Alex awoke before the crater, her visor dusted in pale blue ash. Her foot had disappeared. As she looked down her leg, neck stiff from sleeping, it was impossible to see past her ankle. Her body below her ankle was lost in the sea of terrible darkness that fills those darker places on the moon. Her communication systems had fizzled into radio silence, and her crew was non-responsive. She would need to stand up.
It took twice as much energy to move in low gravity. The heavy space suit added an extra layer of meaning to every movement. That was why astronauts ‘hopped’ across the lunar surface; walking over the ground was inefficient. Before her arrival, in the weeks of space travel, the many hours put into gym had made her strong enough ¾theoretically¾ to traverse the lunar surface with ease. Lying back against the ground, unable to move, was not only a huge letdown.
It was dangerous.
The display on her wrist flashed blue. She had enough oxygen for a few more hours, but that wouldn’t matter if nobody came to rescue her. She almost laughed. Astronauts are fitted with digital displays, communications functions, and technology, mind-blowingly superior to those on the first missions in the 60s. But these interfaces were useless in a suit with no movement. Her foot hidden in total darkness, Alex wondered if a hand would reach out and pull the rest of her into the inescapable dark.
Confined to the ground, Alex stared toward the sky. There was never a clear blue sky or a cloud above this rocky world, never a single tear from a cloud, never a setting sun over the tranquil sea. But she could see the small ball that she called home, and she was already missing it dearly. Her breathing was mechanical through the suit. She ignored it, preferring to imagine herself on the beach in Spain enjoying the hot sun ¾iced cocktail by the poolside.
While Alex, the first woman on the moon, imagined herself back in paradise, she¾ and indeed the majority of the conscious universe ¾was unaware of a rare and anomalous event occurring 4000ft below at the bottom of the crater. A hatch was opening with a pale blue glow, and a specimen protected for millions of years was awakening. It peered around in the darkness and felt right at home, for this creature was well accustomed to darkness. It took its first step out of the life pod. It had to look upwards toward the distant blue-green light that floated overhead to determine it was underground. With satisfaction, the creature stretched out its delicate wings and flew upwards towards the light, its wingbeats causing wisp of the surrounding moon dust to cloud the air around it.
Alex looked at her foot in the darkness. It was like it had never existed. She wondered if she would exist for much longer as she checked her oxygen once again. Consciously, she slowed her breathing, and continued watching the planet above. There had been billions of years of life on that planet, more than a trillion experiences and lifetimes. All the while, the moon was there to observe, indifferent to the motions of life on Earth. But only once in all that time, in all those trillions of lifetimes, had a species made its way off that world and onto another. Humans were the creatures who refused to be confined by nature’s rules. But of course, neither Alex nor the rest of humanity could have known that their kind was not the first to visit.
The creature was 2000ft high now. Its wings helped it rise with powerful velocity toward that familiar blue-green light. Then the memories began rolling back, memories of steam clouds and rolling tropical hills, lush and green, where titanic beasts roamed the land and drank up entire lakes. It had another memory as well, of a home ¾no, a city¾that rose high as the mountains, where others of its kind were safe behind great walls of metal and stone. All the glimmers and lights were treasured there for their alluring qualities, and their people were drawn to them for their beauty. But the greatest beauty, the most attractive light, was at the top of the sky. The greatest minds found a way to travel there, and one of their kind was chosen for the mission.
As the creature flew higher, it was eager to accomplish its life’s purpose, but it was completely unaware that its ancient civilisation had been absent from the earth for millions of years. The top of the crater was now in sight, and feeling tired from its ascent, the creature found a nice shiny sheet of glass to lie on for a while.
Alex noticed a tiny black speck above her eyes. She took a moment to realise that there was a fly, no larger than a house fly, standing resting upon her visor. The fly was so close she could see the tiny black spacesuit it wore, and the miniature visor around its’s eyes and mouth. Amazingly, the wings were exposed clearly in the vacuum of space. Together, the human woman and the ancient fly looked upwards toward the world that they both called home. This was not only an important moon mission, but the meeting between two different species, and both of them came from the same planet.
Alex heard the loud crackle in the back of her helmet as the radio connection returned.
“Alex… Alex… Alex, come in, do you read me?” said the muffled voice.
“Yes, I hear you!” Alex replied. “I’m stuck by the crater.”
“We’re coming to get you now, just sit tight.”
Alex threw her arm above her head and chuckled, and when she finished laughing the mysterious fly was gone.
She knew it was a fly, it had to be. She knew how flies looked on windowpanes, at picnics, and how they appeared when floating between the ice cubes in a cocktail under the Spanish sunlight. She turned her head in a genuine final effort to search for the fly. She looked over the horizon, studied the rocks around her, but no fly was in sight. She peered into the darkness of the crater, narrowing her eyes as they tried to adjust to the dark depths. But she was blind to the dark; human eyes were never meant for that intense void.
There was another fizzle from her communication systems.
“Okay Alex, we see you, making our way over now. Did you see anything scary from that crater? Aliens?”
Alex thought for a moment. “It doesn’t matter. If I told you, you would never believe me. There’s nothing here but rocks and the Earth above. I sure do feel homesick now.”
The microphone clicked off and the silence returned. It would be a long flight home.
Author: Lachlan aims to convert his experience of existence into writing. For Lachlan, the most entertaining thing about being a creative writer is the ability to become multiple things at once. He hopes you come away from his work feeling connected with the universe, and with a stronger sense of optimistic nihilism.
Artist: Yongzheng Wang is a visual arts student from China, currently studying at QUT and living in Brisbane, specialising in traditional painting such as classical oil painting and academic sketching. While studying art in China, he won a first prize in landscape drawing in institute. He is fluent in Chinese, French, English and Italian and has a good knowledge of Western art theory.
Editors: Willow Ward and Hannah Vesey