleep, in his dream he was visited by three ladies: the first was young and soft-skinned, with pale yellow hair and a round, winsome face; the second was most memorable for her collection of weapons, and the third was an old witch.
‘See,’ said the young one, her plump delicate finger indicating the drawing of a primitive sea-animal, ‘See our precious babies. We miss them so, it is a perpetual ache. We wish to name them. It is a kind of spell, we know, what you do.’
The weaponed one said, ‘Their name will feel like a soft caress.’
And the witch added, ‘But at the end, there will be a little tskiness, so they know how naughty they have been.’
Then they took his quill, and wrote something in his list. They all seemed to do this, and all at the same time, as if the witch and the warrior were shadows of the girl, or as if she were light playing on their silvering hair.
Natural Philosophy awoke to a cold dark room. His candle had guttered in the wax, and the only light came from the stern eye of the moon. The list was as he had left it before dozing, but with a grateful shudder, he remembered the name.
Below his tower spread the endless, black, moon-caressed sea. And through it, gazing up at their three mothers, swam Aurelia Aurita, the Moon Jellies.
Sheena Power is an illustrator from Dublin. Her work ranges from dragons on the cover of JRR Tolkien: the Forest & the City (a collection of essays by Tolkien experts), to Christmas cards for scientists. Although she draws for a living, her real love is writing. Composing captions for greetings cards can be like writing an extreme form of flash fiction. Her story ‘Queen’ was shortlisted for the Allingham Festival 2015.