KW.3.INTRIGUE

(a.k.a. Why you should give a shit)

A man sits on a couch. He’s black, like a lot of other people in the U.S. He hasn’t got a lot of money—like a lot of other people in the U.S. He’s sitting on the couch and he’s reading a book when suddenly he shouts at the top of his lungs:

“Well why tha’ fuck should we care?”

Another man comes out of the kitchen. He has sex with the man who’s reading on the couch, not currently, but frequently, unlike a lot of other people in the U.S. However, he is gay, like a lot of other people in the U.S.

“Woah, calm down. Whatchu yellin’ about in here?”

“Another white fatherfuckin’ writer’s gone and wrote another fatherfuckin’ memoire?”

“Oh, shit, are you reading that Kill The Writer shit?”

“Yeah, this fuckboy went and told us all his middle-class straight white boy problems and I’m sitting here thinkin’, ‘well why the fuck do I care about some lightskin droppin’ outta college to be a writer?’”

“Well, damn, that does sound pretty boring. Lemme see this shit… hold up. Where you read to?”

“Just up through Introduction.

“Aight, well the next chapter is called Intrigue.

“What? You’re fucking with me.”

“Nah. Shit’s called intrigue… Awwwh shit, you’re not going to believe this.”

“Yo, what is it?”

“Shit’s about us.”

“What the fuck you mean, ‘shit’s about us.'”

“I mean, this fatherfuckin’ son of a dick just wrote a chapter about this shit here—you hollerin’, me coming in and you telling me about this shit book, and I mean, fuck, it’s got everything in it.”

“Yo. Lemme get that… Shit, you right. How the fuck did he do that?”

“Well—hold up, what happens next?”

This:

“We should have sex.”

“I don’t think I want that.”

These are the first two lines of a conversation I had with a woman one time at dinner. She was nice. She was funny, to some people, at some time, so I’ve heard. I liked her well enough; technically speaking, I could have had sex with her. All that being said, I did not want to.

“I beg your pardon.”

“I do not think that I want to have sex with you.”

“Well why not?”

“I—,”  I was not prepared to answer this question. It’s a firmly held belief of mine, and I think of my friends as well, that I’m much better on paper than in person. I don’t do well when I’m put on the spot. So I said, “I don’t want to have sex with you, because I want to have sex with someone else.”

There is no such thing as good and evil, that I know, but there is right and wrong when you have a specific outcome in mind. For example, on that night, I’d imagined that I would not have wine thrown in my face. I’d imagined a quiet night, where no white button-ups were ruined, and my ride home was not ruined by wine flavored swamp-ass. So, factoring all those things together, I made the wrong choice in telling Delilah that I wanted to have sex with someone other than Delilah.

However, I’m an honest person. It’s my nature to a fault, and I was uncomfortably aware of that as wine crept into the fault line between my two ass cheeks.

“I want to have sex with Rose.”

Rose was our mutual friend. In fact, Rose is the one who had set us up together. She was my best friend now, and I wanted to have sex with her. Actually, I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.

However, more importantly than all of that, I wanted to make her happy.

Back to Basics

“Where are we going?”

Now we emerged, out from under the curtain of the dark side of the moon and MG was dragging me briskly along.

“We’re gonna find you a ride back home,” She called out over her shoulder, “How good are you on physics?”

“Uh, I’m studying to be an engineer so…”

“That’ll have to do.”

We hustled along until we happened upon a parcel of flat ground, bordered by a few medium to large moon-rocks. MG situated me in the middle of the clearing and took a few paces back to the perimeter.

“Right, so, now we move back to basics.”

“What do you mean by that?”

She dropped low and picked up a little rock. Righting herself, she cocked back her arm, preparing to launch it up into the atmosphere.

“First off,” She began, releasing the rock and sending it arcing over my head, “sometimes the littlest things in life…?”

“Weigh the heaviest upon us?” Ducking my head a little in fear that I was about to get beaned by the rock, which looked dumb considering how slow it was going.

“Right!” She called out, and the rock burst open, with a noise that was… I don’t know, somewhere between a blossoming chrome supernova and the banging of a pot. However you describe it, it sure was loud, and I ducked under my arm as the rock transformed rapidly, blooming in kaleidoscopic fashion into a cylindrical piece of metal. It landed with a clang upon the surface of the moon in a perfectly upright position.

“Next!” She grabbed another, bigger rock in both her hands and prepared for launch, “You have all the answers, but sometimes you need…”

She heaved the rock up in the air and I watched it float across space like a comet or some kind of asteroid before it descended back towards the moon. I began my answer as it bounced along the ground, a few feet away from the original piece.

“Err, you need a friend? Sometimes you need a friend to help you figure out what you knew all along.”

The rock started to shake, rattle and roll before turning into part of the hull and whipping its way through space to collide with the cylinder, forming the lower part of a rocket. It was so incredible, but it didn’t have the same shock value that it would’ve had a day ago back on earth; on the moon, the extraordinary was just part of the rote, and it was upon that note that I took on her next question.

“Alright, this one might be the most important lesson you’ve learned while on the moon,” She stood next to a giant boulder, big enough that she showed no intention of throwing up into space, “Even when you’re all caught up in your little Earthy problems, and you’ve got a hundred weights hanging off your ankle, remember to always-”

“Step back and enjoy the bigger picture?”

I wasn’t standing anymore, but laying on my back looking up at the Earth for one last time. All my problems were waiting for me back there, but that wasn’t what I was thinking about. I was thinking about how small my problems were, all concentrated in one little spot that I could barely even see from here. My whole life had taken place in a little pin-prick point on Earth. There was so much left to see, and so much left to do. Deserts and oceans opened up before me, and just beyond my outstretched fingertips I could feel the ridges of mountain ranges reaching back. MG came and lay down next to me and we dozed off for a couple of hours. It wasn’t until a stray piece of paper drifted by and nudged me awake that I came to my senses again. My school supplies had made their way around the Moon and were now sailing back to me as I lay with my friend.

Grabbing the paper and a binder to write on, I started my letter.

“We can’t choose the ones we love, but often we do make the wrong choice.

It’s not that we’re stupid, or that it’s our fault that these things happen. It’s just that there’s a certain inevitability to wrongness, and that’s a part of life. Depending on how you look at it, that’s part of the fun. I’ve learned that I can’t let past wrongs I’ve committed alienate me from the rest of the world. Whether I’m two-hundred thousand miles away, or just a couple feet, I have to communicate with those who matter most to me.

I want to give my thanks to The Woman on the Moon for teaching me to step back and appreciate the world around me, whether that world’s the Earth or any other.

Writing this letter is just one small step for me, but a giant leap toward overcoming this eclipse of the mind. And I want you to know, I can feel the sun burning bright on the other side.

-Thomas”

So we’ve come full circle. The Woman on the Moon reads my letter and deems me worthy of the flight back home. We boarded the ship and with thrusters engaged, and sights on the distant horizon, my own personal spaceship took flight for Earth. We rocketed through space, and every atom in my being rattled along in harmony with the atoms of the ship. Even at the atomic level, we’re interacting, associating, dissociating, and forming bonds. There were times I thought I was meant to be alone, I thought I was a single, lonesome hydrogen atom, but the truth of the matter is, even hydrogen is rarely alone; we prefer to travel in pairs. We’re diatomic like that.

Just one rocket ship and a two atoms of hydrogen hurtling towards Earth. The rest is for the stars.

Buffer

“Where are we going?”

Now we’d emerged, out from under the black veil and MG was dragging me briskly along.

“We’re gonna find you a ride back home,” she called back over her shoulder, “How good are you on physics?”

“Uh, I’m studying to be an engineer so…”

“That’ll have to do.”

We hustled along until we happened upon a parcel of flat ground, bordered by a few medium to large lunar rocks. MG situated me in the middle of the clearing and took a few paces back to the perimeter.

“Right, so, now we move back to basics.”

“What do you mean by that?”

She dropped low and scooped a little rock. Righting herself, she cocked back her arm, preparing to launch it up into the atmosphere.

“First off,” she began, releasing the rock and sending it arcing over my head, “Sometimes the littlest things in life…?”

“Weigh the heaviest on us?” I ducked my head a little in fear that I was about to get beaned by the rock, which looked real dumb considering how slow it was going.

“Right!” She called out, and the rock burst open, with a noise that was… I don’t know, somewhere between a burgeoning chrome supernova and the banging of a pot. However you describe it, it sure was loud, and I sought shelter under my arm as the rock transformed rapidly, unfurling in kaleidoscopic fashion into a cylindrical piece of metal. It landed with a clang upon the surface of the Moon in a perfectly upright position.

“Next!” She grabbed another, bigger rock in both her hands and prepared for launch, “You have all the answers, but sometimes you need…”

She heaved the rock up in the air and I watched it float across space like a comet before it descended back towards the ground. I began my answer as it bounced along the ground, a few feet away from the original piece.

“Err, you need a friend? Sometimes you need a friend to help you figure out what you knew all along.”

The rock started to shake, rattle and roll, turning into part of the hull and whipping its way through space on a collision course with the cylinder, forming the lower part of a rocket. It was so incredible, but it didn’t have the same shock value that it would’ve had a day ago back on Earth; on the Moon, the extraordinary was just part of the rote, and it was upon that note that I took on her next question.

“Alright, this one might be the most important lesson you’ve learned while on the Moon,” She stood next to a giant boulder, big enough that she expressed no intention of chucking it up into space, “Even when you’re all caught up in your little earthy problems, and you’ve got a hundred weights hanging off your ankle, remember to always-”

“… step back and enjoy the bigger picture?”

I wasn’t standing anymore, but laying on my back looking up at the Earth for one last time. All my problems were waiting for me back there, but that wasn’t what I was thinking about. I was thinking about how small they were, all concentrated in one little spot that I could barely even see from here. My whole life had taken place in a little pinprick point on Earth. There was so much left to see, and so much left to do. Deserts and oceans opened up before me, and just beyond my outstretched fingertips I could feel the ridges of mountain ranges reaching back. After the final piece of rocket had been installed, MG came over and lay down next to me. We dozed off for a couple of hours.

It wasn’t until a stray piece of paper drifted by and nudged me awake that I came to my senses again. My school supplies had made their way around the Moon and were now sailing back to me as I was lying with my friend.

Grabbing the paper and a binder to write on, I started my letter:

We can’t choose the ones we love, but often we do make the wrong choice.

It’s not that we’re stupid, or that it’s our fault that these things happen. It’s just that there’s a certain inevitability to wrongness, and that’s a part of life. Depending on how you look at it, that’s part of the fun. I’ve learned that I can’t let past wrongs I’ve committed alienate me from the rest of the world. Whether I’m two-hundred thousand miles away, or just a couple feet, I have to communicate with those who matter most to me.

I want to give my thanks to The Woman on the Moon for teaching me to step back and appreciate the world around me, whether that world’s the Earth or any other.

Writing this letter is just one small step for me, but a giant leap toward overcoming this eclipse of the mind. And I want you to know, I can feel the sun burning bright on the other side.

-Thomas

So we’ve come full circle. The Woman on the Moon read my letter and deemed me worthy of the flight back home. We boarded the ship and with thrusters engaged and sights on the distant horizon, my own personal spaceship took flight for Earth. We rocketed through space, and every atom in my being rattled along in harmony with the atoms of the ship. Even at the atomic level, we’re interacting, associating, dissociating, and forming bonds. There were times I thought I was meant to be alone, when I thought I was a single, lonesome hydrogen atom, but the truth of the matter is, even hydrogen is rarely alone. We prefer to travel in pairs. We’re diatomic like that.

Just one rocket ship and a two atoms of hydrogen hurtling towards Earth. The rest is for the stars.

Next Chapter

Single Bond

For an hour we walked, searching the barren Moon’s surface for signs of these elusive lunar bears. Honestly, I never really expected to find one, but apparently that was the problem. Well, according to the Woman on the Moon that was the problem anyway.

“We’ve been at this for an hour, what’s the point?”

She turned to me and frowned, “Simmer down now, we still have plenty of Moon to cover.”

I sighed audibly, and shook my head. We still had to drag the weight around, which made walking more awkward and difficult. Another minute of searching elapsed before she spoke up again.

“So what’s their name, anyway?”

“What’s whose name?” I asked, more focused on my feet moving below me than the actually question.

“Their name,” she said, gesturing to the weight.

“Oh, her, er—that, I don’t know, let’s just call it Sally or something,” I said, looking over the horizon to see if there was, by some minuscule chance, a trace of the moon bears. Suddenly the weight got a lot heavier, and I turned to see that my acquaintance or partner or whatever, had dropped it and was now standing with her arms crossed.

“What?” I asked incredulously.

“You know what.”

I just shook my head and ran my hands through my hair. I wasn’t about to get into it with her.

“I’m not sure that I do. Come on, let’s just go.”

She didn’t budge, preferring instead to stand resolutely and glare at me.

Now I was starting to get pissed. Let’s be real here: she had no business asking me about my personal life. I didn’t even know her, why should I just lay myself open like a book for her to peruse at her leisure?

“Why would I even tell you this? No offense, but I’ve only just met you. I don’t even know your real name!”

She raised an eyebrow, “Oh, so you tell your close friends all about this then, right?”

“Well… no. Not exactly.”

She didn’t understand. No one wants to sit around and listen to my problems, because, well, they’re my problems.

She took a step toward me, “Gotcha, so you just keep all of your worries and whatnot tucked deep down inside and you never talk about it to anyone. Great, because that’s healthy. Because that’s never gonna catch up with you.”

“Well, I talk about some stuff with…”

I looked down at the ground, as if the name of my unknown confident was going to be scrawled along a lunar rock, but instead, my gaze fell upon the metal ball. Of course she noticed, and just shook her head, moving in a little bit closer.

“And what about when she’s the problem?”

I looked up at my… my friend, or whatever, and she looked back at me. Until now, I didn’t think you could see how much someone cared in the way they looked at you. It was weird to me—I’d only known her for a few hours now, but then there was that look in her eyes.

“Then… I don’t know.”

She smiled at me. Reaching up, her hand brushed the side of my face as she pushed a bit of hair from my eyes. I flinched away from the contact at first, but the look she gave me held me steady. Her hand lingered by my face.

“That’s not a bad start,” she said, reaching a finger behind my ear and pulling something out from behind it. In the dim lunar glow I could make out the faint silhouette of a key. She dropped it in my hand and gestured at the lock around my ankle. I reached down and placed it inside. It was a perfect fit. The chain fell away, but there was a black ring that circled my ankle where the cuff had been. I rubbed it with my thumb, gently at first, but then more vigorously when it didn’t come off. It was tattooed on.

“How did you…”

“You may not believe it, but the damn thing’s been there the whole time. Sometimes you just need a friend to show you where to look.”

I didn’t know what to say. Fortunately, I didn’t have to say anything, because out of the corner of my eye I spotted a movement on the horizon line. I pulled my friend down, drawing her face up next to mine so I could show her what I’d seen.

“Look! Way out there.”

Bounding across the horizon was a sleuth of bears. A sleuth of bears frolicking across the Moon.

Next Chapter

Anion and Cation

After Earth-gazing for awhile, the pair of us went for a walk around the Moon. Well, it was less of a walk for me than it was for her: I had to drag a stupidly heavy metal ball behind me while the Moon-Woman bounced around in an offensively carefree manner. She offered to help, sure, but I wasn’t about to let someone else shoulder my load.

“So how did you end up with this thing in the first place?” She asked while we climbed up the side of a crater.

“Your guess—is as good—as mine,” I gasped. At length, I paused to finish, “One second I was in my room, the next I was standing on the Moon with this ball hanging ’round my ankle.”

She cocked her head to the side, “Maybe someone snuck it on to you?”

“Maybe,” I said shortly, preferring to press on with the walk/drag than continue on with this conversation. The Woman on the Moon felt otherwise.

“You sound skeptical. You don’t think someone else put it on you?”

I sighed loudly, “I doubt it. That seems like the sort of thing you’d notice, right? Someone chaining you up? Hard to be discrete about that.”

“Probably,” we ascended, “My guess is that you put it on yourself.”

“What? You think I would ball and chain myself on purpose?” I asked raising my eyebrow. It was an outlandish idea, and she knew it. Or at least I assumed she knew it. I mean, if I had put it on myself, then it would stand to reason that I could just take it off, and if I could do that, then why on Moon would I insist on dragging it along the length of this pale celestial body?

“You wouldn’t be the first.”

I gave her a look, perplexed, with furrowed brows and all, “I don’t get you.”

We reached the crest of the crater. Moon-Woman suggested that we sit down and rest for a bit. I was well tired from the trek, so we sat and tossed space rocks over the side from the crater’s rim. We talked a bit about things here and there, before landing on the events leading up to my arrival on the Moon.

“Oh, I don’t know,” I began, shifting a couple of rocks around in my hand like a pair of baoding balls. They were really soft and pliable. Their surfaces smoothed easily as I played with them. Then I crushed the rocks with my hand, “I was upset. Something had happened earlier—I was sort of-”

“What were you upset about?” She interrupted. Her tone was aggressively chipper, or so it seemed to me, and I shut down:

“It’s nothing.”

“It’s never nothing, what was it?”

Annoyed now, I began firing shots, “It’s nothing. Honestly, you’re worrying over something that isn’t even a thing.”

“Yeah? I’d beg to differ.”

I fired her a bullet-glance, but she countered it with one of her own, “I think that if it wasn’t a thing, you’d still be sitting in your room right now, instead of sitting on the Moon with a ball hung round your ankle.”

“Oh is that what you think? Well why are you on the Moon then?”

“Because I wanted to be different.”

“What-,” I shook my head violently in frustration, a quick whip to the side to clear away her equivocal bullshit, “What does that even mean?”

“Not the same.”

“Of course—I know what different means, how dumb do you think I am?” Anger isn’t always the best fuel for quality quips and witty banter. It burns like pine straw, quick to ignite and no lasting flame.

“Dumb enough not to realize an obvious metaphor when you see it,” she said, looking from my eyes to the ball and chain. All I could do was roll my eyes and stand up. I started walking away, back down the side of the crater, but the ball got a lead on me, and started to drag me down the hill. Just as my feet left the ground, a hand clasped my own and kept me from what surely would’ve been a very long and painful fall.

“What do you know? That ball isn’t nearly as heavy when there are two people carrying it.”

I rolled my eyes yet again, blowing out hot air as if it could blow away her smugness while I took a moment to regain my balance.

“Whatever.”

We passed another minute in silence before I began gathering up my chain again and making my way down the hill. But, before I took off, I paused. It took a second, but I had a mini-epiphany.

“Look,” I started, turning back to her, “Uh, thanks. I would’ve been fucked and… yeah.”

She just smiled and walked over to stand by my side.

“So can I help now?”

“Sure.”

The way down the slope wasn’t bad at all, because, for whatever reason, the weight seemed to weigh almost nothing now. Personally, I have a working theory that this woman had some kind of crazy moon strength, but when I asked her about it, she only laughed quietly and sighed. Or maybe it was kinda both at the same time. A laugh-sigh, if you will. At the base of the crater we resumed our walk.

“You really want to know why I’m stuck out here?” She asked, her features becoming overcast.

“Yeah, sure,” I was still grinning stupidly as I said this, but when I caught the note of melancholy in her voice, I sobered up quick, “I mean, yeah, only if you wanna tell me.”

She was looking back up at the Earth almost wistfully.

“I was sick of all the bullshit, you know? This monstrosity of a system that was in place, so totally fucked beyond fixing. It was depressing–just the scope of the whole thing. I mean, once you realize just how messed up things are, it’s not like you can just un-know that,” the tone of her voice seemed like she was trying to justify herself. I hadn’t known her long, but from what I’d gathered, this was pretty atypical behavior for her, this whole being serious thing.

“Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I ran. I ran away from my home, then my town. I abandoned my friends, and when I realized the rest of the world was just as fucked as where I came from, I left Earth. I came here.”

“I don’t know what to…”

“You don’t have to say anything,” she said, though perhaps a bit too quickly, with a bit too much bite. She took an sorry ‘bout that breath, “I was alone. I lived outside the system. That first day away from Earth was so… You can’t imagine how liberating it felt to be free of it all.”

She smiled in spite of herself.

“But then came the next day. And the next, and the next. After awhile the magnitude of the decision I’d made began to weigh down upon me. If it hadn’t been for Cee, I don’t know what, or if I might have—”

I opened my mouth to interject, but she didn’t take notice. I wasn’t there anymore, it was just the her and the memories of her first days on the Moon.

“I don’t know where she is now, but… She’ll be back.”

Only now did she look at me. There were tears hiding behind levy-eyes, holding back the cry and the chance that this mysterious Cee was never coming back. I wanted to ask, but—

“She’ll be back,” she said one last time before we carried on across the crater.

                                                                                                    

“You wanna do something fun?” Asked the Moon-Woman, looking over at me as we lay beneath the reflection of Earth. We’d been laying there for half an hour now, pointing at all the places we’d ever been and all the others we wanted to go on that algae-covered fishbowl planet.

“Sure, what fun things are there to do on the Moon?”

“Moon Bears.”

“Moon Bears?”

“Yes, moon bears,” she said as she stood up. Once she was up, she extended a hand out to me, which I took, allowing myself to be lifted up to my feet, “We can go and search for moon bears.”

“Is that a real thing?”

“It might be.”

Next Chapter

Reactants

Before I landed on the Moon, I’d been in my room. Before that, I’d been downstairs with friends.

On the kitchen table, unnoticed, a phone buzzed.

“David, what’s the capital of Indiana?”

“Uh—”

“Fuck off, Thomas,” Henry interjected, just as David was answering:

“Baton Rouge?”

I laughed, and Henry shook his head.

“Was that not right? What?”

“No, no, don’t worry about it,” I said.

“He’s been doing it all night,” Mark said from across the room. His face was bleached by the glare of his phone screen.

“He’s been doing what all…” David started, more to himself than anyone, as someone else picked up the conversation.

“Can we go outside?” Moaned Sam from the hallway opening, “It smells like smoke in here.”

“Because we were smoking,” replied Adam sardonically, coming out of his bedroom behind Sam, “It smells like smoke, because we were smoking.”

“I knowww,” carried on Sam, drawing out the word like a whiny theremin, “Can we please go outside?”

Henry was all about it, “Let’s go!”  He said, coming down from his perch on the half-wall. As he passed the coffee table in the middle of the room, he swiped a cigarette and one of two lighters. The lighter would never be seen again.

“It’s wet outside,” David offered uselessly.

“I’m coming, too,” Adam filed in behind Sam and Henry. Sam’s friend Alex crawled off the couch to join them. The four of them departed through the glass sliding door, leaving Mark, David, Austin, and myself in the living room.

Mark glanced at me and raised his eyebrows, arching them in that characteristically unsettling, albeit comical, way of his,  “Hey. Thomas. Mobius?”

I stared back at him, “What’s the capital of Indiana?”

“Baton—Shitting-fuck, again?” Mark shook his head, “You bastard.”

I climbed the steps, chuckling to myself as I went to retrieve the Mobius.

“I still don’t get it,” David stated blandly.

Austin piped up, “Is Will coming by?”

“I didn’t know that he was supposed to, why?” Mark said, his eyes darkening with the shadow that passed over half the room.

“I needed to buy something from him, but-“

“He’s coming by around eleven, I think,” I said, coming back down the stairs. The Mobius was cradled in my arms, light reflecting off the glass, illuminating the dirty, smoke stained interior.

“Ah,” exhaled David, “What time is it now? Ten? I’ll probs head out in like thirty.”

“I’ll come with,” added Mark, “I’ve got a write-up for analytical to do by Monday—Shit, Thomas, do you ever clean that piece?”

“I’m pretty sure I did last week, but…” I looked at the grime and residue clinging to the chambers, “I guess it’s gotten some pretty heavy usage since then.”

“Lol. Lol, lol, lol,” David muttered as he got up and moved for the kitchen, “I’m getting water, anyone else?”

“Sure,” said Austin, “Hey, uh, Thomas, you think you could smoke weed on the Moon?”

“You’re an idiot, and no, there’s no oxygen.”

“What if there was oxygen?”

“Then sure, why not.”

“But it would be less potent than on Earth,” said Mark, who had taken the first rip, and now spoke in a deep smoky baritone through the billowing, white cloud tumbling out from his mouth.

“Why?”

I took this one, “Gravity would affect the density of the cloud you’re taking in. Moon rips would be less potent than Earth ones.”

“Why do you want to smoke weed on the Moon anyway?” David asked, coming back with water.

“Isn’t it obvious?”

David shrugged and starting mumbling something like, “I guess,” but Austin blurted out.

“To get high with moon bears!”

I smiled, trying not to laugh while inhaling smoke from the Mobius. Mark barked out a laugh, but it was a mostly weed-induced laugh.

“You’ve never heard of moon bears, Mark?” Austin was feigning seriousness now.

“No, never.”

“Oh, they’re everywhere up there. The government keeps it on the DL, but they’re out there. They roam the Moon in packs, and above all else, they love getting high.”

“Would it be herds or packs…?”

“Bears are pretty solitary animals. They don’t roam the wild in herds or packs,” quipped David.

“That? Really, that was the part you found fault with?” I said, and Mark half coughed, half laughed from the other couch, “David, you’re up next,” I said, passing him the piece.

“It’ll just make me tired, and I’ve gotta drive back soon, anyway,” he replied, passing it to Austin instead. Austin grabbed the piece, latched on to the mouthpiece, and sucked in while the ember was still lit. When he finished he passed it on to Mark and reclined back on the sofa.

“Well, moon bears do.”

“Do what?”

“Roam in packs.”

The sliding door opened again, and Sam stuck her head through, “It smells like smoke.”

“Goddammit,” David laugh-mumbled under his breath.

From outside, we could make out Adam’s voice from the tire swing, “Hey, Sam, you wanna know why?”

“Ugh,” groaned Sam, “Anyway, we’re going to grab Cook Out, anyone else trying to come with?”

“Yeah, sure,” I said, moving to get up, “I’m hungry.”

“And I’m Henry,” said Henry, standing in the doorway behind Sam.

“Every time. Every fucking time…” I shook my head, then froze. I heard a buzzing sound from the kitchen.

“I think I’m going to head out,” Mark announced once Austin vouched that he’d be going as well.

“Yeah, I’ll go too,” put in David. I wasn’t really listening anymore; I’d already reached the kitchen, and was starting to go through the texts on my phone, “Thomas, I’ll see you later!”

David and Mark had already left. The others had come inside and were collecting their things, readying for departure.

“Hey, everyone, I’ll see you when you get back,” I called to the living room, “I’m not hungry anymore.”

Alex was about to ask me why, but Henry saw I was on my phone and distracted her, picking her up and carrying her out to the car. As he passed by, he tried to catch my eye, but I didn’t look up.

“I’ll see you in a bit,” I mumbled as the door shut behind Austin and Sam.

Next Chapter

Lone Pair

I started. Scrambling to my feet, I stood opposite the source of the voice: a woman poised not ten feet away. The ball was resting behind my leg, somewhat hidden from view. Not that it matters, of course; that’s just how I happened to be standing.

“Who are you?”

“Uh, nobody,” she responded, in a dramatically casual way. There was a shrug, a short puff, an eye roll.. I waited a moment to see if she would elaborate or leave it at that. As it so happened, she left it at that.

“You want to expound on that, perhaps? Nobody’s just strolling around the Moon all by themselves—that doesn’t just happen.”

“Well, you are.”

“Yeah, uh, not intentionally,” I said, waving my arms around spasmodically. Somehow that demonstrated how not in control of my situation I was. I mean, if I couldn’t control my basic motor functions, how could I be expected to control my location in spacetime? Right? Right.

“Wait,” I countered, “are you trying to say that I’m nobody?”

“No! I’m trying to say that I’m nobody,” she said patronizingly, “Who are you?”

“No, no. I asked first. Tell me who you are.”

Crossing her arms, she exhaled a loud *humph* before deflecting:

“Uh-uh. I refuse,” we were in grade school. Two adults, standing on the Moon, bantering like children at recess. However, succeeding a brief pause, she did back down slightly,  “It’s embarrassing.”

“What’s so embarrassing about who you are?”

“Because I’m not!” She exclaimed.

“Not what?”

“Oh. My. God. Why do you even care so much,” she was incredulous, pulling at her hair in exasperation, “I’m not who I am!”

That made no sense. So much so, that I replied:

“That doesn’t even make sense!” With a tenacity that would’ve earned a tip of the hat from Le Petit Prince himself, I asked again, “Who are you?

At long last, she gave in, drew a long, weary breath, sending me her name on the accompanying exhale:

“The Man on the Moon…”

I paused on the subsequent beat. Oh. The revelation had jarred my jaw hinges and a few idiotic words dribbled out:

“But you’re a—”

“Oh fuck off, what did you study in school? Obvious conclusions and Theories of Mansplaination?”

Idiocy, as it turns out, runs less like a leaky faucet and more like a lazy stupid river:

“You can’t be the Man on the Moon then. How can you be the Man on the Moon if you’re not a man?”

Understandably frustrated, she said with finality, “And yet, here I am, and that’s what they call me.”

There was a great, contradictory beauty in that. In a way that escaped me then, I later found the beauty and universal applicability in that statement. At length, I supposed that she may as well be telling the truth, so I in turn revealed my identity.

“I’m Thomas.” That was my name. It didn’t have the grandeur of The Man on the Moon, but it was all I had. It would have to do.

Since we’d begun speaking, she’d closed half the original distance between us. Still too far away to shake hands, we settled for nodding curtly, concluding our introductions.

“Are you sure there isn’t someone else wandering around here that might be referred to as the Man on the Moon, and who might also happen to be a man?”

I looked around the general area as if by some chance I might spot a mysterious third party better matching the description.

“Believe me, I wish that there was. It’s fucking lonely here.”

“I can imagine.”

“Can you? How long have you been here for?”

“I dunno—couple hours maybe?”

“Oh. Yeah. You don’t know lonely. I’ve been here ages. Absolutely dreadful, I won’t lie, but at least the view never gets old.”

I looked to the horizon, to the distant expanses of white lunar rocks and ridges, and then at everything in between before asking, “The view of what? Scarface’s home world?”

“What do you mean ‘the view of what’?” she asked, incredulously, “The view! What have you been doing this entire time?”

“Uh…” The river of idiocy flowed strong, pouring down my body from my eyes, following the trail of chains that bound my ankle to the impossible weight.

“Wow, you Earth people. Too caught up in your own little problems to enjoy the bigger picture.”

“What do you mean?”

She walked over and for the first time we touched. A shiver ran down my back as she sat me down on the ground. Grabbing my shoulder, she pulled me back, reclining us both until we were lying on our backs. For the first time I really looked up, taking in more than just a fleeting, fearful glance. Before, I’d only felt the creeping terror, but now, with the Woman on the Moon laying by my side, I could look up at my home without that filter of panic clouding my view. The Earth was massive, like a giant crystal ball with swirling clouds and weather systems, white over blue against green, all blanketing vast expanses of brown and red deserts. It was also so small. I could look from Raleigh to Rome in an instant, traveling an ocean in the flick of an eye. The Earth hung over us, the eye of the universe, dwarfed by everything it was built to observe.

Many times I’d seen a view similar to this one. I’d seen it in a glass of water. Bubbles clinging to the sides of the glass, but it was a still life. My fingers pinched the end of a plastic bag shut. Inside the bag was a nondescript powder—could’ve been anything, really. This could’ve been any night, really. When the powder breached the water, it created another universe. When I swallowed the universe, it filled me up, and I felt as insignificant as finite Earth drifting through infinite space; I drifted through my own space inside the belly of an even bigger beast. Like the tiny universe inside that glass, my mind had shattered, expanded and frozen—suspended in animation, but broken beyond repair; my thoughts were held together only in the fourth dimension. Time. Frozen on a single tick.

My mind wandered like that for awhile as I lay there, next to the Woman on the Moon.

Next Chapter