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The Earthling Who Came to Dinner
A man on the moon believes that climate disasters have ruined Earth, until a young visitor shakes up his worldview.
It started out like any other Sunday. The sun was shining brightly, the air was still, and the earth was beginning to rise. Harold Smith was mowing the lawn, like he did every Sunday afternoon. He looked out past the edge of the dome and across the Sea of Tranquility. The vast grey plain of dust extended in all directions. How did the 20th-century explorers describe this place? Majestic desiccation? No, magnificent desolation, that was it.
Earth skulked low on the horizon. White fingers of water vapor swirled ominously over the Atlantic Ocean. A brown swath of North America glared upward from a break in the clouds. He did not dare to imagine what havoc was being wrought down there. He still remembered what he’d learned of Earth History back at the Academy. Once-great civilizations were ravaged by fire, famine, and flood. Human society may well have collapsed entirely, had not the first lunar colonists established the Moon Corporation to preserve their way of life.
He looked back to his lawn. The grass was thick and green, maintained at precisely the height recommended in the Moon Corp Employee Code. Not a single weed in sight. He inhaled deeply and smiled to himself.
Then he heard a sudden clunk and a loud bang.
“Son of a…” he murmured, looking down at the lawnmower.
It was the fourth time the thing gave out all year. He hit the off switch, then crouched beside it to get a look at the engine. It smelled sharply of synthfuel.
Could be a faulty cylinder. Possibly a bad carburetor. Moon gravity sometimes did funny things to machines. Maybe the whole mower was shot, and it was time to treat himself to a newer model. He’d been seeing lawnmower ads on his feed for weeks.
It would have to wait. His wife Lulu was waving to him from the window. She was grimacing with a familiar strain that he knew signaled not only that she was displeased but also that she wished to share the source of her displeasure.
At least he had almost finished with the mowing. Only a small patch by the front door was still looking a little shabby. He would sort it out next time. He walked back into the house. To someone on Earth, it might have seemed his steps had an extra spring in them from lower gravity, but Harold had lived his entire life on the moon. That was all he knew.
He still remembered what he’d learned of Earth History back at the Academy. Once-great civilizations were ravaged by fire, famine, and flood.
He returned the mower to its spot in the garage next to the family roverpod and went inside to meet Lulu in the living room. She was wearing a black blouse and a ruffled silver skirt, reminiscent of the early lunar pioneers. She smiled, but her demeanor still seemed strained.
“The mower’s on the fritz again,” he told her, “We may need to get a new one.”
“What a pity,” she said, “but I’ve been seeing some beautiful new models on my feed. We can tend to it later.”
Clearly she was distracted. She was normally quite eager to make new purchases. They both were. Shopping was one of their favorite hobbies.
After a pause, she said, “Johnny called a little while ago. He’ll be joining us for dinner this evening.”
“Won’t that be a treat,” said Harold. “We haven’t seen him for weeks. He’s been working so hard down at the mines. He’s a real asset to Moon Corp, you know.”
“Yes, I know,” said Lulu, “but there’s one more thing,”
“Johnny says he’ll be bringing a friend with him.”
“The more the merrier.”
“Not just any friend. This friend is a girl...”
“Yes, well sometimes they have young women working in the mines. Nothing extraordinary about that in this day and age. It’s healthy for a young man Johnny’s age to be socializing with young women.”
“You haven’t let me finish, Harold. She’s from Earth.”
He put down his feedscreen, which he’d been haphazardly scrolling. “From Earth?” he confirmed.
“Yes, Johnny says she’s from Earth. She showed up on a supply freighter a few weeks ago, and she’s been working in the mines ever since.”
“Well, that is odd indeed. I haven’t met anyone from Earth in a long time.”
“Oh, me neither. I just haven’t any idea how to host a guest from Earth. I don’t know how she’ll take to a respectable Moon Corp home like ours, with all the horrors she must have seen down there. What do you suppose they eat on Earth these days? Rats and cockroaches? A proper home-cooked meal will probably overwhelm the poor girl. Do you think she’d enjoy my famous casserole?”
“Anyone would enjoy your casserole, dear. It’s magnificent.”
She let herself bask in a moment of self-satisfaction. “Still, we must do our very best to make sure she’s comfortable. If our Johnny has taken a shine to her, then I’m sure she’s special. One of the good ones, who made it off that wretched planet. We’ll need to welcome her with our utmost hospitality.”
“Of course, dear.”
Harold spent the rest of the afternoon helping his wife to prepare dinner and tidy the house. The Moon Corp Employee Code recommended that employees’ non-working spouses handle household chores, so that employees could better focus on their contributions in the workplace, but Harold liked to help out where he could.
He grabbed a few onions from the pantry, which were as big as softballs but tinged with grey, since they were grown in artificially enriched lunar soil. As he chopped them, he did not want to think about Earth and its ravaged resources, yet he could think of nothing else. He recalled the historical news clips and social media posts that he’d seen at the Academy. Those antique missives conveyed so much division, so much strife, and an overall sense that the entirety of human progress had reached the verge of collapse. In response, his forebearers had created a paradise on the moon, harking back to the 20th century Golden Age on Earth, and now he was living their lunar dream. How could anyone still tolerate Earth? What had it become? He wiped a few tears from his cheek, uncertain whether they were elicited by his thoughts of Earth or just the moon-grown onions.
Those antique missives conveyed so much division, so much strife, and an overall sense that the entirety of human progress had reached the verge of collapse.
The doorbell rang at precisely six o’clock. The Moon Corp Employee Code had a long section on punctuality, which every member of the Smith family took very seriously. A dinner guest should always arrive at six o’clock. By that hour of the day, the life domes had just begun to dim for the evening, making it officially night-time. Moon Corp set it up that way to better simulate a 24-hour daily rhythm.
Lulu opened the door with a warm and emphatic greeting. Her son was standing outside, the mysterious woman from Earth trailing behind him.
“Hi, Mom,” said Johnny. He was wearing a neatly tucked button-down shirt and slacks, just like he used to wear to Sunday School at Tranquility Church. His hair was well trimmed and parted on the left side. He looked like he had stepped directly out of one of the “Tips for Clean Living” illustrations in the Moon Corp Employee Code.
“Oh, it’s so wonderful to see you dear,” said Lulu, her glow fading for a moment as she glanced at the guest he had brought. “Please, come in, both of you.”
Johnny came into the house with the young woman from Earth. When she stepped into the living room, the Smiths were able to get their first good look at her. Harold caught himself feeling surprised that she wasn’t white, like his family and most other people he knew. She didn’t seem to fit any of the racial categories he was familiar with. He also noticed that her skin looked surprisingly radiant for someone who’d been working in the mines. Her outfit showed off her arms and shoulders. The top was made of a rich green fabric that clung to her frame, held up by a single thick strap. She also wore tight leggings in a deep shade of blue. This young woman’s look was unconventional, but Harold had to admit it was stylish. Her hair was crafted into points of various sizes, which framed her face like a starburst.
“Mom and Dad, I’d like you to meet Terra,” said Johnny.
“Thank you for inviting me into your home,” she said sweetly, and then approached each of them and shook their hands with an easy and assured confidence.
“Your name is Terra?” chuckled Mr. Smith. “How fitting, for someone from Earth!”
Terra laughed along, politely. “Folks have been saying that ever since I got here. It’s hypercommon back on Earth. I even grew up with a few Gaias. No better namesake than Mother Earth herself.”
Lulu had looked quizzical ever since Terra entered the house. “You’re quite a pretty girl, aren’t you, dear,” she observed, “Much prettier than I would imagine. Where is it exactly that you come from?”
“I come from Earth,” she said flatly.
“Of course, you do, my dear. But where on Earth? It’s such a big place.”
“Oh, yes, so much history there. Both Harold and I have American heritage, you know, from back before our ancestors came to the moon. And you, my dear? Where is your family from?”
“I was bornraised in DC, just like my parents. My grandparents were bornraised in DC, too. I’ve had family there since before they had full voting rights.”
Mr. and Mrs. Smith kept looking at Terra expectantly. Johnny looked perturbed but remained quiet.
“But if you’re asking about my ethnicity…it’s a mix. Some of my ancestors were enslaved. The rest were immigrants. Some of them came to the US from Mexico and Ethiopia seeking safeasylum, others came from India and parts of Europe seeking moneychances.”
“Well, seems like you’re quite the mutt, dear,” said Lulu.
Harold knew that his wife had not intended the comment as an insult, yet he sensed in Terra a flicker of anger and exhaustion, though she hardly let it show.
“I’m proud of my heritage, just like you are,” she said. Her tone remained courteous, but she threw a stern glance at Johnny, who was still standing by quietly.
“Terra, would you like a tour of the house?” he chirped, with maybe a little too much excitement. “I can show you my old room. I bet I could dig up my collection of astronaut cards. I used to love those when I was a kid.”
“Let’s see ‘em,” she said, lightening up a bit.
“Dinner will be on the table in twenty minutes,” called Lulu, as the pair bounded down the hall with lengthy moon strides.
Alone with his wife in the living room, Harold was unsure what to say about their guest. A silence hung in the air between them.
“That girl is not at all what we expected,” said Lulu.
“Certainly not,” he agreed. “Shall we set the table?”
This young woman’s look was unconventional, but Harold had to admit it was stylish. Her hair was crafted into points of various sizes, which framed her face like a starburst.
Exactly twenty minutes later, Lulu placed a freshly baked casserole onto the dining room table, with a crisp yellow layer of cheese on top. Everyone else sat around the table, and she scooped steaming portions for each of them. Like everything on the moon, the food fell slowly and settled gently onto their plates. Harold could see that this delighted Terra, but he didn’t understand why.
“Now, tell me, Terra,” he asked, “What exactly brings you to the moon?”
“My parents sent me here for mindgrowth,” she said, between bites of casserole. Harold noticed that she slipped into looser and earthier language when she got excited. He also noticed that Johnny seemed transfixed on every word she said. “I just wrapped my third year of factstudy at the U of New Miami. My pref was to join the PSC—that’s the Planetary Service Corps—but M and P made me wait, said that I’d have time for bettermaking and humangood after graduation. I think they just wanted me to get scarified by what happened to my uncle and have some thankitude for what I’ve got.”
“What happened to your uncle, dear?” said Lulu, with sympathetic concern.
“He came out here in his rebelteen years because he was arguefighting with my gramps. Now he’s a shift manager at the Apollo Mines. He’s got me chipping away for minerals for no pay. Calls it an ‘internship.’”
“Oh, so you’re an intern!” said Harold, pouncing on a term he recognized amidst Terra’s earthslang. “I realize it’s not glamorous, but everyone’s got to start somewhere. You know, if you work hard, you could really climb the ladder at Moon Corp.”
He caught Johnny rolling his eyes. He knew how his son felt about his life lectures, but he kept going, because he felt it was important for a father to share his wisdom with the younger generation.
“Johnny probably told you that he got a promotion this year, and now he’s starting to pay back his Academy debt. I’ve almost paid mine completely. At the very least, with some good hard work, you could move past the room-and-board plan and start to earn a real salary.”
Terra pursed her lips. “Yeah,” she said, “I know you play different out here. I did a bunch of factstudy on my infoscreen before I came, and now I’m eyesighting it, but I’m still not used to it. Back on Earth, school is free or at least hypercheap. Also we have a bunch of workleaders, not just a big monocorp, and they know they can only get strong talentdraw with comfortpay and flexstructure. And if they laborskimp, we have worker protection laws at every level.”
Harold remembered the clips he’d seen on his feedscreen that explained the corruption and complexity that had long plagued Earth’s governments. It was the least he could do to help this young woman see the light.
“You might see those regulations as protection, young lady, but it sounds to me like red tape,” he explained. “On the moon, we’ve done away with the harsh restrictions of Earth. Up here, Moon Corp operates efficiently, without having to answer to a bunch of bloated bureaucrats. That’s what real freedom looks like, and I’m glad you’re here to see it.”
Terra looked at him in disbelief, but not the sense of awe that he would have expected from someone who had just escaped from under the thumb of an oppressive Earth government. Then she let loose a loud chuckle, covering her mouth with a napkin to stop bits of casserole from flying out.
He felt a twinge of shame upon hearing her laughter, despite his confidence in his convictions. Terra must have seen the discomfort flash across his face and muted her amusement.
“Do you really trust Moon Corp to run this place more than you would trust elected leaders?” she asked.
Harold could tell that she was channeling her skepticism into genuine curiosity. This earthling had been fed a diet of wild Earth ideas that had soured her on Moon living, but at least she was doing her best to hear him out.
“Of course!” he answered. “Governments failed the people of Earth, but Moon Corp took action. They used technology to make the moon somewhere we could survive, with life domes and lunar soil enrichment. They built a whole new industry around moon mining, steering the Earth economy away from the brink of chaos. What did elected leaders ever do to solve Earth’s problems?”
Terra took a deep breath. ”You’re right,” she admitted. “Earth got all junked up in the 21st century: the climate crisis, wave after wave of episickness, rampant inequality. It was a toxicocktail of failmesses caused by centuries of socioracism and petrocapitalism. And most leaders weren’t doing dirt about it. Your ancestors came out here to escape, and I don’t blame them. Shit sucked.”
“Please, dear, watch your language,” admonished Lulu.
“Sorry, sorry, I know you’re not into realtalk and earthslang out here. With your preshy Employee Code and all that. I’ll try to make my point your way. What I’m saying is that the world was hyperbroke…very broken, I mean, but the folks who stuck around—my grandparents’ grandparents—they fixed it, and the first thing they did was build better, stronger institutions. They created governments and organizations that truly worked for the people, from multinational diplomacy all the way down to community organizing.”
“Oh, you poor girl,” said Lulu, “It seems like your traumatic upbringing has made you susceptible to some very silly notions. The Moon Corp Employee Code calls that…what’s the term, dear?”
“The Cult of Collectivism,” said Harold, with a firm nod.
“Yes, the Cult of Collectivism. Such a shame that it’s still corrupting the bright young minds of Earth. You seem like a smart girl. The moon is a place of boundless opportunity for anyone who’s willing to put in the effort. You could accomplish so much here if you just studied the Moon Corp Employee Code and learned how to…”—she eyed Terra’s starkly asymmetrical outfit for a moment—“fit in. Maybe you could even find a nice young man and build a home.”
She shifted her glance to Johnny, who let out an embarrassed grunt.
“Mom, please,” he said, “Living on Earth actually seems pretty swell. A lot of what we’ve been told about life down there is outdated or wrong. Terra has been telling me about what she calls factstudy, and it seems like some of the stuff they teach at the Moon Corp Academy is pure junkfacts.”
“Don’t speak ill of the Academy, son,” said Harold. It was the first time he’d ever heard his son talk that way, and he didn’t like it.
“…the first thing they did was build better, stronger institutions. They created governments and organizations that truly worked for the people, from multinational diplomacy all the way down to community organizing.”
“Maybe we shouldn’t have such a heavy conversation at the dinner table,” said Lulu. “You know what they say, Earth propaganda is bad for digestion.”
“No one says that, Mom,” said Johnny, rolling his eyes.
“Well, your mother is saying it now, and you should listen,” said Harold. Then he turned to their guest, eager to change the subject. “How do you like the casserole, Terra?”
“It’s yum,” she affirmed. “Mrs. Smith, what kind of protein is this?”
“Why, it’s beef, dear,” said Lulu. “The real stuff, from the farming domes in the Sea of Fecundity.”
Terra put down her fork. “You still eat cowbeef out here?”
“Certainly, dear! I imagine you don’t get beef very often where you come from, but you surely must have it on special occasions.”
Terra shook her head, and then she grasped her stomach. Her whole body seemed to be reeling from the realization of what she had just consumed. “No one’s been able to sell cowbeef on Earth for decades,” she said.
“How absurd!” said Harold. “A ban on beef. How can you love your collectivist government so much if it determines what kind of food you eat?”
“Oh, no, Mr. Smith. Nobody banned beef. People just stopped buying it. Why bother raising and killing all those cows when we’ve got so many cleanproteins?”
“Dear, I’ve tried the substitutes that get imported from Earth,” said Lulu, “The weird patties made from a hodgepodge of plants and those abhorrent steaks grown in the lab. They taste alright, but there’s just something off about them. It makes me shudder just to think about food that’s so… unnatural.”
“Yeah, and what’s natural about a dome full of cows on the moon? I’ve seen clips from the factory farms they used to have back on earth. It’s some scarifying stuff. Cows packed together indoors, no space to move, full of growth hormones, spewing all sorts of airjunk from every hole they’ve got.”
Johnny spit out a mouthful of half-chewed casserole, which descended leisurely back to his plate. “Terra, why didn’t you say something sooner!?” he said. “Mom, is that really what happens in the farming domes?”
“Oh, honeybunch, don’t ask me. I’m not a farmer!” said Lulu. “All I know is how much it costs to order a package of ground chuck from the feedscreen.”
“Son, we’re very fortunate,” Harold explained, “The farming domes have been remarkably productive this year. Best to enjoy that bounty rather than ask too many questions about how the sausage is made…so to speak.”
He chuckled, then continued digging away at his portion of casserole.
Terra let out a sigh. “They used to think that way back on Earth, and it didn’t work out too well,” she said. “The food we eat, the stuff we make, the energy we generate—those choices have consequences. My ancestors learned that the hard way. To unjunk Earth, they all had to make better choices. Not just solo choices about day-to-day life but also communal choices about how to bettermake society.”
“There are choices, Terra, and then there are mandates,” Harold explained. “This is what I’ve been trying to tell you all evening. The changes you’re describing sound like mandates to me. They might get presented to you under some glamorous guise of the greater good, but they’re a form of tyranny.”
“I hear you, Mr. Smith,” Terra responded. “Back on Earth, there was a time we call the Great Fix, when everyone started getting hyperserious about bettermaking and humangood, but it was almost another failmess. Some governments made hyperstrict rules for everything. Folks hated it. There were waves of protests. After that, the governments let up a bit. They still made it harder and more expensive to junk the planet, but folks had more control over their lives and their workbusinesses. They could make the choices that were right for them.”
“Exactly, dear,” said Harold. “I think you’re understanding now. Up here, everyone can make their own choices all the time. Our Employee Code gives us some guidelines, but we choose for ourselves what we want to do.”
“But it’s not just government that blockstops choices, Mr. Smith. I didn’t choose to spend my time here digging up rocks and breathing in moondust, but my uncle told me that every Moon Corp employee starts in the mines. Even if you have a fancypro degree from the Academy, you start in the mines. Unless your parents are Moon Corp Execs. Then you get put onto the Exec track from the day you’re born. What kind of choice is that?”
“That’s just how life works, young lady. Some people like to pass along the benefits of their hard work to their children. I’d do the same for Johnny if I ever became a Moon Corp Executive. The important thing here is that when you work hard, you have the chance to succeed. What is it that you would be doing back on Earth? It sounds like some kind of forced public service?”
“It’s the Planetary Service Corps, and there’s nothing forced about it. Everyone on Earth can opt into three years of guaranteed work for social bettermaking, but most folks stay longer than that. The pay is hyperswank. On Earth, we get comfortpay for jobs that add to the humangood. PSC helped make that the norm. It’s been around ever since the Great Fix. A lot of the early PSC projects were about limiting airjunk.”
“Yes, it’s always about limits on Earth, isn’t it?” interrupted Harold. “This is what I’m trying to help you understand, young lady. You’ve got a mindset of scarcity, constantly worried about polluting too much or being left with too little. Up here, we live a life of abundance. Through the wonder of innovation, Moon Corp has been able to turn moon minerals into the synthfuel that powers our vehicles and homes, the enriched soil that grows our food. I know on earth you used up your oil and coal ages ago. That’s probably why you’re so concerned, but with moon minerals, we don’t have to worry. We can always dig up more, and when a dome gets filled with synthfuel fumes, we can launch it into space and build a new one.”
“Man, you’ve got it twisted every which way. We didn’t stop using fosfuels because we ran out. We stopped using them because we switched to better options: The lightshine of the sun, the moveflow of the air, the groundheat of the earth, the pushpull of the sea, and a hyperload more. Fosfuels had a good run, but the socioprice was too high. All the airjunking and the drillmining and the milindustrial warmaking. Eventually, it just made more sense to leave them in the ground.”
Now Mr. Smith was the one who was shocked. “Hold on, are you telling me that there are still fossil fuels on Earth, and you’ve left them in the ground? For decades?”
“Yeah, that’s for fact. We didn’t need ‘em, and we didn’t want ‘em.”
“Well, this is an interesting development. Very interesting. Sounds like there’s opportunity on Earth after all. An enterprising person could make some good money reclaiming all that lost value.”
“What? No. That’s a hyperbad idea. Maybe fosfuels were the way to go in the old days, but we’ve moved on since then. Same thing will happen with your moon minerals.”
“Preposterous!” Harold countered. “We’ll be mining moon minerals forever.”
“We didn’t stop using fosfuels because we ran out. We stopped using them because we switched to better options: The lightshine of the sun, the moveflow of the air, the groundheat of the earth, the pushpull of the sea, and a hyperload more.“
“Please, everyone, enough talk about the future,” begged Lulu. “Speaking of moving on, why don’t we have dessert? Look, I made a fruit pie.”
She held up a pie with neatly laid crisscrosses of pastry on top and a filling so red it was almost fluorescent.
Harold could tell that the back and forth between him and Terra had gotten more heated than he intended. He hadn’t meant to start an argument. He only wanted to help Terra reach a more enlightened perspective.
“I’ve eaten plenty for tonight,” said Terra. “I’m still feeling dizziated from that cowbeef. I think maybe I should go back to the mining dorms and lie down.”
“Terra, I hope you haven’t been upset by our conversation,” said Harold, feeling the need to explain himself. “I just meant to help clear up some of your harmful ideas.”
“Harmful to who, Mr. Smith?” she snapped. “Seems to me like you’re the one who needs mindgrowth. You think this place is a hyperlux society, looming high and mighty over Earth, but it’s not. It’s a time capsule on a remote rock, clinging to a life that Earth left behind ages ago. And it won’t last. Meanwhile, life on Earth is hypergood, and it’s only getting better. I hope some day you’ll come visit us there. But for now, I’m thinking I should jump.”
She strode towards the front door, and Johnny hurried after her. The Smiths stood up as well, unsure what to do with themselves. Harold wondered to himself what she had meant by “come visit us.”
“Johnny, I’m sorry,” Terra said softly at the doorway, “I tried to playpretend along with this old-school vibe, but I just can’t do it. I’m gonna head back to the mining dorms. I’m not just dizziated from cowbeef. I’m homesick. I can’t wait ‘til we get outta here.”
Before Johnny could respond, she flounced out the door. The blue-green flare of her outfit faded into the imposed nocturnal dimness of the dome. Harold saw the points of her hair bob slowly up and down as she leapt down the street, relishing in each amplified moon bounce.
Johnny looked apologetically toward his parents. “Mom, Dad, I need go with her,” he said. “She doesn’t realize she won’t be able to get back to the dorms without a personal roverpod. She’s still used to… what’s that system that they have on Earth?… public transportation. I’ll come back next weekend. We can have fruit pie then.”
“Wait, Johnny,” called Harold.
He meant to convey fatherly consternation, but instead his voice had a doleful quality, like he was reaching for something just beyond his grasp. Johnny stopped in the doorway and faced his parents, who were standing beside one another, at the opposite end of the front hallway.
“Why did Terra keep saying ‘we’ and ‘us’? ‘Come visit us,’ ‘Can’t wait until we get out of here?”
“Sorry, Dad, I meant to tell you over dinner,” said Johnny, unable to meet his father’s gaze, “but then dinner became a bit of a failmess. I might as well get it out now… Terra says that the future of humangood is on Earth, and I think she’s right. After she finishes her internship in the mines, I’m going to go back to Earth with her.”
“What?!” Lulu shrieked and dropped the pie she’d been holding. It fell slowly to the floor, and when it landed, sweetened fruit product splattered across the carpet.
“Moving to Earth!?” gasped Harold, “Look how you’ve upset your mother with this nonsense. What in the world would you do on Earth? I don’t suppose you’d be mining those stranded fossil fuels.”
“No, Dad. I’m going to join the Planetary Service Corps. I can learn about Earth by working on projects that make people’s lives better. They might even put me on a food farm or an energy farm. I’ll go anywhere with fresh air. And they accept moon colonists. I’ve already checked.”
“Johnny, you’ve been brainwashed by Earth propaganda. Your home is here on the moon. We can buy you anything you want. A new feedscreen? A better roverpod? What could you possibly find on Earth that you can’t get here?”
“A sense of purpose, Dad, for a start. Something better than spending six days a week in a mineshaft. My mind is made up. We can go over the details later, but right now I have to go find Terra. Please make sure Mom’s okay.”
Johnny hugged his father and then dashed out the door, cutting across the freshly mowed lawn to his roverpod.
Harold knelt down to console his wife, who was sobbing and ineffectively plucking globs of fruit product from the fibers of the carpet.
“Maybe I should use that new floor cleaning gizmo we bought last week,” she said, regaining some composure. “Where did we put it?”
She stood up and began rummaging through a closet.
Harold figured that Lulu needed some time to process the news. So did he. He went outside and sat on the front steps. The air in the dome was still, like always.
He looked up toward Earth. Most days, he paid no attention to it. The planet was just a backdrop, another object in the sky. He respected its role in humanity’s past, though he had never considered that it might have a role in humanity’s future. Yet, now that it was taking his son from him, he resented the faraway orb.
He focused his gaze on a sprawling patch of deep green at the top of South America. He remembered learning about that region at the Academy. It was called the Amazon Rainforest, and according to his lessons, it was an immense jungle teeming with ferocious beasts and impenetrable weeds. At one point in Earth History, it had almost been beaten back and tamed into farmland, but the Earthlings lost control and let it go wild again.
That evening, as much as he hated the idea of his son being so far away, he somehow found himself appreciating the undeniable beauty of that unruly jungle. He’d never seen anything so vibrantly and abundantly green. That distant splotch of color held a sense of lush possibility that the domes could never quite replicate. Is that what Johnny was chasing on Earth? He wasn’t sold on Terra’s collectivist ideas, but he knew that she was telling the truth. Earth wasn’t as bad as he’d been told.
He looked down at his lawn. It was a healthy shade of green, but it seemed pale and small compared to the distant forests of Earth. Still, the lawn was his. He owned it, and he could control it. He breathed a long sigh. In its own way—one that could be verified with the Moon Corp Employee Code—his little lawn on the moon was perfect.
Then he remembered the broken lawnmower. He pulled out his feedscreen and found one of the replacements he’d seen advertised earlier in the week. He didn’t even need to search for it. The suggestion was right there on his homepage. It was the latest model, twice as expensive as the current mower but with a bunch of new and improved features. He didn’t know exactly why these features were necessary, but this would certainly be a step up. It was exactly what he needed to take his mind off Johnny’s departure. He clicked the neon green “BUY” button at the top of his device, and for a fleeting moment, he was content.
“Earthrise - Apollo 8” by Justin Cowart, via Flickr