Author: Jeremy Marks

No safety or surprise, the end
-The Doors

Our city was built to live with water, water and ice. Our city was an engineering marvel, a hydraulic metropolis. It managed the drainage of two rivers, two giant serpents slithering through our streets during the annual spring melt.

Our city was mere minutes from the shores of a glacial lake, an ancient sump that swelled in the spring like a mother rabbit, a guppy prepared to give live birth. The rivers and that sump would mingle, mingle and merge and we were ever ready.

Our main streets doubled as rinks. In winter, we would skate to work, spare our skies the discharge of burning coal and oil. Our lamps never burned gas. Every one of our buildings was translucent, soaking up lumens from the sky. We had four seasons then. Four seasons and a single moon.

Now we have only one season. One season and two moons.

The first moon, known simply as “Moon” gave birth to a second, a “child moon.” This happened after someone detonated charges beneath the lunar surface. We were told that this was done in search of precious minerals, rare Earth metals grown scarce down here. But those charges were too great and the moon split apart, inviting our end . . . for you can imagine the impact of two moons on our planetary tides.

Now we live with water, water being our only season. The rivers, that great lake have become a single beast, slithering across the landscape like quicksilver. Our lives are lived in a tub: turn on the taps, unstopper the drain. We rise and fall on half a league of water each day. But we know that all of this is temporary.

The child moon has spurned its mother, choosing our dear Earth for its parent. Every day it comes closer, stalking the magnetic skirts of our atmosphere. When it crosses the Kármán line, that transparent boundary between breathable air and the vacuum of space, our experts say everything will be over.

Engineers and planners, formerly the most rational of folk, gathered today in our downtown. They shook their fists, tore their hair and swore at the sky. They spurned the moon and spat upon the water, claiming that a great hand would come down and spirit them away. God is an engineer who cannot allow so many great minds to perish. The Lord is lonely and he is jealous, they insist.

Other folk, a mixture of young and old, sat on boards and practiced Yoga. They meditated and intoned, hammering at tablas and strumming tamburas, sending out a message of peace. They love the child moon. The many Yogis now in our midst, insist that our city is paved with copper pennies and we should make one collective wish.

Tonight I sit on my roof watching the moon approach. It is now so big, there is almost nothing else in the sky. Our city bobs up down like fishing bobbin, the water rocking us all in our temporary cradle. On other roofs, other witnesses like myself light tiny fires that we press to our lips. Our fragrant prayers smudge the sky; we grow light-headed with this ritual. There will be no Deus ex machina, no second act. I know the performance is over.

The sky groans like a mother in childbirth. There is a deafening blast across the azimuth. Far away, someone has their finger on a button. We’ve been promised a thousand rockets that will birth a new republic. A leader says, “It will be the greatest show you’ll ever see.” The greatest show on Earth.

Closing my eyes, I feel the air shudder and remember a bedtime story from childhood.

Goodnight stars
Goodnight air
Good night noises everywhere