Tales of Anemoia:

High Lives and Half-Lives

2332

Lunar Spaceport

There's a fine line between courage and ignorance that I don't think enough people care to acknowledge.

Courage is being the first man to step on the moon. Ignorance is trying to convince yourself that it's finally safe enough to step back on Earth.

When I tried articulating this point to my father he told me to shut up. He said we had already bought our shuttle tickets months ago and that there was no backing out now. What really ended up grinding my gears was when he started telling me that we were going back to Earth so that I could 'find my roots'. What roots? The ones that had been systematically deforested a couple centuries ago?

I still love my dad, but he can be a serious craterhead sometimes.

Despite my best efforts over the rest of the week he never relented. Itinerary won over logic. We were going back to Earth. Before I knew it I found myself seated in a comfy lunar shuttle with an extra large cup of cherry soda in hand and an even larger bundle of nerves wracking my stomach. Drinking sugary beverages probably wasn't helping my mental state, but then, I never said I was wholly logical in my approach to living life. Only when it came to not dying on Earth.

"Hey," my father chimed in, jokingly elbowing me in the side at the risk that a colony of nervous butterflies might come exploding out of my stomach. "You feeling alright?"

Of all the combination of words in the English language I could have chosen to articulate how I was feeling in that precise moment I opted to counter with a simple, "Yeah."

Craterhead that my father may be, he still seemed to pick up on the fact that I wasn't wholly comfortable with something. Probably the fact that we were about to fly in a metal tube between two celestial bodies in the impossibly vast vacuum that was space. "We'll be fine, Sera. Flight shouldn't take more than a few hours or so."

A few hours.

Had I just been able to hone in on that fact, perhaps it would have been enough. As it were, I needed something loud and flashy to dull my senses. "Dad, did you say you brought your 'DEE VEE DEE' player with you?"

Lunar shuttles to Earth weren't like your more typical commercial spacefare to Mars or Titan. With as many runs back and forth as Earth travelers tended to make the latest shuttle designs only had efficiency on mind. No entertainment modules, no seat warmers or robotic flight attendants. Not even any cupholders... which made bringing an extra large cherry soda onboard with me a bit of a regrettable decision.

While I was lamenting that fact my father was busy searching through his carry-on, digging past jumpsuits and passports for the aforementioned DEE VEE DEEs. They were a bit of an Earth novelty, plastic discs that contained an old-time movie feature on them. Maybe some special features on tap as well, if you were lucky. Back home on Luna keeping your entertainment on a physical medium was almost unheard of, but when you're in a situation like this, in a feature-devoid spacecraft like this, I suppose they're worth the trouble.

It's through most of these feature films that I've concocted my understanding of what life was like on Earth once upon a time. The bulk of the films my dad keeps with him are a couple hundred years old at this point. Picked up right before they had to start evacuating Hollywood in the late 2070s. He had scavenged the lot of them after a particularly extensive junk drop from the AI-trash sorters back on Earth. Just the thought of those scrap heaps was enough to make me scream. Even this many years after their planet has failed them and they've migrated themselves over to ours that's all the Earthlings still view us as - a dumping site.

Before you start calling me prejudiced against Earthlings you should know that I resent that. I also wouldn't say my views are baked solely in history and stereotypes. There's also the hotdog guy. You know the guy. The hotdog vendor on the moon who you should never ask about the 'old days'. Not unless you want to hear about how dry-frozen cow innards taste so much better than the moon paste the government mandates we stick in our hot dogs now, anyways.

Before I can ponder the logic in Luna's FDA-rulings my dad's prodding at those butterflies in my stomach again, this time with a clamshell-shaped DEE VEE DEE player in hand. "Here. Make sure to plug some ear buds in."

Of all the requests my father's has made of me on this trip that one might have been the easiest to oblige. As our kevlar-wrapped spacecraft kicked into overdrive I was kicking back, happily interfacing with a technology more archaic than my microwave back home.

I think my favorite part of the whole DEE VEE DEE experience is changing the optic discs themselves, a thread tied around their doughnut-hole for safekeeping. The title of the first movie I watched had been scrubbed, so I'm not sure what exactly it was called. If I told you it was about a teenager turned wolfman who played on his high school basketball team you'd probably get the gist of it. Didn't care to watch it for particularly long, the disc was rotting and scratched and would skip in places. I did get far enough to see this teenaged wolfman dunk a basketball, which was interesting.

From my understanding, 'dunking' in basketball is still viewed as an impressive feat on Earth. If the movie is to be believed, it's something that requires one to undergo the supernatural transformation into a werewolf before attempting. Given the gravitational force placed on the Earth, I can see where this might be impressive. On Luna however, where basketball is played in Zero-G containment fields, dunking is no more impressive than hitting a layup. Though for my impossibly low athletic standards, even that might be impressive.

The second DEE VEE DEE I decided to put in was a bit more grounded in its reality. Pompeii.

Pro tip: If you're planning on taking a trip to Earth in the foreseeable future don't watch Pompeii on the way down. In fact, don't watch Pompeii in general. Too much posturing and volcanic activity. We have volcanoes on Luna too, you know. Most of the still active ones are just thousands of kilometers beneath the surface, far away from the nearest human settlements. I might be biased in my assessment, but that set-up makes more sense to me.

After that experience I was a bit DEE VEE DEE'd out but still had roughly twenty minutes to kill before our metal tube stopped hurtling itself through space. You ever been in that situation before? Too much time on your hands but not enough time to actually do something? It's the worst.

Like any good horror story, I didn't have to wait long for something more violent to start happening. Re-entering the Earth's atmosphere is a bit like having front row seats to someone's explosive diarrhea session. There's shakes and quakes and lots of screaming. Blissfully though, it's not nearly as messy a proposition. At least, not until I lost a handle on my cherry soda.

By the time our metal coffin of a transport has concluded its post-flight measures I am drenched in sugar water and suitably prepared for the knockdown session that is existence on Earth. Disembarking the ship is a mercifully less eventful process. The pilot stands by the shuttle's exit, thanking us for our patronage as we push past the few other government riders unlucky enough to still be stationed planet-side.

The skybridge that funnels us from shuttle to spaceport is encased in glass and gives us a chance to look around. I can't help but look up instead. It's still kind of trippy, going from Point A to Point B while still being able to see Point A looming up there in the night's sky. Luna might be two hundred thousand miles away, but it's still watching over me.

I lose sight of my celestial guardian in the next moment, engulfed in a spaceport that is decidedly more earthly and mundane in its make. As my father waits for our luggage at the terminal I spare a moment to look around at our surroundings. Grime cakes the floors, the complex basked in harsh artificial lighting that makes us wince but does its own small part to sieve out contaminants. As the main port of entry, KC-Interplanetary is constantly exposed and is a prime breeding ground for the harsh realities of the outside world.

Service drones march to and fro, guiding my father and I to the exit now that we have we retrieved our luggage. I notice a a gruff man with a gruffer apron standing in the corner of the concourse area. His voice confirms what the overriding smell had been suggesting to me for several moments now - "Hot dogs! Hot dogs! Get your hot dogs here!"

I can't explain what exactly compelled me to drag my father over to this man's stand. Perhaps I needed some validation on how distinguishing the flavor of moon paste was. Perhaps I was just hungry. Whatever the case, I stood before the hot dog guy, a stack of paper currency in hand.

One exchange of goods later and I finally have my first ever Earth-based hot dog in my hand. I poke at it experimentally, pickle relish seeping into the bun. The vendor watches in half-amusement, waiting a few seconds before prodding. "Well, go on. It ain't going to eat itself."

I suppose that's true. Someone does have to eat the hot dog. My dad was already eating his, and the vendor no doubt is sick of looking at them. I'd really like to eat the hot dog, but I'd also rather not confirm the presumed theory that Earth's hot dogs were better than Luna's hot dogs.

Eventually, I take my own advice and place courage over ignorance... "Wow, this is actually quite good."

In between chomps my dad eagerly nods his head. "Right?"

The second bite is almost as good as the first, then the third. Almost on instinct I turn back to the vendor manning the stand. "Is this really what cow innards taste like?"

He has to consider his stand for a second. "I, uh... I guess?"

"What, you don't know what your hot dogs are made out of? Chef's secret?"

"Well, it's not that I don't know, it's that I don't know if you want to know."

I cross my arms then, challenge him with a nod of my head. "Try me."

He can't help but wince. "Well, alright then. They're mixed with..."

"Oh... oh..."

God, I really hate Earth.

TBC