“Mission control to LUNA-22, commencing lift-off.” Harry opened his eyes and looked out of the window in front of him. He took a deep breath and smiled as the ships started to shake and rumble. “Good luck boys.” The comms cut off after those words and the 3 men inside the shuttle felt it’s immense power beginning to lift them up. They were going on a journey that very few people get to make. They were going to the moon. Harry, and his fellow astronauts, watched as the pale, inviting baby blue of the sky faded. The sky became white, as they flew into the heavens, and then black, as they flew further. The ship roared as it shot through the atmosphere and out of it - leaving Earth, and everything these three men had ever known, behind. It had only been a couple of minutes but they were gone now. They’d left their world behind.
“LUNA-22, you’re clear.” The comms crackled inside their helmets. The men looked at one another with beaming smiles on their faces. This was their life’s work. This was everything they’d been building towards for the past two decades. Harry was the first to speak, “We did it.” He said with a sense of achievement in his voice, “Step one’s done.” Charlie smiled at Harry and gave him a subtle nod.
“Mission control,” Charlie radioed back to Earth as he flicked numerous switches around him, “we’re engaging our secondary fuel system to propel us to the moon.” The men aboard LUNA-22 had made it their mission to discover a recent anomaly that appeared in the moon’s largest crater. 15 years before their launch, they’d found footprints, that weren’t identifiable as human, in the crater. Ever since, they’ve sent countless rovers and probes to the moon to try and get better evidence on what caused the footprints, however, each one had been taken out by some unknown electromagnetic pulse. This is why they were there. They’d made it their mission to find what was doing this, and since it kept disrupting their electronics, they sent themselves up. The rocket thrust itself towards the moon as Charlie pushed a nearby lever forward. The LUNA-22 crew watched as the stars, the galaxy, and everything else beyond Earth’s grasp sped up from a still image to a blur. The ship’s newly designed, breakthrough antimatter fuel system allowed them to reach the moon in a few hours, rather than a few days. Even as the outside was a blur, the crew couldn’t help but be in awe at the beauty that the universe held. It was truly spectacular.
As they neared the moon, a familiar voice reached out over their comms devices, “Mission control to LUNA-22, you’ve arrived.” Charlie slowly pulled back the lever and the ship came to a slow and steady stop. Jackson, the third member of the LUNA-22, took charge here as he gently steered the ship into its landing position. The ship fought back a little, but Jackson fought harder and managed to bring the ship to a clean halt on the surface of the moon, just under a mile or so from where they’d seen the initial footprints. Everyone sat in silence for a moment. Harry took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He exhaled, with his eyes still closed, and smiled. They’d done it. They’d really done it. Harry’s eyes opened and saw he was alone. He unbuckled himself and got out. It was cold. It was so very cold, but the temperatures were worth it for the view he was getting. Above him, and his friends, sat Earth: their home. “Wow.” Harry murmured as he stared at his home planet.
“I know right. I- It’s just breath-taking.” Jackson chimed in. The three stood together for a moment and just watched. It felt so incredibly surreal to be able to see the entirety of Africa staring at them. To see the oceans in their full size. To see their people reduced to nothingness. It felt surreal and humbling. “We should probably get back to the mission.” Charlie reminded everyone, yet even as he spoke his eyes, and his friends’, remained on the blue marble.
After a couple more moments staring at their home, the trio moved on. They followed their preset route to the footprints and, lo and behold, they were still there. “They’re still here. After 15 years, they’re still here.” Charlie thought aloud as he crouched down to get a better look. “Yeah, and there’s more over here,” Jackson called out. Harry’s and Charlie’s heads both turned to their friend, who was pointing at another set of prints. “You guys recognise them? You think it’s an E.T.?”
“I mean, it looks that way. I can’t say I recognise these tracks.” Charlie, the group’s tracker, said as he continued to examine the footprints. “If you don’t recognise them, I think it’s safe to say they’re not from Earth.”
“Guys…” Jackson cut in, “do you see that over there?” Charlie and Harry both looked up as they heard the concern in Jackson’s voice, and it wasn’t misplaced. Stood around 50 feet away was a tall, humanoid figure. Despite its clear humanoid features - being stood on two legs, having arms by its side, and somewhat circular head shape - its proportions were very clearly not those of a human. Its arms draped down past their knees, which were closer to their waist than on a human. Even at the distance they were, the trio could tell that its head was further forward than the rest of the body. “We see it, Jackson.” Harry whispered, trying not to move or alert whatever it was they’d seen, “I’m not sure what it is, but we definitely see it.”
“You guys don’t think it comes in peace, do you?” Charlie joked as he slowly got back to his feet, somewhat calm about the unnatural situation. “Shut up.” Jackson snapped, noticing the creature reacting to his friend’s movements, “And stay still.” The lanky creature began to slowly inch closer to the group. Its movements were unusual. Its head bobbed with every step and slowly, and gently, turned from left to right in an inquisitive manner. It was clear that it was watching them. It was clear it was curious about them. It wasn’t clear, however, on whether it’d be friendly or not. “This thing’s getting too close for my liking, guys.” Jackson’s heart rate began to climb as he could now make out the facial details of the snow-white alien, or lack thereof. Its face seemed to be missing a noticeable mouth and a nose. “Bit late now, Jacks, it’s practically next to us.” Harry hissed, trying to stay still. The creature got closer and its head continued to sway from side to side as it observed the trio. “Least we’re going to die knowing aliens exist.” Charlie joked. He was trying to break the tension in the moment but failed miserably as both Jackson and Harry snapped at him in unison, “Shut it.”
The alien was now just a few feet away. It was unlike anything any of them had ever seen. Its skin was incredibly pale. Its face was void of anything that resembled a human face. It had a box of sorts covering a small portion of its face, that Harry had assumed was where its mouth was, and large, empty black eyes. But that was it. The rest of its head was, an almost leathery, white. It looked at each one of the crew up and down as it stood no further than 5 feet away from them. “Guys, I don’t like this.” Jackson whispered, trying his hardest not to move his mouth. The alien’s head instantly turned to face Jackson. “Guys…” He whispered again, and the alien continued to watch him. “Guys, please someone else talk.” Distress began to become quite apparent in his voice. He didn’t like how the alien’s lifeless eyes were glued to him. Harry closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and opened his mouth to speak. “Don’t worry, Jacks, you’re not alone.” The alien’s head twisted to face Charlie, and Harry shut his mouth again. “That’s right, you pale freak, I’m not afraid of you.” Charlie took a step forward, almost taunting the alien, “I’m not afraid-” He stopped himself. The alien looked at Charlie, and Charlie at it. “I-I’m…” He tried to speak but he couldn’t. The words wouldn’t leave his mouth. Harry and Jackson watched as he froze in place and the alien approached him. It got within an uncomfortable distance to him. The other continued to watch, in fear, as it examined him from up close, then punched through the glass visor on his helmet and grabbed his head. Harry’s eyes grew wide as he watched the alien rip his friend’s head out of his helmet, and off of his body, right before his eyes. Even in such a horrific and emotional moment, Harry stayed stoic. The same cannot be said for Jackson. Over his comms device, Harry heard his friend’s words… his final words. The alien’s neck contorted so that its head was facing Jackson, who had his hands covering his mouth. Harry simply closed his eyes as he saw the alien begin its slow walk over to his friend. He heard screams over the comms device, then a chilling silence. He hadn’t seen it but he began to wish he had. The screams that echo in his mind to this day and the thought of all the horrific ways his friend could’ve been slaughtered are far worse than anything he could’ve seen. He swallowed hard as he opened his eyes back up to see the alien standing before him: examining him. Even after all that had just happened, Harry stayed silent. He stayed still. Not out of fear, although that was certainly a factor, but out of determination. He’d just seen this thing kill his friends. He was now determined to get his revenge. So he stood still and silent. He didn’t care how long he had to do it for, he kept going. Finally, after half an hour, the creature made a clicking noise, that Harry could only assume was how it spoke, and turned to leave. Never in his life had he wanted to cause something so much pain than when he watched the white alien walk away. His fists clenched, and his vision turned red. His driving emotion was anger… but only for a split second. Then reason and logic came back and he knew he wouldn’t stand a chance against the 8-foot tall monstrosity that just maimed his friends. Not right now.
“Mission control, this is LUNA-22. We’re- I’m coming home.” Harry flicked a few switches, just as Charlie had as they were taking off, then reached behind himself to turn on the antimatter engine, as Jackson had. “LUNA-22, this is mission control, you said I, not we. What’s happened?”
“We were met by an unexpected force. I’m the only survivor.” Harry closed his eyes momentarily, and as he opened them a tear rolled down his face. “We’re ready for you LUNA-22.” Mission Control radioed back, almost completely ignoring Harry’s statement. He flicked open a clear plastic protective case and pressed the button within it. The ship roared as flames shot out beneath it. It lifted off the ground and began to make its way back towards the blue marble. As Harry looked out of the window, at the blurry stars, he let out a heavy sigh. He hadn’t brought back the bodies. He didn’t think the families would want their loved one back without their head, and with their bodies all bloated. He was already concocting the lie in his head that he would tell the families. “They died painlessly, in a moment’s notice. They were completely gone before my eyes.” He thought to himself, mentally rehearsing. But as he got closer, just an hour away, to home, he noticed something. The blurry view he had out of the window, as he was travelling at such speeds, was now still again. It was as if he’d stopped still. “Mission control, this is LUNA-22, what’s happening?” The comms device in Harry’s helmet crackled in response, then dropped off. “Mission control?” He repeated, beginning to feel some concern about his situation. “Hello!” He cried out in a desperate attempt for someone to hear him, but there was no… human response. The comms device came back on, and Harry eagerly listened to what mission control was going to say. But instead, he got clicks. Clicks that sounded familiar, and not in a good way. It wasn’t morse code. It wasn’t anything from Earth. It was the clicks he’d heard come from the alien when he was back on the moon. “No… no, no…” Harry began to panic, “No! No! Leave me alone!” He shook his chair as he cried out in utter fear. There was a sudden jolt, and Harry stopped moving. The ship slowly started heading backwards. “No! Please! I’m sorry!” He cried out over the comms device, “We didn’t mean you any harm! We were just looking!” The window that allowed Harry to see out into the rest of the galaxy suddenly became covered, then a bright light shone through. Harry heard the clicks again and closed his eyes as he heard the wheeze from the air-tight door opening. “Hello.” A voice spoke, and Harry’s eyes opened.