by Nick Ragusa
In the beginning
there was Luna, alone and desolate. Then
mankind from planet Earth arrived and built Luna Station on its
to the finest minds in science, technology, medicine, and education,
station was humanity’s greatest achievement, and all who
lived and worked there
were honored and dedicated. But as time passed many of the residents
weary with homesickness, yearning for the sights and smells of Earth.
became disheartened and depressed. Productivity dropped, morale was
low, and a
general uneasiness was evident within the station. The Luna Station
Council asked the World Government of Earth to send help, and the
sent someone the Council did not expect. They sent a Horticulturist...
I hate hospitals. They depress the
hell out of me. Six years
ago my grandfather had a stroke, and I went with my family to see him.
never forget that horrible day. He had an oxygen tube sticking out of
his face beet red, his hands shriveled and weak. I despised having to
that way. I was only 16 at the time, and after seeing the state he was
knew I’d have one less grandparent. He died of complications
four weeks later.
The health care system on Earth is crap. He would’ve fared
better if he had
been here on Luna Station. He’d have better care, better
equipment. Oh well,
what’s done is done. He’s dead on Earth and
I’m alive on the Moon.
I’m at the medical center
in the Hobbes District to visit
Emma Corning, a teacher at the local elementary school. She’s
been on the
station for twenty years and is 74 years old. She has bronchitis from,
apparently, having smoked too much when she was younger. It makes me
I’ve been smoking a lot lately. I should cut back, but
I’ve been too stressed
out from work to stop.
I walk up to the information desk.
The lady at the desk
says, “My, those are nice flowers.”
She’s referring to the big
arrangement of flowers I made.
“Thanks. I’m here to see Emma Corning.”
“Are you Amanda
“Yes I am.”
“It’s such a
pleasure to meet you,” she says, genuinely
excited. Give me a break. It’s not like I’m the
damn president or anything. I’m
just the flower girl. “I’ve heard so many great
things about you.”
She must be an intern. I hate
interns. “I appreciate that.
Now can you tell me where Miss Corning’s room is? This is
“Second floor, room 2E. Did
you grow those flowers from
With me it’s simple: ask a
stupid question, you get no
answer. I probably offended her but I don’t care. I just want
to get this over
with and get out of here. I’m tired as hell. I stayed up half
the night putting
this arrangement together. I had no choice. The school asked me to make
it’s not like I can open my desk drawer and whip up a bouquet
of flowers. This
isn’t Earth. There’s no soil, no ecosystem.
Every flower has to be grown
mechanically, which takes time.
And what’s worse I
can’t grow them in large quantities. I
don’t have sufficient equipment. The Grand Council says
they’ll send more but
who knows how long that will be. That’s why I’ve
been so stressed. The demand
is exceeding the supply. The job is satisfying most of the time because
helping people, but it’s a lot of work. I’m the
only one doing it. They haven’t
even hired an assistant for me yet.
The second floor has an awful clean
smell, like they used
too much bleach. It makes me want to vomit. All right Amanda, take a
breath. It’ll be over soon enough.
Emma’s asleep in her room.
The lights are on. A radio sits
silent on a table next to her bed. The lone window in the room offers a
pleasant view of downtown Hobbes. There’s not much activity
out there because
it’s approaching twenty hundred hours, the standard resting
time on the
She stirs awake when I put the
flowers on the table. She
looks at the arrangement, at me, and back at the arrangement. She takes
breath and rubs her eyes. I sit in a spare chair at the foot of the
obliged to speak until she does.
flowers look lovely,” she says. “And a lovely
lady to bring them to me. How do you do, dear?”
I yawn. I can’t believe I
did that. How fucking rude. “I’m
so sorry. Forgive me, I’ve been up all day running all kinds
of errands.” Wow
do I so not want to be here right now.
“That’s quite all
right, you don’t have to apologize. Thank
you for this beautiful arrangement. You are Amanda, yes?”
“I am. How are you feeling,
“Oh, I’m okay.
I’m very sick and it hurts most of the time.
But these flowers are a wonderful surprise. I used to have a garden at
back on Earth.”
“Where are you
from?” I know the answer, having been given
basic background information from her school. But it’s part
of the job to make
conversation with her.
Martin was from there also. He was
“How long has he
“He was a good man, and
lived a good life. And where are you
from, dear? America, yes?”
Missouri.” This kind of talk is brutal. It’s so
boring. Not a week goes by I don’t engage in one of these
so often I’ll meet a scientist or a philosopher and
we’ll have a meaningful
talk. I don’t see that happening with Emma, her being a
“Missouri, you say?
I’ve been there before. Which town?”
“Oh, don’t think
I’ve ever been there. Martin and I went to
St. Louis many years ago, long before your time. You’ve been
to St. Louis?”
“A lovely city.
There’s so much to do, so much to see in St.
Louis. And the Gateway Arch! I was afraid to go to the top of it. It
high. That may sound strange coming from someone who’s living
on Luna, but back
then I was quite shy about those things. Now Martin, on the other
“Excuse me if I may, Miss
Corning, but I must get going.” I
can’t sit here and listen to her ramble on about her dead
husband. So many old
people do that. It’s depressing as hell.
“Oh, so soon? That is a
shame. I would’ve liked to know more
“There’s not much
to tell. I’m just a Horticulturist. I’m
“Nonsense. No one is ever
boring. Are you married?”
“Are there any prospects,
then? Come on, don’t be shy.”
I’m in no mood to talk
about this, but I kind of feel sorry
for her, alone in this place with no friends or family.
“I’m not in a
relationship right now. I’ve been on a few dates but
that’s about it. I’ve been
so busy with work I really haven’t had time for that
Emma frowns. She looks as if
I’ve confessed to a crime or
something. “You must make time, dear. In my years on this
station I’ve known
people who work too much, who stay single, and let me tell you they are
happy. They keep to themselves. They don’t go out much, get
sick, and in some
cases depressed. My son Evan was like that when he came here. I was
because I was married, but Evan couldn’t take it and left
after a year. Take my
advice, Amanda, and find someone to be in a relationship
Is she kidding? As if it’s that
easy to find someone
here on the Moon. “I’ll try. It’s just
hard right now. I’m only 22, so I’m not
going to rush things. But like I said, it is getting late and I must be
I have a busy day ahead of me tomorrow. I do apologize.”
right.” She holds out her hand. “Come over here,
She pulls me in close. She smells
like cough syrup. “Think
about what I said. Luna is a lonely place. Okay?”
“I will.” In all
likelihood I’ll have forgotten this conversation
by tomorrow. I’m not one who dwells on things for too long.
“I hope you get
better, Miss Corning. Have a good night.”
Finally! I damn near run out of the
hospital. I have to be
back here tomorrow afternoon to send flowers to another patient but I
to think about that. I need a drink. A stiff drink, a few of them. And
cigarette. My God do I need a cigarette.
I have to wait until I get into one
of the bars, though. I
hop the automated monorail to the Dunholm District where I live.
It’s almost a
station in itself, with schools and apartment buildings and, yes,
It’s not a bad district to live in, but it’s very
crowded. Most of the newer
residents start out at Dunholm and work their way to other districts as
get further situated.
I’m there in five minutes.
I make for this little dive
called The Veil. It’s more of a nightclub than a sit-down
bar, which I prefer.
I like listening to the music and watching people dance.
I’m not inside for ten
seconds when someone calls my name.
“Amanda! Hey Amanda!” It’s Adam Dolby,
who works at the Food Distribution
Center of this district. He’s sitting by himself drinking a
“Hey Adam, what’s
“Not much. Didn’t
expect to see you here this late.”
I reach into my purse and pull out a
cigarette. I light it
so fast I nearly burn my fingers. That first drag is the best. I feel
already. “Is Karen here?”
“I think she’s in
the main bar. You look nice.”
look nice, not even close. I can look ten
times better than this. “Thanks. Anyway, I’m going
to go find Karen. I’ll see
“All right. Wait,
“We’re still on
for next week, right? The concert?”
I have to remember what
he’s talking about. “Oh right, Retro
Fuse. Yeah we’re still on. Definitely. Where is it
he says like he’s annoyed. I think he’s
told me about fifty times where it is. I’ve just been so busy
I can’t remember
stuff like that.
“Okay. I’ll call
you later on in the week.” I walk down the
corridor to the main bar. Karen’s sitting at the bar drinking
a martini and
smoking a cigarette. You don’t see many people downing
martinis at The Veil,
but Karen’s not like many people. She does her own thing. She
doesn’t care what
anyone thinks of her, which makes her so cool to hang out with. You can
complete fool out of yourself in front of her and it won’t
faze her. She’s my
best friend on the station. Too bad she can’t be my
assistant. She works as a
data organizer for Hammond-King Superconductor’s Research
firm. It’s a solid job, with good pay, and a very easy one.
There isn’t much
thinking involved to be a data organizer, which is why she can drink
off all night, be halfway functional the next morning, and still do her
“Amanda! There you
are!” She practically applauds when she
sees me. I receive glances from the majority of people in the bar. They
who I am.
“Not much. Guess
who’s here. Remember that guy from the
other night, the one who said he was going to Mars?”
That I remember.
“Yes, Brad. Man, I
couldn’t think of his name for the life
of me. I saw him in here, like, twenty minutes ago. Wait, I think
There he is, indeed. Brad is one
handsome son of a bitch.
He’s in his late 20’s, tall and muscular, with dark
blue eyes and a nice smile.
He’s a field consultant for NASA, a pretty high profile job.
He gives me a hug. “You
I’m not sure how I look but I’ll take his word for
“You just getting
“Yeah. I had a delivery to
make in the Hobbes District. So
how have you been?”
“Same old same old.
Drinking beer, getting drunk. You need
“I can get my
“Hell no. Have a seat. This
one’s on me.”
I sit next to Karen. “He
likes you,” she says. “And so does
Adam Dolby. He’s around here somewhere. He’s all
excited about the concert.”
“I know. I saw him when I
“Here ya go.”
Brad hands me a beer. Karen says, “I’m going
to the bathroom. Brad, take my seat.”
He sits next to me. Nice move, Karen.
“So how’s the flower
business treating ya?” he asks.
I say. “I’ve got eight more orders for
tomorrow, and twelve the day after that. You know the new rocket
put up at O’Laughlin? I have to do a design for them by the
end of next week.
And just the other day I landed a design for the Sea of Tranquility
complex. Not just a particular floor or wing, but the whole damn
“Well, yes and no. Yeah
it’s good all these people need my
help, but I just wish I had an assistant or two to help out. I can
up on my own. Hey, guess what? I’m going to see Retro Fuse at
“No shit. That’s
awesome. Who you going with?”
“A friend of mine from the
FDC. He’s a big music buff.” Brad
looks dejected all of a sudden. Crap. I shouldn’t have said
that. “But he’s
just a friend,” I emphasize. I hope I haven’t blown
it. I’m always saying
stupid stuff like that. “So tell me. How’s the trip
to Mars coming along?”
He laughs. Good. “Joke all
you want, but I’m telling ya I’m
going to be on that first expedition. I’ll be on every TV set
in the world. And
you want to know what I’m going to do when the
camera’s on me? I’m going to
turn around, bend over, pull my pants down, and show everybody my
I’m getting a visual of him
doing that, and it’s funny as
hell. “That’s awesome, dude.”
“Yup, I’m going
to moon the Moon.”
“I hope you get
asphyxiation up your ass.”
“Well, if I do, six billion
people’ll get to watch. I’m
telling ya, Amanda, five years. In five years I’ll be there.
Oh, and another
thing I’m going to do when I get there: drink lots of beer. I
want to be the
first drunk bastard on Mars. Cheers to that.” We cling
My beer is gone in five minutes. Wow,
I can’t believe I
drank it that fast. Where’s Karen? I don’t see her.
Oh well, she can take care
of herself. I need another beer. I barely tasted the first one.
After the second beer I need a third.
After the third beer I
need a fourth. I’ve got a good buzz going. Brad is still
keeping me company.
I’m amazed I haven’t scared him off. It amazes me
even more when he asks, “You
want to dance?”
“Uh, no, I don’t
think so.” I mean I’d like to, but it seems
like a lot of work right now. I need another beer.
“Come on. You know you want
to. I see you dance all the
time. This is one of my favorite songs. You wouldn’t refuse a
guy the chance to
dance to his favorite song, would you? I’m not going to take
no for an answer.”
He holds out his hand. I take it. Man he’s persuasive.
The song is a fast hip-hop/funk song
by the Comet Books,
whom I got to see in concert on Earth just before I left for the Moon.
great dance song. Brad’s right about one thing. I do dance a
when I’m buzzed. It’s a nice way to release
tension—that is, when I’m not
acting like a chickenshit trying to weasel my way out of it. You have
my arm to get me to do stuff sometimes.
Brad’s a great dancer.
He’s not erratic or a showboat. He
has a nice fluid dance motion. It’s not enough to just know
how to move your
feet or where to place your hands. It’s a confidence factor.
Brad has it. I
have it, I think, when I’m not being a chickenshit.
Another pleasure I get out of dancing
with him are his eyes.
I could stare at them forever. With most guys I dance with
I’ll look at them
for a bit then avert my gaze elsewhere. It’s one of those
strange habits I have.
With Brad it’s different. I look at him and only him.
He’s very charismatic. It
draws you in.
The song ends. “Thanks for
the dance, Brad.”
“I hope you don’t
get upset, but it’s getting late and I
have to get going.”
“Oh, come on, have one more
beer. On me.”
It’s tempting, but I have a
good tolerance of knowing when
to stop. “That’s nice of you, but I’m
“Let me escort you home,
then. It’s the least I can do.”
“You don’t need
to do that.” Damnit, Amanda, stop being a
coward. You like him. Let down your guard.
“I insist,” he
“I don’t want to
“You’re not an
inconvenience, Amanda. I would be honored.”
It would almost be rude of me to say
no at this point. “All
“Great. Let me close out my
Karen reappears. She’s
sweating and panting for air. She’d
been dancing also, it seems. “I need a drink. What are you
“Getting ready to
I smile and say,
“I’ll call you tomorrow. We’ll have
“Damn right we will. Have
fun. I’m going to the bar.”
I try not to pay attention to the
people staring at us
leaving. I wish they wouldn’t do that. I don’t have
an inferiority complex or
anything. It’s just annoying as hell. At least Adam left
already. He’d probably
get jealous and back out of the concert, which would suck for me
got the tickets.
My place is only a few blocks away so
we walk. “Oh shit, I
just realized my apartment is a mess,” I say. “You
probably don’t want to go in
“I don’t mind. My
apartment’s pretty trashed, too. Trust me,
I’m used to it. You think I’d be ashamed or
“No, I just wanted to warn
you. It’s pretty messy.” I’m
nervous all of a sudden. I don’t think I’ve ever
brought a guy back to my place
before. I always end up at theirs.
I’m not kidding when I say
my place is a mess. There’s dirty
laundry filling the hamper, dirty dishes in the sink, dust on the
and a stuffy smell due to the aromatic air conditioner breaking down
I thought the super was going to come fix that today.
“Ah, it’s not
that bad,” he says. “My place is worse.”
We walk into the living room. Papers
from work are scattered
on the coffee table, more dirty dishes on top of the TV. This whole
reeks. I’m such a slob.
He doesn’t seem to mind,
though. At least I hope he doesn’t.
He browses my music collection. Even my CDs are disorganized.
“We have the same
taste in music,” he says. “Hey, you mind if I play
this?” He pulls out an album
by The Starshipmen, another one of my favorite bands. Their music is
instrumental, slow and dark.
“Go ahead. I have to use
the bathroom. There should be beer
in the fridge. Help yourself.” I feel like I’m
going to puke. This sucks. I
think I had too much to drink, or not enough to eat.
I take a piss and check myself in the
mirror. I look all
right. My hair is still in place, my makeup hasn’t smeared,
anything stuck in my teeth. I’ve been having dreams lately
about my teeth
falling out. I need to see a dentist one of these days.
The music starts. I love this CD,
especially the first song,
with its quiet piano and guitars. It’s comforting to hear
that song. My stomach
relaxes. My reflection in the mirror smiles back at me. Okay, I think
to go out into the living room.
Brad is sitting on the couch, eyes
closed, grinning. He
looks like he doesn’t have a care in the world. I wish I
could feel that way. I
don’t think I ever will. I worry too much, not about the big
things in life but
the little things like my teeth and my dirty laundry.
He opens his eyes and stands up.
“Miss Pyner, may I have
He wants to dance in this mess?
“I know. It enhances my
He’s a pro. I can tell
he’s done this many times before,
which is kind of upsetting because that means he’s probably
had many girls
before me. But I’ve had plenty of guys so I guess
it’s a fair trade-off. The
past doesn’t matter now anyway. It’s all about
right here, right now, him and
me, in this dirty apartment in this crowded district of Luna Station.
Me and my
drunken ass, him and his hypnotic blue eyes.
beautiful,” he says. “You’re the most
woman on Luna, Amanda, you know that?”
“I’m serious. You
think I say that to all the girls? I
“Thanks. And I like...your
eyes.” Did I just say that? I’m
such a dork.
“I’ll take that
as a compliment. And you’re a great dancer.”
“If you say so.”
When the song ends I say, “That was great,
Brad, but I really should go to bed. I have to
He leans in and kisses me, a full
lock on the lips. He
tastes like cigarettes and beer, but I’m sure I do too. He
wraps his arms
around me. I wrap my arms around him. How long has it been since I
guy? Damnit, why am I thinking this? I just need to enjoy the moment.
We go into the bedroom, not bothering
to turn off the lights
or the music. I probably shouldn’t let it go this far but
it’s too late to stop
now. Sex is sex. It’s no big deal. Besides, I don’t
think I could refuse Brad
even if I wanted to. He really is one persuasive son of a bitch.
Luna Station’s Horticulturist, is one of the
station’s most physically
attractive women. She’s 5’9” and weighs
125 pounds. She has wheat blonde hair,
hazel eyes, tanned skin, milk white teeth, and a gorgeous petite face.
possesses the 3 “C’s”: Charm, Confidence,
and Charisma. You feel her presence
immediately. When she walks into a room all eyes turn to her. You feel
to just have her say “Hi” to you, and if
that’s all you get out of her you’re
content. Yet there are those few brave souls who attempt to go further
themselves a permanent part of her life, and they will stop at nothing
achieve this goal...
up? It’s Karen.”
“Karen, how’s it
“Not bad. You left for the
“No, I’m still
getting ready. Adam’s on his way over.”
“What are you doing
“I don’t know. I
don’t have any particular plan. What about
“Stacy and I are going to
The Vortex for a few drinks. If
you want to meet up with us that’s where we’ll
“All right, cool. Oh, I
heard the doorbell. He’s here.”
“I’ll let you go.
give you a call later.” I hang up and answer
Adam is holding a bouquet of tulips.
I recognize them
because I made them for him three days ago. “Hi,
What’s with the flowers?”
you.” He hands them to me. “I hope you
mind. I know you made them and all, but it was the only way I could
flowers. You have no competitors.”
that’s nice of you. Come on in. Sorry the
place is a mess. I haven’t had much time to clean.”
He scans the living room, not much
cleaner than two weeks
ago when Brad was here. “It’s not bad.
I’ve seen worse.”
“Let me just finish getting
ready then we’ll go. I think I
might have a beer in the fridge if you want it.” I lead him
into the kitchen.
While I find a vase to put the flowers in he opens the refrigerator.
We look inside. There’s no
beer. In fact there’s hardly
anything: just a pitcher of water, a half gallon of milk, two plates
tinfoil, and a jar of cottage cheese. For kicks he checks the freezer.
that’s in there is a tray of ice.
He grins. “Slim
“Sorry. I haven’t
been food shopping in, like, a week.”
right. I think I’ll wait until we get to the
concert to have something.”
I go back to the bathroom to finish
getting ready. It annoys
me I’ve been putting off food shopping. It’s not
like it’s a big hassle. I’m
just one person. I blame it on work. Well, that and being lazy.
Adam calls out from the living room.
“You don’t have
any flowers or plants in here. Or am I just
“I don’t know.
I’m sure I have some in the bedroom.”
He says a minute later,
“No, none in there.”
“Is that a
problem?” I’m done getting ready. I go back to
the living room.
“No, I’m just
surprised. I figure, you know, you being a
Horticulturist, you’d have that stuff all over the
“I barely have time to make
them for customers, much less
myself. Besides, you ever hear the old mantra
‘Don’t ever take your work home
“Well, yeah, I just
“But I have some
now.” I point to the vase sitting on the
kitchen counter. “You ready to go?”
“Uh, yeah, I’m
My apartment is on the fifth floor so
we take the elevator.
On the way down he says, “You look nice, by the
way.” I can tell he forced that
compliment, but he’s right. I do look good. I’m
wearing black dress pants,
black shoes, and a tight pink t-shirt.
“Thanks. You have the
“What seats are we in
He sighs. I did it again,
didn’t I? I forgot something he’s
told me a million times. He points out the location on the ticket
“Ground level, row Q, seats 7 and 8, straight view of the
stage. Have you ever
been in Delphi?”
“You’ll love it.
It has the best sound system of any theater
on the station.”
There are about twenty people waiting
for the monorail. All
of them fix their gaze on me.
“You’re good at
drawing attention,” Adam says.
trust me. In fact, it’s getting really
annoying. I wish they wouldn’t do that.”
“I don’t blame
them. You’re one of the prettiest women on
“That seems to be the
consensus opinion these days.”
“And not only that,
you’ve been a great help here. Who knew
flowers and plants would make people feel so much better? It surprised
out of me.”
“It’s not like it
was my idea to come here.”
matter whose idea it was. The fact is you’re
here and making a difference, which is more than most people here can
You’re the talk of the station.”
The train pulls up to the platform. I
enter DELPHI onto the
makes me uncomfortable,” I say when we find
seats. “I’m not used to all the attention. It was
never this way back on Earth.
I half-wish I never came here.”
“Wow. I figure
you’d be loving it here.”
but lovely. It’s hard work. It’s actually
starting to get a little boring. I’ve never been a big fan of
“Then why’d you
come here in the first place?”
“It’s a great way
to further my career. It helps my résumé.
And I needed a change of environment from Hannibal. I never had a
dream to come to the Moon. It just happened I was given the opportunity
went for it.”
“Yeah, I see what you
We approach the sprawling mecca of
District Central, the
capital of Luna Station, with its gleaming skyscrapers, government
and web of monorails. I remember being in awe of this place when I
it. It was all new and exciting. Now it has a “been there,
done that” feeling
“So are you going back to
Earth anytime soon?” Adam asks.
“Eventually. Most of my
friends and family are still in
Thinking about my hometown gives me a
surprising pleasure I
wasn’t expecting. “It’s a quiet place.
Not much out of the ordinary goes on
there. It’s where Mark Twain grew up, right on the
Mississippi River. It’s a
nice place to raise a family but I can’t see myself settling
“So what do you plan on
doing when you get back to Earth?
Stay in Horticulture?”
“I don’t think
so. I’m thinking about going into
“Jeez, I never knew there
was such a thing.”
There’s a lot of material to learn. I’d have to
go back to school. I’m looking at Colorado and Washington. I
want to be up in
the mountains and the wilderness.”
“It’s great that
you have a plan in place. I still think
you’re made for Luna, though.”
“I don’t want to
be here forever. I want to see trees, and
sunrises, and fall foliage again. I’ll go crazy if I stay up
here too long.
We’re just not made to live on the Moon.”
“This place will be a lot
more dull without you.”
“My leaving won’t
change a thing. There will be other
Horticulturists to take my place. I’m not
“I think you’re
see.” I stare out the window, memories of people and
events in my hometown dancing in my head.
A few minutes later Adam frees me
from my daydream. “There
it is. Delphi Theater.” It’s not much to look at.
It’s rectangular in shape
with a gray dome. On the inside is a spectacle of lights, signs, and
fans. We have a few minutes before the concert starts. We go into one
bars, ordering beers that are priced much higher than at a conventional
TV shows a poker tournament on Earth.
“Have you heard Retro
Fuse’s newest album?” Adam asks.
“It’s just as
good as their last one. I’ll make you a copy.”
I’m overhearing a conversation between two men
standing close behind me. I’m pretending not to pay attention
by staring at the
TV. Oh my God, I can’t believe what I’m hearing.
Are these guys serious? After
a few minutes of listening I lean close to Adam and whisper,
“These guys behind
me are fucking slime balls.”
“The one in the red sweater
is cheating on his wife who’s
still on Earth. He’s bragging about it to his friend, and his
‘Well I’ve got three wives, one on Earth and two on
the Moon.’ That’s just
“Men are pigs,
“It makes me so angry. I
just want to punch those guys in
“Go for it. I’ve
got your back.”
Trust me I would, but lucky for them
I detest violence, and
I don’t want to get thrown out of here before I have the
chance to see Retro
Fuse. I was in a fight with a guy once, back in grade school. He used
fun of me. He was a scrawny kid and I knew he didn’t have the
nerve to fight
back so I hit him in the jaw. He went to the nurse’s office
seriously injured. The worst part was that instead of feeling all happy
tough I felt like shit for hurting him. He still deserved it, though.
need a good punch in the face every once in a while.
gentlemen,” a voice says over the PA system,
“the concert is about to start. Please have your tickets
ready and take your
Showtime. I polish off my beer and
the rest of Adam’s. I
order another one to bring into the theater. The place is packed. The
at the front, with the seats arranged in a U-shape ascending over a
Retro Fuse is famous not just for
electronic music but for the elaborate concerts they put on. They
light shows, videos, costumes, beach balls, confetti, and flame
like one gigantic party. “I got to see them back on Earth, in
New York,” Adam
boasts. “It got so intense a riot broke out. The police came
and arrested a
whole bunch of people. It was so cool.”
“I hope that
doesn’t happen here.”
“That was an open venue, no
seating, and most of the crowd
were high school kids. I’m sure this will be a more subdued
The lights go out. Five people are
soaring in the air with
laptop computers strapped to their chests. It’s the band,
flying and playing at
the same time. Their song “Glow For It” blasts
through the theater’s
top-of-the-line sound system.
“Talk about an intriguing
entrance!” Adam says.
I’ve never seen anything
like it. I’m getting dizzy
following their choreographed flying. “I hope they
don’t run into each other,”
held by cable wire. See those probes in the
ceiling? They’re programmed to keep a required distance from
The song ends to thunderous applause.
The band lands on the
stage. “Hello Luna Station,” yells Ari Gorz, Retro
Fuse’s lead singer. “How
He gets his answer with a barrage of
whistles and cheers.
They jump into their best-known song, “Axiom
During the sixth song,
“Love Bleeds External”, I’m starting
to hear Mother Nature calling. “Damnit, I have to
“But I don’t want
to. They’re about to break out the beach
balls. I don’t want to miss it.” But by the end of
the song I can’t take it
anymore. Damnit, I should’ve waited for that second beer.
“I’ll be right back.”
I make a break for the bathroom.
As I’m washing my hands
afterward a woman walks in. She
stares at me through the mirror and asks, “I’m
sorry, you look very familiar.
Are you Amanda Pyner?”
Good grief. You’d think
just once I could take a piss in a
public restroom and not get recognized. “No, I think you have
me confused with
someone else. Excuse me.” I nearly run out of there.
When I find my seat the band is
dressed in their gorilla
costumes singing “Long Live The Eighth Wonder Of The
World”. Behind them, on a
large video screen, is a film clip of a huge fake gorilla climbing the
State Building. The song, with its intense drums and bass, fits the
mood of the
“You missed the beach
“I’ll live. What
movie is that on the screen?”
Kong. Ever see it?”
“No. I’m not a
big fan of black and white movies. They
“Because filmmakers in
those days didn’t have the advantages
modern filmmakers have. It just looks so crude and sad. Almost reminds
me of my
lab. The equipment I’m using now is already outdated by
“Have you said anything to
“Of course I have, but they
gave me this bullshit about
budgets and tax cuts and inventory reductions. You’d think as
everyone makes me out to be I’d be able to get anything I
think. I wish I could help. I’m sure they’ll
take care of you eventually.”
A man sitting behind us taps Adam on
the shoulder. “Shh, not
so loud, please. I’m trying to listen.”
“Sorry,” he says.
We focus our attention on the concert.
After song 14, “An End To
All Days”, Gorz, out of breath,
says, “Thank you very much, Luna Station!” A minute
later they return for an
encore. They play one more song. It’s a cover, not one of
theirs. It sounds so
familiar but I can’t remember the title, or who sang it.
“What song is this?” I
“Time for what?”
“No, that’s the
name of the song. Time. It’s a Pink Floyd
song, from ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’.”
Oh yeah, it is. How fitting.
“You’re right. I love this
song.” When they finish, Gorz again thanks the crowd for
coming out and the
theater lights come on.
“That’s all she
wrote,” I say. “You ready to go?”
When we’re out of the
theater Adam asks, “So what do you
want to do now?”
“Head back to good old
Dunholm, I guess.”
“Hold it a
second.” He hesitates a few seconds before
asking, “Have you ever been to Apollo Tower?”
“No. I‘ve heard
of it, but I’ve never been inside.”
“Do you want to make a
quick stop? It’s a really cool
“What time is it?”
He checks his watch.
“Coming up on twenty-one hundred
I’m not in the mood to go
there, but Adam looks like he’ll
be upset if I say no. All right, what the hell. A few minutes
“Okay, let’s go.”
like this. Trust me. The view from the top
is spectacular.” We board the monorail. He types APOLLO into
“That was a great
concert,” he says when we’re off. “They
did a good job.”
“Yeah, but I hate that I
missed the beach balls. How’d that
“It wasn’t all
that impressive. A bunch of beach balls fell
from the ceiling and people were hitting them in the air.”
With a smirk he
adds, “Nothing Luna-shattering.”
Luna Station as a whole might be
getting boring, but Apollo
Tower is always a sight to behold. Its intriguing design and immense
something you have to see to believe. It’s far and away the
on the station.
The first floor is a museum, a living
shrine to the history
of the Moon and its station. There are ancient relics like space
computers, air suits, and prehistoric rockets. It’s actually
and pleasing to the eye. The people who designed this place did a good
job of not
making it look cluttered.
“Apollo Tower is 1,969 feet
tall,” Adam reads from a placard
next to a prototype model of the tower. “Its height is an
homage to the year
humans first landed on the Moon. In fact, the tower sits on the very
Neil Armstrong and his crew planted their first footprints.”
The rest of the tower is offices,
hotel rooms, casinos, and
restaurants, all except the top floor, which is an observation deck.
to go up there?” he asks.
I’m not being polite for his sake. I really do want
to see what the view looks like.
There are only three people up here,
which is good. You
don’t want to feel claustrophobic at this height.
It’s not for the faint at
heart. I have to admit the view is amazing. The only other time I saw
station from this height was from the window of the space shuttle that
me here. I’ll never forget that day. I was so frightened and
homesick. I had
never been or will ever be so far away from home. When you think about
distance in miles--almost 240,000--it can be overwhelming.
“You see Earth?”
“No. Where is it?”
He points toward District Central.
Earth looms in first
quarter. No matter how many times I see it in the sky it gives me
doesn’t seem real. You spend your entire childhood on Earth
looking up at the
Moon, and you half-expect to still see it even when you’re on
it. You never get
used to seeing Earth in the sky. It looks so close yet is so far away.
wouldn’t think over six billion people live on that blue and
fantastic?” he asks.
“No. I mean, yes, it is,
but it’s...forget it.”
“What is it?”
I start thinking about Hannibal
again. “I’m sorry to be
rude, Adam, but can we go now?”
“Are you all
I’m just ready to leave.”
“Okay, yeah, we can
I feel better when we get into the
elevator. I call Karen.
up?” she asks. “How was the concert?”
“It was awesome. The band
kicked ass. Are you at The
“Yeah, we just got here. I
think I saw Brad when I came in.
Get your ass down here.”
“All right. I have to stop
at the lab real quick and check
on some flowers, then I’ll meet you.”
I say to Adam, “Looks like
my night’s not over yet.”
We get back on the monorail. As
we’re heading into Dunholm
Adam says, “I’d like to ask a favor, if you
“If it’s not too
much trouble, I’d like to see your lab.”
I’m taken back for a
second. No one’s ever asked to see my
lab voluntarily before. “Why?”
“I’m curious to
see what it looks like.”
find it very interesting. It’s just a big
room. But you can see it if you want.”
The lab is located on the northwest
end of Dunholm, just a
few blocks from my apartment. It’s only one building, about
the size of a high
school gymnasium. “Just don’t touch
anything,” I say as I swipe my access card.
“There’s a lot of radiation in here. It’s
self-contained, but I don’t want to
take any chances.”
“So you have to wear a
“Only when I’m in
the Energy room. I don’t need to go in
there. I have to check on something I’ve already
The lab is illuminated by ultraviolet
light. There are six
large tables in the center of the room, and eight tables along the
on each side. On all the tables are oval glass cases of various sizes,
from one to seven feet tall. Each of these cases contains an eclectic
flowers and plants. It’s full but not cluttered.
Adam says. “You did this all yourself?”
“This is nothing. You
should’ve seen this place four months
ago when I was doing a design for the Embry-Terron Convention Center.
couldn’t even walk in here.”
“And these are all for
“The ones on the center
tables are. The ones against the
walls are extras, prototypes, or some that I botched. You can have a
around. I’ll be over here.” I head over to the last
table in the right row,
farthest from the entrance, to look over a set of centerpieces for a
They’re keeping along
nicely. I had to put them in stasis
for two days and I was afraid they would get overexposed, but they
alive and fresh. Good. I’ll sleep better tonight.
Adam is standing at the left wall
admiring a single
long-stem rose resonating a bright silver color, almost chrome. I wait
if he’s going to go against my orders and touch it, but he
keeps his hands
behind his back. I clear my throat and he jerks his head.
“Oh, you scared me,”
“Sorry. You find
“Yeah, that silver-colored
rose. That’s amazing. How did you
“Too much artificial light.
I kept it in the incubator too
long. Overexposure causes drastic change in color. It’s not
poisonous, but it can’t be taken out of the case or
“You want it?”
He looks at me as if I’d
just offered him a million dollars.
“Are you serious?”
“Sure. Silver roses
aren’t in demand, and I can always grow
another one if need be. Knock yourself out.”
He cradles the case in his hands.
“Thank you so much. I’ll
take good care of it. Um, do I have to give it water or
“No, it’s fine
the way it is. It’ll remain in perfect
hibernation for about two years. Anyway, I got to close up
here.” He’s staring
intently at the rose as we walk out. Why is he so enthralled?
It’s just a rose.
Maybe the different color fascinates him.
I lock the door and say,
“I’m heading for The Vortex. Thanks
for inviting me to the concert, Adam. I had a good time.”
“So did I. Maybe we can do
it again sometime.”
“Sure. Well, have a good
night. I’ll probably see you at the
FDC tomorrow.” I head back to the monorail. I consider
inviting him to The
Vortex but I don’t think that would be a good idea. I
don’t want to lead him
on. Besides, he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would
enjoy an upscale
ultra-hip place like The Vortex. He’s too dull for that.
Dear Guest --
You have been
cordially invited to attend a very special event. The Grand Council, in
accordance with the World Government, will be holding a banquet to
of Luna Station’s finest citizens: Ken Stabler, Head of
Geology at Aldrin
University; Dr. Tara McClaren, Chief Researcher at the Gordon-Lovell
and Amanda Pyner, the station’s resident Horticulturist.
The event will
be held at Mercury Hall at the Sea of Tranquility Resort &
Festivities will begin at eighteen hundred hours with a dinner and
several surprise guests, followed by the awards ceremony.
Don’t miss out on
this chance to honor and support those who have made significant
to Luna Station and its habitants...
really wish they wouldn’t make a fuss over me. Mr. Stabler
McClaren I can understand. Stabler is one of the station’s
on Geology and Lunar Biology, and McClaren is a brilliant researcher
has influenced every would-be engineering student on the Moon and the
Me? I just make flowers. I shouldn’t even be mentioned in the
same breath as
these people. It’s absurd.
hey, if they want to throw me an awards ceremony who am I to argue?
I get a free dinner out of it, a plaque, money, and a free trip to the
my parents and two siblings. Also this will make a great addition to my
Westmyer has been on stage speaking about me for ten minutes.
the Chairman of the Grand Council, the head honcho of Luna Station.
me great pleasure to present this year’s Humanitarian of the
Year award to Miss
Amanda Pyner.” That’s my cue. I get up from my
seat, as does everyone else in
the room. I embrace my parents, my siblings, and Karen, whom I got to
my “honored guest”. I make my way to the stage in a
barrage of applause. I’ve
never gotten a standing ovation before. It’s nice but really
I get on stage I hear whistling from many of the guys in the
audience. I don’t mean to brag but I look pretty damn good
tonight. I’ve got a
purple dress on, my hair is fixed up, my face is glowing, and my eyes
sparkling. There are times when you just know you look good without
look in a mirror.
Westmyer hands me the plaque. “Congratulations,” he
at me. He wants me, I can tell. Strange thing is, despite the fact
same age as my dad I find him attractive. Something about older men
does it for
me. The first guy I tapped on the Moon was 43 years old. Granted I was
drunk that night, but I was attracted to him.
take out a piece of paper with a speech written on it. I get nervous
when it comes to public speaking so I have to write down what
I’m going to say
or else I’ll stand here and stutter. Give me credit, though.
I wrote the speech
Mr. Westmyer, council members, family, friends, and other
distinguished guests, I thank you for this prestigious award. Living
working on Luna Station has been one of the most satisfying experiences
life. I have met lots of caring and intelligent people, all of whom
their undying support toward my cause, and I am grateful for their
I’m so honored to have improved the well being of those who
needed it, and I
look forward to helping those who will need it in the future. To all my
and family and colleagues who helped me get to where I am today, I
from the bottom of my heart.”
get another standing ovation. Mr. Westmyer says,
“I’m also pleased to
announce that today is Miss Pyner’s birthday. Happy birthday,
applause intensifies. My cheeks are getting red. I’m not used
to this. It’s
they stop clapping Westmyer says, “Okay, I think
Miss Pyner enough. This concludes the awards portion of our banquet.
will now be served.”
sit back down and pass the plaque around. Mom and Dad are beyond
proud of me. You’d think I just won the Nobel Prize from the
gushing. But I’m glad they’re happy. I love my
parents very much, and I always
had their approval to come to the Moon. As for my siblings--David my
brother and Cameron my younger sister--they’re putting on a
good face but I
think they’re jealous. David is a music teacher in New York
City, and Cameron
goes to college at the University of Missouri. They’re
jealous for the obvious
reasons, me being a success on the Moon and all, but it
doesn’t help that I
don’t get along with them. I never did. I know
David’s only here because my
parents made him come, and Cameron can’t be pleased about
having to miss a
weekend off from school. I mean deep down I love my brother and sister,
wouldn’t have broken my heart if they hadn’t come.
the middle of dessert my cell phone rings. I can’t answer it
of all the people who want to congratulate me. When I catch a break I
see who called.
was Brad,” I say to Karen.
who might that be?” Mom asks with a grin.
some guy we met at the bar,” Karen replies. “He
wants to go to
hit Karen on the shoulder. “Shut up.” To my folks I
say, “I’ll be
right back.” I grab my purse and slip into the bathroom. I
call him back.
“What’s up, Brad?”
young lady, what’s happening?”
much. Just busy being the center of attention.”
that’s right, the award ceremony. How’s that
really weird. They gave me a plaque and I spoke for a minute,
then Mr. Westmyer tells everyone it’s my birthday, and they
gave me a big
shit, it’s your birthday? I didn’t know that. Happy
Anyway, what are you doing later?”
what I was calling to ask you. I’m thinking about heading up
Cosmic’s. They got Light Haven playing tonight.”
heard of them. What kind of music do they play?”
I know it sounds bizarre, but they’re badass. What
do you say? I’ll buy you a birthday mixer. Maybe two, if
don’t know. My family is in town, so I’ll probably
be doing stuff
with them. But I might be able to make it for a drink or two.
Give me a call either way, all right?”
birthday girl.” I can almost picture the smirk on his face as
he hangs up.
put more lip-gloss on, thankful for a moment’s peace. But
alone in here. Someone comes out of one of the stalls.
my sister. “Who’s Brad?” she asks.
guy I met a few months ago.”
Mom and Dad know about him?”
not dating, Cameron. We’re just friends.”
isn’t that a shock. All the guys you’ve ever met
personal life is none of your business.”
makes a snooty, huffy noise, like a “Pfft”.
She’s always doing
that. It annoys the hell out of me. Even after living with her for 18
still can’t get used to it. “I can only imagine
what you’ve been doing here,
away from Mom and Dad’s watchful eye,” she says.
“Getting drunk, having one
off. I don’t do that crap. And if I did there’s
nothing you, Mom,
Dad, or anyone can do about it. I’m a grown-up. So hold your
tongue before you
make false accusations.”
think you’re such a big shot now that you’re famous
on Luna, don’t
you? You live up the good life out here and could care less about
on back on Earth.”
not true.” I’m getting close to smacking her. I did
many years ago, and I can do it again.
me a break, Amanda. How dumb do you think I am? How many times
have you come back home to visit? Once last Christmas and that was
forgive me if I haven’t been a more
‘stay-at-home’ sister. I have
a lot of work to do up here.”
much work that you can’t bother to pick up the phone and call
once in a while? I called you, like, four times in the past two months,
left a voicemail every time. How many of those calls did you return?
right. I never did call her back. “All right, I’m
it’s not okay. And then there’s David.”
act like he doesn’t exist. You never talk to him. You
don’t even look
at him. He goes out of his way to come here and you don’t
have the decency to
ask him how he’s doing or what he’s been up to. The
same goes with me. You
don’t care about either of us.”
course I care about you. You’re my sister.”
I care about him too.”
sure have a funny way of showing it. Oh, who am I kidding?
wasting my time talking to you.”
Cameron, wait--“ I grab her shoulder.
flinches away. “No more waiting. There’s nothing
left to say. I
don’t even know why I bothered. I’m going back in
there. You go have fun with
your ‘friend’.” She storms out of the
It’s a good thing she left when she did, or else
I’d have one less
sister. She’s got some nerve. Who does she think she is,
lecturing me like
that? And on my birthday, no less. I wish I were an only child so I
have to deal with this crap.
bathroom door opens. Mom walks in. “You okay in
just ran into Cameron. She looked upset.”
had a little fight.”
seem to be doing that a lot lately.”
Mom, we’ve been fighting forever.”
know, and I wish you wouldn’t.”
not my fault. She has an attitude problem. All she does is
complain and give me a guilt trip; like now, for example. I made a
to a friend of mine and she gave me the third degree about my personal
how I never share anything with her. It’s none of her
that’s the problem.”
about you is her business. You shut yourself off to
her. You always have. It would be nice if you spoke with her every once
while. She’s crazy about you.”
crazy about wanting to hate me.” Mom crosses her arms over
chest, giving me a disapproving glare. “I’m sorry.
I know she’s not trying to
not. When I say she’s crazy about you I mean she’s
wanting to get to know you. She looks up to you, she wants to be a
you, and why shouldn’t she? But she can’t make a
connection and it’s
frustrating her. You see what I’m saying?”
don’t have to give her your life story, just everyday stuff.
ask the same of her. It only takes a few minutes. Same thing goes for
You could be a little nicer to him.”
almost makes me laugh. “Mom, there’s no
way--“ I stop myself. I
don’t want to get into the subject of David with her.
You ready to go back out there?”
not. I just want to get out of here, maybe meet Brad at
He’d cheer me up. “Mom, would it be all right if I
went out for a bit?”
don’t see a problem with that. But we want to see you
before we go.”
at the table Dad and Karen are having a chat. Cameron and David
are gone. “Where are the kids?” Mom asks Dad.
went back to the hotel. David said he wasn’t feeling well and
Cameron went with him.”
can see the two of them now, riding the monorail back to the hotel,
talking all kinds of crap about me, concocting some sort of scheme to
down the “evil sister” like I’m the
Wicked Witch or something. Maybe they’re
going to trash my lab, or raid my apartment, or go down to the news
give one of the journalists the story about the time I got caught
behind the school in 10th grade.
that’s what they’d do after tonight. Well fine,
can do what they want. I’ll tell you what I want to do: get
drunk. Falling down drunk. And I want Karen to get drunk with me.
if reading my mind Mom says, “Mike, we should get back to the
ourselves. I’m sure the girls have plans of their own
Okay. We’ll see you tomorrow, Amanda, before we go?”
course, Dad.” I give him a hug. “I’m glad
real proud of you, honey.”
I say to Mom, “I’m sorry I ran Cameron and David
worry, they’ll be fine. Think about what I said,
right. Mike, take the plaque. I’m sure Amanda
doesn’t want to lug
it around with her. Have fun, you two, and be careful.”
keep my eye on her, Mrs. Pyner,” Karen says with a grin.
have to say good-bye to about a thousand people before we can leave.
When we do we hop the monorail and type LUNARIA into the destination
That’s where Cosmic’s is located.
call up Brad. “Birthday girl!” he yells.
There’s a bunch of noise in
up? Are you at Cosmic’s?”
You coming down?”
on my way. Karen is with me. We’ll be there in a few
I’ll get the shots ready.”
laugh for probably the first time all day. I needed that.
you.” I hang up.
says, “Damn I need a cigarette. So where were you the last
minutes? Your brother and sister sure left in a big hurry.”
was in the bathroom. I pissed my sister off, and my brother hates me
anyway. You know, the usual.”
folks are cool, though.”
their favorite, in case you didn’t notice.”
I did. I had a nice talk with your dad when you were gone. He
wouldn’t shut up about you. I think it made your brother
suck. I have four I don’t get along with. Actually, we get
along great as long as we’re not in the same room. You
should’ve seen us this
past Christmas. A brawl almost broke out.”
different. I just don’t talk to mine.”
arrive at Cosmic’s. There’s a line of five people
waiting to get in.
We recognize the guy checking IDs at the door: Matt Santos.
He’s a year older
than me, works a second job at the Pulsar Restaurant in the Vendetta
I’ve gotten drunk with him a few times, and tapped him twice.
Matt!” Karen calls out.
up ladies? Lookin’ good.”
you get us in?”
looks at me. I smile and wave. I give the impression I still like
him even though I don’t. He’s not a dull guy, but I
wouldn’t want to be in a
relationship with him. He has a different girlfriend every week.
gestures for us to walk through. The other five people in line,
seeing it’s me, are more than happy to step aside.
I’m like a damn celebrity.
Matt,” I say with another seductive smile. With guys like
it’s simple. If you smile at them just right, and let them
think they have a
chance, you can get whatever you want. It’s not that hard.
Hell, we didn’t even
have to pay to get in.
place is packed. Cosmic’s has two floors. The band--whom I
is Light Haven--is playing a fast-tempo song on the lower level.
bad. The dance floor in front of them is filled. Every seat at the
on the floor is taken.
see Brad?” I yell.
Let’s try upstairs.”
are three more bars up here, two pool tables, and an outside
deck. Brad is at the far end of the bar closest to the deck, chatting
make eye contact. “There she is, the Birthday Girl! And
Karen, my fellow martini drinker. Come over and sit. Hey
Patton,” he says to
the bartender, “today is this lovely lady’s
birthday. I need a round of b-day
mixers, three altogether.”
Patton makes the drinks we find seats and take out our first
cigarettes. We down the mixers--quite good, but they have a strong
to them--and move on to beer. Within an hour Karen’s on the
dance floor with
her trademark martini in hand, and Brad and I are on the observation
overlooking the Lunaria District.
how’s it feel to be Humanitarian of the Year?” he
asks. “Do I have
to start calling you Madame Pyner now?”
Oh, no, you don’t have to do that.”
good. How was the concert, by the way?”
concert?” I’m having a hard time thinking about
been so much going on, with my family and everything.
right. They sounded great, they flew around the theater for their
opening song, but I missed the beach ball routine. I had to
about an inconvenient time for Mother Nature to butt in. And what
about the guy you went with, what’s his name...”
did my sister have to say that to me? I don’t shut myself off
her, do I? “I’m sorry, Brad, what did you
all right? You seem a little down. I think you need a shot of
that’s not what I need. I don’t know what I need.
“You want to
make for the dance floor. Light Haven is playing with a fury. This
is good. I need to dance.
wonder where Karen is. Is that her? No, it’s Emily Brown who
the FDC with Adam. I wonder what he’s up to?
Haven’t seen him since the
concert. I hope he’s taking care of the rose I gave him.
It’s not easy to grow
those. Hey, is that Darren Smith over there? Wow, it is.
Haven’t seen him in
almost a year. I tapped him, just once. He was all right. Nice guy, but
very experienced. Glad to see him out and about, though. Fuck, I just
remembered I have to talk to Marissa Edwards about designing her
tomorrow. But I have to meet my parents. I guess I can talk to Marissa
after. My folks will be pissed if I cancel on them. I wonder if
I’ll see David
and Cameron tomorrow. They--
Karen gives me a glass of something maroon-colored. “Drink
this, it’s good.”
drink it.” She wanders back into the crowd. The song ends.
says, “I’ll be right back,” and leaves
band goes into its next prog-funk/trip-hop beat. This drink is
strong as hell. Tastes like Captain Morgan mixed with orange juice.
bad. I probably shouldn’t finish it but what the hell. A free
drink is a free
did that hit the spot. I’m buzzed. That’s not good.
Don’t want Mom
and Dad to see me hung over. I need to go home. Wait, Brad’s
coming back. He’s
got two beers. Shit. He’s going to offer me one.
For the birthday girl.”
not ordinary beer. It’s a Galaxy 9000! “How much
did you pay for
this?” Galaxy 9000 doesn’t come cheap.
I’ve never seen it for less than fifty
dollars anywhere on the station. It’s the best tasting beer
worry about it. It’s your birthday. Drink up before it gets
does he have to be such a persuasive bastard? There’s no way
resist drinking this beer. And why should I? It’s my
birthday. I should be
entitled to spend it however I want. I can sober up quick tomorrow if I
resume dancing. Sweat is dripping down my forehead. Man is it hot in
here! Must be all the bodies on the dance floor giving off heat.
air conditioning? I take a huge gulp of the beer. Ah, nothing like a
Galaxy 9000 to get the blood flowing. I’m feeling great now.
ceremony seems like a hundred years ago. I hope I never have to go
crap again. I wish people would just leave me alone. I want to get away
gushing committees and people staring at me everywhere I go. I want
solitude, the kind where I can wake up in the morning, open the door,
see a single building in sight. I won’t find that on the
Moon. I won’t find
that anywhere. Did I finish the beer already? Holy fuck I’m
have to go,” I say.
you just got here.”
have a busy day tomorrow. Gotta meet the folks, make some
not just stay at my place? I live in Gemini. You wouldn’t
take the monorail home.”
know where this is headed. “That’s nice of you, but
I’d much rather
be in my own bed.”
me take you home then.”
I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
won’t take no for an answer. He never does. “We had
fun the other
night, didn’t we?”
was great fun.” Actually, it wasn’t great,
but I don’t want
to tell him that. “I’m just not in the mood right
now.” Come on, Brad, back
down. I need to leave.
he leans in close and says, “Amanda, I’m crazy
about you. I
crap, did he just say what I thought he said? I like Brad,
nice guy, but I’m not crazy about him, and I certainly
don’t love him. I’ll be
honest. I’ve never been in love before, neither here nor on
Earth. I’ve only
had two steady boyfriends: one in high school, the other in college.
I’m not a
slut if that’s what you’re thinking. I
don’t sleep with every guy I meet. I
have standards. I have morals. There have been guys I probably
slept with, but what’s the harm as long as the sex is
protected? I’m only
22—excuse me, 23. I should be allowed to experiment.
My head is spinning. “Brad...” His eyes
don’t look too
appealing now. “I’ll call you tomorrow. Thanks for
the drinks.” I make for the
exit as fast as I can, forcing myself not to look back at him. I
don’t want to
see him just standing there on the dance floor. I need to get home.
God I don’t run into Karen on the way out. I want an unseen
I’m not in the mood to explain things to her. I’ll
talk to her tomorrow. I’ll
talk to everyone tomorrow.
I’m on the monorail heading for Dunholm I realize I may have
Brad’s feelings. Great, now I feel guilty. And why the hell
did I tell him I’d
call him tomorrow? That’s such a cop-out. I mine as well have
just told him to
go fuck off. He won’t want to speak to me again, and I
don’t blame him. I guess
that’s all she wrote as far as Brad is concerned. Maybe
it’s for the best.
cell phone beeps. I’ve got voicemails, four of them. One is
Mom, who called to tell me to be careful and not drink and fly, like a
mother would do. The next is from Karen, as I expect. She’s
asking me where I
am and to give her a call. The third is from Brad. Damnit, why did he
call? I don’t want to hear what he has to say. I erase his
message. The final
voicemail is from the last person I expect to hear from.
It would be nice to talk to someone not associated with the
events of the last six hours. I open his message.
Amanda, it’s Adam. I hope you don’t mind me
calling. I just wanted
to congratulate you on being named Humanitarian of the Year. It was in
today. Anyway, just calling to check in, see how you’re
doing. Give me a call
if you’re doing anything. Bye.”
good ol’ Adam, buddy ol’ pal. I dial his number.
Hope he’s still
awake. And if he isn’t I’ll get his ass up.
It is? No kidding. Well, happy birthday. What are you up to?”
much. I didn’t wake you, did I?”
I’m watching TV. I didn’t think you’d
course I was going to call. I always call. I got your message.
welcome. Where are you?”
the monorail heading home.”
you been at the banquet this whole time?”
no. I’ve been at Cosmic’s. I think I had too much
to drink. I’m
that’s not good. At least you’re on the
but you see I gotta meet the folks in the morning and have
breakfast with them, and I don’t want them to see me all
drunk, you know?”
hear you. Just get a good night sleep and you’ll be fine.
at the banquet?”
You should’ve seen them, they were happy as hell. They love
Everybody loves me. Oh by the way, I really had fun at the concert. We
do it again sometime.”
bet. I’ll have to see who’s coming to
that. Oh, how’s the rose I gave you?”
be. Anyway, my stop’s coming up. I’ll give you a
next week, or I’ll see you at the FDC.”
right, that’s cool. Go and get some sleep, and drink lots of
coffee in the morning.”
a good guy. Maybe I should hook up with him. No, it wouldn’t
work. Every time I think of him I picture him standing in front of my
that rose cradled in his hands and it depresses the hell out of me.
destination display reads DUNHOLM. I can finally get some peace and
quiet. Man I’m tired. Galaxy 9000 knocks you on your ass and
kicks you in the
stomach for good measure. I’m so glad I didn’t
bring Brad home with me. Maybe
another night I will. I should call him and apologize. No, Amanda, put
phone away. Get in your apartment.
quiet in here. Usually there will be doors opening and closing
down the hall, but tonight it’s silent as death. I feel very
alone all of a
sudden. This sucks. I don’t know how much longer I can last
here. The Moon’s
not the place for me. I don’t think it ever was. All right,
Amanda, get into
bed. You’re too drunk to be thinking about this stuff. Just
get into bed and
relax. Cast your thoughts aside. Take a deep breath. Close your eyes.
Yes, much better. Sleep is what you need. Lots and lots of sleep.
most places on Earth, can be a monotonous place to live. Some people
a routine and never think any more of it, while others are driven to
of insanity. And unlike Earth, where you can take a vacation 3000 miles
another country to get away from things for a while, Luna is smaller
compact, each district strikingly similar to the other. Those that can
with it will tough it out. Those who can’t need a helping
in my life did I think I’d ever have to come to a place like
this. It was Sheila Johnson’s idea that I come here. I
don’t think I need to
talk to a shrink, but she’s my immediate supervisor, as well
as a member of the
Grand Council, so I don’t have a choice.
in the waiting room of Dr. Deirdre Rollins’s office, on the
floor of the Spectrum Tower in Echelon, Luna Station’s oldest
district. This is
where the station began. The first structure ever assembled was the
generator down the street. It’s kind of cool being in the
heart of the
station’s birthplace. I just wish it could be under better
right Amanda, do what you always do and put your best foot forward.
over soon enough.
office door opens. Dr. Rollins sticks her head out. She’s
mom’s age, with curly dark hair and glasses.
“Amanda? Come on in.”
office is small, well lit. There’s a desk, two bulletin
filled with memos and post-it notes, and a single window overlooking
Station’s oldest neighborhood. “Have a
seat.” She points to a chair closest to
the door. She sits in a chair across from me.
the corner of the room is a three-foot tall fichus tree I
manufactured nine months ago. “Glad to see Mr. Fichus is
still standing,” I say
to help break the ice. She doesn’t laugh. She barely cracks a
smile. She must
be devoid of a sense of humor, or maybe she holds it in until she
office. Either way it makes me uncomfortable. She reminds me of a
schoolteacher, or a drill sergeant.
talk about why you’re here, Amanda. Councilor Johnson says in
her evaluation that you’ve been falling behind in your
because I don’t have an assistant.”
in the time prior to this you’ve always managed to complete
work on time, with no complications. The evaluation states that
lagging for two months, and your overall attitude and personality
Councilor Johnson and others on the station has become negative.
I’d like to
find out why this is.”
don’t like Sheila. I never did. She’s too
corporate, too “by the
book”. She also possesses little to no sense of humor.
“What exactly did she
say in my evaluation? Can I see it?”
afraid not. Now let’s get to the bottom of what’s
not troubled by anything.”
must be Superwoman, then. Every human being is troubled by
something, Amanda. Some are distressed over politics, war, disease, or
money. Some are concerned about personal, professional, or
matters. I think you fit into the latter group.”
think I’m crazy?”
course not. I never said you were. I’m saying that based on
evaluation you’re having issues with your personal life. And
I’d like to know
what those issues are.”
you really want to know, or do you mean it’s your job to
stalling, but that’s okay. If we get nothing accomplished
I can make a recommendation to the Grand Council to have you come for
session, and I don’t think Councilor Johnson will be too
pleased to have you
fall further behind in your work. So let’s talk.”
no way I’m going to weasel my way out of this. “All
fine, we’ll talk. Ask away.”
not going to ask you anything.”
What do you mean?”
me why you came to Luna Station.”
man, you want my life story?”
course not. I don’t want to know what you did in grade
want to know why you came to Luna Station.”
tough, real tough, not the kind of woman you’d want to have a
slumber party with. “Well, I came here because the World
Government offered me
the job, and it was a great opportunity to further my career and help
the same time.”
you came here just to help people and further your career. You
didn’t come here to make new friends, experience a foreign
environment, or feel
the excitement of being away from home and totally independent for the
well, of course there are those reasons. But you wanted to know
why I came here, not what I came here for.”
writes something down in her notepad. Man does that infuriate me,
having someone write in their notepad and not knowing what it is
writing. “Your parents must be proud of what you’ve
you come here must have been tough for them, knowing you were
going to be so far away.”
I don’t think so. I mean they never seemed upset about it.
had their full support the whole time.”
good. But just because you didn’t see them upset
they weren’t. In fact, I’m willing to bet they were
not only upset, but
yourself in their shoes. See if you can figure out why they’d
afraid--or at the very least concerned.”
I imagine they’d be worried about me getting injured or
something, and them not being able to do anything about it. Look, I
any issues with my parents. Why are you asking me this?”
writes more in her notepad. “Your friends and other family
back on Earth must have been excited to learn you were coming
I wouldn’t say that. My friends were cool with it, but they
were probably a little sad, too. I know I’d be if one of my
good friends told
me they were going to the Moon. My brother and sister, though, probably
could’ve cared less.”
doubt that. They must have been just as supportive as your
don’t know my brother and sister. I don’t get along
They’re jealous of me because I’ve always gotten
the success and attention in
the family. I’m not bragging or anything. It’s the
must be failures, then.”
they’re doing fine for themselves. They just don’t
like the fact
that I’m doing better than they are. They resent me for it.
practically said as much during the awards ceremony when I won
the Year. She copped an attitude with me, said I never opened up to her
something like that. As for my brother, we just don’t have
anything in common
other than the fact we have the same last name. We never
see. Tell me, Amanda, what you do when you’re not
extraordinary. I sleep, relax at home, hang out with my
friends. I went to a Retro Fuse concert with a friend of mine a few
I don’t know if you know who Retro Fuse is, but
they’re one of my favorite
bands. They put on a great show.”
must have lots of friends on the station.”
I’m pretty well known. Making friends has never been a
lots of boyfriends, I imagine.”
not really. I’ve been on dates, but no real relationships.
busy for that. And spare me the lecture on the importance of sharing
with someone. I’ve heard it before.”
wasn’t going to give you one.”
because that’s the last thing I want to hear. I’m
just not ready
for a relationship. I’m sure one day I will be, but now is
not the time.”
must think about this a lot.”
really. Well, maybe on days when I’m feeling extra lonely.
that’s normal, right?”
changes the subject. “I’d like to know what your
future plans are,
if you plan to stay here or go back to Earth.”
hate that question.”
wasn’t a question.”
Well, I don’t see myself here much longer. I’ll go
back to Earth
eventually. I guess the novelty of being on the Moon has worn off.
here almost two years so I guess it’s to be expected.
I’m not saying my friends
are boring or my job is boring. I’m
what’s boring me?”
not bored. You’re frustrated.”
know the answer.”
is pissing me off. “No, I don’t.”
you do. You’re just afraid to say it out loud.”
I’m not afraid of anything.”
say it. Come on, I want to hear your answer.”
want to know what my answer is? Fine. I’ll tell you.
frustrated with this ‘therapy’ session--and I use
that term loosely. I’m
frustrated with having every single person on the station treating me
savior. I’m frustrated with having to go by military time
instead of regular
time, eating processed food, drinking fermented water, breathing
air, wearing radiation suits in my lab, having to listen to old men and
at the hospital babble on about their dead relatives and life insurance
policies, getting piss drunk, having one night stands, and, above all,
up in the ‘morning’--another term I use
loosely--and coming to the reality that
I’m nothing more than a flower girl who hates her life and
hates living on the
fucking Moon! There, that is my goddamn
answer!” I break down crying. I
don’t know what else to do. I haven’t cried in
years. Not when I left for
college, not even when I left for the Moon. But it’s a
relief. And I don’t care
what Dr. Rollins thinks. I don’t care what anyone thinks.
I’m going to cry like
a baby and enjoy every minute of it.
seems like an eternity when I finish. Dr. Rollins hands me a box of
tissues. “Thanks,” I say as I blow my nose.
“Wow, I can’t believe I just did
nothing I haven’t seen before. You got the answer right, by
My mind is at ease. I feel much better now.”
doesn’t flinch. Her sarcasm meter must be broken.
finally going to ask you a question, and I want an honest
you want to leave Luna Station?”
Guide to People, Places, and Things of Luna Station, Volume
13” by Echelon
Press, SY (Station Year) 205:
– Luna Station’s first Horticulturist; born and
raised in Hannibal, Missouri,
United States, planet Earth; arrived on Luna Station SY 67; was one of
most popular and attractive habitants; in SY 69 won Humanitarian of the
award on her 23rd birthday; left Luna shortly
thereafter due to
emotional and psychological distress; went back to Earth and never
wake up at six hundred hours like I have for the past two years.
“Illuminate,” I say. The lights come on. I get out
of bed, rub my eyes, stretch
my arms, and yawn. I look around the room. All that’s left in
here is the bed
and a big bag full of clothes.
hasn’t sunk in yet. This is my last day on Luna Station. In
I’ll be back on Earth, in my house in Hannibal, sleeping in
the bed I slept in
when I was young. This comforts me. I’m looking forward to
seeing my folks and
my old friends, the streets, the bridges, the trees, and the wonderful
Mississippi River again.
hit the shower and eat my last meal on the Moon: a bland-tasting ham
and cheese omelet from the food processors. Another thing I
can’t wait for is a
packed and ready to go. I check my voicemail. There’s a
message from Karen. She threw me a huge going-away party last night.
people showed up. I’m amazed I’m still not drunk.
“Hey Amanda, just wanted to
call you one last time. I’m going to miss you so much.
It’s going to be a
boring place without you, at least for a day or two. I’m just
going to visit you on Earth when I get the chance. Have a safe trip
love you. Bye.”
think I might cry again. I’m going to miss Karen more than
But I can’t stay just because of her. I’d take her
with me if I could, but
that’s not going to happen. Her place is on the Moon. My
place is on Earth.
eight hundred hours a chauffeur from the rocket station arrives.
“Good morning, Miss Pyner. Are you ready?”
A twinge of nervousness hits my stomach. This is it. I take
one last walk through my apartment, the place I called home for the
years. I come back to the door. “Okay, I’m all
rocket terminal is only five minutes away by aerocab. I’m
half-expecting a surprise appearance by Karen and a group of my
I’m half-glad that doesn’t happen. It would be too
emotional. But there is
someone here that I know. He’s sitting by himself, looking
out the terminal
window at the shuttle that’s taking me home. He’s
holding a glass case in his
lap. He’s the last person I expect to see.
flinches, as if pulled out of a dream. “Amanda, hi.”
are you doing here?”
stands. I see what’s contained in the case. It’s
the rose. “I wanted
to see you before you left.”
weren’t at the party last night?” I
could’ve sworn he was there.
But I was pretty drunk last night so I’m not one to ask.
No, I wasn’t invited.”
sorry about that. It was Karen’s idea, and I guess she
all right. At least I get to see you today, so it’s not a
loss. I was kind of hoping you wouldn’t show up. I guess this
good. I mean I’m sorry things didn’t work out. I
hope things go
better for you back on Earth.”
Why’d you bring the rose?”
I want you to have it. Sort of a going away present.”
flower is yours. I gave it to you.”
know, and I’m giving it back. It’ll be something to
remember me by.
take it. How ironic that the last thing I receive on the Moon is one
of my own flowers. It’s like I’m looking at
something someone else made for me.
It really is a beautiful flower now that I look at it. “Thank
you, Adam. You’ve
been a great friend.” I give him a hug.
going to miss you, Amanda. We all will.”
chauffeur taps me on the shoulder. “They’re
To Adam I say, “I have to go.”
a safe trip.”
I walk down the corridor toward the shuttle I hear him call out,
the real Luna Rose, you know that?”
don’t know what that means, and I don’t have time
to discuss it with
him. “Uh, okay. Bye, Adam.” I board the shuttle.
The chauffeur takes his leave.
Half an hour later we take off. It seems like only yesterday I was
for the first time, and now I’m leaving for good. How
strange. I fix my gaze on
the glass case in my lap. What did Adam mean when he said I was the
real Luna Rose?
Is he referring to the fact that—wait a minute. Ah, okay, I
get it now. Good
one, Adam. That was pretty clever. Maybe you’re not so dull
© 2007 by Nick Ragusa.
Nick Ragusa currently lives in Champaign, Illinois.
His short stories have appeared in Anotherealm and
the now defunct Astonishing Tales webzine.
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