The Blue Moon (a sci-fi romance)

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Chapter Fourteen

Ever full of restless energy, it wasn’t long before Adam was like a buzzing fly around an old horse, asking Pin endless questions and begging him to impart all manner of survival tricks and tasks.

For a man who wanted nothing more than to rest on the sand all day and stare at the stars at night, the boy’s insensate pestering filled him with such anxiety that soon Pin had no choice but to create a schedule that would occupy them all daily.

It went something like this: In the morning when they rose, the three castaways decided on a breakfast and divided the chore of cooking it. The meal usually consisted of tangy fruits and the thick blue milk from a spiny plant that Adam had discovered growing in clumps around the rotten trunks of fallen trees.

Following breakfast, Pin set aside time for relaxing in the morning sun and listening to the waves, telling the children that, “Enjoying the world in silence is as important as carving out your place in it.”

During this restful period Emma and Adam would invent a quiet game, or collect shells for necklaces and anklets from the lagoon. As long as they left him alone and stayed close to the beach, Pin didn’t mind what they occupied themselves with.

Then, late in the morning, Pin would call for Adam to work with him on their first special project: a little raft made from cane and stripped bark lashed together with long vines and wrapped in fallen green palm fronds.

Adam worked hard to help Pin construct the raft, taking great pleasure in the power it gave them to conquer an obstacle set upon them by the natural world. While they worked, the boy spoke enthusiastically about the day they would venture out on the water and net the fish that swam in swirling schools where it became too deep to walk along the bottom.

While the two of them worked on the raft, Emma fetched water in two stout pieces of trunk that Pin had hollowed out and smoothed with fire and stone. They were heavy when filled, but Emma grew stronger each day and rarely spilled any on her way back through the jungle.

They all drank deeply from one of the vessels when she met them again. Emma then drained the second into a long basin that Pin had fashioned at the edge of their camp to catch the dew that trickled off the leaves like soft rain in the early mornings.

Always at some stage of working on the raft, Pin would arch his back and let out a long groan. Then, staring up into the blue sky, he’d saying something like, “That’s all for today, my boy. This old back is seizing up like a rusty chain and the only cure is the cool shade of a gum tree.” Then, when Adam looked disappointed, he’d lay a hand on the boy’s bare back and tell him, “You should be damn proud. It’s really coming together now,” before moving off to a quiet place to sleep away the hot afternoon.

While Pin napped, Adam and Emma collected the evening meal. It always consisted of at least one of the large, three-clawed crabs that dotted the rocks of the lagoon like so many purple pimples on protruding chins. They were boiled in sea water and squealed horribly and snapped their claws when they hit the rolling water.

Emma refused to watch when Pin cracked their shells open with the point of a sleek black stone he’d found near their waterfall, but she absolutely cherished the meat inside. It was always bright pink and chewy, and wonderfully salty to the taste.

Finally, after dinner, Pin told stories, or let the children ask him whatever questions littered their minds (which he did his best to answer, though more often than not he relied on fictions for those, too).

This routine was virtually unchanging, and soon days turned into weeks, and weeks into months and the children forgot all about their old life beyond the moon. Emma even stopped asking after her father, and Adam never pondered the possible arrival of a rescue ship.

Pin altered the children’s clothes as they grew, letting out the seams so often and refitting them again that Emma and Adam appeared to be wrapped by earthy swaths of cloth rather than tailored ship attire anymore.

To look upon them would be to assume they were native to the wild world of the moon, while Pin (bushy grey beard notwithstanding), still seemed alien to the jungle in his soiled workman’s clothes.

By all accounts the three castaways had discovered the most wonderful way to live away their days free of hardship or worry, and there were many times that Pin hoped upon hope they would never be rescued, or see another human as long as they lived.

One day, when the sun hung lazy and swollen in a cloudless sky, Pin declared their raft seaworthy and ready for action.

It took some time for him and Adam to drag it from the edge of their camp and maneuver it through the trees to the beach, but before too long it sat ready to be castoff, the lather of surf licking its underbelly tantalizingly.

Though Adam was eager to venture out into the lagoon, Pin made them wait for Emma who had promised to bring some knitted nets of vine she’d made for them to catch fish with.

When the girl finally appeared, she ran down the beach towards them waving and smiling.

Pin watched her blond hair sway behind her and, for the first time, realized just how wild it had become. When he’d first met Emma in his work bay on the Tian all that time ago, her hair was well groomed and trimmed so it didn’t fall too far past the point of her chin. Now it was long and thick with humidity, and creeped down her back like moss on a tree.

Recently, she’d started lining it with tiny flowers of purple and pink that poked out from all over, adding to her elemental look.

When she came up to them, she smiled and handed the nets to Pin saying, “Here you go. I hope they don’t break apart in the water. It was hard to get all the knots tight.”

Pin wrapped the nets over his shoulder and frowned at the girl. “I think you need a haircut,” he said simply, then looked at Adam whose appearance was equally wild. “You, too. You both look like you were raised by wolves.”

“So do you, Pin,” laughed Adam pointing to the man’s beard, now so bushy it hid the lower half of his face. “I can barely see your mouth move when you talk!”

Emma covered her mouth and laughed at this and Pin rubbed his beard thoughtfully. Then he laughed heartily along with them.

“Well, that settles it then,” he boomed. “We’ll clean ourselves up tonight after dinner and bring a little human civility back to this place.”

With that he turned towards the raft and told Adam to climb aboard while he pushed it into the water. “Wish us luck out here, little mouse,” he said to Emma as he jumped onto the craft. “Because if we are, we’ll be back with a fish for dinner that might just be the size of you!”

Emma watched them paddle away from the beach and out past the edge of the lagoon. She giggled at their awkwardness in keeping the raft afloat, but, as they became smaller, she was also struck by an odd and sudden fear of being alone.

She had never imagined a life without Adam or Pin and had always assumed they would remain as they were forever. But, standing on the beach alone now, a deep doubt that lived somewhere in her gut seemed to creep up her esophagus and worm its way into her brain. She didn’t know what this new and strange feeling was, but she was suddenly aware of a truth that haunted her.

She thought back to the monster that had taken their pod and disappeared into the deep. Was it still out there? Were Pin and Adam safe from its three long arms and repulsive mouth full of sharp white teeth?

With that thought, Emma gave Pin and Adam one last long look before turning away and heading back up the beach towards their camp.

Despite Emma’s concerns, Adam and Pin returned to the beach that first day.

After more than three hours at sea, they brought back two sleek fish; one bright blue with white stripes and one green with a pink underbelly. And, just as Pin has promised, each was indeed much taller than Emma.

When the fish were unwrapped from the nets, Pin held each up by the tail and made the children stand next to them to judge the difference in size. Light scattered across their scaly bodies as they flexed and flopped in his hands, and the children watched as they gulped uselessly at the air until they finally went limp and stood at attention.

Emma looked up and was amazed to see the one she stood next to was even taller than Pin himself, who held the tail well above his head.

“These were two of the smallest out there, too, I’d say,” said Pin. “I’d hate to come across what eats ’em in case he confuses us for dinner and swallows up the raft!”

Adam laughed, but Emma didn’t find Pin’s joke very funny.

“Don’t say that, Pin, and don’t you laugh either, Adam,” she said, scolding them both equally.

“Why can’t I laugh?” asked Adam dismissively. “I can laugh at a joke if I want to.”

“Being eaten up is no joke,” said Emma turning to Pin. “Shame on you for saying you might be eaten.”

Pin laid the fish along the top of high boulder before bending down to address Emma. “You’re right, Emma,” he said, “it was an unfair thing to joke about. But you don’t need to be upset with Adam, or I. We won’t be eaten up.”

“But, if you do get eaten up, I’ll be all alone,” said Emma. “What would I do then?”

Pin smiled and stood up with purpose saying, “Well, we’ll just have to make some rules about taking out the raft to be sure we’re all safe.” He scratched at his beard, as though thinking hard, then cast a finger into the air.

“Rule number one!” he said loudly and started pacing across the camp.

Emma and Adam watched him curiously as he spoke into the air with authority.

“No fishing at night, or on cloudy days. The raft will only be used in perfect sunlight to ensure the safety of its passengers. Agreed?”

The children nodded in agreement and Pin continued.

“Rule number two! The raft must stay close to the shoreline at all times. That way, if it capsizes, one would be able to swim to shore. Agreed? Rule number three! Never, and I mean never, go fishing alone. In fact, all three of us will fish together as long as you two stay small enough to fit on the raft. That way, nobody will ever feel left behind or alone again.”

Pin stopped pacing and looked down at Emma. “Now, do those rules suit you, Emma, or do you have your own to offer?”

Emma thought for a moment then shook her head. She was satisfied with the three rules Pin laid out and felt confident they would all be safe.

“It’s settled then,” said Pin moving to pick up the long fish again. “Get a fire started, Adam, while I clean these fish for our supper. Emma, you come and watch how I do it so you’ll be able to do it yourself one day.”

With that, the two children moved from their idle spots and got to work preparing for super.

Emma squealed and curled her fingers under her chin as she watched Pin slit the fish’s bellies, their insides spilling out and hissing as they hit the hot stone. But once that was done and the head had been removed, she found she loved the feel of the smooth red flesh underneath. And the smell of it was wonderful and salty like the sea and fresh like the mid-morning winds.

After a satisfying dinner, Pin sat the children down inside their shelter and went about trimming and cleaning up their hair. Emma winced as he poured hot water across the top of her head and attempted to untangle the more matted parts of it.

“You may have to put less of these little flowers in your hair from now on, little mouse,” he said as he worked through the long mess of tangles. “Your hair seems to grow around them like the jungle itself.”

Once her hair was smoothed out, Pin cut at it with the side of a jagged black stone he’d sharpened along the side of a rough bolder.

Emma watched tufts of her hair fall to the dirt and blow away on the wind. “Don’t cut it too short, Pin,” she said. “I like to twirl it in my fingers when I’m thinking sometimes.”

Pin grunted in acknowledgement as he worked at her hair, leaving it to hang just past her shoulders. “How’s that then?” he asked when he was done, stepping back to look the girl over in the firelight.

Emma stood up and twirled once, sending her hair spinning around her. Then she ran a hand down the length of it until she could finger the ends. “Perfect,” she said and smiled. “Thanks, Pin.”

“Definitely an improvement,” said Pin before turning to Adam. “Now you, son,” he said, pausing momentarily as the word passed his lips. Son.

Adam hopped up and took Emma’s place and Pin set to work trimming the boy’s blonde hair.

Over time, the three of them became expert fishermen, casting off each morning along the shoreline in search of food and returning to camp with strange new species of sea life, always colorful and thick with flavor.

Pin learned that beyond eating, fish came in handy for their oil, which—when stored in cupped-bark and waxy fronds—could be set alight in their shelter at night, or used in ointments to rub on cuts and scrapes.

To help them at their job of catching sea life, Adam fashioned spears and short knives to skewer fish and various bottom feeders. These he also used when diving in the reefs of the lagoon where they harvested large green shelled creatures that Pin called “moon clams”.

After three more months of unflinchingly hot weather, a short but violent rainy season hit them hard. Its winds were so fierce that Pin was forced to rebuild their shelter four times, and, for a while, their camp was under more than two feet of rushing water at all times.

It was during this time that Adam and Emma became as comfortable in the trees as on the ground.

The lagoon was beset by such harsh winds that the beach became a danger and, for them, it was much easier to move long distances along the wide branches above than wade through the muddy jungle floor below. In fact, the two would often spend whole days together, cradled in the crooks of branches, shielded from the biting winds under tent-like foliage, playing games and sharing their secrets.

Pin, on the other hand, rarely left camp during this time. As much as he missed the company of the children at times, he was hardly nimble enough to follow them into the trees and resigned himself to a land-locked life once again. For him, the rainy days were dreary and long, and he yearned for the sun to peek out from behind the endless storm clouds and bring warmth and gladness to the moon once again.

Was it the sun, or the children he missed most? He couldn’t be sure. Both seemed one-in-the-same.

Pin also found that spending so much time alone wasn’t good for him. He thought too much about his past life and the many people he’d known throughout his life. These thoughts reminded him of his shortcomings and that his life had been mostly a waste. He envied the children for their empty pasts and endless possibility for happiness. This spiral of thoughts and memory turned his mind to drinking and how wonderful it would be to drink himself to sleep these wet and lonely nights.

Unlike him, when Emma and Adam ventured down from above they seemed no different than they’d ever been. Children have a stronger constitution than old men for enduring the hardships of time. Their minds and bodies were still healthy and versatile.

And so it was for months: the three would fall asleep to the sound of rain pelting the shelter and wake up to the same. Then children would vanish and Pin would be left behind to worry about them all. Their supplies dwindled over time and they were forced to leave fishing until the rains passed.

The moon was testing them, Pin realized one night as he tossed restlessly, unable to sleep. It was reminding them that paradise was only a dream. A desire destined to be left unfulfilled in old hearts.

And indeed that night, Pin dreamed of blue skies and the scent of flowers and of a woman he’d once spent a night with while on leave from his mining ship more than fifteen years earlier. He may have forgotten her name, but he still remembered the feel of her smooth, dark skin. Maybe some dreams were worth holding onto.

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