Addisyn couldn’t sleep the night before she was scheduled to rotate back to Earth. She slipped into her uniform and wandered the quiet hallways of the base. Without meaning to, she found herself standing outside Pappy’s enclosure, idly stirring her chamomile tea. The sugar was long since dissolved. She just liked watching the tea go round and round the motion. The soothing swirl of the liquid, the feel of the spoon between her fingers, the soft tinkle the metal made against the ceramic.
Earth was supposed to be home, but Addisyn wasn’t sure what she would find there. The long deployments wreaked havoc on personal lives, and Addisyn’s was no different. She’d long since tired of the travel-and-party routine. She’d probably end up cutting her leave short, covering for someone who actually had a family to go home to. She smiled, thinking she wasn’t all that different than Pappy. The rest of the crew thought Pappy ill-tempered, but Addisyn’s view was that Pappy was in solitary confinement on the moon, which would make anyone cranky, no matter their species.
Pappy was the lone surviving baboon of an experimental troop Lunecorp sent up while testing the climate-control AI for the modular bases it had since scattered around the dark side of the moon. The AI had worked, but the baboons had gone berserk when the automated resupply ship blew up on final approach. Pappy had lost an eye and all of his conspecifics in the resulting melee. Not that they’d intentionally fought to the death, but baboon mouths boast both long, sharp canines and an impressive array of bacteria.
A year or so after the massacre, Pappy had somehow escaped from his habitat and exposed himself to what should have been a fatal dose of gamma radiation. Other than the development of several hairless patches on his shoulders and back, there’d been no visible effect. But the incident changed him. He became less active. He spent long hours hunched over at the base of a carbon-fiber tree erected in his habitat, his eerily human hands scrabbling in the moon dust. He spent even longer hours sitting with his back to the tree, staring off into space.
Addisyn heard a faint tap on the glass. Then a second. She stopped stirring. Pappy’s snout was pressed to the window, his nostrils fogging the glass less than an inch from hers. He held his head cocked to one side with what Addisyn swore was a concerned look on his face and pressed a hand to the glass. As always, Addison marveled at the width of his palm, at his short, stubby fingers. The contrast between his humanlike hand and doglike snout. She pressed her hand to the glass. Her long, slender fingers dwarfed his.
Pappy looked at their hands for a long moment before making eye contact. He tapped his chest twice then turned and walked back to his tree, where he plopped himself down and raised his head to stare once again into the black depths of space.
Prompted by j.mcdonaldworks (spoon, baboon, moon).
Leave a comment with a living thing, an inanimate object, and a location and I will write a story based on your prompt.
Photo by Rieke T-bo on Unsplash. I’m aware it’s a mandrill, not a baboon, but their relatively close relatives and the expression on his face matches the story. Plus that blue nose is really something.