I just sat down and looked at the earthrise over a horizon too near. The gray powder and rocks rose ahead of me toward a distant mountain range, and behind the low gray hills was a black sky with the blue orb of earth climbing into view. Clouds obscured the surface, and I couldn’t tell what continent or ocean was turned toward me.
I would have liked to have seen my homeland once again, to imagine saying goodbye to my loved ones. But it was not to be.
I did not cry or curse or beat my helmet against the closest boulder. No reason to get upset, and no reason to fear. The suit would fill with my own carbon dioxide exhalations long before the cold got me or the vacuum. I’d gasp myself to sleep, never knowing if the lander received my distress signal.
I could feel it happening already, as I sat there and watched the earth. I didn’t think about the leaking tank that had left me without enough air to make it back to the lander. I didn’t think about the rover that had skidded into a crevasse, wedging itself sideways, or the struggle to free myself from the wreck and clear the cracked moonscape, only see my O2 indicator dropping.
Honestly, none of this crossed my mind at that moment, because I could see the insects coming out of the crevasse to investigate.
They moved slowly, wings held close to their bodies. The size of men, but walking on six legs, they clambered out of the shadows and over the skeleton of the rover, then noticed me sitting on gray dirt nearby. One of them pointed a foreclaw at me, and the others began to close in.
I wanted to panic, but the thin air in my suit wouldn’t allow it. An odd peace fell over me as the insects came close and surrounded me. Now I could see the way their faceted eyes caught the images of each other and me, and duplicated us a million times over. I could see that their heads were encased in some kind of rough crystal.
They reached for me, and I didn’t try to fight them off. I thought of it, but had no strength to do so.
It occurred to me that I was about to be eaten by moon ants.
They lifted me onto something, and I realized they had draped me over the back of one of their fellows. It carried me quickly toward the crevasse, skittered around the rover and into the darkness. I continued to have a sense of motion, but the darkness was total. I think I may have passed out.
When I came to again, I was in a cavern lighted by glowing stones in the walls. And my helmet was missing. I was exposed to some kind of atmosphere trapped in this cavern, cold and crisp. I was breathing oxygen inside this cave, deep below the surface of the moon. And I was surrounded by more of the oversized insects.
They no longer wore the crystal helmets, and I could see the details of their faces, some of them obviously softer and younger, some of them gnarled and ancient. They saw that I was awake, and began to close in around me. One of them carried my helmet. The creature had a sash of some kind draped around its neck, and a beard of white wiry hairs on its creased mandibles. It placed my helmet back on my suit, secured it, and reconnected the lines running to my O2 tank.
The creatures lifted me up again, and the “old man” creature carried me into the darkness of a nearby tunnel. My eyes never adjusted, as the darkness was complete. Then all at once, I saw stars overhead and the orb of the earth. My transporter clambered over the rover and set me on the dirt where I had been sitting when they found me.
It set me down gently and faced me, showing me that it had donned one of those crystal faceplates during our journey. It tapped its faceplate, then tapped my helmet playfully before it turned and hurried back into the crevasse.
Just then, the second rover came around a rise of boulders and discovered me. Carson found me. He replaced my faulty O2 tank and put me in his rover to get me back to the lander. I was barely conscious most of the way, but I saw my tank when he changed it. Over the gash where it had leaked, it now had the same crystal coating that the insects used.
That’s the story, sir. I’ve told it how many times now? There’s no way my O2 would have held out that long on its own. I swear it’s true, sir. Have you checked the crevasse?
What do you mean? No crevasse? Just a crater?
No, sir. That’s not possible. I saw it.
What about the oxygen tank? Nothing? Are you sure?
I don’t believe it. I can't. I know what I saw.
There were insects. Insects in the moon.
(Originally posted at PCityLive as part of my '366 Days' project)
(c) 2009 by Tony Simmons
This movie, and the story it was based on, was obviously one of the inspirations for the story above; the other was the title of this song. The tale was originally plotted as part of a comic series I call 'Paradox Kid' and was retasked for 366 Days. I read the novel by H.G. Wells in eighth grade, and saw this movie sometime around then on Channel 5's afternoon "Big Show." Or maybe on the latenight "Popcorn Theatre" show on Channel 3. Maybe both. Anyway, it scared me pretty good, thanks to Ray Harryhausen's magic.
(And maybe tomorrow we'll get around to the dark side of the moon...?)