I could feel blood on my fingers once. I could smell the coppery liquid that flowed through the crevices of my knuckles, once in my veins. Rivulets of scarlet blood, tracing the lines of my palms and fingers. I could hear the soft gurgling of an open wound. It was mesmerizing, lulling me to sleep. Just like a mother does a child, it whispered me to shut my eyes.
And I would have if it weren’t for the figure hovering above me. It called my name over and over again like some siren who sang to passing sailors. This wasn’t a voice that would bring me death, though. I was sure of it. Not because it held my hand and whispered soft things to me. But because it made the pain go away.
The figure, almost a shadow in my dulling vision, reduced all of my worries to small pin pricks in the back of my mind. I paid no attention to the blood spitting from my stomach or the growing wetness of my shirt. There was nothing I could feel but its hand in mine and the blood on my fingers, which I had begun to rub unknowingly.
I would have liked to think the figure was a woman too. One with beautiful eyes and hair the color of soil, rich and brown. Skin so soft that I would fear breaking it. And body so graceful that goddesses would envy her. No brown hair or enchanting body could be seen, sadly. Only a dark figure.
Listening, I could almost hear what she-it was saying, other than my name, of course. Fragments of a song maybe? There was a tune, for sure. Perhaps it was something she had made up only to make me happy in my last moments of death. Light began to fade and the figure was beginning to blend with the black that had encircled me. I can’t die, I thought helplessly. My imagination had fooled me. This was no woman. How could it be?
There was no time to argue with myself because the hand that had held mine pulled away. Desperation clawed from inside me and out of my belly, where blood had stopped pooling. I was already dead. No saving me now. The tune the figure had sung floated through my ears. I could still see her as she faded into the growing black. One last time, I knew, she would say my name.
I wake to metal grinding. Like teeth scraping against each other, it is slow and deliberate. Machinery pulling gears forward, whirring and hissing as rusted hinges catch in the air, producing yellow sparks. Shouts of men and women come next. They call to one another through the chaotic noise. Dogs barking at the wind. Useless and a waste of time.
Soft, cotton material makes pools of gray around my curled body, which lies atop an old, creaking bed. Not made of wood, as one might think. But metal, just like everything else on the moon. Screwing my eyes shut, I ball my fists around the sheet and attempt to fall asleep again, praying I am not awakened with another nightmare yet wishing not to enter this one. It doesn’t work and I am left to the hum of machinery outside.
My heart beats rhythmically, pumping blood I don’t know I have. In the dream, there was a wound in my stomach that had poured liters of the red liquid. Death seemed so close. And I feel like I’m dead now but I know I’m not. It’s like believing in something your whole life and then waking up one morning and finding it a lie.
Sitting up against my pillow, I breath. Ava’s perfume still hangs in the air from when she sprayed it on her way to the morning shift. She’s left, now.
A sort of silence settles in the small room. Even the mechanic groans quiet. I am in my mind thinking. Thinking about the figure from my dream. This wasn’t the first time and most certainly not the last. Perhaps she is just my imagination, a way for me to escape the confines of the broken world. I can still feel her hand in mine... Realization shakes me as I catch myself in the moment of believing it is a woman.
Ava would be furious with my dream. She’s always telling me I’m too naive.
“You’re never going to find love in this world, honey,” She crooned. “And even if you do, it’s not like it’s going to last.”
Maybe I’m not naive, I think silently, sniffing the air. Too much perfume. Maybe my dream is telling me something. Unraveling myself from the sheets, I set my feet on the cold concrete below and pause. Shelves line the square apartment. They’re stuffed with useless items. Journals, clocks, toys, even bottles with real soda. Ava traded parts for those. What a fool she is sometimes.
Two beds sit in separate corners; one pillow and one blanket each. Gray walls lean forward from poor design, forming a kitchen in the third corner, a door in the last. These are the homes we are given when born. Everyone gets one. Though I believe there is not enough room for everyone to have a home. We were lucky. Ava and I, that is.
I stand and walk to the kitchen, eyes wandering tiredly to the grimy window above the sink. Dusty light shines through and reflects off of my exposed torso. Metal plates covering churning gears and chains makes up my stomach and part of my chest. My body whines as I move forward to look outside. Only part of me is mechanical yet I still feel as though I’ve lost my humanity. Everyone has.
Looking out, there are factories everywhere. Tunnels and channels of scrap metal lead to building complexes where other Moonwalkers live. Small roads on the ground are the blood stream of the moon; one making up the entirety of the Section. It holds its own current as people bustle to their shifts, trading with street vendors and eyeing others carefully. No wonder we feel we have lost our humanity. Trust is as infrequent as rain.
As if on cue, a group of soldiers pushes twenty men forward on the dirt road below. Their yellowish attire shows they are from the southernmost Section. Why are they here then? By the rugged looks of the brutes they push it seems as though a smuggling company was discovered. Someone probably ratted them out, fed up with a deal or too proud to leave an illegal team alone.
Moonwalkers always play hero. Ava tells me they get what they deserve in the end. For example, the person who snitched on the brutes will probably end up being kicked out of his complex, lose his job, or even die. And everyone is fine with it. Truth is, that’s how it works. No one is left untouched. Wish it was fair.
Looking down at myself, I sigh. It should almost be funny that I never feel hungry, never have to use the bathroom, sometimes never even have to get out of bed. Half of my body is a machine. I turn from the open window and to the shelves. There are photos, some that I’ve never seen. Although, they don’t look new; Ava must’ve bought them off of an old crook. She always likes to see the past through others. Children play in a lake, smiling. Fathers and mothers smile happily in each other’s arms.
I want to tell her that she still has her memories. She still has the sweet voice of her mother to help her sleep at night. Not all of us are so lucky. Maybe that’s why she buys the pictures. To let those of us who have no memories know we are thought of. Because to the clueless Moonwalker who sold her these, they mean nothing. He’s probably a machine like me too.
I sidle up to a mirror on one of the shelves, standing on my toes to see myself. It’s blurry, but I make out chalky brown hair and green eyes. My jawline is sharp and my mouth is tight. Ava thinks I’m handsome. But how can I feel the same when I’m this? I don’t even know how or why I was made this way. It’s necessary to erase memories when mechanical surgeries are performed. They say it’s so painful that it’s best to forget. I hate it, though. Would’ve never asked for it if I had had the choice.
I am still staring at myself when an alarm strikes the quiet like an arrow. A voice follows after. It is slurred over the complex’s com.
“Attention: Moonwalkers in this Section are to make their way to the Hall. A meeting will be held in one hour. Thank you.”
And then it is gone. I frown, wandering what the meeting is for. We haven’t had one in years, according to Ava.
Then, grabbing my coat, I walk to the door, not caring whether or not I have a shirt on. No one will judge me. Half of the population is what I am. And if they do say something, I pack a good punch.
Outside my apartment, the smell of copper intensifies. A hall stretches parallel from me. There are blotches of darker areas on the concrete walls and the flooring is worn with use. I walk through the winding complex, turning stained corners and trotting down steep stairs, moving faster than needed. That message sent was not just for my building, but for the whole Section. People will be crowding the streets in a matter of seconds.
I arrive in the lobby, a wide room, much like mine with its square shape, and a desk at the far end. Two sets of stairs wrap around the sides of the room, creating a horseshoe in front of two, beaten doors that lead outside. As I step off of a set of stairs, a head pops up behind the desk.
“William, my boy!” The man exclaims. He drags his old body up to face me, setting a clock down on the counter as he does so. “You heard the message?”
I chuckle lightly. “Yes, Earl, the whole Section heard it. Are you coming?”
“Ah, right. And no, I’ve got clearance to stay. Tell me all about it when you get back, eh?”
“Of course, my friend!”
Earl crouches down once more, eyeing something under the counter. His bald head flashes in the soft light. The old man wears his uniform today, but with the last few buttons of his black dress shirt undone. Grunting once, he stands again.
Before I turn to leave, I speak. “Do you need any help?”
His gray gaze stares at me for a moment. It feels cold, less friendly than usual.
“Earl?” I repeat myself, suddenly wary of the answer.
He blinks back into reality. “Oh, no, you go on ahead.” A pause. “I’ll be fine.”
Nodding, I do as he says, worry crawling up my spine for a reason I cannot explain, and smiling to shake the feeling.
“And William,” I hear his voice call from behind my turned back. “You be careful too!”
The dusty light that had once shone through my window envelopes my vision as I step onto the sidewalk. My prediction had been right. Moonwalkers crowd the long, dirt road that cuts through two lines of buildings. They wear the official garb of all meetings: a red tunic and pants with off-white bands on the wrists and ankles. I realize that I have forgotten my attire and frown at the marching bodies.
Each Moonwalker’s hair is the same color; a mixture of brown and ash that sits atop every head. We have the same eye color too. It’s usually gray or green. I blink at the scene once and begin to ease my way into the current of identical figures. Minutes pass as we turn corner after corner, my bare feet tiring with each cut stride. Subconsciously, I set my gaze to the towering complexes above. They, and other buildings, frame the road that we walk on. Countless windows shoved into centuries old bricks make up Moonwalkers’ homes.
Shaky street lamps flicker in the dusky morning too - or is afternoon? The moon is not like Earth. Our cycles are very different.
Vendors have abandoned their posts at their shops and have begun to walk alongside the stretch of people, selling their antiquities like pestering mosquitoes. I growl at one to back away when they approach.
The male vendor’s beady, gray eyes look up at me in surprise, fingers stopping momentarily from rubbing his collected jewelry. He curses me in a language I do not understand and walks away, only to plaster on another smile as they near a new possible customer: a woman with a twisted cane. She swats at him too, nearly tripping when her hand lifts the cane off the ground to shoo him away with. I smile at her ability to do so.
Our world is so mutilated. And for that, I am not angry at the vendor. His life is most likely very hard, as is mine. We Moonwalkers have one common agreement and that is that we are only small parts to the huge clock of life. Without our machines and inventions, the clock would not be able work. And without our overseers, the Earthmasters, we would not have machines nor inventions.
Here, in our metal scraps, we find a sort of peace. One that has lasted since our ancestors arrived and has continued to spread since then. But as the flowing current of red and white bodies halt at the gates of the Section’s Meeting Hall and the guards scan our brown-haired heads hungrily, I begin to feel something I haven’t in a very long time. A feeling that I know so well, yet cannot remember how. It is the feeling of no peace.
A person could smell the tension in the air like they would smell Ava’s ugly perfume. It catches in my throat as I swivel my head at the loud noises of Moonwalkers talking and the quite whispers of the soldiers. In front of me, a building forms an end to the long road. It is a huge rectangle, maybe a half of a kilometer wide. Black bricks combine to form the structure of the Section’s Meeting Hall and shining windows that reflect the soft glow of the sun make its low lying roof.
Where I stand, I can make out the faint line of fencing around the perimeter. That’s where the guards stand. Each of them wears a formal, dark blue suit, their hair slicked back. They hold no weapons - or so we think. The soldiers’ guns are strapped in the backs of their belts so we may not see them. I am observant enough to have seen one of them turn their back for a split moment, revealing a sleek, metal object fashioned at their waistline.
Hot air suffocates me as I stand, confused and worried, twisting the edge of my coat. The red tinted sky above is stuffed with artificial clouds, yet there is no sign of distress on our moon. Moonwalkers are as ignorant as pigs going off to slaughter. No one makes a sign that they feel the same disturbance as I do. It bothers me.
But, finally, the gates open and the parade of red and white starts forward again. It takes a moment, but soon I am at the front, walking past the looming doors. There are carved etchings into the wood. They are the names of all that had fell during our rebellion.
Of course, this is only one Section on our moon, and only two doors. Every Section has a hall much like ours and every Section has these same doors, holding different names.
Sweat begins to form immediately when I step into the huge building. Humidity creates a cloud in which we enter. I hear muffled coughs and whispers as my Section gapes at the scene around us. It is wide, much wider than it seems on the outside, and seats tower above us at a diagonal slant from the many rows, which in turn lowers into the middle where a grated platform stands.
Children cling to their parents, vendors become hushed, men shout and point, all because of the platform centered in the arena of seats. There, caged, is an Earthwalker. As I squint for a better view, hand reaching up to run through my dusty hair, a sound penetrates the high walls of the Hall.
Several squeals of fright are heard as well. Then, screens light up the four corners of the room. They are big and bright, and hold a face. It is the Earthwalker. He smiles and waves, hair combed to the side neatly and body covered in a silver robe.
All around me, Moonwalkers erupt with cheering and finally begin to pile into the benches. I’m caught in the frenzy as officers yell for us to move. Doing as I’m told, I follow the mainstream and take a seat near the doors. It will be an easier exit, and I can spy on the others from above. More and more people walk through the opening and I realize how long it’s been since the last Section Meeting.
By the time everyone has filed in and taken a seat, the Hall is full. I sit warily beside a scruffy many wearing only pants, my back against the bench’s side board. Hundreds upon hundreds of Moonwalkers cheer- some chanting- at the man in silver. His handsome face gleams redly with fake pride. I do not see Ava in the crowd. She is most likely far on the other side, hidden among other faces.
To my left, I hear the doors thud close, and then all around me the lights dim until we are left in the faint glow from the sky above. Unnerving yelps from frightened Moonwalkers dapple my senses as I search for some ray of light. There isn’t one. But as my Section’s voices raise, the suspended screens illuminate. I squint at the sudden brightness.
“Hello,” the Earthwalker says majestically, a beam of yellow light piercing the air around him on the platform. Another wave of approval spreads like a disease over the crowd. We don’t usually get visitors.
“I welcome you all to this meeting. However,” he sighs, “before I begin, I would like to take a moment of silence for those who fell during the brave Rebellion.”
All around me, silence settles. It consumes the room until only the sounds of the machines outside can be vaguely heard. This man who speaks to us does not care about who fell, I think, glancing at the bowing heads surrounding me. He only cares about what the Earthmasters want. This is just simple theatrics.
I still do not know what this uneasy feeling inside of me is. Why now are they calling a meeting?
After a few more seconds of quiet, there is his voice again.
"To all, a good fight.”
The Moonwalkers reply with a heavy voice.
"To all, a good fight.”
I did not speak.
“Now,” another crooked smile from the caged man. “I believe it is time to get to real business.
“As you all know, this moon will not always be available. Therefore we cannot afford to waste time in making our metallic products for the Earthmasters. And although there may be other moons out there, this one is the most convenient. Do you know why?”
He arches his eyebrow.
“Because this moon belongs to Earth. Earth is home, right? We must stay near our home.”
A cheer erupts in the Hall, but I can only think of how wrong he is. The Earthmasters made Luna our home and kicked us out of theirs. Earth is no less my home than a box is.
“And even if we may have had our differences, we still belong to one family!” His voice raises dramatically as the crowd stomps their feet. “Mankind!”
Suddenly, everyone is standing, hands clapping together to create a symphony of applause, in which the man takes in hungrily. There is something in his eyes as he watches my Section. Maybe it is an Earth thing.
Beside me, with my back shoved against a board, several Moonwalkers whoop in excitement, two children hug their father, a woman clings to a man, eyes filling with tears. Yet here I sit, blinking. Why do I feel this way? Why am I not celebrating like the rest of these people?
I am only able to see the bad. It’s been like this since I can remember - which was only about two years ago.
My thoughts are cut off as the lights dim. The Earthwalker’s voice comes deep and low in the expanding shadows.
“Please, my fellows, take a seat and listen carefully.”
We can only see his face on the screens and his standing body in the cage.
“There are urgent matters to discuss. Truly, it pains me to say that Luna is dying. Our metallic enterprise is slowing because of it and we are no longer able to supply the Earthmasters with the materials they need.
“They are building a ship. It will be able to carry our kind all throughout the universe, fast and swift-like. But,” a pause, his gaze trailing across my people. “we will all need your help. Can I count on you?”
I ball my fists, waiting for the uproar of applause. They don’t understand. Why would we help them? The Earthmasters were the ones who threw us on this dump in the first place. But to my surprise, the first voice that rises from the swelling silence is not of joy.
The Earthwalker turns and watches wide-eyed as a man shouts, voice loud and full of misguided rage. Then, the camera pans toward him, allowing us all to watch the screens in awe.
“They are not our leaders,” he says. “They are not our people. That is not our home! You say, ‘to all, a good fight’? I say, there has never been a more unfair one than this! My people, don’t you see, this man twists your mind and warps your imagination. False hope and deceiving lies.”
The Moonwalker’s expression has grown dark, eyes flickering insanely over the quiet people.
“A ship that can carry us all across the universe, you say. I say, there are no such things.” He raises a fist in the air. ”To us, a damned victory!”
I watch the screens over brown heads. My eyes are quick to blink yet my mechanical heart cannot seem to function. Terror creeps inside every vein and every wire of my body. The Moonwalker’s fist holds an object. It is an invention - probably of his own making, and is the shape of a blade. On the end, is a control panel and mini thrusters.
He speaks to it and I finally realize why the Earthwalker is in a cage.
The blade flies from his hand and pierces the air with a soft, screeching whistle. My eyes are too slow and they blink before I can see where it lands. The screens do that job for me.
In the center of the platform lies the Earthwalker. His blood soaks his silver uniform, slicked hair parting unevenly on the ground. At the base of his rib cage is the blade. Together, as if practiced, my Section gasps at the sight.
And with our eyes focused on the bleeding Earthwalker, we do not realize the other people crawling above us on the windowed roof.