The Blue Moon (a sci-fi romance)

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Chapter Twenty Two

Emma dreamed about her nanny.

She was back on the Tian, tucked into her bunk. Nanny was singing to her and Adam and brushing their hair behind their ears to soothe them into sleep. The tune she sang was hollow and far off, the words inaudible. Emma thought her voice sounded like water lapping off stone.

She looked up and her nanny smiled and stroked her cheek with the back of her hand. “You are safe,” she whispered. “You are loved.”

Emma stirred and woke then. The sun was still down and she was back on the beach. Her nanny was gone, yet she could still feel a hand brushing her cheek softly, like a phantom sensation still present in her mind’s eye.

She let herself relax and sink back into a light slumber until something wet and cold touched her lips. She wiped it away, whatever it was, and the feeling vanished. Then, in a moment, it returned. Only this time it tickled her nose and the tops of her cheek bones.

She opened her eyes and narrowed her focus. A small creature covered in purple fur was perched on her chin, licking her around the mouth with its long, thin tongue.

She shifted onto her elbows and the creature sucked the appendage back into its mouth and stood at attention. Its round yellow eyes opened wide to focus on her face in the early morning darkness. Then it cocked its head slightly and made a harsh little clicking sound with its mouth that sounded like, Ko-ko.

“Shoo,” whispered Emma, waving away the animal.

It hopped off her chin and onto the sand, but didn’t run away as she’d expected. Instead it scurried under her palm frond covering, its minuscule claws tickling her legs and thighs as it clung to her skin.

Emma screeched and shot to her feet, kicking away the frond and shaking her limbs like she was having a fit. Adam woke with a start and settled a quizzical stare upon her as though unsure whether to help her or enjoy the wild display.

“Help!” Emma yelped as a flash of purple crossed her tummy, ran up her back and disappeared beneath her long, flowered hair. It clung to the nape of her neck and stopped and Emma yelled as she tried to grab it. “It’s on me! Adam, it’s stuck to me!”

Adam hopped up and laughed despite his concern. Emma didn’t seem to be in any real harm. Coming up behind her, he lifted her hair to reveal the thing clinging to the back of her neck. It looked at Adam with wide yellow eyes and he could see it was frightened.

“Oh, it’s just a little thing, Emma,” he chided. “Here, let me pull it off.” Adam dug his fingers into the creature’s purple fur and it made another series of harsh clicking sounds.

Ko-ko, Ko-ko, it clacked quickly and Adam let it go, startled. Then he laughed at himself for being so easily scared off and made a move to grab it again.

“Hey, come here!” he yelled as the creature scurried from Emma’s neck and onto her left shoulder.

Emma stood frozen, peeking at it from the corner of her eye. “What’s it doing now?” she whispered.

“Nothing,” Adam answered curiously. “It’s just sitting there, sort of looking around.”

“Well, get it off,” Emma said hotly. But, as Adam walked around her, the animal ran to her right shoulder and clacked at them again.

“I think it likes you,” Adam laughed. “Maybe it’s hungry. Here, I’ll get it some fruit.”

With that, Adam ran from the beach and into the underbrush in search of fallen fruit, leaving Emma and the creature alone.

They looked at each other for a moment before it ran back across her body and onto her left shoulder. Emma bristled as its tiny claws nicked her skin as it moved.

“Are you lost?” she asked it finally. The creature turned towards her, it’s yellow eyes widening. “Well, you can eat some food, but then you have to shoo, okay? I’m very busy and I can’t look after you. Do you understand?”

As far as she could tell the thing did not understand. Instead it lay on its belly, draping its body over her shoulder and closing its eyes.

Adam returned then, a small blue fruit for each of them balanced in his hands. “What happened?” he asked when he saw the creature.

“I think it fell asleep,” Emma sighed.

Adam’s face scrunched and he looked around the beach as though suddenly remembering something.

“Hey, where’s Pin?” he said finally. “I’m hungry.”

Emma scanned the beach as well. It was strange for Pin to leave them alone for long. “The raft’s gone,” she said flatly. “Maybe he’s fishing. I’m sure he’ll be back soon.”

“Well, he’d better be,” said Adam taking a bite of his fruit, “or we’ll have to eat without him, like it or not.” Then, turning his attention back to the purple creature dozing on Emma’s shoulder, he said, “So what will we call it?”

“We’re not calling it anything, because it’s not staying,” said Emma sternly. “After it sleeps and after it eats it can go back to wherever it came from.”

“We could call it KoKo for the sound it makes,” said Adam, ignoring her. “I like it.”

“Well you can have it,” Emma said and sat down with a huff.

Adam sat next to her and passed her a fruit. She took a quiet bite and the creature opened its eyes suddenly and stood at attention. Opening its mouth, it shot its thin tongue at the spot where Emma had bitten and began licking it all over with quick little flicks.

Emma lost her appetite immediately. “Here,” she said to the creature and dropped the fruit to the sand. “You can have it.”

It clicked excitedly and hopped off her shoulder to chew frantically at the fruit.

Adam laughed at the way it moved, excitedly rolling the fruit along the beach as it gnawed at it. It wasn’t long until the purple thing had burrowed its way into the fruit’s core entirely, its thin pink tail the only part of it still visible. A few moments later its furry head poked out the other side, the hollow rind covering its middle like a soggy blue coat.

Emma laughed despite herself as the animal tried to free itself from the fruit’s blue skin. She sighed and shook her head, then reached down to pick it up.

The creature calmed down immediately when she scooped it up and pulled it free.

“Silly KoKo,” she said soothingly, petting the fur along its back. “You really are lost, aren’t you? Just like us.”

KoKo clacked, Ko-ko ko-ko, then ran up her arm. She winced as its needle-thin claws pricked at her bare skin until it lay down on her shoulder again.

Adam’s expression turned serious then and he rose to his feet. “Well, we can’t sit here all morning without a decent breakfast. Pin always says morning meals are most important and I intent to see us fed.”

“But, what will we eat?” Emma asked.

“Pin keeps extra fish buried in the shade just there,” Adam said and pointed to where Pin liked to lie to escape the hot sun. “He says they stay fresh longer if they’re cool. We’ll just have to finish those ones off without him.”

“Who will make the fire?” asked Emma.

“I can do it,” said Adam confidently. “I’ve watched Pin do it many times, and he showed me how to do it once. We just need the right kind of rocks to hit together and a lot of little sticks and brush for the flame. You’ll see, Emma, I can do it.”

Emma looked up at Adam, surprised at his determination. His quick thinking and resourcefulness put her at ease and she felt her shoulders relax a little. She hadn’t even realized how tense she’d become since waking. Adam had always been a companion to her, but she never considered him someone to provide or protect.

“Help me gather wood first, then I’ll dig up the fish,” Adam continued. “I’ll get the big pieces and you get brush and tinder... that’s the small sticks.”

“I know what tinder is,” said Emma, sticking out her tongue. “I’ve heard Pin say it plenty of times.”

“Well, good then,” said Adam. “If we hurry, we can have a fire going before Pin comes back. What a funny trick that would be.”

So Adam and Emma parted ways, each going off to gather what they needed to build a fire.

Adam moved quickly, stacking as many long branches as he could across his arms. When he couldn’t carry any more he brought them to the beach and laid them on the sand. From there he leaned them together to build a tent-like structure. For a moment, it reminded him of the ogre’s large bonfire in the valley and he brushed the thought aside.

Emma emerged holding handfuls of dried moss and bark. KoKo was perched on her shoulder looking around curiously. When she reached Adam, she passed him the tinder and he placed it carefully underneath the structure.

“There,” he said, standing up and brushing dirt off his knees. “Now to find some rocks. Pin always used one big black one, and hit it with a white one with pink crystals inside it. The black ones are everywhere, but the white ones are harder to find because they’re part of those boulders along the beach. You have to search the water to find pieces that have broken off.”

“Let’s split up,” said Emma. Then she pointed to one side of the lagoon saying, “You look over on that side and I’ll look over on the other.”

Adam nodded and jogged away towards the far side of the lagoon. Emma looked after him, please with how well they were working as a team. Seeing him like this changed him in her mind. He seemed older and—even though she hated to admit she’d thought the opposite many times—smarter as well.

She watched him scamper up a large boulder along the shore and survey the pools of water below. His silhouette stood lean and tall in the morning sun. Then he jumped down off the rock and disappeared from view.

“Come on, KoKo,” she said, turning away and skipping towards the opposite side of the lagoon. She was suddenly determined to be the first to find the perfect white stone to both impress and show Adam up.

It was fun playing like grown ups with him and she suddenly hoped Pin didn’t return to the beach until they had cooked and finished their breakfast together.

When she reached the shoreline, she planted a bare foot onto a slippery, wet boulder and climbed onto it. Sun glinted off the shallow pools of water between the rocks, making it hard to see what lay on their bottoms so, sliding onto her belly, she reached down and let her fingers sift through the sand and barnacles until they felt something large enough to be a fire stone.

Pulling it out of the water, Emma examined it. It was smooth and white with two pink crystal spires poking off one side. She smiled broadly and shot to her feet.

“I found one first!” she called out across the beach to where Adam was searching. “I found a white rock!”

She saw Adam standing erect close to the shore, but he didn’t turn towards her when she called out. Raising a hand to her forehead to block the sun, he came into focus. He was standing on a tall rock and peering out across the water.

KoKo clicked excitedly and dug claws into her shoulder to remain steady as Emma jumped down from the rock. Curious, she jogged across the beach to join Adam and see what he was looking at.

He didn’t turn right away when she climbed up beside him, so she attempted to show him the rock she’d found.

“Look,” she said holding it up on a flattened palm.

“What’s that?” Adam asked, his eyes still locked on the ocean.

“A white fire rock,” she answered.

“What?” he asked absently then turned towards her. Seeing the rock, he shook his head and pointed out across the water. “No, what’s that?”

Emma squinted as she peered out across the water, scanning for whatever Adam had seen. At first she saw nothing, but then an object slowly came into focus; something bobbing up and down with the waves.

“I can’t tell what it is,” she said, “but I think it’s coming closer with the tide.”

Adam brushed past her and jumped off the rock. She followed, confused by his keen interest, and they both walked to the edge of the water where the tide was rapidly rising.

They watched the object bobbing in the waves for a moment longer before Emma turned to Adam. “It will be a while before it reaches the shore, and I’m getting hungry. Why don’t we start a fire and eat? When we’re done, we’ll know what it is.”

Adam hesitated. He had a vile feeling in the pit of his stomach and didn’t know why. Maybe if he ate it would go away. Finally he turned to Emma saying, “Okay, come on then. Give me the stone and I’ll start the fire.”

Emma did, their fingers touching momentarily as the stone passed from hers to his. The moment they met, she sensed his anxiety. The sensation surged through her like a thunderbolt and—while she didn’t know to what the feeling was due—like him, she realized something wasn’t right.

Letting the feeling subside, she followed after Adam as he marched back up the beach to where their fire structure lay under the fronds of overhanging trees.

Adam fetched a glassy black rock from the underbrush then knelt down low to strike the rocks together near the tinder.

Emma got down beside him, ready to blow gently if a spark caught and became a tiny flame. Neither of them spoke as Adam struck the white stone against the larger rock again and again. They were uncharacteristically patient, as though prolonging this morning’s breakfast might even spare them a dreaded chore to follow.

Eventually, after some minutes, sparks began to fly from between the two rocks more regularly until ignition was finally made and a small, hot flame began eating the tinder.

Emma leaned in and blew lightly to help it spread and grow. Adam did the same until the flame had consumed the tinder and grass and was nipping at the larger logs.

“Come on, come on,” whispered Adam as the fire danced around the logs.

“I’ll get some more grass,” said Emma and she ran to the underbrush.

“Hurry!” called Adam when he saw the fire was beginning to die.

Emma rushed back, hands heaping with brush and sticks, and passed it to Adam. He parceled it out slowly, careful not to suffocate the fire under too much cover. The flame rose in fits as the new tinder caught alight. He repeated this several times until, finally, one of the larger sticks began to glow and a flame climbed it slowly.

Adam fed the newborn fire with tinder and it spread quickly. He pulled another stick from the fire and held it to the heat until it caught on fire also.

Emma did the same and it wasn’t long before the fire raged large and hot in front of them.

They both cheered and laughed, overjoyed at their accomplishment. KoKo clacked along with them, running back and forth across Emma’s shoulders.

Emma squeezed Adam’s arm and smiled and he squeezed hers back. Then he got up and ran to Pin’s favorite gum tree to dig up the fish as quickly as he could. They would need washing and some prep before they could be cooked, so Emma stayed behind to keep the fire alive.

He looked out across the water as he washed a handful of small purple fish in the surf. The dark object was still bobbing on the waves, though it seemed no closer than before. It might be hours before it was close enough to identify.

He looked back up the beach towards Emma— who was standing now, holding her hands over the fire for warmth—and felt glad for having her with him. Pin would be back soon, he was sure, but in the meantime it was fun taking care of important things themselves. It made him feel, well, like Pin must feel all the time; smart and skilled and like a grown-up.

When the fish were washed of dirt and clay, Adam ran back to the fire and joined Emma. They planted the slick bodies on long sticks sharpened on one end and let them hang over the fire until their scales were black and crispy and oil bubbled from around their eyes. Then they took them off and tore them open to enjoy the steaming pink meat inside.

They screamed and laughed as hot oil fell against their skin, brushing it away quickly, red streaks left behind. Then, when they were finished, they fell on their backs and stared up and the clouds, pointing out the shapes they made. Adam always saw monsters where Emma saw plainer things from the world around them.

For Adam, the whole morning was a much needed escape from his mounting worries of ogres and the recent mystery of Pin’s whereabouts.

For Emma, it brought her thoughts and interests back from space and Earth to the moon where she realized she had so much to be happy about.

“Adam?” said Emma.

“Hmmm,” answered Adam, his thoughts far off.

“Do you think we will we be married one day?”

Adam raised himself on his elbows and looked at her, confused. He gazed out at the ocean for a long moment. Finally he turned back to her and said, “I supposed we’ll have to be married one day. How will we know when we’re married?”

Emma sat up and shrugged. “I don’t know. My father gave my mother a ring and she gave him a ring back. But they said most people don’t do that anymore.”

“Okay. I guess we’ll wait until we’re grown-ups and see then. When we’re married I think we’ll know and we can give each other a present. I don’t know if I want an old ring though.”

“Okay,” said Emma and she lay back down. “Something else, maybe.”

“Okay then,” said Adam and he did the same. Then, with their bellies full, they fell asleep on the sand for some time.

When Adam awoke the tide was finally in and the surf lapped against his toes. He raised a cheek off the sand and brushed it clean.

Emma was still asleep beside him, KoKo hiding under her hair and nibbling at a fish carcass.

He could hear the surf crashing against the rocks, but there was something else also; a rhythmic knocking accompanying each wave.

Adam eased himself up from the sand and got to his feet. Without waking Emma, he moved down the beach to the shoreline and climbed up the rocks.

Looking down at the water he saw wreckage from their raft clipping the barnacled rocks as each pulse of surf pushed it forward then pulled it away again.

Carefully, he moved along the rocks until he reached the edge of the water. Then, sliding down slowly, he dipped into the water beside the broken craft.

Grabbing hold of the side, he saw that more than half of it was gone. Mostly, it had become rods of cane held together haphazardly by frayed vines. Why he felt compelled to salvage it at all, he couldn’t say. He just knew was it wasn’t right to leave it to the mercy of the waves until it broke apart and drifted away forever. He was determined to rescue what he could of it.

Since there was no way to heave it up and onto the rocks, Adam moved around them, wading through the waves towards the beach, letting the raft float behind him. It was hard work fighting against the current, and the raft seemed strangely heavy, perhaps due to its pieces floating every which way. But eventually the bottom grew shallow and the waves calmed and he was able to pull the first of the raft’s remains onto shore.

The pieces of cane revealed themselves one at a time as they slid up onto the wet sand. Oddly, even as the last of them exited the water, the wreckage still felt weighed down as though something had snagged itself to the end of it.

Seaweed perhaps, Adam thought. The ocean was lousy with it, multicolored and briny. Bunches of it had affixed to the raft during fishing trips many times before.

Letting his grip go from the vines, he ran down the beach to get closer to where the last of the raft remained stuck under the water. He picked up a rod of cane with both hands and pulled at it with all his might until the final pieces of raft rose from the surf and climbed onto the shore in a swell of frothy bubbles.

Adam dropped the cane he was holding and starred at the monster caught up in the tangle of vines, cane, and what looked like Pin’s old ship’s clothes. Watery, red liquid poured from all sides of it, turning the sand a light shade of crimson.

He crept closer to examine the remains of the creature, careful not to let his bare feet step into the streams of blood.

Emma jogged up behind him and asked what he was doing from a safe distance away. He turned to her sharply and waved at her to keep back before leaning over to see what horrible thing the wreckage had dragged in with it from the open ocean. That’s when he saw it— Pin’s mining barcode, the lines separated along rows of shredded flesh on his left arm. His right arm was gone altogether as was most of the old man’s lower body.

Adam stood up and looked away, holding a hand across his mouth tightly for fear of screaming. Then he turned abruptly as Emma’s shrill cries rang out behind him. She had ventured closer and looked down just as a small purple crab pushed its way from Pin’s mouth and scuttled up his face and through what remained of his matted wet hair.

Adam caught her around the middle when her legs gave out from under her, holding her limp body up as she cried.

“Pin!” Emma sobbed, then looked up at him. “What’s happened to him?”

Adam shook his head, unable to speak. “I don’t know, Emma,” was all he could say. “I don’t know.”

They held each other for a long while, neither of them able to look upon what remained of their dear friend and protector, Paddington Pin; neither of them able to contemplate the dangerous predicament he’d left them in.

“It’s okay, Emma. I’ll take care of us.” Adam repeated the words over and over, and yet Emma’s conscious mind never once picked them up.

Eventually, they moved arm-in-arm up the beach and into the trees, out of sight of the sand and the lagoon that had once brought them so much joy.

They spent the night in the trees, curled up together against the red trunk of the tallest one they could find. Though neither of them spoke of it, they both shared the fear that if they dared looked down they’d see Pin’s broken body roaming the underbrush in search of them. With no concept of the finality of death, the terrifying prospect seemed wholly likely.

The next morning, Emma insisted they move away from the lagoon and the beach and never return again. Adam agreed without knowing where they’d go, what dangers may await them, or even realizing an important first part of their life had come to a violent end. He just knew Emma was right. They couldn’t stay in a place where such a thing had happened.

So, with no knowledge of ritual or religion, they left Pin’s remains heaped at the edge of the water, gathered what they could carry, and moved inland, abandoning the life they knew in favour of the unknown and unexpected.

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