"So . . . what rhymes with moon?" 21st century poets

Neptune Blue
by Emily Lundgren ©2015

It's so boring here on the moon I might seriously blow my brains out. Like, okay, I would totally do it if I had anything to do it with, but I've only got two lint balls and a broken synthesizer knob in my pocket. So instead I'm just slumped over the counter watching Chrissy E zone on the kiosk floor and making a few moaning noises that indicate my pleading "just put me out of my misery, lunar Christ" attitude. Then I figure, well, it's not really worth it anyway since Chrissy E would probably be the one to find me dead and I'm not going to put that type of emotional baggage on someone who has to put up with Sven. I can be kind of low, you know, but I'm just not that kind of guy.

Well shit, then I'm thinking about Sven and how he doesn't know how good he has it while I watch the way his girlfriend counts up all of the cheap sunglasses on their rows twice. This is especially stupid and desperate because our wing android Dilla already keeps tabs on all the inventory. Really I mean, it's that boring here on the moon. Especially when you're working a wing kiosk that sells plastic toy keyboards and recorders. I'm sort of getting nauseous just watching her.

"Ick, lunar christ, will you please stop staring at me and find something to do?" says Chrissy E.

Ick. I grimace. I hate it when everyone calls me that. It caught on almost right after I started working the music kiosk a few months ago. I know, I know, things aren't looking good. The moon's a pit stop, just a shipyard and blasting off point for the rest of the local solar system-no one ends up here on purpose. But mostly I try not to think about it. How I'm supposed to be on Mars right now. How everything fell apart and I ended up working at what might as well be a glorified Earthen truck stop. I only got the job because I lied and said I used to be in piano tutor. A new low, or whatever.

"Here," says Chrissy E. She pushes a pair of sunglasses onto the counter in front of me. One of the ear stems has broken off. "Fix them," she says.

"Ugh, Cee, just make Dilla do it," I say, my new motto. I lay my head back down on the counter and close my eyes. Sometimes I think like, oh if I shut my eyes then no one can actually see me here.

"Lunar christ, Ick, I was only trying to help. I can't deal with your moody shit right now. I'm going on break." To visit Sven, which means she won't be back for another hour. He works at one of the other port wings at a burger joint I've always avoided, which means she'll have to use the tunnels and the rail. Whatever. People like Sven and Chrissy E-they don't get it. They might be some of the only employees who came here on purpose. She wants to be a flight attendant and Sven's a cadet or something working part-time. Yeah, sure.

There's a certain type of anxiety that really gnaws you from the inside out when you're bored on the moon. Maybe it's just the port pressure, or the noise of all the people bustling around you trying to catch their flights, going where you'll never go because you're stuck. And here of all places-this shithole crater floating around a second-rate planet. I should've tried leaving Earth years ago, back when I graduated. God like, what if someone sees me and recognizes me. What if they aren't even surprised. Or worse, what if they are... I morbidly imagine: Oh, but I thought you were leaving to live with your sister on Mars... I pound my forehead against the counter and hum. Sometimes I do that just to stop myself from thinking about things I don't want to think about.

Then like, out of nowhere I feel and hear someone dive underneath the kiosk counter space which really only fits one person-me-- and almost topple over. "What the shit," I say, peering on the floor. It wasn't just a someone, it was two someones. I sit up straight trying to think up something to say. Then I notice they don't seem to really care about me while they duck closer to the tile, one of them almost tucking themselves underneath my stool. "Hey," I decide on. Moderately effective. Only one of them looks. A girl. "Hey, fuck off." Can't you see I'm brooding here?

She's got big bright eyes. Neptune blues. Hair pale violet. I'm not really surprised or taken. I mean I work on a kiosk at a moon port so I've pretty much seen everything. Her mods look mild compared to most.

"I said, hey-"

"Shhh!" hisses the second someone, glaring up at me.

But by then I am sort of stunned into silence anyway. Another girl. Except I notice they aren't really girls, they're more like they're my age. Couldn't be younger than eighteen. And they're identical. Or they would be identical if one of them wasn't white as a piano key. The one that hissed at me has dark skin, like really dark. Her eyes are so brown they might as well be as black as her hair. Yin and yang. Night and day. All that sort of Earthen bullshit.

"Stay down, shoom, stay down," hisses Hiss to the other one.

Then I'm sort of looking up from my counter, feeling pretty weird, when I see Dilla bringing up the rear of at least five security droids. I try not to make eye contact but it's pretty hard when you're staring in slack-jaw wonder. "Ick!" calls Dilla, and then I'm acutely aware of Neptune Blue's shoulder touching my sneaker. She's so still she might as well be made of ivory. I don't look down.

"Dilla," I say, "what's up, man?"

He draws closer to the kiosk and I remember how grateful I am he isn't equipped with any security detector mods. Behind my counter might be one of the only spaces the port cameras aren't able to see since my kiosk is backed ups against the wall. Something tells me the women crammed hiding might've already guessed as much. "The security droids have informed me they're searching for a woman who is wanted by Interpol's SS branch-she might not be alone, and was last seen in our port wing." His tone sort of creeps me out. It's always too calm, like someone dialed up the boring on his personality chip.

"Cool," I say. "I mean, bummer, or whatever. I haven't seen anything." I don't know why I don't tell him I'm pretty sure one of the women stuffed behind my counter is the one you're looking for. I half-expect he'll catch me lying, like the security droids can-but then Dilla never really expects anything of me, which is typical. Nothing up here, just the usual kitsch.

He eyes me. "Let me know if you do, got it? Send an uplink."

"Yeah, right. Good luck, I guess." I watch him move after the droids and then I let out a deep sigh of breath I didn't realize I was holding. I look down and find both the women looking back up at me. That's when I notice Neptune Blue has a serial number down one of her cheeks, stamped in neat gold code, numbers dripping from her eye. "Oh shit," I say, "you're a ghost."

"Shhh!" hisses Hiss.

"Chill out, they're already gone," I tell her. But I'm still wary of Neptune Blue. I've never seen a ghost in person, but it's true they look just about human if it weren't for the cheek code, the bright eyes that might actually glow in the dark, and the uncanny stillness. But that's the point of ghosts. They're supposed to be able to pass. They were once alive, after all.

"They're gone?" says Hiss.

"Yeah, looks so. But I thought ghosts weren't allowed to leave Mars. Guessing she's the fugitive then, huh?" Neptune Blue won't stop staring up at me so I start to sort of regret the attention I gave her.

"Stop calling her that," says Hiss.

"Icabod," says Neptune Blue. She doesn't sound anything like Dilla, but has the same voice as Hiss. I'm sort of surprised she knows my name, but I don't really mind. She's sort of pretty for a ghost. I mean, so is Hiss. They don't really look like anyone around here. High cheekbones, bold jawlines, thin and lean like they're both the pinnacles of health and longevity. Even their rompers look new and crisp. Beats me. I remember I haven't showered in two days.

"Yeah, that's me," I say. "Icabod. I can't believe you guys got this far though, I mean, I think you'd kind of stick out in a crowd, right? How'd you get a ghost through security?"

"It's none of your business," says Hiss. "And she isn't a ghost, she's my sister."

"Oh, right," I say, looking at Neptune Blue. She's still staring at me. Then I get this unsettling feeling like she's speed reading a magazine. Like maybe she knows what I did last night thinking about Chrissy E. Just some little blurb in the passing months I've been bumming around on this stupid crater. No big deal, sure. "Um," I say, "is she okay?"

Hiss gives me a deeper glower. "No, she's not. Thank you for asking. She's just woken up inside of a brand new replica body after being dead for almost six months. Would you be okay?"

"Lunar christ, chill," I say. "I didn't ask for your life story." But it sounds crazy. Ghost tech is a hot on Earth since most of the research and the findings have been done on Mars. They keep saying they're still in the prototype phases, but then they've been saying that for almost a decade. Live forever, yadda yadda. Keeps the moon in business since everyone on Earth's getting nervous. Mars is the place to be. Not some trashed half-drowned resource drained waste of space.

"We need to keep moving," says Hiss. She takes the hand of Neptune Blue who finally looks away from me. I don't think I'll ever forget her strange stare. Hiss checks a comm on her wrist. "We've only got fifteen minutes..."

"Hey," I say. Then I'm shrugging off my hoodie and passing it off to Neptune Blue who takes it from me like she was expecting it. "Sorry it smells," I say. Then she smells it like I just told her to or something.

"Pine," she says.

Hiss's glower lightens up, but only a little. "Thanks," she says while Neptune Blue zips my hoodie up the front. The printing says MOON in white block lettering that only reminds me of her skin. I bought it back when I thought I was just passing through, then I just kept wearing it like my own personal prison jumpsuit. Neptune Blue pulls the hood over her head and tucks her away her violet locks.

"Take a pair of sunglasses on the way out," I tell her.

And she does.

Then before they go she turns and I say, "You look rad." Because she does. Sort of like the girls back on Earth that used to hang around the skate tracks.

She smiles and even Hiss gives the hint of a tight smirk.

Then: "See you later, moon boy," says Neptune Blue, and I have this really weird feeling come over me, like she knows she'll see me again and it won't be here at this stupid kiosk. Which makes me feel better, I guess, because it's so boring on the moon I might seriously blow my brains out.

x x x

This odd tale was the last story selected for inclusion this year. Next month, another Gavin McQue short from yr hmbl s vt. Hope you enjoyed this brief lunar excusrsion - as well as all the other offerings this year. Drop me a line to let me know if you did . . . or if you didn't. I'm not picky I just want some feedback. Happy holidays to you all! -GM

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