The Wobbling Moon

Author: Mark Thomas

The boy and his robot companion walked along the ruined wall to a school complex, as they did every morning.

“Here it is,” the companion said. He pointed to a spot where the stonework changed subtly.

“I still don’t see it.” The boy looked closer. “I mean, the blocks are a little more uniform, and they’re more neatly stacked, but they’re still just stacked.”

“Look at the edge of this particular stone, where it’s been broken. See?”

For several days, the robot companion had been trying to point out the architectural evolution of this rubble wall, at a point in the moon’s ancient history where original inhabitants had improved their building techniques.

“Ooooooh,” the boy said, suddenly understanding. “There’s a hollow in the top brick and a little bump in the lower one. That’s what you’ve been getting at. You’re very clever.” He brushed his finger along the fracture in the stone, feeling tool abrasions that were thousands of years old.

“Careful!” The companion suddenly grabbed the boy’s wrist and pulled it back sharply.

“What is it?” The boy wasn’t particularly concerned. This moon had absolutely no large fauna, so he hadn’t developed a healthy dread of his environment, like inhabitants of other colonies. This moon’s indigenous population was merely a collection of worms and beetles. All of those creatures were capable of defensive stings and bites but young minds had difficulty connecting the mild initial wounds with ensuing infection.

The colonists had been forced to replace visceral fear with patient instruction.

The robot companion elongated his fingers and inserted them into the fissure and carefully probed around. After a moment he withdrew a flat, purple scarab and held it up for the boy to inspect.

“How did you know it was in there?”

The companion pointed to a faint discolouration in the rock. “There are traces of its spoor.”

The boy slapped the robot on its shoulder in a friendly fashion. “Well, you shouldn’t have let me stick my fingers in there, then.”

The robot’s face froze for an instant while it processed the complex information. It wasn’t easy to maneuver through the potential dangers of a new landscape, and preserve the fragile psyche of a developing child. “Point taken. I apologize.”

The boy didn’t want any friction to develop in his relationship with the companion so he quickly refocused his attention on the specimen. “It’s the hairs on the back legs that sting?” he asked.

“Yes.”

The boy recalled an earlier lesson. “And you really believe these little creatures ate the people who built the stone walls?”

“I don’t know if it’s proper to call the old inhabitants people at all.” The companion couldn’t help sounding pedantic. “There are absolutely no remains, so we can’t determine what they looked like.” The companion pointed upwards to a cloudless, blue morning sky where three of the planet’s nine moons were visible. “The environmental change was catastrophic, that’s all we know for sure. I personally attribute it to the eccentric orbits of the moons.”

“They wobble,” the boy said giggling, remembering a much earlier interchange.

The robot companion calculated the trajectories of the three satellites as they moved imperceptibly towards the horizon. “Yes,” he smiled.

“And…and…” the boy was laughing uncontrollably now as he mentally replayed one of their favourite conversations from the past, when the companion was more likely to tell outrageous stories than lecture him about alien biology. “It’s as if we all woke up one morning, and instead of tubers…” The boy couldn’t continue.

“I ate you for breakfast,” the companion added, sadly.

2 Comments

  1. LukeSaysMoo

    I don’t get the ending at all.

  2. SimonJM

    You lost me with the final two paragraphs. Up until then it was intriguing with a certain charm.

Submit a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Random Story :

The Past

365tomorrows launched August 1st, 2005 with the lofty goal of providing a new story every day for a year. We’ve been on the wire ever since. Our stories are a mix of those lovingly hand crafted by a talented pool of staff writers, and select stories received by submission.

The archives are deep, feel free to dive in.

Flash Fiction

"Flash fiction is fiction with its teeth bared and its claws extended, lithe and muscular with no extra fat. It pounces in the first paragraph, and if those claws aren’t embedded in the reader by the start of the second, the story began a paragraph too soon. There is no margin for error. Every word must be essential, and if it isn’t essential, it must be eliminated."

Kathy Kachelries
Founding Member

Submissions

We're open to submissions of original Science or Speculative Fiction of 600 words or less. We only accepting work which you previously haven't sold or given away the rights to. That means your work must not have been published elsewhere, either in print or on the web. When your story is accepted, you're giving us first electronic publication rights and non-exclusive subsequent publication rights. You retain ownership over your story. We are not a paying market.

Voices of Tomorrow

Voices of Tomorrow is the official podcast of 365tomorrows, with audio versions of many of the stories published here.

If you're interested in recording stories for Voices of Tomorrow, or for any other inquiries, please contact ssmith@365tomorrows.com