The Blue Moon (a sci-fi romance)

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Chapter Thirteen

At Adam’s request, they all spent that night on the sand listening to the water’s natural rhythms and pointing out shapes in the constellations around the electric red of the gas planet.

No sooner had the sun set than they realized a great many amazing things happened in and around the lagoon at night. First, the water along the shore came alive with the brilliant twinkling of blue and green algae that lit up the surf like a tree at Christmas.

Drawn to the vision, the children ran down the sand to examine the strange phenomenon. Adam, ever one to explore through touch, stuck his finger into a squishy bulb of light and was shocked to see it extinguish at once. Then, when he pulled his finger away, it lit up again and he sent a high-pitched laugh cascading across the crisp water.

More prone to immerse herself into the wonders of their natural surroundings, Emma tiptoed along the shore-lights, splashing and pirouetting happily as she hummed a merry tune.

The woods came alive with nighttime lights also, the flowery orchids hanging from ropey vines glowing in the dark as though releasing all the heat they’d absorbed throughout the day. Night insects with swollen abdomens hummed loudly and flickered iridescence like lightbulbs on the fritz as they flew between them.

Watching the blue moon’s dark world come alive in such a pleasing and magical way made Pin all but forget the day’s concerns. He thought there was nothing quite like surrendering to nature’s embrace to forget all the useless bric-a-brac that consumed his old mind. The simple act of digging his bare toes into the cooling white sand had power enough to make his mind purge modern troubles: his meagre wages, Port politics and the general rank-and-file imposed upon him for so long by human civilization. Here, all men, women and children were equal, and the very passage of time was rendered irrelevant by the surf’s sweet lullaby, the warm night air, and the sound of Emma’s lovely singing.

For the first time in their lives Emma and Adam would sleep in the open air, curled up on the sand like dogs, and covered by the veil of a beautiful night. For the first time, they would all be free.

The next morning, before the children had risen, Pin set out in the twilight to make them a better shelter; one that could withstand the sea winds, provide some security by blending them into their surroundings, and would be large enough to hold the three of them comfortably.

Marching into the jungle, he studied the trees’ hanging limbs until he spied the perfect place to get started.

From across an open area between the trunks of two tall trees, the branches of both had long ago intertwined to form a great knot across the divide. Pin thought their gnarled form would provide a sturdy crossbeam for a tall A-framed roof he could build from there to the ground below.

For siding he would lash sticks of hardy cane together with vines and cover them all over with eight-foot palm fronds that littered the forest floor. There was certainly nothing better than the natural wax of the fronds to resist rainwater. He could also use cane to manufacture a raised sub-floor to keep them off the dirt and allow water to run underneath them in the event of a flood, or the run-off from a rainy season.

Pin looked up through the branches towards the clear sky. Soon the sun would rise to its zenith and the day would swelter with tropical heat. If he wanted to get anything done before then, he would need to make a move.

A few hours later, Pin was making his way past the waterfall, dragging his second load of cane behind him when he came across the most peculiar sight.

He stopped when he heard a noise above and looked up. Expecting to see bird or beast, he was surprised to see neither, but Adam—naked as a newborn except for a pair of low hanging underwear—scaling the wide branches in search of sweet, blue fruit.

Pin dropped the cane and cupped his hands over his mouth, calling Adam’s name into the trees and waiting for the boy to acknowledge him. But Adam barely waved down at the old man before twisting a swollen blue orb from its stem and letting it drop to the ground. It exploded when it hit the dirt across from Pin, covering him with sticky juice.

Angered by this, Pin yelled into the tree for Adam to, “Come down this instant and put some blasted clothes on!” But the boy was already climbing higher to harvest more fruit. “You’ll break your legs if you fall!” was Pin’s final word before Adam disappeared from view into the overhanging palm leaves.

Pin waited for a moment, hoping the boy would re-emerge. But, instead, another blue bomb attacked from above, splitting in two and splashing him with pulp and thick liquid as it slammed into the dirt. He groaned and wiped his face clean before picking up his lengths of cane and dragging them back towards their camp.

It was some time later that Adam emerged from the underbrush, his bare arms dyed blue and pink from carrying his wet, dripping fruit. His mouth and teeth were also colored from all he’d eaten.

Pin was digging a trench for the cane to be anchored in along the edge of the shelter when a piece of fruit was thrust into his line of sight.

“Here,” Adam said as he passed Pin the large pink blob. “If you want some, you can. It’s for all of us. Emma too.”

Pin continued digging as he looked up at the boy. Adam could see his face was blotchy red and his forehead was dripping with sweat.

“Where is Emma?” Pin asked, breathing heavily.

Adam took a wide bite of pink pulp, chewing as he answered, “Trying to catch fish.” Chew, Chew, Chew. “At the beach. I told her she’s too slow, but she wanted to anyway.”

Pin should have guessed Emma would remain at the beach. The lagoon appealed much more to her than it did to Adam. She seemed enchanted by its elegance; its stillness and calm. It was as thoughtful as she was.

Adam, on the other hand, was drawn to the wildness of the woods. It’s hard for a boy to resist a world where animals always scuttled underfoot and the rocks and trees invited climbing.

“You two should stay together,” Pin said sternly. “I don’t want anyone getting lost. And go and put your clothes back on. It’s not proper to show yourself all the time.”

“But it’s so hot!” Adam complained. “Plus, it’s easier to climb when I don’t get caught up in the branches.”

“It doesn’t matter about that. You just do what I say now.”

“No!” Adam wailed. “I don’t want to wear my stupid clothes. And you can’t make me!”

With that the boy ran off towards the beach, his pile of fruit bouncing unsteadily in his arms, his bark-stained, loose-fitting undergarments flapping furiously behind him.

Pin sighed. The boy was right, he knew. Ship’s clothes were made for ship dwellers. They were perfect for navigating a world of smooth walls and rounded edges—a temperature controlled world without pressure systems and terrible fluctuations in heat and humidity—but they were impractical in the jungle. Their synthetic fibers didn’t breathe well with nature. They were too cold at night and too hot during the day, and they were always getting snagged on branches.

Pin’s own clothes had been itching him something fierce since he’d begun working on the shelter and it wasn’t until just then that he realized how hard he’d been suppressing the urge to rip them from his body and jump into the cool ocean water for relief. If he didn’t have the children with him, he probably would have. Human civilization may have become all but a dream, but he still felt duty-bound to keep some decorum alive.

With that thought, Pin went back to working on the shelter. With any luck he would finish before sundown and have time to clear away some of the underbrush around its perimeter so they could set up a little camp around it.

He planned to make a hole for a fire pit and another for their waste. He would fashion a container to catch water when it rained and perhaps even a small pen for the children to keep animals for eating (when they figured out which were fit to eat).

Pin enjoyed imagining the life he would build for them all on the moon. He would teach the children how to hunt in the woods and catch fish in the ocean; how to sense danger, move with the seasons and embrace the natural world.

In a way, the responsibility made him feel young again, relevant and necessary. Like a father, he supposed.

The next morning, Pin was ready to present Adam and Emma with their new home.

Making his way from the finished shelter to the beach where they’d all spent another night, he found them already awake and draped across a smooth boulder on their bellies, exploring a shallow rock pool at the edge of the ocean.

As he ventured nearer, he saw they were extracting colorful coral, crystals and pebbles from the water and collecting them in little piles.

“That’s quite a collection,” Pin said as he came upon the children.

Emma flipped over and scooped up a few stones, showing them off to Pin and smiling. Then she passed him a clear blue one that was flat on one side.

“Want to see what I learned?” she asked. Pin sat down next to them and nodded yes and Emma closed one eye and lifted her own yellow stone up to the other. “It turns the world a different color,” she said, scanning the beach around them.

Pin did the same and looked at the world through the prism of the clear blue stone. Their surroundings came alive in cold monochrome, like a photographic negative, certain details popping amid the forced contrast to a singular color hue.

“Very interesting,” he said simply as he looked around.

“Why does it do that?” Emma asked as she opened her eyes again.

“Well, our eyes see the world using light, so when you block your eye with the stone it gets in the way of the light and makes you see it differently.”

Emma looked puzzled for a moment then asked, “How do you know we see things the way they really are then? What if we’re seeing it wrong and the stone is right?”

Adam turned over then and scoffed. “That’s silly, Emma, of course we see it right. Just look around. If you see something in front of you it’s the way it is!”

“Well, not so fast Adam,” said Pin, ever the settler of arguments. “Emma might have a point here. Our eyes are very much like these stones in a way. They’re stuck in our heads and much more complicated to be sure, but maybe they don’t show us everything there is to see.”

“See!” said Emma, sticking her tongue out.

“But I’m seeing it!” argued Adam.

“But maybe you’re not seeing the truth of it. Did you think of that?” countered Pin. “For example, when you look out at the water from a distance it’s blue isn’t it? But right up close it’s not blue anymore, but clear. The world plays all kinds of tricks on our eyes using light all the time. So how can we know what to trust?”

“The leaves are green to us, but perhaps they appear yellow to the animals here? How do we know our eyes are seeing it right and the animals are wrong?”

“But… but, how do you know the animals see them yellow?” asks Adam.

Pin could see Adam was thoroughly frustrated, so decided not to pester him with such unanswerable philosophies. Instead he jumped up and told them to bring their treasures to the woods where their new home was waiting to welcome them.

So, after bundling their individual piles in their discarded shirts, they made their way up the beach towards the jungle.

Pin made the children hold hands and shut their eyes as they drew nearer to the shelter. They giggled lightheartedly as they followed the sound of his voice to avoid the gnarled roots and rocks on the forest floor, struggling against the urge to peek.

When they finally pushed into the little clearing nestled between the two big trees, Pin stopped and told them they could open their eyes. They did so slowly, letting their lids flutter open as though not wanting to spoil the surprise with too quick a reveal.

Adam was the first to react, calling with joy and running headlong towards the tall opening of the tent and disappearing inside the large shelter.

“Come inside, Emma!” he called out. “There’s lots of room and the top is so high you can’t even touch it!”

Emma hesitated, looking at Pin as if for permission. The old man laughed and crouched down. “Well, what are you waiting for?” he whispered. “It’s yours, isn’t it?”

Emma smiled and hugged him tightly. Then she ran to join Adam. And no sooner had she entered than the two of them were jumping on the sturdy cane floor and squealing playfully.

Pin peeked inside and laughed at their revelry, enjoying the happiness his hard work had brought them. When Emma saw him she ran over and pulled him by the arm to join their fun. He obliged, and together the three of them held hands in a circle, bouncing on the cane floor and laughing together in their shelter built-for-three.

What a strange sight we must make, Pin thought as he celebrated. Two sunbaked children and a bearded old man, jumping together in the middle of an alien jungle.

Before it grew dark, Pin told Adam and Emma to follow him for he something very important to show them.

Leaving the camp behind, the three of them made their way through the jungle, past the waterfall, and all the way up to the plateau of dry stone where Pin had looked out across the whole valley days earlier.

Adam jumped onto the stone table first, hollering out across the expanse of land.

“Hello!” he called, laughing when his voiced echoed endlessly across the valley.

Pin helped Emma up to join him on the rocks and hushed the boy sternly before he could yell out again.

“Don’t be hollering out like that, or the Ogres may come for us,” Pin said.

“Ogres?” asked Adam, his voice thick with concern.

“Ogres,” started Pin, sitting low to be at the children’s eye level, “are something to be feared. They are creatures we can’t see that could pop out and harm us if they ever spotted us.”

“Have you seen them?” Asked Emma.

“Not where we are. Not at our beach, or near our waterfall. But, as you can see, it’s a vast place this moon, and we don’t know the half of what’s on it yet. Which means we have to be very careful.”

“How do we do that?” Emma asked, while Adam listened intently.

“By staying on our side of the hill is how. We have everything we need right here: water to drink, fruit and fish to eat, a nice camp, and each other; so there’s no need to go walking around in the valley, or exploring the rocks and hills. And as long as we all stay together, then I’ll bet we can protect ourselves from anything that comes along.”

Adam looked out across the valley then back at Pin. “I hope the Ogres don’t find us, Pin,” he said.

“I hope so too, Adam,” Pin replied, scratching at his beard. Then he stood up and stepped between the two children, holding a hand on each of their shoulders as the three of them stared out across the endless valley below.

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