|Man And The Moon Maid
In short, you really have to go. Like the time before, she begs you to stay.
You don't know it yet, but this is going to go on for 1000 shifts. And it's not always going to go like this.
You find that out on the next trip here.
This time you made the meal--or rather had the meal made. They're s-rations, self heating little packets
of vaguely familiar tasting goop. Well, at least it's something you two can share.
She isn't expecting you. No appointment was explicitly set. You simply assumed. She's alone, bent
forward on a kitchen chair, her hands smothering her face. Sobs fill the non-existent air as you draw
You hail her with a timid "Hi."
Eyes peer out from between her fingers. Her head slowly rises out of her hands. As an epilogue to
surprise, her long black brows creep up her forehead.
Your placing the packets down on the table changes her expression from gasp to smile. Several
intensely happy moments wind away as you bask in that peaceful expression. Measure these times.
Make them worth it.
Abruptly her smile morphs into a snarl. She snaps to her feet. Her arms lash out, sending the packets
flailing. A booming shriek thunders in accompaniment: "I don't want anything from you!"
A trail of profanity traces your heels as you run for it. In fear you turn back to see what she's doing, if
she's following you.
She's collapsed to her knees. The shouts melt into a hideous unintelligible moan. Before you bolt over
the edge you hear "Wait. Please. Come back."
Get used to this, too.
A few shifts later another half-sung plea comes. You answer, but after that last time you're keeping
score. Good things. Good things. Bad things. You're playing 'duck duck goose' with minutes. Many
fabulous meals you can't eat and games you don't win follow.
And you're keeping track of everything, being scientific about it. How is she doing this? Where is she
from? Why is she here? You are going to figure her out.
The data compiles. She's careless when she's casual--that is, if she's really trying to hide things. You
never get direct answers to questions, so you pick it up in incidents. You make a list.
*Her wardrobe is the height of night-on-the-town party dresses, which change from season to season.
From the way they change you determine that she lives in North America.
*Her accent, eastern and fast, narrows it further.
*Analysis from a bit of mud you took off her boot reveals her terrestrial stomping grounds as being
'coastal', 'northeast', 'urban'.
*On visits 217 and 230 she gave it all away. First you find the half-done crossword from the Boston
Globe and then you find the empty envelope from Massachusetts Combined Utilities Cooperative.
*She lives in a pricey townhouse off the Commons. Big money. Probably new money, too.
*To you she is rather refined, but this is no society flower. Her apparent joy at speaking when
belching tells you that.
*This woman has no actual job. There was a one time reference to volunteer work she does three
days a week.
*As for the science, she never gets lost when your speech degenerates into technical jargon, as it
often does. (You talk about work a lot. Too much.)
*Once she burped out the words 'intraspacial field dynamics induction processing module'. It was a
hell of a belch.
*She says that you're the only person she's seen lately. You know she doesn't have a social life...
Because she spends every night sitting at the kitchen table, dressed to the nines, waiting... for him. You
meet him, too. Sort of. You meet his credentials, at least. He's a doctor, a lawyer, an Indian chief. He's
She becomes especially agitated with you at any time she is sure that the great he is due for a visit. This
is her at her worst. Bad things. Bad things. Bad things. You go away until summoned again.
You have some pride, too. There are initials before AND after your name. You are one of 30 members
of the human race who make their living up here. You size up poorly to no man.
'Noman' is what you have taken to calling him. You have blundered by on some occasions where she is
sure Noman is due, just to get a load of this joker. It's always the same horrible sight. She's alone,
sobbing. Her expression could melt paint.
Having learned your lesson from the first time, you never approach her when she's like this. The first few
times you were encouraged by this sight: after all, your 'rival' was a perpetual no show. However, as the
shifts turned into hundreds of shifts, all you could wish was that he did show up. She shouldn't be like
this. Someone should be here. Even if that someone isn't you.
But it's you she calls. You never ask why. Raw fear. Besides, you want her to call. Normally things carry
on as if there was no interruption. The reality of these interactions helps feed the possibility of a fantasy
At the last meeting she couldn't keep her happy face on. Her part of the conversation dead-ended. Due
to wanton negligence she was losing the game. She almost mustered the poise to create an excuse to
excuse herself before her eyes sprouted tears and she ran off crying. You didn't have to ask for an
That was it! You assigned Noman a deadline. He doesn't show. You drive to test the reality of
The arrangements get set up in short order. You have vacation time coming. You're going to visit her at
her townhouse in Boston. You are going to walk right up and knock on her door; dressed in a new
Stetson, a set of gaudy Tony Llama boots, a bright silk shirt and a new string tie. Y'all will have a limo
waiting, yonder. You're going to give whatever one of them night-on-the-town dresses she has on a
purpose. And then...
Women. You never gave much thought to women prior to meeting her, except in your crudest phases.
Whenever you did, you asked yourself the same question your parents asked you whenever you
demanded a sibling: 'Wouldn't you rather have a puppy?'
This is how you got to be an only child with 7 dogs.
You don't want a puppy. This is the part of your life where you do what you've done with your career to
the rest of your life. Test the limits, enter the contest between need and ability. All desires demand a
D-day minus 6 shifts.
She called just as you arrived at the tower. You mean to get back to her after your work is completed.
But work drags on. Something is wrong at the tower: an electrical pandemic strikes all of its systems all
at one time. You never do find the cause. It takes you 3 straight shifts just to get things up and running
You give giving her a pass a thought. You are beat. But you want to tell her that you're going on
vacation. Just to see how she reacts. It will be a quick visit, you decide.
Her mountain is gone.
You know you're in the right place, but you check the heads-up map anyway. This can't be happening!
Maybe none of it did? But you have pictures of her, readings, a whole incidental history--all of it
None of it's been scrutinized. You've kept her to yourself. Do you really want to find out if you've lost it?
You can go back to the tower and see if that box of data you keep on her is still there.
What would that solve?
As you lumber toward where her mountain should be, you think of your happy fantasy, of knocking on
that townhouse door all duded up. It's better that this ended here. How foolish would you have felt
banging about the Boston Commons only to find what you're finding now?
Questions can remain for later as to whether or not she was ever here. But there can be no question
that she's left you.
It's a deliberate act on someone's part.
You are now at the center of the space her mountain once took up. Up you stare through the
monumental absence, see only stars and become certain that there is no one who loves you now.
"Serve me now as I want or I'm leaving," speaks a man's voice, gruff and somewhat distant.
It's her voice that responds, also distantly "Why did you bring her?!"
"It doesn't matter to me, so what does it matter?" he answers.