Author : Cosmo Smith

Somewhere, hundreds of feet below, the drying of seaweed soured the air. Elias breathed in deeply and smiled. It reminded him of better times.

He was curled in a hammock at the end of the promenade of the Chateau de Lin. Only a terrace with a low parapet separated Elias from a drop to the water that made his toes tingle. The setting of the sun had spread violet bruises over the ocean’s skin, the water so still right now that the seven visible moons were reflected almost perfectly on its surface.

Elias held up his wine glass, squinting through it to see how its curvature would change the shape of the moons. Then he tipped it until the water within touched its lip, only surface tension keeping it in. That was Luna in a wine glass, he thought. Just a planetful of Lunaeans, and some humans now, trying to reap what they could from the fertile soil before the next alignment of the moons brought the tides. Lunaeans? No, Lunatics. He almost laughed, but the pain stopped him. Instead, he touched his side, felt the metal there under skin that was still too tender.

The aide Remis found him after Ferrid, the darkest moon, had set. Elias’ consciousness had been waning, and he pretended to sleep as Remis settled into a chair beside him. Any of the others, he knew, would have woken him and taken him inside, but Remis sat in silence.

“You really shouldn’t be out here,” Remis said at last.

Elias smiled slyly and opened his eyes. He had expected Remis to be looking at him, but the man was observing the ocean. His eyes glowed in the moonlight.

“Says who?”

“Ri’a, Thom, everyone. It’s bad for your lungs.”

“It’s wonderful,” Elias said, breathing in loudly. And it’s not because of my lungs, you slump. They want me away from that low railing. But he liked Remis, and so he said, “It’s weird you know, the name Luna.”

“How’s that?”

“Us Lunaeans, we have no word for moon. In our language, the moon and the stars are the same. Some nights the moons are as bright as the sun. And the sizes…who’s to say that all those stars aren’t just smaller moons circling this planet?”

Remis grinned. “I’ve heard of this. An old idea of yours.”

“We still teach it to the children.”

“I believe you, but it’s wrong nonetheless.”

“I know. You know I’ve been out there. I’ve seen it. And it’s not for us, being out there. I don’t think you understand that, the way you recruit us. We feel dry afterwards. And this?” He winced as he felt his chest again. “Eight months. They say they don’t understand my anatomy.”

Remis nodded. “You fought well, though.”

“It wasn’t my fight.” My fight was here, on this planet. Can’t you see that? Watching the oceans breathe in and out; racing the alignment. That is all that matters. That is what we live for. “We never asked to go to space.”

Remis sighed. “You say this as though it’s directed at me.”

“It is.”

“But it’s not.” A pause, and then. “And you’re free to leave when you choose.”

This time Elias did laugh, and then winced. “You know I can’t. I’m of no use like this.”

“They won’t take you back?”

Elias said nothing.

Eventually, Remis left, leaving Elias curled up in his hammock like a shriveled piece of seaweed. His eyes watched as the moons traced their paths through the darkness, and below, in their lethargic way, the oceans responded.

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