Arthred surfaced to take another breath. “Well? Do you know what it is?”
Essfer looked up at the bright disk in the midnight sky. “It is another world.”
“Bah. How can that be?”
“I have spoken with the primates. They say their ancestors have even visited it.”
“They tell tales of wonder without any proof.”
Essfer persisted. “They say it once moved through the sky as the stars do, lifting the ocean as it passed.”
“Ridiculous. It has never moved through the sky in my lifetime, or in the lifetime of any since our writings began. In fact, it is the one object in the sky that never moves.” Arthred spoke with a confidence buttressed by logic and reason. “How could it possibly lift the ocean?”
“You should listen to the primates. They are knowledgeable beyond our comprehension. They build the most wonderful, elegant devices. Technological devices.”
Arthred responded with disdain. “Knowledgeable? They can’t even swim.”
“Why should they? They build machines to do it for them. Besides, their continent is on the other side of the world where they can not even see it, yet they have so many writings, far more ancient than ours, that refer to it. They even know it changes shape throughout the day. How could they know so much about it unless it once passed over their land?”
Arthred dismissed Essfer’s logic. “As you said, they have machines that take them across the ocean. They have long known of its existence.”
Essfer was the first to hear the sound of a skimmer. “I will show you!” She swam feverishly toward the percussive sound and, when she caught up, kept pace along side the skimmer with Arthred just behind. She broke the surface and called, “Ahoy, primate! What brings you to the ocean side of the world?”
The skimmer came to a halt and hovered silently above the vast ocean’s surface. The human on board smiled and extended her hand over the side to greet the two dolphins beckoning her attention. “Well, hello! I didn’t expect to find a friendly face this far from home.”
Arthred seemed eager to be done with Essfer’s ridiculous tirade. He immediately got down to business, abruptly addressing the human. “Primate, I am told you know something about that bright disk in the sky.”
“You mean the moon?” The human looked up at the sky and scratched her head. “Sure. Wha’d’ya want to know?”
Essfer, in an effort to shield the human from Arthred’s rude disdain, quickly spoke up. “Please tell us, primate, is it true that it used to travel across the sky, lifting the ocean?”
“So you know about tides? I’m impressed. I didn’t think your recorded history went that far back.” The human leaned over the railing to gain a more intimate setting with her new friends. “Yeah, it’s true. When the moon was a lot closer than it is now, it moved through the sky, out of sync with Earth’s rotation, and the resulting tides would flood the beaches. But that was a long time ago. Now it just sits in the same point in the sky, over the middle of the ocean.”
Arthred insisted on his turn to query the human. “Is it also true that your ancestors once visited it?” Essfer was certain it was no accident that Arthred chose to question the most unlikely aspect of her dissertation.
The human smiled broadly. “Oh, I see you’ve been talking to others. Yeah, we used to visit the moon all the time. Had observatories there. But once we developed technology to open doorways to other star systems, we pretty much left the moon alone. The moon is… Well, it’s a rather drab place, really. Great place to put a telescope. Lousy place to eat a sandwich.”
Essfer could see that Arthred was not impressed. She asked a general question, hoping the human would mention something outside the realm of her own second-hand knowledge. “Pray, primate, what else can you tell us about the moon?”
The human looked up. “What’s to know? It’s just kinda there, you know?”
Essfer, frustrated with the human’s unhelpful response pressed for more. “Specifically, primate, what scientific discoveries have you made regarding the moon?”
“Ah, well.” The human once again crouched over the rail of her skimmer and gestured with her hat in her fist as she spoke. “We think it was created when another planet collided with Earth a long time ago.” She slammed her fist, with hat, into the palm of her other hand and made a saliva-rich explosion sound, demonstrating to the dolphins the full violence of planetary collision. “It has no air. It started out really close and bright, but it gradually moved away, slowing Earth’s spin as it went, and now it’s about as far away as it’s gonna get. And back before all the continents were pushed into a single land mass… Hey. did you know that there used to be six or seven continents? And just as many oceans? We still have pictures. Not with me, of course, or I’d show you. Would you like to see a weather satellite downlink? I can point out where things used to be.”
“Thank you,” Arthred said, “No. We have little interest in surface weather conditions. I believe we were speaking about the moon?”
“Right. The moon.” The human passed her hat from one fist to the other. “That’s about it, really.”
Arthred turned to leave, but Essfer blocked his way and quickly said to the human, “I am told that the moon has had an impact on your culture and writings. Would you kindly tell us about that?” As Essfer had hoped, Arthred, out of respect for her, awaited the human’s response.
“Okay, sure.” The human sighed before she continued. “It once lit up our cities at night, back when continents spanned the globe. Ancient songs in our culture glorified its place in the sky. The moon was at once a symbol of both love and horror. We kissed under its romantic glow, and it gave rise to monsters in our stories.” The human, as if poked from behind, suddenly raised her clenched hat into the air in a ballistic motion that startled her two friends. “Oh! I almost forgot the best part. Have you ever heard of a solar eclipse? The moon is really small, now, — about three or four times the size of Jupiter, right? — but when the day was about sixty times shorter than it is now, the moon was so close, so large in the sky, it could completely blot out the sun, turning mid-day into the darkest night. It must have been remarkable! ” The human grew pensive for a moment and added, “You know, there seem to be a lot of songs about full moons, crescent moons… But I don’t recall any songs about a solar eclipse.” She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Huh. Go figure.”
After an ultrasonic exchange with Essfer, Arthred said to the human, “Thank you, primate, for your kind regard. We appreciate your indulgence more than you know.”
Essfer chimed in, saying, “Yes, thank you, very kindly, for your benevolent visit.”
“Whatever I can do to help. Stop me any time.” The human waved at the two dolphins as they swam away before engaging her skimmer’s engine and resuming her work.
When the skimmer was out of sonic range, Arthred said, “Do you see now? Many continents? Shorter days? Planets colliding? Blotting out the sun? They even sing to it in the same fashion as the Large Ones do.”
Essfer reluctantly agreed. “Yes, I can see now that the primates base their knowledge on romantic notions and primordial instinct rather than on logic and reason. I suppose they really do have a long way to go before they are as intelligent as we are.”
Hey, so why do I have an Afterword following a ridiculously short story that is completely self-explanatory? Because I want to talk about it, that’s why. And you can’t stop me. But it’s not what you think. This isn’t some ego trip in which I pontificate on how great this story is. In fact, this story is just plain stupid. Here’s why:
- Let’s get real, here. If another species were to attain similar intelligence to our own, I’m certain we would see them as competition for the Dominant Species Trophy, and things would get all killy-stabby, not all friendly-wiendly. Remember how bloody things got when Charlie Weaver refused to yield the center square to Paul Lynde? It would be like that, but twenty times worse.
- This story takes place billions of years in the future when the moon and Earth are tidally locked, and all the continents have collided into a single land mass (TransPangaea TM?) on one side of the world. But the sun will turn into a red giant much sooner than those events will occur, vaporizing Earth before this story could ever take place.
- Also, since this story takes place billions of years from now, humans and dolphins wouldn’t exist in any recognizable form. In that amount of time, humans will have evolved into pure energy beings bent on strategizing ways to beat Vulcans at 3D chess, and dolphins will have evolved into winged, angelic, tentacled puppies with the ability to create entire universes with their ultrasound capabilities. And we’d all be telepathic. And magical. Because that’s the way evolution works.
- Although I researched/calculated how long the day would be and how large the moon would be compared to Jupiter once tidal lock is achieved, I did not research/calculate the correct spelling of wha’d’ya.
- In the story, the human says Yeah, and Huh, go figure, when everyone knows that future humans would totally say Affirmative, and Does not compute.
- The human’s name is Harriet. It’s not important to the story, or anything. It’s just a bit of back-story I thought you’d be interested to know. She’s single. With an adopted son named Gomez. Who’s a bowling prodigy.
Well, that’s it, I guess. Oh, one more thing I almost forgot: the Large Ones that Arthred refers to? They’re whales. They’re totally whales. I just thought I’d point that out. Because it’s subtle. You know how whales sing? Are you getting the connection now? It’s okay if you didn’t get it before, because it’s so subtle. Oh, and Essfer and Arthred are dolphins. Wait, did I mention that in the story? I can’t remember.
And the skimmer’s a boat. It’s just a boat. That hovers. Because it’s the future. Or something. Quit bugging me. I told you it was stupid.