(Every year, one person is sent to the moon. This year, though you hid in terror, it is your turn to enter the rocket.)
The Moon! Fascination with the moon! Obsession with the moon! Terrified of the moon! And of course the effect this moon focus has had on my life. These are the things that haunt me. I have gone from a normal functioning adolescent to this basket of worthless matter as the inevitable date approaches. The day my name is called for the voyage to the heavens.
I am filled with questions that are never addressed, or answered, but rather ignored as though they were never asked! If the words are uttered in a public place people turn away from you, you are in fact shunned for even questioning. Good citizens never ask, they just go when their name is called.
So many nights I have spent laying on my back, the moon travels it’s arc across the sky and I travel with it, my eyes rarely leaving it, the perpetual searching among the craters, dimples and ridges for movement or life of any sort. I try to determine if the points of light are lights or sparking reflections of other suns or planets or even our own earth reflecting the sun back to the moon.
I walk my fields looking and hoping to witness every aspect of the moon. Where must I be to capture a feature that will help me when I am sent there? My camera is ever at the ready. I shoot mostly at full moon phases but often the craters are more defined at other times. I must see, I must understand, I must be ready! But for what?
The image on my screen becomes all encompassing! I spend hours peering into the image. Enlarging the image in hopes of what? Seeing movement? Civilization development? Where are those who have gone before? Is the surface habitable? Is it a sub lunar surface existence? Why aren’t we told more? You must go to know anything but unfortunately you never return so what is the point?
And what of the backside? We never see the whole personality that is the moon. What is transpiring just beyond the ability of our eyes and cameras to see?
As a culture we are encouraged to procreate! I am next to the youngest of twenty nine children and I do not remember my father. He was considered a prolific producer and that often got your departure delayed. I do say delayed as going is inescapable. If you are male, eventually you must go. They are calling us at younger and younger ages, so often procreation is not even possible. And now, in modern times, they speak in closed meetings of our female population being considered for export.
I have said, I do not remember my father, but I remember each of my older brothers in turn going and not returning. What is this for? Do they live on in another world? Perhaps breeding with moon women? Or are they a food source? Or are they laborers for a ruling class on the moon? The questions are endless! We are taught from infants to not question, we are shown what we need to exist until departure! I know this is my year, the time approaches and I have been frantic to find a hiding place. To quietly disappear into safety before they announce my name! It feels hopeless and the terror in my gut never stops!
I know you cannot disappear on the surface of our world or even fly off to other places. We are monitored so closely. The way would be to make a solitary plan. No one, not a sibling or Mother or Grandmother must have an inkling that you are plotting avoidance. It is critical that you appear normal! Your panic can never be overt, your panic must never give anyone reason to doubt your willingness to go.
When you were in your twelfth year and life was as routine and free as this world would allow, you happened upon an adit while hiking in the mountains. You darted into it and back out in such a quick succession of moves that it did not become part of your permanent record. On two further occasions you tried again and saw enough to understand it was a passage, winding and becoming narrow but continuous! This was where you decided to hide until other numbers were called and you were forgotten. It had happened once or twice before in your lifetime and those men became the stuff of legends! A handful out of millions!
You had begun living on very reduced rations and your stockpile of many colored food tabs had built to a place you thought might sustain you for a few clicks of the calendar. Fluids were a different matter and you could only hope for a source of naturally occurring groundwater. Everything you planned to take with you had to be secreted on your person. All must appear normal.
The next part of the plan involved finding a group to move about with so when you disappeared from the screen, the group moving forward would be recorded and you would not be missed. It was a very dangerous gamble! It was not a game!
Now in your sixteenth cycle you think you dare not risk staying any longer. Your number must be close and you are, in fact, terrified! You scan the monitor for activity groups and find one that is soon and will allow you to acquire your desired target. You wish you could give your Mother unit an extra hug or whisper for her to take care but that is impossible. The day arrives and you are cheerfully off to hike!
The group is comprised of mixed ages and genders and none are close friends or even acquaintances, you keep to yourself and use the pace and exertion of the climb as a reason not to add to the comments being shared. You pretend to labor and fall further and further toward the rear of the group. Finally you recognize the place where the chance can be taken. You feel almost breathless but not from exertion but from fear. One second you are with the group, the next you are in the deep grasses at the trail edge and then behind boulders and finally into the adit.
Almost running now, you make your way through the almost familiar early tunnels into the unknown. It seems like time is dragging and flying at the same time! You dread discovery, to hear some voice call out to you as if you are lost but at the same time you are moving so quickly there would never be the hope of retracing your steps! You are committed! Deeper and deeper, the tunnels branch and divide like veins on an anatomy drawing. Turning left at one point and right at another, never even a hesitation at a Y in the trail, just blundering onward and downward!
Finally your leaden legs can lift your feet no longer, your toe catches and you lay sprawled in a heap against slag or rock that looks once to have been molted and then cooled to this smooth look. It is unique!
Your face drips sweat, and your lungs cry for more air and rest! You lay back in exhaustion! You go to blackness!
You had discarded your wrist monitor along the trail long before leaving the group so now you cannot be traced but neither can you know the day or time! How long did you sleep that first day? How deep have you gone in the periods of movement since that sleep? You no longer expect to hear a voice calling but the dawning of a new reality is setting in. You have no idea where you are, where you are going, how long you can sustain yourself? How is this any better than boarding the rocket?
You begin to imagine in more detail what might have been ahead on the moon! What if it was pleasure beyond expectations, moon women or success or wealth and happiness? You look around!
Yes you are free but the solitude is absolute. The silence so profound sometimes you cover your ears with your hands to hear your own blood flowing in your veins.
How is this better? Fat tears slip from your eyes and you knuckle away the salty moisture and roll into a ball. You find yourself in this place earlier and earlier each day. You cannot stand the hopelessness of this condition! Is this better or worse than the fear of the moon?
The food tabs are running out, no other creatures have been seen, the days become grey and lightless and the nights long and full of dreams!
Dreams of the moon!