The Moon Is Pissed

I guess you could call it an idea. Moody brought it to me.

“It’s pissed,” he said, storming into my office. The door was open, and I don’t stand on ceremony, but a courtesy knock on the way would have been nice. I was in charge, after all.

“What is?”

“The moon.” He appeared to be serious.

“The moon is pissed?”

“Yes.”

“At us, presumably?”

“Of course.” His tone suggested I was a complete moron. I looked out the window and counted to ten. Nothing out there but craters and darkness. Earthrise wasn’t for a couple hours yet.

“Just look at the data.” Moody shoved his tablet in front of me. Hundreds of red dots peppered the near-lunar surface, as if the man in the moon had a bad case of acne. The densest concentration was near the southern shore of Mare Nubium, where our base was.

I took a deep breath. “From this you conclude that the moon is, quote, pissed?” Moody didn’t say anything. He had plopped himself into one chair and put his feet on the other. “Or is this some kind of geologist slang with which I’m not familiar?”

Moody sighed and ran a hand through his sandy hair. A few strands came free and sank slowly toward the floor under the influence of the weak lunar gravity. “The dots are microquakes.” His tone hadn’t changed.

“I understand that. It’s quite a leap from — ”

“Look at the time series.” Moody leaned over my desk and snatched the tablet out of my hands. He keyed up the animation sequence and handed the tablet back to me. “This is going back ten years.”

“Everything since we landed the first digital seismometers in 2015.”

He nodded, his expression giving away his surprise that I knew the date.

Red dots blinked on and off slowly, more or less randomly distributed across the surface. As the animation continued, the time period between the dots diminished and they appeared more frequently in the area around our base.

When the animation finished, the screen filled with red dots. It was the first image Moody had shown me. A plot of every recorded microquake.

“Okay,” I said. “The microquakes are occurring more frequently and they’re concentrating near our area of operations.”

“And, they’re getting stronger over time.” Eyebrows raised, his eyes wide, Moody opened his hands in a ta-da gesture.

“It’s still quite of a stretch to the interpretation that the moon is pissed.”

“There are no plate tectonics. Core heat is insufficient to drive quakes of any size.”

“We’re excavating. Mining. Smelting. Melting ice and splitting water to make oxygen and hydrogen. Not to mention the boring project.”

“The AI knows all that. Filters those signatures out automatically. Besides, those ops are continuous. Microquakes are discrete. Totally different signature.”

“What about waste injection pressuring existing faults?”

“Not enough pressure and volume to cause this many.” Smugness mingled with condescension on Moody’s face. A delightful combination — and not at all unfamiliar to me.

“So the inescapable conclusion is a lunar temper tantrum?”

“Not a tantrum. A reflex.”

I remembered Moody was an American. In addition to firearms, Americans love jokes. I checked the date. It was not April 1st.

“A reflex?”

“Like when a fly lands on a horse and the horse twitches its skin to shake it off.”

“I’m relieved to hear you say that,” I said.

Moody frowned. “Why?”

“I had been thinking you were anthropomorphizing the moon, but I’m a lot more comfortable with you hippomorphizing it.”

“That’s not a word.”

“It is now. Deploying a neologism is far less crazy than telling me the moon is angry and attempting to shake us off like fleas.”

“I can prove it,” Moody said, triumph shining in his eyes.

I tented my fingers and leaned back in my chair. “I can’t wait.”

He brought up an image of the far side. “Same time sequence,” he said.

“I don’t see anything.”

“Exactly. They’re haven’t been any landings on the far side, except for Chang’e 4.”

“That should be coming up soon.”

Sure enough, a red dot registered near the Von Kármán crater. Then a small cluster of dots bloomed in a rough circle surrounding the site. Nowhere near as many as around our base, but some. The animation finished.

I shrugged. “Could be those tardigrades the Israelis dumped in 2019. Water bears don’t fuck around, Bill.”

Moody looked like he’d swallowed a goldfish. 

I let him stew a minute then grinned. “I’m kidding. Lighten up.”

Moody’s expression shifted toward a pout.

“So you’re not going to report this?”

“Report what, exactly?”

“My hypothesis.”

“I will report that you have brought to my attention that lunar microquakes are clustering near areas of human activity. I will attach these animations.”

“But, but.” He was spluttering. I’d never seen it in real life.

Moody was saying, “This is groundbreaking research.”

“Is that a pun?”

“Is what a pun?”

“Never mind. Have you been watching Dr. Phil? Because this idea isn’t a hypothesis. It is at best a crackpot interpretation.”

“It should still be reported.”

“To whom?”

“To NASA. To the President — ”

“You want me to call President Jemisin for a quick woman-to-woman chat and tell her the moon is mad at us?”

“That’s my conclusion.” Moody sat up straight, readying himself to get huffy.

“As a geologist or as a quack psychologist?”

“As lunar mission geologist.” He had achieved huffy.

I looked at him over the rims of my glasses. “As lunar mission geologist, don’t you want to test your hypothesis further before going public with it?”

“I’ve done everything I can with the available resources.” If he huffed much harder he was going to puff and blow the base down.

“A resupply launch is scheduled for next week.” Moody leaned forward. Like all scientists, he was perpetually eager for more funding and resources. “I’ll have NASA slip a few mood rings in with the personal items.”

Moody grabbed his tablet off my desk and made for the door without a word.

“Bill?”

No response.

I added some steel to my voice. “Mission Geologist Moody.”

He was already outside the door, but he turned stiffly and faced me. “Yes.”

“Get some sleep.” His eyes widened and he opened his mouth to argue. “No buts. I’ve got your biorhythm data on file. You’re not sleeping. Typical of new arrivals. Take a pill, get forty winks, then come talk to me.”


Prompted by Anonymous (human, data, moon).

Leave a comment with a living thing, an inanimate object, and a location and I will write a story based on your prompt and tag you when I publish it.

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

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