Monday, December 10, 2012

This Story Needs a Title

My grandfather remembered the first moon landing. It wasn’t so long ago, you know. He died in a hospital bed, and my mother was with him. He didn’t know she was there, and it was only chance. It could have been any one of us. We took turns. The last one of us he knew was there was probably me. When my mother arrived he was already unconscious.

He never talked about the moon landing. Only a couple of times on New Year’s Eve when he’d been mixing his Guinness with my grandmother’s sherry. My mother said he used to talk about it a lot. When they thought it was a great moment in the history of the world. They thought the moon was the future. It wasn’t their fault. To them it was mysterious. And any mystery must be important. They thought you should die with your family around you. There used to be tribes that ate the bodies of their parents. They thought there was a reason for it.

Then we discovered what the moon was for. It’s hard. A part of you wants to say goodbye, and then, when it’s your turn, you don’t want to go. You cling to the old ways, the old ideas, the things our grandparents believed. It’s easy to understand why they believed them, but now we know they were wrong, and you have to accept it. It’s part of being a person of your time. We know what they didn’t. We know more about how things should be. To reject it is to belong to another time, to live with the dinosaurs. Oh, and to be wrong, of course.

The moon is dead. Geologically and biologically dead. No atmosphere, like a really bad party. It was obvious really. We just took a long time to realize. The Earth, on the contrary, is young. And the world belongs to the young. It’s obvious, really.

There are those who whisper that there’s been a misunderstanding, that the world belongs not to the young, but to the living. There was a time when it was like that, but as everyone knows, it was just a step on the way, a short period while the forces of reaction and sedition got used to the idea or were made to stop confusing the matter. Then it was the dying who were sent here as well as the dead. Then the old, over 80 they started with. But old age is a relative thing. A few people are still young at 90, some are old at 60. It was a matter of judgement. The people who did the judging were often criticised, so in the end they made it simpler. Over 60, because some are old at 60. Those who were still young at 60 had the chance to prove it, and it turned out that most of them were not as young as they thought. The world belongs to the young.

Some of those who came here were not even 60, but age is relative. When you have nothing to offer your family, and no friends to help you, and you’re more a hindrance than a help, and your company is boring, and you smell a bit and talk too much about the past, then you’re old, aren’t you, regardless of the years you’ve lived? And now it’s my turn.

I made it to 58 before they decided I had to go. Not bad really. I can’t complain. I had a good family, but my friends were sent off first, my wife never even made it here, and my children feel that I can’t make proper use of my property anymore, not as much as they could, so they asked the tribunal to review me. All fair and right, just as it should be. But it’s Hell here. Completely alone. The workers receive you, process you, then they put you in your cell and wait for the hunger and thirst to take you. They’re made of clear plastic, the cells, something incredibly strong and transparent. You can see the sky and the Earth. It makes you wish you were back there.

I didn’t know it was like that. On Earth we thought there must be some other way, quick and painless. It’s what they tell you, or what they let you believe, anyway. Now I think about it, I don’t know that I ever heard it mentioned. People don’t think about this place, and the people who come here. We don’t matter anymore, do we? The world isn’t like in my grandfather’s day, when they thought they could talk to the dead, and visit them, and ask them to watch over them. Now we know the truth. I’m not one of them anymore. I’m one of us.

But it’s hard when your time comes, it really is. You want to stay, you say that you’re still young, that you deserve to stay with the living. Old people are selfish, we used to say. And it’s true. Now I’m old I’m selfish myself. I’ll be gone soon. Dead. A few days more, and it will be over. I already feel weak, and tired, and my mouth is drier than I ever imagined it could be, and my head hurts terribly. Just a few days more.

The workers have a hard time here. Lonely and miserable, with no real comforts, and their families and friends, if they still have any, a quarter of a million miles away. They’re paid a pittance, but it doesn’t really matter as there’s nothing here they could spend it on. They can’t produce anything and what we send over from Earth is just the minimum required to keep them alive. They’re only allowed back occasionally, and briefly, under supervision, and permissions are often cancelled at the last minute. In fact hardly anyone on Earth has ever met a moon worker, not until they come here. It’s odd, in a way. At the time we discovered the purpose of the moon, we discovered the purpose of the Welsh.

If they knew I was writing this, they would make me lie here forever, instead of pushing me into space in the direction of Sirius. That’s what they promise to do, so that one day we’ll wake up on the ancestral home of man. You have to believe it, or you’d go mad. If you don’t believe it, if you don’t understand why it’s right, you don’t deserve to go to Sirius, and they just throw you out into the moondust. I can see a lot of bodies out there, there must be a lot of people who don’t believe. But I do. I know it’s right. It’s just a bit hard to take when it’s your turn. A few days more…


James Higham said...

How about "Sirius"?

CIngram said...

That might work. Thanks for the idea.