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REUNIFICATION OF MANKIND

by

SION PYSGOD

Explore who WE are

 

"y lleuad y dwyn dwli, a'r tn gwelw ei bod hi am ysbeidiau rhag yr haul"
"the moon's an arrant thief, and her pale fire she snatches from the sun"
Shakespeare, Timon of Athens

 

Contents

(this novel contains hyperlinks to and from the below List of Chapters - click on the *** icon to navigate your way around):

HOUSTON, WE'VE GOT A PROBLEM ***

DON'T YOU WANT TO LIVE? ***

HEY, I'M ALIVE ***

TRUST ME, I'M A DOCTOR ***

I THOUGHT YOU WERE DEAD ***

IT'S LIKE A STORY ***

BUT YOU ARE HIM! ***

AND WHY DIDN'T HE? ***

A WILD GLARE IN HIS EYES ***

WHAT'S HAPPENING TO ME? ***

HE THOUGHT SHE WAS DEAD ***

YOU WERE DREAMING OF ME!!? ***

ENJOYING EACH OTHER'S COMPANY ***

A DREAM, OR A NIGHTMARE ***

BETWEEN THE PALM TREES ***

AND FRIENDS BECAME LOVERS ***

THE BIG SECRET ***

LAST SUNSET IN PARADISE ***

BEING FATTENED FOR THE SLAUGHTER ***

TWO BRANCHES OF THE SAME TREE ***

TIME AND TIDE ***

THE SHIP OF FATE ***

WHEN HE WAS A KID ***

 

 

REUNIFICATION OF MANKIND

BY

SION PYSGOD

 

HOUSTON, WE'VE GOT A PROBLEM

"Houston, we've got a problem."

His voice was flat, emotionless. This wasn't meant to happen: though somehow at the back of his mind he'd always known it would; as a gut feeling perhaps, and now he felt like his guts had been twisted inside-out as he gave way to an involuntary bowel movement into the super-absorbent nappy liner of his spacesuit.

The Mission Controller's voice sounded panicky, restrained but panicky: "Should be a logical reason for this ... give us a few minutes and we'll come back to you."

"Goodbye Houston," Alice's voice had finality to it: they looked at each other; Alice smiled grimly then tried to joke in a whisper meant only for him but audible to the entire World: "Shit yourself, don't panic!" Not that she knew he had.

Mission Control came back: " Don't worry guys we'll get you out."

You've got to remember that I'm retelling this without the time-lag caused to radio communication by the finite, speed of light, velocity of radio waves as they criss-crossed the four hundred thousand miles or so between the Moon and the Earth: seconds felt like hours and he was drenched in sweat; the cold clammy sweat of fear.

Alice stated what they all really knew: "Forget it Houston, before the rocket motor cut out our fuel level dropped below that required to make Moon orbit."

And that was that; communication with Houston went dead. They weren't just stranded, they were completely cut-off. Not that it really mattered; their fate was sealed. Like a couple of sardines in a can: it's the astronauts that Houston rejects, that make Houston's the best. They all had that graveyard humour, they all felt at home with it. They lived life on a leading edge, like a surfer on a wave. But if you fell off that wave you didn't just get wet, you died. And they'd just fallen off. They were dead but alive. It was just that like with talking to Mission Control, there was a time-lag.

But it just didn't seem fair; this was something he wasn't mentally prepared for. He'd thought it would be different. He'd mentally rehearsed his goodbyes: even knew what he was going to say to President Nixon on this: her unplanned for second experiment; the astronaut corps having cynically dubbed the President's live celebratory radio conversation with the astronauts during their time on the Moon's surface as her 'experiment' since, in their opinion, the time could have been better used for scientific purposes rather than to boost flagging opinion poll ratings.

But now they were all alone in the void of Space where no one could hear you die. He didn't believe in fairies, good or bad, and knew instinctively what had happened: Alice's kid-brother had been killed in Vietnam a couple of months previous: it wasn't what he'd say but what they thought Alice might say.

Alice just sat there: he found the stillness overpowering but felt that he'd be intruding if he spoke so stayed silent. Perhaps Alice was thinking the same; hell, he didn't know. It was like you'd jumped out of a plane and your parachute hadn't opened. Except that it wasn't the ground rushing up to meet them but their oxygen levels steadily decreasing.

He couldn't help but see the funny side of it; they were going to be heroes: now they were going to be corpses. All that pussy going to waste, what they weren't going to do on their intended World tour - well himself that is. And now they were going to sit here until one day somebody opened up their sardine can and probably took them back to Earth in body bags, and gave them a proper funeral. That made him feel angry, he didn't want to be a media spectacle for some politician.

"Come on Alice, we're getting out of here."

Alice replied a few seconds later: "What you talking about JJ? There's no where to go."

"I can't just sit here waiting to die."

"Sue will be over soon." They'd been supposed to take-off from the Moon's surface in the Lunar Module then dock in Moon orbit with the Command Module, piloted by Sue, in order to return to Earth; the Lunar Module then to be sent spiralling downwards to crash onto the Moon's surface as its orbit decayed - from a scientific point of view this was designed to mimic a meteorite impact and would be monitored by the scientific experiments which the Apollo 11 astronauts had set up on the Moon's surface.

"What the hell will she be able to do ... Drop us a rope or something?"

"It's no good taking it out on me."

He felt bad, disappointed with himself, but Alice was the commander and up until now had always carried them through: he really believed that he'd have died for that guy.

Alice amazed him: "Take a walk then."

"You mean it?"

"I can't leave here, captain always goes down with her ship."

"Yeah but this ship ain't sinking, it's run aground." Alice's voice had sounded confident so he cautiously inquired, hoping against hope: "You think that there may be a way out?"

"No, but if I didn't believe in miracles I wouldn't be an astronaut."

His voice sounded mechanical: "Not enough fuel to make orbit, a few hours oxygen left."

Alice's voice sounded unusually callous and condescending: "Go take your walk then."

He guessed then what was going on in Alice's mind. She was pinning her hopes on getting through, back to Earth, via Sue. With him out of the way Alice could go out in a blaze of glory that would be all hers.

I guess you're thinking that they were pretty paranoid but they didn't get to be the first people on the Moon by being nave. So he took his walk. That had always been his worst fault but, paradoxically, one of his greatest strengths: his irrationality.

These Space guys were presented to the public as being the most rational of people but there had to be something wrong with you, a wish to self-destruct, and sometimes he pandered to it: as he did now. Or was it that story about that guy with Captain Scott, walking out into the Antarctic wilderness to give the other guys a better chance of pulling through? Was Alice his Captain Scott, or perhaps he just wanted to die in his own way: Alice to stay with her ship, he to put as much distance between it and his grave; who knows, hell I don't.

He kept glancing back at the sardine can but it didn't go away; he was curiously afraid that Alice would take-off without him. He tried calling Alice on his radio, but now that had gone dead too. He kept walking: this just didn't seem right, didn't add-up: first they seemed to be taking-off then everything went dead but only after it would be too late to try again. Then the communications go down, and now he couldn't even talk to Alice. He bent down and picked up a rock, and in the Moon's gravity of one-sixth Earth's, threw it further than he'd have needed to to win an Olympic gold medal.

He started to run, only slowing down when his vizor started to mist up. He dropped to his knees, and lay down on the ground. On the atmosphere-less Moon the cloud of dust he'd disturbed had instantly erupted then just as swiftly collapsed leaving the beating of his heart as the only life cognisant to him in this the poetically named Sea of Tranquillity; soon to be deathly tranquil once more.

DON'T YOU WANT TO LIVE?

It was like going on a scuba dive: soon he'd have to surface or run out of air. So he got up again and started to walk. Suddenly he started to cry, he was thinking about his mother. Then a woman's voice said: "Don't cry." He thought it was just a subliminal echo so kept crying. Then she spoke again: "Follow me."

He stopped crying and looked around but couldn't see anybody. The voice spoke again: "Up here."

He thought that he'd gone crazy and said: "Hi."

"Hello" she replied, "my name is Florence."

"Yeah and my name is Zebidie, and this isn't the Moon it's the Magic Roundabout." And he started walking.

"Wait," she sounded anxious, "that's the wrong way."

"Right or wrong it's the way I'm going;" and he kept walking.

"Don't you want to live?" Her voice was breaking.

He thought that he'd nail her: "Why me, what about Alice."

He thought she'd say something like: 'Alice, Alice, who the heck is Alice?' After all the best jokes are the old ones but no, she said, sounding pleased: "Follow me and I'll take you to her." He worked it out then: she was his conscience or something, he was supposed to feel bad about leaving Alice to die on her own; supposed to go back to the ship so that they could both die happy or something.

So he kept walking, they weren't going the way she wanted but she went ahead anyway. He studied this apparition of his imagination. She was standing on a levitated gold disc, just out of reach of course. What she wore, or rather lack of it, was pretty classy: like she was spray painted with silver plastic with a goldfish bowl over her head.

He started to feel tired, just up ahead was a boulder so he sat on it and stared at the ground; at the lifeless dust, like the ash of the dead embers of a fire. Her feet came into view: he touched her, his heavily gloved fingertips pushed into her flesh. Suddenly his arms wrapped around her and his faceplate pressed to her thighs.

Eventually she spoke ... but he didn't catch what she said: it was wakey wakey time; his nightmare was just a dream.

Right, all they had to do was take off, join up with the Command Module, wind it up around the backside of the Moon and blast off back to Earth. There was a lot to do, he didn't have time to think about his dream until later. Unfortunately later didn't turn out to be too long. They were marooned on the Lunar surface just like in his dream, and just like in his dream they became completely cut off.

Alice was softly swearing under her breath, taking readouts of the instruments and playing with the controls. It's funny thinking about it now but they didn't just freeze like in his dream. It's not the training, it's the sort of person you are: do you beat the machine or let the machine beat you? He just watched Alice though, his dream had automatically told him it was a waste of time. He knew the score. And he knew what he was going to do.

He ordered: "We're going to decompress and open the hatch."

Alice sounded incredulous: "We're going to decompress and open the hatch?"

"Check."

"Captain you gone out of your mind?" In the dream Alice was captain, but in reality he was: perhaps it was a prophecy?

He tried to sound reassuring: "We haven't got enough fuel to make orbit with our present payload so what we'll do is jettison everything we can."

Alice mumbled: "Present payload ... jettison ... hey Captain I like that. Why didn't I think of that?"

He reassured her: "Because you were doing your job. Any luck with the comms?"

"No sir, don't understand it, gone completely dead. Can't pick nothing up from Earth, yet can't find nothing wrong either."

"No reason why we shouldn't pick up Sue then?"

"No reason why we shouldn't pick up Houston."

"I wouldn't worry about them, this time we'll be going one hundred per cent manual."

She laughed: "Same old JJ, you just don't trust machines, do you?"

"I trust this baby all right," he patted the joystick, "but not some computer programmed by some junky whiz-kid."

They started to throw out anything that they didn't need to achieve Lunar orbit with; Alice hesitated with the last box of Moon rock: "Hey JJ, don't you think we ought to at least try and bring something back?"

"Nope, we're going to take no chances, chuck it out. This rock has been up here for aeons longer than mankind has been around, we'll go get some another day."

Alice shrugged, at least as best you can in a spacesuit, and out went the last of it.

"Right, we've got half an hour before we take off to rendezvous with Sue. I'm going out to send a message back to Earth to tell them what went wrong."

"Captain how you going to do that man? There ain't no public phone booths up here you know."

"We've got the seismometer, I'll kick back a message in morse."

"Chucks Captain you think of everything."

"And while I'm doing it you get ready for take off."

"Yes sir."

He clambered out of the Lunar Module and wandered over to the seismometer: "Alice."

"Yes Captain?"

"I want you to close the hatch and start your countdown."

She sounded incredulous: "Captain?"

"You've got enough fuel to tag up with Sue, with two of us we wouldn't make it."

"But I can't leave you Captain, you'll die."

"That's an order Alice."

"This isn't the airforce JJ, it's NASA."

"I don't care what it is. I'm in charge of this mission. I expect my orders to be obeyed without challenge."

"Well bullshit, I can't do that. Either we all get home or none of us do."

"I don't think you heard me right soldier, this mission is my personal responsibility and as far as I am concerned it's going to succeed. And it will succeed even if I've got to stay behind."

"But Captain what about your wife and kids?"

"Tell them I love them, they'll understand."

"I'll never be able to live with myself."

"You will, you'll simply be obeying orders that you swore to obey in your oath of allegiance to this man's country."

"But ... Captain ..."

"There's no but about it. Listen, you know as well as me that this isn't about you and me being a hero, it's about a lot more than us, it's about even more than our country, it's about the future of mankind. So you get my baby back to Earth."

"If it's that important then I'll stay behind."

She'd nearly nailed him then because he was, besides being the mission's commander, the pilot (Alice was the flight engineer responsible for communications and navigation) but he had a quick answer: "I weigh four stones more than you, I consume more oxygen. That's why you're going to take her back and not me. If it was the other way around then I'd have tricked you out to kick this damn seismometer."

In reality it should have been an all female mission since women weigh less than men, in order to cut margins of error, but equal rights for males was the burning political issue of the day and so NASA had decided on a mixed crew inline with its equal opportunities policy for the sexes. But it was tough on Alice since she, a highly decorated fighter pilot ace from the Korean War, was originally selected as mission commander but NASA had been over-ruled by the President in an attempt to improve her opinion poll ratings.

But Alice was a true professional and even though it meant that she was the second person to walk on the Moon, rather than the first, her resentment only surfaced in the patronising way she spoke to her superiors: "I don't like it Captain ... Captain I'm scared." Bullshit! That woman had nerves of steel, any idea that she could experience feelings of fear would have been interpreted by her as cowardice.

"What the hell do you think I am ... just do it. Do it for me."

"I'd do anything for you JJ but what do I tell them when I get back home?"

"Tell them the truth."

"But what about our death pact? I mean if we got stranded Sue wasn't going back either."

"What about her husband and kids, what about your mother? After your brother got killed in Nam all she got is you."

"You won't die Captain. You'll never die I'll make certain of that. Anybody says I wasn't obeying orders I'll bust their jaw."

"That's the spirit ... now get the hell out of here. I want you to stay on manual, just use the computer for navigation. And I want you to go now. Give yourself a breathing space for when you get up there, before Sue comes along."

"Geronimo" was the last word she said. He watched as she disappeared into the void, becoming fainter to become just another star, then she was lost in Space to his gaze. Then he stared around the horizon. Not a lot he could do really. He had thirty minutes of life left. He walked around the experiments, checking that they all had been connected up properly. Then he started walking. Don't know why, he just did; some sort of automatic primeval reflex to danger perhaps.

All the time though he was looking for something. For a miracle ... he dropped to his knees, he couldn't go on, the scrubbers in his life support system were fighting a losing battle ... his breathing was getting fast as his lungs fought a losing battle ... then he saw her. Not like in his dream. In a spacesuit less bulky, more sophisticated than ours; but he couldn't tell if there was a man or a woman in it, or even a human for that matter. As he lost consciousness he reached out and fell face down into the dirt.

HEY, I'M ALIVE

He was dead. He couldn't see nothing, he couldn't feel nothing. All he could do was think. It didn't make sense. He wanted to shout out, scream: "Hey, I'm alive." Or did he? Although he couldn't feel, he didn't feel like he was dead. He felt like he was detached from reality. Felt like that before he 'died'. Felt like it as soon as things started to go wrong, just like in his dream. It was like he was experiencing dj vu. Except in his present state he wasn't experiencing anything. So he watched, he listened, he waited. Even though he couldn't hear, feel, or see nothing.

TRUST ME, I'M A DOCTOR

His hearing came back first and then, believe it or not, feeling in his genitals. Hell, what's the point, this isn't a technical report. He knew he had a hard-on and that's the long and short of it. In the background he could hear what sounded like the dull hum of an air conditioning system. Then he heard her, well he assumed it was her, as she giggled. He then regained feeling to his face as he felt himself blushing deeply. He knew he was lying flat on his back showing the World what he got, with Old Glory straining fit to bust.

He started to get scared then, the pain in his erection was getting intense, it felt like it was about to rip apart. Then with the pain feeling came back to his body: he was drenched in sweat, muscles all tensed, hands tightly gripping whatever it was he was lying on. Suddenly he sat up, he was free; clutching hold of his painful erection which instantly went limp. He let out a deep sigh, his head leant back and he opened his eyes. Again his face burned with embarrassment as he found himself staring into her eyes. Well you'd feel embarrassed, wouldn't you, sitting naked in front of a stranger and holding all your Worldly possessions in your hands?

She seemed to think it was a great joke, but her manner was professional: he could only tell from her eyes that she was laughing at him. Her hand pushed at his shoulder and, just as if she were a doctor, he lay down again with his hands by his sides: it was no longer embarrassing, he'd got the impression that she was only doing her job. Then the darnest thing, she pulled a hatch over him, so that it was like he was in a baby's incubator. She had one of those 'trust me, I'm a doctor' smile-masks to her face and, once more, he descended into unconsciousness.

I THOUGHT YOU WERE DEAD

He woke with one hell of, what he could only compare to, a teenage hangover; you know, like you've been mixing your drinks and are too young to know what you're doing anyway. Then he seemed to explode awake as he realised that he wasn't alone: there was a woman slobbering all over him, crying hysterically as she pawed his body and kissed at his face.

He sat bolt up right, pushing her away: "Who the hell are you!!?"

"Cecil you're okay!!!" And she flung her arms around him knocking him back into ... into the sand.

"Hey, cut it out!" He tried pushing her off but she just hung on, laughing and crying at the same time.

They wrestled and he sat astride her, holding her wrists above her head.

"Oh my God," she whispered, "I thought you were dead."

The words murmured out of his mouth: "So did I."

Her eyes blinked open, she smiled all ... all soppy like she was in love with him, then murmuring "Cecil" her eyes closed and her lips shaped like he was meant to kiss them.

He let go her wrists and stood up, stared around himself. He was on a coral beach, sand bleached white in the sun, surf pounding in from a distant reef, inland dense undergrowth and palm trees; the air alive with the sounds of seabirds and the thundering surf. I suppose you could say that it was a tropical paradise, except he was completely disorientated and all he could do was wonder where the hell he was.

"Cecil?" Her voice questioned; she was sitting up, leaning on her elbows; looked hurt like.

"Why do you keep calling me Cecil?" He asked her.

"Because that's your name."

"Is it? Everybody used to call me JJ, never been called Cecil before."

"You feeling okay?" She questioned.

"Apart from a bit of a headache, fine I guess ... Why?"

"You're not like you're really you, you're strange;" her forehead seemed to wrinkle.

His hands spread out: "Where am I?"

"Don't you know?"

He looked around himself, then back at her and for some reason joked: "Paradise?"

She laughed: "That's what you said last night."

"Last night!!?"

She knelt: "Don't you think you'd be more comfy if you took your wet clothes off?" And her hands grabbed the sides of his swimming trunks.

"Hey cut it out!" He grabbed her wrists again.

She looked so happy, eyes laughing: "See, you're all uncomfy!"

"Jesus," he swore, "what would my wife say if she could see me now?"

"Drop 'em!" She leapt forward knocking him into the sand and they wrestled again: he trying to get her under control and her laughing like they were engaged in, hell I don't know, foreplay I suppose you'd call it. He ended up on top again holding her wrists but couldn't say he was in complete control. She was laughing uncontrollably, kept moving her hips. He testily barked: "For Pete's sake cut it out!"

"Ugh, ugh," she said and tightened her grip.

He let her wrists go and tried to push himself away but she wrapped her arms around his neck pulling his face down by hers. "God darling you don't know how frightened I was, when I saw you floating face down in the water I thought you were dead. And then when I pulled you up on the beach ... and I gave you the kiss of life and nothing happened ... but then," she pulled his face over hers, "but then ..." and kissed him.

He pushed her away and she slackened her grip, he managed to stand up again. "Look, who the hell are you?"

She looked all hurt again, and stared into his face like she was trying to understand him: "Your wife."

"My wife!!?"

She knelt on her haunches, still staring at him: "Yes, your wife."

"Oh no you're not."

She looked serious: "Look Cecil is this some kind of game? Because if it is it's getting a bit tedious."

"I've never seen you before in my life."

"Right," she stood up, "two can play at that;" and she walked off up the beach towards the palm trees.

"Hey, where you going?"

She stopped and turned round, she looked so unhappy: "You're not pretending, are you?"

"Why ... What are you talking about?"

"You don't remember this?" She was almost in tears and was holding up her left hand. On her ring finger she wore an engagement ring and a wedding ring.

"No, should I?"

She burst into tears, holding her face in her hands, and sat in the sand.

He watched her cry. It was getting towards dusk and over the eastern horizon the Moon was rising. His last memory was of being there. Now he was here with her. It wasn't possible.

She'd stopped crying and was staring at him again.

"Look ..." The words wouldn't come out, he didn't know what to say.

She sounded awed: "You don't remember ... you don't remember us?"

"No ... should I?"

That started her crying again. He looked back at the sea, at the Moon.

He felt her hand on his arm, as soon as he turned she withdrew it. She looked like her whole World had fallen in. "You really don't remember?"

"I'm sorry but I don't, last thing I remember is being up there."

"Where?"

"There," he pointed: "The Moon."

That started her crying again, he asked: "What have I said now?"

She sobbed: "Don't you remember my name?"

"I told you, I've never seen you before in my life?"

"But my name's Lunar, when we make love you say it's like you're walking on the Moon." She burst into tears, again, and ran off into the palm trees.

He let her, he didn't have a clue what she was talking about. Well that isn't exactly true, he'd seen TV programmes and films about people losing their memory. He sat in the sand, staring at the Moon, worked out the story: they'd come here on, presumably, their honeymoon, he'd nearly drowned, lost consciousness in the water, she'd pulled him out, saved his life, and now he was suffering from amnesia; couldn't even remember his own wife. But that was the trouble: he could. He could remember Valerie and the kids, and the only place he wanted to be right now was home with them.

But he was here with her. As he gazed at the Moon he realised, okay it's a total understatement, that something was wrong. He knew from its phase that he'd lost a week of his life. A week ago he was up there, and now he was down here. And, as far as he was concerned, that was reality. Right, he knew where he was: back on Earth. He didn't know how he'd got here ... but he had seen her before. He'd seen her in his dream, he'd seen her ... she'd closed the lid on his incubation chamber.

She wasn't a little green man, far from it: she was human and most definitely a woman. He started to put two and two together then without a hope in hell of making four. She wasn't a Russian, but she had a Russian accent. This wasn't possible: we were supposed to be ahead of them in the space race. There was no way that they could have got to the Moon first, no way at all, he knew that. They'd pinned their hopes on their Proton booster rocket but it had kept blowing up on the launch pad putting them out of the race.

But if they had got there first, oh this was really crazy, why all this elaborate charade? Well only one person could tell him the answer so he followed where she'd gone.

IT'S LIKE A STORY

He came to, well what he thought he was supposed to think was, their campsite; but she wasn't there. There were some cooking utensils and he felt hungry. He glanced around; there were a couple of boxes full of tins, packets of food and things, and a sleeping bag hanging over a hammock. It was a proper little love-nest. He lit a lantern that hung from a bare pole. Then she made an appearance and he decided to play along: "You haven't seen my clothes, have you?"

She didn't answer: but he'd asked because she'd put on an oversize shirt which hung down to her knees; he'd guessed he was meant to think it was one of his.

He pretended to shiver, folding his arms and rubbing his upper arms with the palms of his hands: "It's just that I'm getting cold."

She sounded spiteful: "Well build a fire then ... like you did last night."

"I'm not that cold, just feel a bit chilled now that the Sun has gone down."

"Last night you said that love would keep us warm."

"Yeah but that was last night, I've lost my memory since then, remember?"

"You ... you really mean it?"

"Sure as hell do ... it's like a story. I just don't know why I'm here or who you are even."

She seemed to make a big effort: "Okay, let's talk then and see if it all comes back. I'll cook us a meal."

"Sure could do with one, I'm ravenous."

She started sniveling again: "That's what you said as soon as we landed, you wouldn't even let me unpack our things."

As soon as she got busy she seemed to buck up a bit, stopped sniveling. He did what she'd suggested and got a fire going; she sat by him while they ate.

He started his inquisition: "I think you're right, perhaps if we talk this through it will all come back to me."

She didn't look at him as she spoke: "It's one hell of a shock when your own husband doesn't even remember who you are."

"I guess we're on our honeymoon?"

Her voice sounded listful: "No, we married a year ago in Moscow."

"Moscow!!?" He'd sounded incredulous; as you'll easily understand he'd never set foot in Moscow in his life.

"You don't remember how we met?" She toyed with her food, with her fork, and seemed happier; again her eyes seemed to be laughing at him: "Cecil?"

"My name's not Cecil," he was sort of humorous too, "but okay, if it is, then call me that."

Who do you think you are then?"

"An astronaut."

She burst out laughing.

"Why's that so funny?"

"Cecil, you're an accountant!"

"The hell I am."

"The hell you are ... ummm, this is getting interesting, I'm starting to wonder who the man is I really married. I always thought there was something that didn't add up about you."

It was the way she said it, for some reason he felt embarrassed: "What do you mean?"

She stuck her fork in a frankfurter sausage and munched at it; then smiled broadly: "Well, you always seemed a lot more interested in me than in stocks and shares."

He joked, she was easy to relax with: "Who wouldn't be!"

"That's what you said at the embassy party where we met."

"Did I?"

"I asked you if you didn't think that people were more interesting than money."

"What did I say?"

"You said it depended on the person."

"What did you say?"

"I asked if you'd be interested in me."

"And I said?"

"Who wouldn't be."

"Why me?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well how come you married me and not somebody else?"

"We had to get married."

"You mean we've got a family?"

"No silly, that's why we're here."

"Oh I get it, this is us having a romantic second honeymoon, all by ourselves on a desert island. Plenty of sun, sea and the other, with the idea of starting a family."

"It's coming back to you now, isn't it?" She put her fork down and pushed her food away.

"Why did we have to get married?"

"Because they caught us." She moved close to him: "Doing this;" she caught hold of his wrist and stood so he did too; her hand rested on his bum, her lips shaping to kiss.

"Who caught us?"

She giggled: "Cecil, you know who caught us."

"I don't really, tell me."

She looked really happy and patted his left buttock: "Why the President and the Secretary General."

He was incredulous: "You mean the President of the United States of America and the Secretary General of the Soviet Union caught you and me making love!!?"

"Yes, it was Moscow in the middle of winter. All I had on was a fur coat and a fur hat."

"A fur coat and a fur hat!"

She laughed: "And stockings and shoes of course. You told me to wrap it up in mink: 'fur hat and no knickers' is what you told me to do and I did it because I loved you, and I thought I'd never see you again."

"So it was your fault we got caught?"

"Is that why you lost your memory?"

"No, but dear wife ... well carry on."

"I see you're finding this interesting." She put her arms around him and stared up into his face: he put his arms around her and she began: "You had me across the table where they were supposed to sign the nuclear disarmament summit agreement."

"Wasn't the door locked?"

"It was, but we climbed through the window."

"So it was going to be a quick in and out then back out of the window?"

She laughed hoarsely pressing her face to his chest then looked up again: "Once we started we couldn't finish!" She laughed: "I can see their faces now. The two most important women in the World. Oh dear!"

"I can't"

"You were too busy darling," and her hands descended to his buttocks: "They marched in smiling at each other, then they saw us. Their jaws dropped. They looked at each other and marched out. Everybody thought there was going to be a war but it was only us making love." He lifted her hands back from his buttocks: she wrapped her arms around his neck so he once more put his arms round her. She spoke: "And now ... and now we're in love again."

"Like from the moment we met." He held her away from him, gripping her upper arms: "Except we're not. I don't believe a word of it."

"That's what everybody said. They said you raped me and I seduced you."

"Like you're doing now?"

"Then you said, and it was your idea, we'd never talked about it."

"But you wanted it to happen?"

"I dreamed you would ask me, but never could believe you would, not after all the nasty things they said about you."

"Like me being an astronaut?"

"They never said that. We were the two most important people in the World."

"Like we are now?"

"It was an international incident."

"I suppose it was in all the newspapers?"

"It was World news. It was going to be the end of the World. Everybody was going to hate us, it was all going to be our fault."

"So what did we do?"

"It was what you did darling."

"What did I do?"

"You sent me a message."

"In a French letter?"

She giggled: "You said you wanted to see me. It was so unfair. They wanted to say you raped me."

"In a fur hat and no knickers."

"Then they said that because my father was a defector I wasn't really one of them. They called me a traitor."

"And are you?"

"Your side said I was a whore."

"Were you?"

"I was a virgin until you disarmed me."

"Why did you let me?"

"Because I loved you."

"And you still do?"

"More than ever."

"So what did I do?"

"You said you wouldn't leave Moscow without saying goodbye to me."

"Why did they let me see you?"

"Because I told them to let you see me, and I promised to denounce you."

"So it was a trap?"

"For them, but love for us."

"How did you know that I'd ask you to marry me?"

"I didn't. I was going to tell you I loved you."

"Did you?"

"I didn't have to. I was sitting one side of the table and you were supposed to sit at the other. But you dropped on one knee and with your hands over your heart you asked me to marry you. And before they could stop me I said ..."

"Yes."

"Is it coming back now?"

"How did we get out of that one?"

"Your friends started to clap, and then my side to avoid losing face joined in too."

"And we got married."

"And they all came to our wedding."

"How come we live in the west?"

"Because that's where you worked."

They were staring into each other's eyes. Of course it wasn't true and he believed that they both knew that. But to him it was a good story and part of him would have liked to believe it.

He pierced the bubble: "What about my wife and kids?"

She cocked her head: "Cecil?"

"I'm not Cecil, I'm JJ, I'm a United States astronaut, and last week I was the first man to walk on the Moon. The mission went wrong and I thought I was dead. But you saved my life and brought me here."

She sighed deeply: "Let's try again tomorrow."

He tightened his grip on her arms and shook her: "What's wrong with now?"

"You're hurting me."

"How about that hammock over there ... come on let's give it some use."

He pulled her towards it and she tried to resist: "No Cecil, not now, let's wait."

"Wait! We're husband and wife, remember? Shagged in full view of the World. What's wrong with a desert island in front of nobody?"

She shouted at him: "I said no!"

"Okay then, let's cut out the play acting."

"You're hurting me."

"Not as much as you're hurting my wife and kids!" He relaxed his grip: "Now how about a bit of truth for a change?" She didn't answer, looked away, so he shook her again: "Now come on, let's have it!"

"Cecil, stop hurting me! Let me go, you don't know what you're doing."

"I do alright," and he pushed her away. She fell face first into the sand and lay there crying. He sat down by the fire watching her. When she calmed she sat up and he asked her: "What were you doing on the Moon."

"On the Moon?"

"Yeah, you saved my life, remember?"

"Oh my poor darling, I saved your life here."

"Okay, you saved my life I'll admit that. Doesn't really matter where."

"It does to me."

"You said your father was a defector?"

"You said it didn't matter."

"That explains it then."

"Explains what?"

"Why a negress should speak with a Russian accent."

"You said it didn't matter that I'm black, you said that all that mattered was us and that I should be happy."

"And you're not happy now?"

"How can I be?"

"Hell, I don't know."

They sat in silence then she moved closer to the fire and he asked: "You cold?"

"No ... I ... I just feel empty."

"Like your World has come to an end?"

She nodded and stared into the fire.

"I felt like that on the Moon, only I didn't, the thing is I'd seen you before," she looked at him, "in a dream before it all went wrong. Before they woke us up to take off for Earth. In my dream I was waiting to die, walking along the Moon's surface, just for something to do until my oxygen ran out. Then I saw you."

"Me?"

"Yes you. You're not going to believe this. But you were standing on a golden disc, floating in the air. Well not in the air of course, after all there's no air on the Moon, it's a vacuum, but off the ground."

"Levitating?"

"You could say that. Your spacesuit was interesting."

"It was?"

"Yeah, like you were covered in cling-film."

She laughed: "Cecil, you're a pervert!"

"No, you weren't naked. Like you were sprayed with silver plastic."

"All wrapped up in plastic!"

"Yeah, with a goldfish bowl over your head."

"Don't be ridiculous!"

"And your name was Florence."

"My name's not Florence ... and you're not Zebidie."

They said the words together: "And this isn't the magic roundabout it's a desert island."

And he said: "And it's not the Moon either."

"You're insane."

"Am I?"

"You must be."

"Guess I must, if I'd played my cards right I could have had you by now."

"Is your real wife black or white?"

"She's caucasian."

"So that's it. I always knew it wouldn't work out. You never wanted to marry me, did you? Just wanted a one night stand."

"Yeah that's right. Just wanted you for a one night stand in a fur hat and no knickers."

"I suppose I always knew that."

"I had to marry you. It was the President's idea. I only went along with it because I had to. If I hadn't that would have been the end of my career. I had a girlfriend in the States, she was from a wealthy family and she was white. A WASP. Her daddy was a very important man. If I'd married her I'd have been made for life, she was a millionairess."

"Is that why you called me your little slave girl?"

"You called yourself that. You left Moscow with nothing."

"You said it didn't matter. You said all that mattered was us."

"I had to. Can't you understand that? I played a dangerous game and paid the price."

"You don't love me then?"

"No, I never did and never will."

"Because I'm black."

"Yeap, where I come from it's one thing to have your way with a black woman, even if she isn't willing, but another to marry her."

"And if I was white?"

"Still do me no good. Me getting married was supposed to be a career move. All the romance, all this second honeymoon nonsense, just me obeying orders. It was the CIA's idea to keep you happy. Keep you fooled. I just played along. So whether you like it or not we're stuck with each other. Though I guess you'll agree, separate bedrooms in future."

"So it was all true what they said?"

"Yeap. Me and a few of the boys had a private bet. Wanted to see who could leave a little bundle of joy behind courtesy of Uncle Sam."

"I don't believe you."

"You better, when we get back we're going our separate ways. I'll file for a divorce. Don't worry, you'll be well looked after, the firm will see to that."

"Why don't you kill me here and now? Nobody would ever know. You could say I drowned. There wouldn't even have to be a body."

"Hey that's a good idea. Why don't you go and take a long swim."

She started to cry: "I can't, I love you."

"Well die of a broken heart then."

She stood up: "Very well then, I will."

He watched her walk off, through the palm trees towards the beach. Then he curled up in the sleeping bag and fell asleep.

BUT YOU ARE HIM!

He awoke still feeling sleepy, must have been really tired; the Sun was quite high in the sky, flickering across his face through the palm fronds. He could smell fresh coffee; she was crouched over the cooker.

She brought him a cup: "Coffee?"

"Sure thing, thanks."

"You're not my husband," she sighed, "no way could Cecil have said all those horrible things you said to me."

"You're not mad at me?"

"I'm wondering who you are."

"You no longer think I'm your husband?"

"No, but you look just like him, you talk just like him, and that's confusing."

"That's understandable ... When do we get off this island?"

"End of the week."

"What day is it?"

"Tuesday."

"And we leave?"

"Friday evening ... at Sunset." She turned away and started to weep.

He got up out of the sleeping bag: "Look, I'm sorry."

She turned round, angrily: "Who are you?"

"I told you: JJ the astronaut. You must have heard of me, I guess I'm World famous."

"So was Cecil, but you've never heard of him, have you?"

"No, nor you either for that matter."

"You're CIA, aren't you?"

"No, I'm NASA."

"Well, whoever you are, you're a liar."

"Could say the same about you."

"Now listen you, mister whoever you are, I came here with my husband. I know it was him because it was him in whose arms I fell asleep on Sunday night and who I woke up with the next morning. Then in the evening he went snorkelling. He'd been gone a long time and then I saw you floating face down in the water ... You killed him, didn't you?"

"Why would I want to do that?"

"To get even."

"For what?"

"Because we won, because love won."

"You might as well say I'm KGB then."

"You could be for all I know. But it's the same thing, you're all devils in human form."

"Look, this is crazy. All I know is what you know. Is that we're two total strangers who somehow are both marooned on this desert island until Friday. Then we'll leave and go our own ways."

"But what about Cecil?"

"Well he must be here somewhere, we'll try and find him."

"He'll be dead by now."

"He mightn't be, might got have swept around the other side of the island by a current or something."

"Or perhaps you murdered him?"

"We're not going through that again, are we?"

"It mightn't be important to you but it is to me."

"Okay I'm sorry if I sounded callous but you started this remember, you thought you were my wife."

"I thought you were my husband."

"Well let's look for him then."

"But you know where he is, you killed him."

"Let's be practical, the poor guy may have broken his leg or something. Don't you think it would be a good idea if at least we tried?"

She looked totally confused: "But you are him!" She stamped on the ground like an impatient child.

"Well I'm not."

"Look Cecil ... now don't interrupt me because I know what you're going to say ... is it that you don't want to start a family?"

"I've got a family."

"Well were you married before you came to Moscow?"

"I've never been to Moscow."

She held her face in her hands: "I feel like I'm going insane."

"I know exactly how you feel."

"How can you? For all I know I might be pregnant with your child."

"Now come off it, I haven't laid a finger on you."

"I know you haven't, but Cecil and me only wanted one thing: we wanted a child. We wanted our child. Understand?"

"Sure I can understand. My wife and I felt exactly the same way."

"But Cecil was different to you."

"Now we're getting somewhere. How was he different?"

"Well he wouldn't have left me and our child to go wanking off around the Universe."

"All you're saying is that he wasn't an astronaut. My wife knew who she was marrying and accepted it."

"Well I couldn't."

"I'm not asking you to."

"Thanks a million but even if you did I'd say no."

"Don't worry, I'm quite happy with what I've got."

She walked away and spoke aloud: "How the hell can Cecil be Cecil one moment and JJ the astronaut the next?"

"How could I be on the Moon one day and down here the next?"

She turned sharply: "I think you're about one brick short of a full load mister."

"Perhaps you're husband has gone insane then?"

"That's it, isn't it? My husband has gone stark staring raving naked ballock insane and doesn't even know his own wife."

"But I do and she isn't you."

"I get it now. You were telling the truth yesterday, or close to it. When you came to Moscow you were already married. This is your way of telling me. Only you haven't got the guts to come straight out with it. Got to wrap it up in some cock and bull story. So that I think that I'm insane. Yes, that's it, isn't it? So I'll be all heartbroken and scared because I'll be all alone in the World. So I'll do something stupid. So I'll commit suicide."

"I hope you don't."

"But you do, don't you?" She pulled off her rings: "Well you can stick these where a monkey sticks its nuts!" She threw them at his feet: "You could have told me, I'd have understood. I'd have had to, wouldn't I? But to do it this way!"

"I don't know what you're talking about. I understand what you're saying and can sympathise with you. But I'm not him."

"Yes, you're JJ, the world famous astronaut who nobody has ever heard of. Well listen arsehole, I'm staying sane. Go back to your wife, see if I care."

"Don't worry, I'm going back to my wife as soon as I leave this island."

"Well bugger off then ..."

AND WHY DIDN'T HE?

He woke with a start as her words rang in his ears. Only it was, you're not going to believe this, a dream again. Sure enough she was making coffee; he could smell it. Sure enough she gave him a cup; as I described before.

But her spirit had gone: she knelt in front of him: "I'll do anything you say, but please don't leave me."

He wasn't prepared for this, she was being completely submissive: "I'm going to have to when we leave this island."

Her hand touched his, rested on it: "Love me till then. Give me your child, I'll never try to contact you, I'll never trouble you, I'll never ..." She started to cry ... "I'll never tell our baby who her father is."

He just let her cry: he was a married man who loved his wife and family."

She stared into his eyes: "You don't want me no more, do you?"

He told her the truth: "No."

She eased her rings off and held them out to him: "Better have your rings back then."

"They're not mine."

"But you gave them to me," she wailed: "You told me you loved me, you told me that you'd love me forever!"

"Cecil may have, but I didn't."

She stared at her rings.

"Put them back on, this may just be a bad dream, when you wake up Cecil might be back again."

"Bad dream" she muttered.

Hell, as far as he knew perhaps it was all a dream: "Yeah, why not?"

"I don't want dreams like this."

He changed the subject: "You got any clothes I can wear?"

She shook her head: "You're not having Cecil's clothes, he'll need them when he comes back."

His bladder was bursting so he said "excuse me" and wandered off into the bushes. Then he kept going, spent a couple of hours walking through the undergrowth until he came out on the other side of the island. He stopped dead in his tracks: there was a boat anchored fifty yards off the beach. And on the water's edge a dinghy pulled up onto the sand. And walking away from him, further along the beach, a man.

He called over to him, the man turned round, they waved and made towards each other. Life turned a turn crazier. He was a single-handed around the World yachtsman and this was an uninhabited atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Miles, and I mean miles, from anywhere. They had a really strange conversation. The yachtsman obviously thought he was nuts: probably thought he'd been shipwrecked here; he seemed to want to get away from him.

Then there was a voice behind them, it was her: "Darling, oh darling, who are you talking to?"

The poor guy looked really spaced-out as she purred towards them in a bikini; he'd been at sea for months and hadn't seen a woman for what seemed like an age. Introductions of a sort were made and they went back to the campsite, or love-nest as she referred to it. Her arm-in-arm with the sailor and he trailing behind; she must have known every detail of his life by the time they got there.

She cooked a meal and sat by the sailor on the other side of the fire from him; he'd hardly said a word since talking to the sailor on the beach. From somewhere bottles of wine appeared and he swigged away at one ... at two, at three ... hell he didn't know ... watching them. They were riveted by each other, only had eyes for each other.

The fire started to get low and, and she spoke to him, told him to get some more firewood. He went down to the highwater mark and got some driftwood. When he came back they were gone. Just the two wine glasses (there hadn't been a third) lying on the sand where they'd been sitting. He put down the wood and listened; not a sound.

He thought he knew exactly where they'd gone: to the sailor's boat. He cursed himself: why hadn't he doubled back when they were walking to the camp? He could have stolen the boat and sailed back to civilisation. And why hadn't he? Jealousy. This just had to be a dream: he couldn't make up his mind whether or not to chase after them; after all she could have been his wife. He felt totally confused.

He shrugged to himself, tried to think of Valerie and the kids, and built up the fire. He got into the hammock and watched the stars, the sky was ablaze and he wondered how long it would take us to reach them. Not in his lifetime, but that didn't seem to matter too much to him. We'd made a start: somebody had to make it and we had: we'd preordained the future of mankind.

He heard a twig snap and hand-in-hand they crept back into the camp. "I think he's asleep," she whispered to the sailor. He turned his head away as she lay the sleeping bag between the hammock and the fire.

The sailor giggled: "What about him?"

"Oh he won't mind."

"Is there something wrong with him?"

"You could say that."

He was seething but kept quiet.

"But what if he wakes up?"

"He can join in."

"Oh, he's like that, is he?"

"He's got a predilection for young men."

"Well he's not having my arse."

"Be quiet!" She stifled a laugh.

"You're a bit of alright, you are."

"You're not too bad yourself either."

"How about sailing away with me in my yacht?"

"And leave him here?"

"Yes, be more cosy just the two of us."

"Oh I could never leave him."

"Why not?"

"We're married."

"Well if you can be unfaithful to him, what's the point?"

"Who said anything about being unfaithful to him?"

"You did."

"I didn't."

"Well you've been leading me on then."

"I haven't."

"Oh I get it, you've been trying to make him feel horny through me."

"I was just being hospitable."

"I'm going back to my boat then."

"I think you'd better."

The sailor went up to the hammock and shouted "goodnight" in his ear then crashed off into the undergrowth.

He felt her hand on his shoulder: "Weren't you jealous?"

"No."

"Not even a little bit."

"Why don't you go to sleep?"

"I'm not tired."

"Well I am."

"Oh very well then." Next instant she was lying on top of him.

"Look get off me."

"No."

He moved violently and they both fell out of the hammock.

A WILD GLARE IN HIS EYES

And he awoke again but this time couldn't move. He was tied to a palm tree, with the ropes being tightened. She was tied to a tree opposite him. The ropes pulled tight so that he could hardly breathe. It was the sailor, he reeked of rum and had a wild glare in his eyes: "Comfy, mister world famous astronaut who nobody's ever heard of?"

This wasn't a dream, it was a full-blooded nightmare. The sailor started kissing and pawing at her: she was staring at him, screaming for him to save her. And for the first time she was calling him JJ. He was struggling at his bonds, and biting at his gag, but they wouldn't budge. She was screaming hysterically as the sailor tucked her thighs under his arms and started to rape her.

WHAT'S HAPPENING TO ME?

He awoke with a start and flung aside the sleeping bag. She was nowhere to be seen. He started shouting her name "Lunar, Lunar" and ran to the beach. She was running towards him from the water's edge, they crashed into each other's arms.

He was so relieved that she was unharmed: "Oh thank God you're safe, I had a most terrible nightmare."

The relief on her face was like the Sun coming out from behind an eclipse by the Moon: "Oh Cecil, you've come back to me!"

He tried to square with her: "Lunar, Lunar I'm not Cecil, I'm JJ."

He thought she'd be crushed again but she didn't take it too badly, she was practically smiling: "But you do care about me, don't you?"

He made a hangdog face, because he did care even though he had a wife and family.

She seemed happy: "I'll make breakfast, why don't you go for a quick swim."

They spent a very pleasant day together. As a kind of peace offering she gave him, when he returned from his swim for breakfast, a T- shirt.

She got him to talk about himself and by the time nightfall came and they'd had dinner she knew his life story. Her life sounded interesting on paper but pretty dull in reality. When she was a little girl her father had defected to Russia taking her with him, she'd never known her mother who'd died when she was a baby. She'd been old enough to remember her former life, then growing up, as the only black person in the World as she put it, hadn't been much fun. Her life had been that of a PR prop until ... until 'fur hat and no knickers', and she'd met Cecil. Then life had become most definitely worth living - to use her words. She wasn't anti-Russian, or anti-American for that matter. Seemed to be rather apolitical; or as she put it: she didn't believe in fairies good or bad.

They nearly had a normal day. But just before bedtime she offered to sleep with him. His rejection soon brought misery and tears. But at least she was open to reason. He got her into the sleeping bag and kissed her goodnight on the cheek. She apologised, said she thought she'd try and jog his memory. She said she hoped he didn't think her a slut, he said he didn't, and apart from the occasional snivel that was that for the day.

The next day, Thursday, she was very depressed. Perhaps cowed would be a better word. She only spoke when spoken to but watched him all the time. Wouldn't let him out of her sight, which was rather embarrassing. Apart from that she seemed okay until mid-afternoon. They were sitting on the foreshore watching the surf pounding on the reef. She'd snuggled up close to him, clutching his arm. He didn't mind, another day and they'd be gone; anyway, he was getting to feel sorry for her.

The wind was picking up a bit, sky looked stormy. And with the bad weather a few sharks were cruising around the shallows. She got up and walked down the beach.

"Where are you going?" He called out after her.

"For a swim."

"You can't ... can't you see the sharks?"

She seemed cheerful: "Oh I'm not afraid of them."

"Well you ought to be."

"Try and stop me!" She laughed and ran into the surf. He was on his feet in an instant. As soon as she started to swim out to sea the sharks changed direction and headed towards her. He ran down the beach screaming her name, she turned and waved, then seemed to realise her danger for the first time.

He carried her back up the beach, she was shivering uncontrollably with shock and her arms gripped tightly around his neck. They sat against a palm tree and he held her close to him. It was like soothing his little daughter after a nightmare.

She whispered: "I'm frightened JJ."

"Well, it's alright now."

"But tomorrow we'll leave here and I'll never see you again. I'll be all alone in the World. Will I have to go back?"

"Go back where?"

"Moscow."

"Not if you don't want to. Do you?"

"I don't want to go anywhere. I want to be with you."

"Now you know that's not possible. I told you, I've got a wife and family."

"If you didn't have ... you know, would you let me stay with you?"

"It would be more a case of you getting away from me."

"You mean that?"

"You know I do."

"So if you weren't married you'd marry me?"

"I guess I would. That is, if you'd have me."

"I'd say yes, just like I did the first time." They were quiet until she said: "Say something."

"What would you like me to say?"

"What you said just now."

"That if I wasn't married I'd like to marry you?"

"Tell me that you love me."

"I love my wife."

"I love you."

"Yeah, well that's unfortunate."

She got up and walked over to a palm tree then started to climb it.

"Lunar, what are you doing?"

"Climbing a tree, there are some coconuts up there, would you like one?"

"Come back down, you might fall and hurt yourself ... you crazy kid."

She kept climbing then as she reached out for a coconut suddenly froze; she called out all panic stricken: "JJ help me, I'm going to fall."

Just like with the sharks she'd done something completely crazy then sort of woke up. She was going insane. He tried to talk her down but she was frozen with fear, so he climbed up after her and somehow got her down. Lunar was a gibbering wreck again and had picked up some nasty grazes during the descent.

Their relationship was getting really strange. She was falling apart in front of his eyes. The whole fabric of her mind seemed to be disintegrating. And it scared her. It terrified her. She whispered: "JJ, what's happening to me?"

He didn't like the look in her eyes: it was so wild. But her insanity deepened his sanity. He knew who he was and where he was. He didn't know how he'd got from 'A' to 'B' but he knew that he was lucky in the extreme to still be alive. But what about her? Reality seemed to be different to her. Her reality seemed to be that her husband Cecil was a bigamist, who'd now given her the cold shoulder in favour of his wife and kids.

He started to feel deeply worried. What if she ... What if she got suicidal? He was very deeply worried. There was only one thing on his mind: to keep her alive for the next twenty-four hours.

HE THOUGHT SHE WAS DEAD

He took her down to the water's edge, he wanted her to wash her grazes with the salt water. But she wouldn't: just stared at him, tightly gripping his hand. She wasn't speaking, the last words she'd said were: "JJ, what's happening to me?" He asked her if she had a first-aid kit but she wouldn't reply. So they stood there with the warm water lapping around their feet. He walked her out until the water was up to their knees, didn't want to go out too far in case the sharks were still around and smelt her blood, then washed her grazes.

They walked back, hand-in-hand, to the campsite. She wouldn't let go his hand and when he shook it free her reaction was walk up to the nearest palm tree. She didn't start to climb: just got ready to, then stared at him seemingly daring him to do nothing. He held out his hand and she returned to him, clasping his hand in both of hers. He thought he'd fix her: so he tied her hands together; she didn't resist.

Dawn came on the Friday morning and he heaved a huge sigh of relief. But the intelligent woman he'd first met seemed to be replaced by a mute dummy who had complete faith and trust in him. He said he'd make breakfast and while his back was turned she did a disappearing act. He found her lying face down in the sea. He thought she was dead. Nothing he could do seemed to bring her round. He was about to give up when her eyes flickered ... it's no good me even attempting to describe the emotion he felt.

YOU WERE DREAMING OF ME!!?

But it was all a dream. He was back in the baby incubator. The first thing he saw was her face: "Lunar" he involuntarily gasped.

She repeated the word, seemingly puzzled: "Lunar?"

"What am I doing here?"

"I sterilised you."

"What!!?" She looked embarrassed, he said: "I thought for a moment ..."

"I'm sorry, but there was a danger that we could infect each other."

He wondered what she really meant: she looked flustered as her eyes came into synchronisation with the direction of her gaze. "Where am I?"

"On what you call the Moon."

"The Moon ... Who are you?"

"Me ... I ..." her hand came to her forehead ... "I ... I don't remember, I had a name once but I've forgotten it now."

She looked dreadfully upset; he told her: "In my dreams you were called Lunar."

"Dreams ... What dreams?"

He grinned: "While you were sterilising me."

"You were dreaming of me!!?" Her mouth gaped open, her hand covered it, and her eyes seemed to stare wildly.

He thought he'd better change the subject: "Anyway ... How long have I been here?"

"A week, in your time."

"You've been sterilising me for a week!"

"Well, not me, the machine. I thought the process had completed itself several times, but each time it continued."

"I must have been very dirty!"

"It not only cleanses the body but the mind too. I think when you first woke up the pain you suffered must have been a sign that all was not well with your mind. There was a build up of emotion, which dissipated itself during the later processes. In your mind you symbolised that as dreams, you symbolised it to yourself. You were not in pain when you woke up for the second time?"

"Far from it!"

"I think we have said enough about your dream experiences." She looked extremely embarrassed and seemed to find the subject distasteful.

"Did my friends make it back?"

"Yes, but they think you're dead. You are a hero throughout your planet and have been honoured in all lands. Your next, what you call Apollo mission, will be to bring your body back to Earth. Until then you will have to remain here, then I will take you to your friends and you can go home with them to your wife and family."

"Thanks. It's going to be hell of a shock for everybody."

She grinned: "But they'll all be so pleased to see you."

"Yes I guess they will ..." He looked around himself; "I don't believe all this."

"You have no choice."

"How long have you lived here?"

"I was born here."

"Born here!!? You mean there's a colony of Earth people living on the Moon that nobody knows about?"

"No. We came from another part of the galaxy, not too distant in stellar terms but in terms of lifetimes very many generations away. We came here as a colonising expedition but could find nowhere to live. No where which would support life naturally, so we settled here."

"What about Earth?"

"There were already people living there. We have a law that we should only colonise planets uninhabited by people."

"How many of you live here then?"

"No one, only me."

"You mean you're all on your own?"

She looked terribly upset: "Yes."

"But you must have had parents?"

"Yes but I never knew them. All I can remember is an old woman who died when I was nine."

"How old are you now?"

"Twenty-seven of your Earth years."

"You've been alone for eighteen years?"

"Yes," she nodded.

"What happened to everybody?"

"This artificial colony cannot sustain life indefinitely. People lost the will to live, their bodies lost the capacity to breed. When I was born the survivors committed suicide, leaving me with an old woman who would not live too long, so that ... the colony's energy supply and resources are nearly exhausted. I will live to a good age but will not know old age."

"You're coming back to Earth with me."

"I can't."

"Why not?"

"I have no immunity against your illnesses."

"We'll figure something out."

"But you have no immunity against what I may harbour."

"I wouldn't worry about that, we'll soon find out if you're lethal to me."

"I've got some clothing for you."

She handed him what turned out to be a dress! Simply designed, sleeveless with open armpits - like she had on. She turned away as he got out of the steriliser and pulled it over his head. He laughed: "On Earth we'd call this women's clothes!"

She relaxed: "I know but I never thought of clothes for you until the machine warned me that your processing was about to terminate. We'll find you something more appropriate."

He felt a bit concerned about her: "Are you okay? You didn't look too good just now."

"I think that what I spoke to you about must have started."

He joked: "Perhaps you need sterilising?"

She looked serious: "It might be a good idea but I don't know how long the process would last and you'd be all alone while you waited."

"I don't think you ought to put it off too long. How about if you ..." No point going into trivia, she told him enough to stay alive and what to do after he lowered the hatch on her.

It was his turn to watch over her. Her face looked so innocent, the emotions transparent. There was no mask like we wear. He felt really sorry for the kid, not that she was a child but her face was childlike; the body a mature woman's. She was in there for two whole days, bathed in different colour glows and sometimes what seemed like mists; she seemed to go through a dream cycle too.

The processing finished while he was asleep, on waking he'd gone to check the steriliser but it was empty; the lid open on its hinge. She was in what passed as the kitchen, sitting at the table with her forehead resting on her folded arms; she seemed to be silently crying.

He touched her shoulder: "Are you alright?" She didn't reply so he asked: "What's wrong?"

"My emotions are at war with my life. My natural instincts find no release in my solitary existence."

"I know it finds a stupid thing to say, but is there anything I can do?"

She was really brave, tried to joke: "Thank you, but I'll be okay in a minute."

"Have any nice dreams?"

She started to sob.

He crouched down by her: "Hey now, don't cry."

She turned her head to look at him: "I'm sorry but my dreams were beautiful. They were dreams of love and life where I lived the life of a woman. Here I live the life of a machine and will until the day I die."

"No way, you wait until we get you to Earth."

Her voice sounded awed: "It must be so wonderful to smell the scent of flowers and listen to the songs of birds ..." She suddenly turned serious and clutched at his hand: "JJ, there is something you must know. Your people and mine are both the same species."

"Well perhaps you're dreams will come true then! No reason why you shouldn't fall in love and have a family."

She was earnest: "But don't you understand!"

"Of course I do, you're a perfectly normal young woman and need to lead a normal life."

"But JJ, what it means is that we must have a common ancestor!"

"Perhaps we're related!"

She got impatient: " Shut up and listen! You could not have propagated us since you are only now leaving your planet's surface. We could not have propagated you since ours was the first, and as far as I know the only, colonising mission to this solar system. What it means is that both Earth and my home planet must have been colonised by a common ancestor!"

"On Earth they think we're descended from monkeys!"

She spluttered a laugh: "JJ! You don't look like a monkey!"

"Nor do you," and he let his eyes drop.

She shrieked and playfully slapped his arm.

ENJOYING EACH OTHER'S COMPANY

They spent ten gloriously happy weeks together, nothing heavy happened, they were like a couple of kids simply enjoying each other's company. And what he learnt, she was so intelligent. The time came to leave and it was oh so difficult for him but she was brave, told him not to worry about her and to come back for her as soon as he could. But he never did.

Life went crazy on Earth: everybody was amazed, invigorated, delighted that there wasn't a man in the Moon but a woman; and good old Uncle Sam was going to bring her home to Earth. Then just before the mission to rescue Lunar the Russians launched a Moon probe and there was an atomic explosion on the Moon bang spot-on where Lunar lived in her subterranean home. In the interests of World peace they had the destroyed the Moon woman and her habitat in case she gave us an unfair technological advantage in the struggle for World domination.

That finished him, his life fell apart completely. He resigned from NASA, his wife Valerie filed for divorce on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour. Three years later he was still heartbroken, divorced, out of work; but not needing to work due to Uncle Sam's generosity. Whenever he saw the Moon he could see her face, see her features in its markings and she always seemed to be crying.

A DREAM, OR A NIGHTMARE

Then one day he was thinking about all this and he wondered if it was all a dream, or a nightmare if you like. He searched the charts of the Pacific Ocean for that island and found a likely candidate. Then he was off to San Francisco where he bought a small yacht. And he set sail on a westward's course. To that island. To Lunar.

BETWEEN THE PALM TREES

It was a desert island all right, and deserted to boot. No signs of them, or anybody for that matter, being there. He even found what she called their love-nest, but just a clearing between the palm trees. On a hunch he dug below the grass and found ashes. Their fire. He sent her a message, and he didn't send it in a bottle, he ran the yacht onto the reef and sank it. Like on the Moon he was stranded on the island and would die if she didn't rescue him.

AND FRIENDS BECAME LOVERS

He didn't have long to wait, she came that night. She suddenly appeared on the other side of the fire, asked him what he was doing there. He was overjoyed to see her and sprang to his feet shouting: "Lunar, you're alive!" Then she too was overcome with emotion, simply shouted his name: "JJ!" And flung her arms out wide. And friends became lovers.

They lived an idyllic existence until she was three months pregnant when a French naval vessel arrived. The island was a French possession and going to be their new atomic bomb testing site. Paradise was to become a graveyard. So they pretended to be a couple of shipwrecked mariners and went back to the States. But they went back married. And since it was springtime he took his alien princess on honeymoon to Paris.

They lived simple lives, well compared to what they'd been used to, and once they had one child Lunar's only ambition in life was another. Nothing seemed to upset her, not even been called a nigger married to white trash. But then, I suppose, anything is better that being stuck in a sardine can all your life.

THE BIG SECRET

Then it started happening: satellites in orbit systematically went down, anything launched malfunctioned immediately it achieved orbit. East blamed west and west blamed east. But both sides were equally affected.

A lot of people liked the new deal: there was a systematic wiping out of computer memories which by implication meant no nuclear power, pollution cut at a stroke and nuclear warfare was once more a pre-war impossibility. Talking of war, machines of war systematically too were impossibly immobilised. There was a global sigh of relief: someone or something had released the safety valve on the pressure cooker of the World of man.

So man needed its revenge. Power isn't much fun if you haven't got power over your fellow man, and a lot of important people world-wide having lost their nuclear figleafs were beginning to feel positively naked. They needed a scapegoat but how do you find one? Answer: JJ the astronaut in the first instance to explore the possibilities. Why JJ the astronaut? Well if he hadn't had his life saved by the Moon Woman then this terrible catastrophe of space induced World peace would never have happened.

But where was JJ? Well they found out he'd bought a yacht in San Francisco and sailed out into the wide blue yonder. The French had found that wreck. Two and two were put together to make four. So they found him. Not that, of course, he knew that there was an international conspiracy to find him. The Russians got involved when it was discovered that he'd remarried and had a wife who spoke with a Russian accent. Why did she speak with a Russian accent? She didn't know and, of course, the dialectologists of the evil empire, sorry I mean what we used to call not the free World, couldn't work out where she had exactly come from either. I guess it must have been some sort of fluke; well she had to have some sort of accent, didn't she?

But in the debriefing from Apollo 11, of course, he'd spilled the beans. This is where no computers come in: it took quite awhile for the obvious to stare them in the face: Lunar was the Moon woman. Their minds worked at genius level: this terrible disaster of World peace was the aliens way of blackmailing us to return Lunar to them: give them back Lunar and we could have World War Three back.

So Apollo 13 became a one-way trip to the Moon, or to be precise to Moon orbit. He ended up in Moon orbit with a pregnant wife, a toddler and supplies to last a month. A trip to eternity: they only paid the fare one-way, after a month ... not that they cared. He didn't want to do it, didn't think his family would survive take off. But it was either take the risk and take the chance or Apollo 13 would have simply been a cosmic coffin. To their insane minds he and Lunar were party to a secret.

The big secret being that all the nuclear weapons' testing was like us placing a great big advertisement in space: environmentally benign planet ripe for exploitation, inhabited by a technologically primitive lifeform which ... well, which had a deathwish. But of course it wasn't like that in reality: reality was that Lunar was one of theirs and they wanted her back.

But Lunar was doubly damned: if she hadn't had a home on the Moon then we couldn't have blown it up. It was reckoned that the aliens were pretty angry at what we'd done. Some jerk invented a story about how Lunar had been taken, out of our humanity, to Earth and then in the interests of World peace her home had been destroyed to prevent one side having an unfair technological advantage in the war to destroy the World: World War Three. If it wasn't their fault then why should they be harmed? He told them to go and ask some Vietnamese peasant who'd got his leg blown off ploughing his field.

In the end he put it down simply so spite: it was like all that anybody wanted to do was to get Lunar back in a sardine can. Why couldn't Lunar go back to the Moon the way she'd come to Earth? Answer: Star Trek, anyway any trekies out there will understand. After the Russians had zapped her home, in the interests of World peace, she'd been effectively hermetically sealed in a sardine can. Access to the Moon's surface was no longer possible and the electronic relays which had enabled her to keep a surveillance on Earth, what had been her equivalent of TV, were disabled by the pulse of electromagnetic radiation from the bomb.

So there was Lunar trapped like a sardine in a can, completely and utterly alone, for well over three years. Then she got his emotional message. So she used a matter transporter to travel to Earth, a one-way trip since she had to set the controls, jump in and pray that she came out in one piece at the other end. Not a particularly good idea since if there'd been a solar flare, or some sort of energy field, to disrupt her passage then Lunar could well have rematerialised with her fingers sticking out of her arse. But she took the risk.

LAST SUNSET IN PARADISE

So there they all were in Moon orbit. Anything happen? Nothing. The month came to an end and they all died. Except they didn't, pretty obvious I expect you're thinking, but I can assure you that it wasn't obvious to them at the time. So if they didn't die then what happened to them, or was it all one of those dreams?

They ended up, believe it or not, back on their paradise island. Just like it was before the French decided it would be a good idea, in the interests of World peace, to make it glow in the dark. That could only mean one thing: they'd gone back in time. Or did it? They reckoned it was a dream and that took the icing off the cake for them.

In their hearts they both knew that they were merely experiencing a respite from fate. They seemed to have some sort of mental tie-in: on the Moon they'd both dreamt of their desert island and even if the content of the dreams had differed the physical reality of the island was identical. What they believed even though they could see, feel, hear, make love, was that somewhere their bodies were stored in a state of immobilisation and that were communicating by some kind of emotional telepathy.

Somehow they had experienced a quantum leap in evolution: they were two halves of the same creature, and with their bodies immobilised were one. So they waited, not that they had any choice, for their last Sunset in paradise. And it wasn't too long in coming.

BEING FATTENED FOR THE SLAUGHTER

One morning they woke up, true they were on their paradise island but it was present day. Uninhabited but no longer paradise, more like a gigantic building site as a result of the French preparations for nuclear testing; and uninhabited since, as a result of the aliens' activities, nuclear testing was no more. I expect that you're laughing at the way I started this chapter but he wasn't: as soon as he woke he broke into a cold sweat. He was wearing what could only be described as a chastity belt with his balls encased in something like a golden pouch.

That golden pouch completely altered their lives: from being two people madly, and passionately, in love they became like two ... like two completely asexual beings. For any emotion of an affectionate nature, whether thought of deed, on his or her part, would result in his balls receiving an electric shock.

The only way I can describe it is that they felt like two animals being fattened for the slaughter. They knew that there was a reason for what was being done to them but because of the cruelty involved they weren't too hopeful about the future.

TWO BRANCHES OF THE SAME TREE

You heard of the Man in the Iron Mask? Yeah, well at that time it looked like this story was going to be called the Man in the Golden Pouch! Not that it was something they joked about.

They were sitting under the shade of the palm trees steadfastly looking out to sea, taking great care not to look at each other. It was terrible for them, they just couldn't relax, had to concentrate on not even thinking about each other.

"I wonder why they did it?" Lunar pondered.

"Out of spite I guess."

"Because we were so happy?"

"Well a lot of people are like that, aren't they?"

"So you think that they are people just like us, human?"

"In a general sort of way, but no way do they compare with you."

"Be careful what you say darling."

"Don't worry about thinking in that direction, I curse them under my breath all the time."

"I hate them!"

"So do I baby, so do I."

"I'd like to kill them!"

"I'd settle for getting it off."

"So would I JJ, so would I."

"Why do you think they did it then?"

"I think we must look at the results of their actions and then attempt to discover what their motives could possibly be."

"I wonder why they didn't just castrate me?"

"You think we are like toys in a game they're playing?"

"Yes I do. I always think of you stuck all alone on the Moon for all those years. And as soon as you find some happiness everybody tries to make you unhappy again."

"They can never take away our memories."

"Can't they? I can't even think without being punished."

"So you think we are being punished?"

"Yes. Earth punished us and now so is outer space."

"But why us?"

"Because we were so happy."

"We always will be."

"I don't call this happiness."

"It could be worse."

"Yeah, I know, it could be raining."

"Or they could kill us."

"If they broke their toys they wouldn't be able to play their game anymore."

"Perhaps kill one and leave the other. At least they haven't harmed our child. He looks so happy playing at the water's edge."

"Funny how kids love building sandcastles, I was just the same. Anyway, how you feeling, it can't be too long now?"

"I'm alright."

"It spoils it though, don't it?"

"It can't be helped."

"There must be a way out of this!"

"You think so?"

"Well they got the damn thing on so there must be a way of getting it off."

"Sometimes I wonder if we're being punished for me coming between you and your first wife."

"Don't think like that baby, you'll only end up blaming yourself."

"I can't help it, there's your other family to consider."

"Isn't life complicated."

"I don't think you ought to joke about things like that."

"The man with the golden balls!"

"Don't darling."

"Why not? There's nothing else to do."

"Perhaps we should separate?"

"No way, that's exactly what they want us to do."

"But I'm so afraid for you, I think you're being punished for me."

"You? What have you ever done wrong?"

"Wanting you."

"That's what they call original sin in the Bible honey. It's been like that since the World began."

"Perhaps we're being told that we've got to change?"

"I think they're talking to the wrong people then."

"But we ... we didn't just make love to make babies."

"What's it to do with them? We always kept ourselves to ourselves, we never interfered with anybody else's lives."

"Darling don't be ridiculous."

"What you saying that for?"

"You're JJ the astronaut, the first man to walk on the Moon and I'm the woman in the Moon. Everybody has been affected by us."

"Did you say infected or affected?"

"Samething, we live in their minds."

"Not any more."

"They all know about us, they must think about us sometimes."

"So? I expect they do."

"But they must wonder what became of us."

"Well Joe Public thinks you got zapped on the Moon by the commies honey."

"But what about you?"

"Well since there's no longer a space programme I doubt if it really matters. My time has past from the point of view of being a celebrity."

"But if people knew about us. That JJ the astronaut and Lunar the Moon woman were living amongst them on Earth, married and with a family, what would people think then?"

"Well the ones who knew blamed us for everything and tried to get rid of us."

"But nobody else would?"

"You sure of that?"

"Of course I am. People are so kind and generous, it's only their leaders who are hateful and spiteful."

"You've got a very, what shall I say, idealistic view of human nature."

"I haven't. When the Captain of the French warship married us everybody was so kind, generous and happy."

"Yeah, one woman amongst three hundred men. I was lucky I wasn't lynched."

"Why be so negative about your fellow humans? Why compare them to their so called leaders?"

"You'd better be careful, you'll be leading a revolution next."

"Yes. But why shouldn't people love instead of hate?"

"Well if they like each other then they're not busy getting on each other's nerves?"

"So they ...?"

"So they ... What are you getting at?"

"The old way on Earth was wrong. You were all destroying yourselves. Instead of a lifewish you had a deathwish."

"Still have if getting rid of us gives them back the bomb."

"But it's not natural."

"It's reality."

"Reality changes."

"It sure does baby, until I had my golden balls I was the happiest man on Earth."

"And you will be again darling."

"I hope so, I sincerely hope so."

"So do I."

They found themselves staring into each other's eyes, a tear slowly rolled from the corner of each of hers, she wiped her cheeks with the back of her hand. She whispered: "There must be something we can do?"

"If I didn't have golden balls I'd show you."

"Golden balls. It suits you."

"Thanks a million."

"But it does. You're my golden balls and always will be."

"Lunar ... I often think of you as 'fur hat and no knickers'.

"I remember ... We shouldn't talk like this."

"Fur hat and no knickers!"

"Don't darling, they'll only hurt you."

"How do you reckon it works? Do you think there's somebody eavesdropping on us?"

"It must be an emotionally driven device."

"Just think then there's probably millions of dollars of investment and God only knows how many man years of effort just to make a machine to stop me thinking about you."

"It must have similarities with the steriliser."

"You can say that again!"

"Don't joke like that JJ, please don't."

"I'm sorry honey. I guess it's the old graveyard humour of the space programme. You couldn't be an astronaut and worry too much about tomorrow."

"But I worry! I seem to have spent my entire life worrying if there will even to be a tomorrow."

"You're the World's conscience honey."

"Why do you call me that?"

"Honey? You know why!"

"No JJ stop it!"

"But it's true!"

"But they'll hurt you!"

"Oh bugger them, I can't spend my life worrying because somebody is trying to control the way I feel. I'm a man, you're a woman. I love you. I can't think of you as a machine."

"Perhaps they're trying to de-humanise us?"

"To turn us into machines?"

She nodded, then sobbed: "I don't want to be a machine again JJ, I spent the first thirty years of my life living like that."

"If I could get my hands on the bastard who did this I'd stick his head up his arse!"

"I'm hurting you now," she wailed.

"You're not baby."

"But I am. If I'm unhappy you're angry. If I'm happy you're happy. It's always been like that."

"I don't like seeing you unhappy."

"I know darling, I don't like seeing you like ..."

"Like an eunuch."

"But you're not darling."

"Might as well be."

She started crying and he started muttering to himself: "Golden balls, the bastards ... can't even comfort my wife when she's upset, can't even put my arm around her. And why? So some galactic wanker can get a kick out of her sorrow. Talk about us but who is worse? Them or us? They got nothing to shout about. At the end of the day all it comes down to is power. The reason for living. Power over somebody else."

"You've got power over me."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"You know what I mean."

"Same goes for me with you."

"We have power over each other then."

"And they have power over us.

"And if we had power over them we'd make them suffer."

"Sure would baby, sure would."

"We've got to stop thinking like this."

"True, it doesn't seem to get us nowhere."

"Let's think of something else."

"Okay then honey, what shall we think about?"

She smiled: "Of us but not of our obsession."

"Talk fast, I'm starting to get a lifeform reading."

"JJ think of ... think of who you are."

"JJ the astronaut, the first man to walk on the Moon."

"I'm so proud of you."

"Chucks honey, it was nothing."

"And I am Lunar, the Moon woman, the last of my kind."

"But we're all the same: I am you and you are me."

"That's beautiful. Yes we are one and not even they can change that."

"Perhaps they are trying to rewrite history then, that's what all the megalomaniacs try and do, isn't it?"

"That you should not be the first man on the Moon and I should not be the Moon woman?"

"Something like that ... but when you think about it we're not. We're just an ordinary family. I mean I don't go round telling the seagulls about me being the Moon man and you being the Moon woman."

"Perhaps you ought to?"

He shouted: "Hey seagulls, I'm the Moon man and she's the Moon woman." He felt something, like ... well the pouch seemed to loosen: "It's coming off Lunar!"

"Shout it again!"

"Let's shout it together!"

"JJ is the Moon man and Lunar is the Moon woman!"

"It's a message JJ. What we've got to do is to tell the World who we are."

"Bloody stupid way ... Why couldn't they have just told us?"

"They have. They have communicated. All we had to do was to interpret their communication. Don't you understand?"

"No I bloody don't." He was trying to ease the pouch off but it was still too tight."

"You see, it's not just that you're the Moon man and I'm the Moon woman. That's the icing on the cake."

"How about covering you with icing and I'll lick it all off?"

"Careful JJ."

"It's coming Lunar, it's getting looser, keep talking."

"We ... we are the same species."

"Sure are honey."

"We know that since if we weren't we couldn't breed."

"Too true baby, too true ... I think we're getting there."

"We are two ..."

"Two tits and two balls!"

"JJ!" She wagged her finger at him. "Two ... two people. A man and a woman."

"As soon as I get this bloody thing off I'm going to check out which you are!"

"Two people. A man and a woman. Of the same species. Of different branches of the same tree. With the same root."

"I know where I'm going to plant my root!"

"But think JJ!"

"What do you think I'm doing!"

"Two branches of the same tree," she held up her left hand, fingers spread wide. She ran her fingers of the other hand over them: "Branches of the same tree ... two tribes with a common ancestor ... Once long, long, long ago our genes were all ..." She wrapped one set of fingers around the other "... were all as one, all in the same place in space, on the same planet. Then our ancestors left their World and colonised new Worlds. Your planet and mine.

"History and evolution caused, time caused, nature caused us to spread across the cosmos. For as with the Earth and the Sun, our home planet of our ancestors was ultimately doomed.

"Which is why I was on the Moon. Which is why you were on the Moon. Which is why ... which is why ... yet over the aeons of time what was dispersed has now come back together in us. In our children.

"Our children are the reunification of mankind. What was once scattered across the cosmos is now whole again. The lifeforce of our race that was dissipated and weakened is now concentrating again and will become strong again ..."

"You can say that again baby, it's come off ... Geronimo!"

TIME AND TIDE

Well I won't elaborate on what happened between then and breakfast, except to say that time and tide wait for no man and the time was right for the tide of love to come in.

He felt so tired: "That was a night worth remembering."

"I told you you'd be happy again."

"Yeah, but with that damn thing blocking my action I found it hard to believe you."

"Where is it?"

"I don't know."

"I'll find it."

"Leave it alone."

"Oh there it is over there."

He saw her pick it up, she examined it then picked up a pebble and dropped it in. Suddenly she threw it away and ran towards him.

He caught her in his arms: "What's up baby?"

"JJ!" Suddenly there was a loud explosion. "That could have been your balls!"

THE SHIP OF FATE

They were at a loss to know what to do. Not ... well up till then they'd thought, sort of unconsciously agreed, that their best chance of happiness was to sort of blend into the background. But the aliens were telling them to do the opposite. Now even if they wanted to be the centre of World attention, as they once were, they didn't have a clue how to go about it. I mean they weren't in a position to do what they'd once done, sort of stand on the Moon and say: "Hey look at me!" There seemed to be an intellectual absurdity about it all.

But did anybody know they were here, on what used to be their paradise island? Of course not. The World leaders thought they knew where they were: floating around the Moon in a sardine can. But they too had expected some sort of reaction, message, communication, from the aliens as a result. But what had the aliens done? Sent them back.

It was like the World leaders and the aliens were playing tennis and they were the ball. So what they reckoned they had to do was play along. Just settle for being the ball. But they were stuck on a coral island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. There wasn't much they could do except wait, wait for a passing ship. The ship of fate. Eventually it arrived. Things had seemed to be on the way up. Lunar gave birth to a perfectly healthy baby so all the emotional nightmare of the previous months simply seemed to dissolve.

They didn't expect the future to be a bed of roses but were getting pretty good at surviving. Guess that was the secret weapon of their happiness: survival for them and their family was all they aimed for; material things meant nothing.

WHEN HE WAS A KID

They were afraid to kill them so they separated them. They returned to the States in a nuclear submarine. As soon as they landed JJ the astronaut was taken to one side for an interview with a CIA type. He said it was just routine, compared it to a space mission debriefing. Didn't ask him much: if they'd met the aliens and how they'd got to paradise island. Didn't seem to mind that he couldn't help him too much and said he could go back to his wife and kids.

But he didn't. Ended up in an asylum for the criminally insane. They kept him doped up and it was quite awhile before he learnt the full story. Alice visited him.

"I'm here because Valerie asked me to see you."

"Valerie, I haven't thought of her in ages. How are the kids?"

"Everyone's fine. Hard on the kids you turning your back on them like that but ... well, I can't say I hold you fully responsible after all that happened. But then lots of guys turn to prostitutes but not many marry one."

"What are you talking about?"

"Why you're here. Valerie blames herself. At the time she didn't realise what had actually happened to you on the Moon. Now that everybody knows that the Earth is under threat of invasion by the aliens she realises that they brainwashed you. At the time she really believed that the mystery Moon woman actually existed in real life."

"But she did."

"I know JJ, I know." She took out a cigar, offered him one but he declined, then lit it.

She inhaled deeply then exhaled sending a cloud of bluish smoke across the room. The male warder who was keeping an eye on them stood up and ordered: "Put that out, no smoking allowed in here."

She looked him in the eye: "You tired of living or something, don't you know who I am?" He sat down again; the native American in her could sometimes be quite intimidating.

"Same old Alice!"

"I always used to say that about you. You weren't hard enough to be in our job, too soft for your own good. I blame President Nixon, if the stupid bitch hadn't interfered then I'd have been the commander and you would have been the crew. And nothing would have gone wrong. You and me are like chalk and cheese. I see things as black and white, you see things as grey. We made a good team, we complemented each other. But no way should someone like you been put in charge. I'm not getting at you personally but you're too nice. To be in charge you got to be like me, you got to be nasty. Those aliens would never have got inside my head like they did inside yours. Not in a million years!"

"Inside my head? You think it all never really happened?"

"Obviously something happened in the twelve weeks you spent on the Moon before Apollo 12 took you back to Earth. But what was inside your head, your memories, were placed there during your brainwashing."

"What do you think happened then?"

"It doesn't matter, you were just a pawn in a game. That game being the aliens taking over Earth, you were just their opening gambit. I'm not surprised you lost your sanity over it, just that it's tragic that nobody foresaw what the consequences would be to your second wife and family."

"All I want to do is to get out of here and be with them."

"You're not the only one who has been brainwashed, lots of people have and it's getting worse all the time. I'm entering politics, it's the only way we can fight back. The Republicans have been more or less taken over. You'll never believe what they're going to do. They've got this pussy who used to be a minor Hollywood actor and are pitching him for president. He's totally crazy, never seen any active service in his entire life yet thinks that the roles he played in war films really happened. From the aliens point of view a good choice, makes him highly manipulable. We call him the man with no balls!"

"Who do you think I married then, when I remarried?"

"Have it your way, straight between the eyes, you married a prostitute you met in Las Vegas whilst gambling away the compensation you received when you were invalidated out of NASA on mental grounds. Three years ago you had some sort of breakdown and set fire to your mobile home in the middle of the night, as a consequence your wife and family burned to death."

"So that's why I'm here."

"If you'd been anybody else you'd have had to stand trial for murder with the prosecution calling for the death penalty. But given your past history of mental illness it was decided to incarcerate you here for the rest of your natural life."

"So I'll never see her again?"

"As I said Valerie blames herself, but I don't think you mean her, do you?"

"No."

"I just wish there was something I could do for you old buddy."

"There is, fight them. You see, she's not dead she's alive."

"You mean they're trying to brainwash me!!?"

JJ stared her hard in the eye: "Fight them."

Alice clasped his hand and for a moment they shared a grip; perhaps a grip of prehistoric primeval mutual alliance understanding between two humans, low on nature's foodchain, in a hostile World: a non-aggression pact designed for mutually assured survival.

Doped up he sometimes flips, gets violent when the memories get too strong. Writing this is supposed to be a kind of therapy, bit like the steriliser except he doesn't symbolise his mental sickness with dreams but stories on paper. He's pumped up with all sorts of drugs to keep him stable. It's a great life.

He knows what they're trying to do: break him. For some reason they can't kill him: they want him to do it himself. But he won't. Hope keeps him alive. Whenever he sees the Moon he sees her and she always seems to be crying, a full Moon drives him he really wild. Revenge for what they've done to his family keeps him alive too. But he's not interested in Earthly underlings, he's after the real McCoy: aliens.

Every time he sees somebody he doesn't know he wonders if they're an alien. But he's not after the small fry, he's after their leader. Crazy?

When he was a kid they all said he was crazy because he predicted that one day he'd walk on the Moon. But he did. And when he looks at the Moon it's a bit like that ambition.

When he was a kid no way anybody could have reached the Moon. Just as that alien thinks there's no way that he'll reach it. But he reached the Moon. And given half the chance he'd ... he'd end the story of JJ the astronaut and Lunar the Moon woman so that they and their family lived happily ever after.

CYMRU AM BYTH

 

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