"The moon holds a nearly impossible perch in the human experience," said the old man at the podium, "an odd history of folklore, myth, and Godliness all shrouded in mystery and imaginative suppositions. Lovers and poets have called to it in their ecstasy and angst. We've celebrated it in song and art. Ancient Mariners gave thanks for its luminescence and companionship. It is the progenitor of transformations and evil, and an omen for seed-sowers. It pulls invisibly at each of us, and it is the regulator of our tides, a rhythmic pulse that prefers its influences subtle in nature and loud and vociferous in our lore."
He took a sip of water, slow and deliberate. The crowd remained quiet and still, entranced by what the greatest of legends - the demigod - was sharing with them.
"But I ask you this in all sincerity, is there anything so dangerous as a sliver of moon? Can anything entangle the heart, or pull at our emotions, or unravel our sanity so easily, so subtly, as that watchful orb that constantly hovers above us? Look what it has done to us, to our world."
He looked around the large crowd that had gathered in the park, straining to see the faces of individuals, at least of those closest to the stage. He had grown so much more tolerant and soft with age, so accommodating, he realized.
"It has been fifty years since I touched the moon," he told the crowd, his voice was wistful, as if he were reliving the moment. "In fifty years we’ve only grown more divided as a species. One country in that race to the moon has climbed to unimaginable heights while the other has crumbled under the weight of its failure. That same country is the largest economic force on the planet and the driver of culture. But shouldn’t my landing on the moon have been an event to unite all of humanity? Shouldn't it have been a joyous occasion for all mankind? An accomplishment we all shared in? Why does the pride of one people have to inflict so much pain on another?"
The old man ran his hand through his thinning hair. "These are questions I ask myself every day. And I ask others, as well."
Some of the crowd grew restless and uncomfortable, shuffled around. In the background, still miles away, the low rumble of thunder could be heard.
"For instance," he continued, "I ask myself if we were really better, or smarter, or more capable than our adversaries. Or were we just lucky. I wonder if we didn’t get to the moon first just because we put more resources towards it."
Murmurs coursed their way through the throng of people. The elderly clung to their pride, to their memories. Some were terrified by the old man’s words. Some were growing more angry with each passing minute. This wasn’t what they had come to hear. They came to celebrate. They came to puff out their chests and to smile upon the world that they had made. It was one of the largest national holidays, after all.
"Do we not owe them for pushing us so hard, for making us better?"
"Owe THEM!" Someone from the crowd exclaimed. And someone else shouted, “Are you going crazy, old man?"
"Were they not our partners in this? And look at them now: suffering, food lines, shortages in electricity and poor health care. Are we not in some way responsible?"
An orange was tossed towards the stage from a few rows back, landing several feet from the old man. People shouted out, discarded their reverie and turned angry against him. Someone could be heard screaming above the cacophony of the thousands in attendance, "Screw them! They got what they deserved. Our way of life is THE way of life. You should be more patriotic!"
Cheers went up from all around.
As the first drops of rain began to fall a state official rushed to the podium and took the old man by the elbow and began escorting him off the stage. The crowd quieted momentarily when they saw this, saddened, their anger quelled by fifty years of respect. He was, after all, Yuri Gagarin, first man on the moon. They all knew the silly song he had sung when he stepped from the Soyuz capsule onto the lunar surface. Mothers the world over sang it as a nursery rhyme. And then someone in the front row began singing it. Slowly, others joined in until everyone in the crowd became a chorus of one, singing the four simple lines over and over.
I touch the moon,
the moon touches me
A comrade on the moon,
For all to see.
in category Fiction