Asteroid C#41 had never given much thought to the Earth’s moon, its bland seas and large areas of permanent shadow. The takeaway from his recently completed course called “The Inner Celestial” was to be mindful of the difference between internal and reflected light, so C#41, traveling outside of his asteroid belt for the first time, focused on his pinlit core, his no-fade star, his inner bud. The moon, with its obsequious bulge and its one eye forever turned toward Earth, could do with a lesson or two about the self, or at least a “Go Inward” bumper sticker. For wasn’t the sun actually the thing responsible for the moon’s crescented identities? Pshaw.
Its very name, “moon,” was so inelegant, so Germanic, and it referenced nothing, no mythological God, mathematician or animal. “Moon” sounded more like a sound effect than a great astral body. The moon, as it was often called, implied that there was only one. In the whole freaking entirety of the enormous gargantuan universe, there’s no such thing as “only one.” Even his name, C#41, with the dapper number sign, stood for something. At the very least it contained a prime number.
C#41 flew through space at 100,000 miles an hour. That’s a one, with five zeroes after it. Man, am I cruising. The galaxy is my temple. The cosmos spread out before him like an endless sheet of Mylar. Faraway in time, twinkles of light darted in and out.
As the moon came into view, C#41 was taken aback by its size. Nothing had prepared him for a sight like this. Mongo! Maybe it was a special rock after all. Hugging the rough terrain, C#41 became a stealth bomber. He was agile. He was buoyant. He hunted the quiet cliffs and detonated pretend charges in the grey seas. He left tracks on the moon’s face, zigzagging across the surface, and found center while balancing on the edge of a crater. Hee hee, look at me!
Determined to see the moon’s infamous backside, C#41 spun around tightly and skirted over to the Moon’s private half—its rare rib-eye. How effortless was the passage into nothingness. The sun, the earth, everything, suddenly disappeared behind a velvet haze. Then came the sound of one enormous Pop Rock going off. C#41 puffed himself up and shugged like a threatened comet. Distant little lights flashed, or he imagined them. Some red, some blue, some insanely bright. C#41 had always heard that in total and utter darkness the mind creates colors—gumballs, jewels, ribbons of light—to keep from wigging out.
Holistically C#41 started to feel bad. Clearly some darknesses were more comfortable than others. He longed for something tangible, some passing debris he could hold in front of him, to make sure he was still here, and the moon there. There. C#41 tried to get his bearings. He looked back at where he thought the moon had been, and prepared to resume his journey. And then suddenly, he couldn’t.
There was a squish followed by the feeling of having stepped in the universe’s largest wad of gum. The more C#41 struggled, the more the elastic pulled at him. The gooeyness sucked. And sucked and sucked. C#41 let out a yelp, and rising up from this awful nougatine came the giant turkey baster known as Gravity, which up and shoved itself into C#41’s radiance, pumping, pumping, pumping away all his light.
C#41 urged his parts to go. He visualized his core. But he continued to fall, faster and faster as the Moon’s terrible darkness accelerated toward him. C#41 cried as his mind turned to physics. Help me! Somewhere, someone was able to calculate the rate of this dumb fall, the gleeful time remaining before impact. Yes, C#41 had heard of slingshot trajectories and celestial bodies simply vanishing, but physics, together with history, had been his worst subject in school. He had resisted the idea of studying things that were invisible. Like gravity. Dumb. Or had no mass. Massless dark matter was the most absurd, even if it was supposedly the only thing keeping the universe spinning evenly like an old jazz LP.
Yet physics, C#41 recalled, could also be beautiful: sun flares, the surface tension of soapy water, magnetic levitation. C#41’s final thought was of a milk crown, the beautiful splash made when a drop of milk falls onto a hard surface—so short-lived, so porcelain perfect and visible only in slow motion. In slow, meaningless motion.
Poof. C#41 shattered with the arid fury of a virgin jawbreaker. The moon stood firm. Portions of C#41 drifted as far away as Mars, and the larger unnamed space bodies chased after the pieces, collecting and placing them in orbit around themselves. Dust rained on Earth for days, but not a single car alarm sounded. Across the continents, nearly every chicken screamed: It’s disaster! Today, the sky was really falling.
Angie Lee is an artist and writer living in Los Angeles. Raised on the top of a water tower in Los Alamos, New Mexico, Angie holds an MFA from Cal Arts and has exhibited in both the US and Europe. Her work has been published in Witness, Giant Robot, El Portal Literary Journal, and the Chamber Four Fiction Anthology. She blogs about art, bikes, Chinese tea, espresso, and dogs at moonquake.org.