Stanley imagined that he held the moon in his hands. He cupped it in his palms raised up against the night sky and the moon nestled there like a small bird or a kitten. “It’s still ours,” he said to Colleen. She stood next to him and swayed a little, hearing music between them as she often did. The music was in her head, of course, but she only heard it standing next to him. Every love should have its own music.
“The moon?” Colleen asked.
“Yep. It’s still ours. No one can take it away from us, no matter what. “
A long time ago, in another life it seemed, the world looked upon the moon as one and the moon looked back. It was 1969, and amid great turmoil that hinted at what was to come decades later, three astronauts landed on that gray sere face. From Ohio, Colleen could only see a sliver, the first moon phase, emerge that night in July but on the television she saw the two astronauts climb down from their ladder in the black and white static that separated the moon from the earth, nearly 240,000 miles away. Colleen still couldn’t get her head around that distance—a quarter of a million miles. How far is too far, she wondered.
Now they stood on land that was nearly as dry as the moon’s.
They left good jobs to come here. Colleen had her CPA and worked for a family-owned accounting firm, tapping at a calculator and plucking out spreadsheets, birdlike. Stanley was an engineer for the city, overseeing the sewer system and its complex angles beneath pedestrians and cars and weighty buildings.
Colleen traced it all—their withdrawal to the land and life since–back to the housing crisis, pages and pages of foreclosures in the newspaper. She saw the meltdown coming. Then the drug overdoses—a couple of friends over the period of a year dying after accidental overdoses, mixing pain meds with alcohol to numb themselves. All this sorrow, Colleen thought, couldn’t be healthy for society. Worse yet, those closest to Stanley and Colleen – their family and best friends – didn’t see that too much despair could be too much.
The disparity between rich and poor grew exponentially, as Colleen calculated it in her head, and suddenly people they knew (Stanley’s secretary, Colleen’s book club friend, others) found themselves at homeless shelters and food kitchens. Colleen and Stanley poured their savings into land and unintentionally became preppers. Not gun-toting, Bible-spouting, flag-waving preppers, but self-reliant, off the grid farmers who just wanted to plant a furrow of hope.
Colleen was too busy to think about bees, the irony of which now sounded like a bad joke. She didn’t notice the bee population disappearing—and neither did the media, even though biologists were publishing reports and shoving reams of data at anyone who would listen. No one wanted to know. Massive bee die-offs were dismissed with the chortled moniker “Beemageddon.”
It was the only thing she regretted. Had she paid attention, she would have started some hives of her own. She never voiced her regret. Stanley would have told her that she could have built 50 hives and still would have ended up with hundreds of thousands of dead bees on the ground. It was too late now.
Fireflies lit up the valley at their feet. “Say hello to our moon friend,” Stanley said to her, still cupping the pale circle of light in his hands.
“Hello, moon.” Colleen sighed and put her arm around Stanley’s waist. “Do you think it will rain tomorrow?”
“I hope so.”
Off in the distance, gunshots fired. Colleen listened as they echoed in the valley like firecrackers. She knew the raiding had begun for the summer. She dropped her arm from Stanley’s waist and turned her back to the valley and the moon above it.
Well done as always, Meg. Even if a little too close to reality for comfort………You paint a scary picture with this one.
Yeah, sorry! Thanks for the kind words, Splendid.
Spooky Meg – spooky.
Yeah, sorry. I think every response to every comment tonight is going to be “yeah, sorry”! It really wasn’t my intention to bring it close to home but it just kinda happened. Thanks for reading.
Don’t apologize. It’s great and really well written – just spooky.
There’s enough truth in here to make this frightening… like an eerie glimpse into what our future might hold.
I’ve found that it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to imagine a societal breakdown. I think I can go there mentally because I don’t have kids. Still, it isn’t a pleasant place to be. Thanks for reading and commenting, Janna.
What’s brilliant here is how you ground everything in a reality we recognize, then at the end, make it horrifying by bringing in the unreal but conceivable. How horrible is too horrible? Love the “furrow of hope.”
Horrible can definitely be too horrible! Thanks for the careful read, Jennifer. Your comments are always so insightful. Much appreciated, my friend.
Beautifully written and more than a little unsettling. Nice job!
Thanks, Susan. Yeah, sorry about the discomfort!
Soft, sweet, sad and harsh all at once.
Loved it, Meg!
Thanks so much for reading, Michelle. So kind of you. <3
A little frightening. It was close enough to a possible future to be believable. Brilliantly written.
Thank you, Kathy! I know…sorry about the scariness. Appreciate your kind words.
Ooh, far too close for comfort – that was great though. It reminds me of a saying:
“if all the insects in the world died today, within fifty years all forms of life would perish
If all humans in the world died today, within fifty years all forms of life would flourish”
Yes, I recall that saying, Celine. It is a bit too real! Thanks a bunch for reading and commenting!
I’m glad you brought Colleen and Stanley back, even if their world seems even more dismal now. I love the way you lay out the history and work your way back to the present – and the bees. So scary. We used to get honey bees in our backyard, but this year I haven’t seen a single one. My husband wants to put hives in our yard, but our city doesn’t allow it yet. Hopefully they won’t leave it until it’s too late.
Thanks, Suzanne. It occurred to me that this is more a prequel to the other Stanley/Colleen story, but I neglected to match the dialect. Didn’t give myself enough time to edit — I always get confused about the deadlines and thought it was 10pm so I dashed it off. Anyway, thanks for remembering the characters!
My husband and I were talking today about the lack of bees. It’s kinda alarming, actually. We had a hive at the side of our house last year and it’s completely gone. My joepye weed in the backyard is usually covered in bees and I only saw two tonight. I know not all plants are dependent on bees but an awful lot of commercial produce is. The latest theory is that there is a list of pesticides that is causing the die-offs — not just one pesticide but a combination of 20+. I used to weigh bees for a colleague who kept hives and his are all gone.
Now, go read Brian’s story and get cheered up — his is way more upbeat! 😉
I love the hope and despair you’ve woven into this moment.
Awwws. Thanks, saroful. I’m glad some of the hope came through.
I think this line is wonderful: “Every love should have its own music.” It seems to have all sorts of significance for me.
Thanks, Sue! So happy to hear that. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Great understated, cusp-of-the-apocalypse kind of story Meg. So many lines are so good that it’s hard to choose one to single out, and that’s the best kind of problem to have. Loved it
Thanks a bunch, Brian. I think you know by now how much I adore your writing!
Oh, the bees. That sounds terrible. I think if there isn’t a WW3, we’d pretty much have our own Apocalypse this way.
Really great work here!
Thanks so much, Yeshu. Yeah, that’s my fear too.
Wonderful write Meg!