Margaret Ballardini & Fred Watson, Luna Park, St Kilda, Victoria, ca. 1927 / photographed by M D True, Electric Studio

A Harsh Mistress Indeed by Gabe Wollenburg


Don't give me any of that Blue-star bullshit. Terra's a completely broken economy built on a caste system of rich men and woman who eat and shit the peasantry. On Luna, we live hard and die young, and that's the way the loonies like it.

I ran my hand from my brow to the top of my head as if I was slicking my hair back as a matter of habit. A person could judge a Loonie's time in the grey by the way they adapted their unconscious movements to Luna's reduced gravity. I'd been here only six months. The old timers say that it takes at least nine before you even start thinking of Luna's reduced pull as an asset rather than a hindrance. By that time, living in reduced g has taken it's toll on your blood, and, without extensive therapy treatments, you've increased your personal likelihood of dying of stroke or heart failure. Which each additional month, the risks increased ten-fold. Gimmie two years on Luna, the old timers say, over ten years on Terra. On Luna, the old timers are 35. I wonder when we stopped calling them "the Moon" and "The Earth." The only places on Luna that used the ancient nomenclature of "The Earth and the Moon" were small touristy shoppes and those little booths in the hipster districts that used the phrases of the old astrology "ironically." Of course, it was one of those little tatoo booths where I'd met her. We smiled at each other while we waited our turn, flicking through the flash books. She spoke first. "You know that the only people who get the brand are tourists," she said. I swallowed hard to try to quash my immediate reaction to her approach, which was to turn and run. "I'm a Loonie," I said. I wasn't. I hadn't been on Luna for more than two days; I practically still had dirt caked under my nails. I didn't realize it then, but I probably wreaked of soil, too. It takes more than a few months of Luna's chemical showers to strip Terra's stink from your pores. "Sure, you're a loonie," she said. "Don't lie to me. I can tell you're fresh." I fumed at being caught in such a stupid and obvious lie, focusing my stare on the different brands I was toying with. "Why don't the locals get the brand?" I asked. "Why advertise you're a loser?" she said, her face breaking into a grin. I smiled back and relaxed almost instantly. She talked me out of getting branded and we went to a little noodle shop around the corner. That night she introduced me to Luna's secret treasure, not the black tarry compound that was mined from the lunar soil, but the crack-a-lackin', mind altering, reality-bending moon rocks. Smoked, stroked, injected or just placed under your tongue, moon rock was what brought the junkies to Luna. She'd spotted me for what I was from across the room. "Further than that," she admitted later. "I've been following you since you landed at Tranquility." "Tranquility?" "The old name for Luna-Central." She sighed and stretched her neck. We were laying back to back on the bed of my rented efficiency apartment. I could feel the sharp corners of her vertebrae sticking into the flesh of my back. Her skin was cold and seemed to leach whatever warmth it came across. "Some kind of old-school spaceman mumbo jumbo," she yawned. I sat up and she rolled over to look at me. "You wanna hit some more of that rock?" I nodded. She grabbed her makeup case from under the bed where she'd dropped it as we collapsed onto my bed, a writhing mass of prickly, erratic sexual lust and moon-dust. She unwrapped a rock from the packets of cellophane from the case, dropped it into a small glass tube, shook it a few times and then inhaled the dust from the tube. I snatched the tube from her as she fell back into the bed and snuffed up the rest of the dust. The rock's warm hug crept out of my ears and down my shoulders, wrapping me in a happy glow. I found myself back in bed, wrapped in the arms of by glowing, bony mistress, rolling along like Terra's oceans in Luna's steady pull. "How did you get here?" I asked her. I was sitting on a chair across from the bed. it was the only other furniture I had int he room. I was wrapped in the yellowed sheet that had come with the bed and she was had wrapped herself in the bedspread, and was flipping through one of the free magazines that they had in the lobby of the apartment building. "I came with you," she said. "No," I said. "I mean Luna. How did you come to Luna?" She looked up from the magazine and cut me with the sharp tone in her green eyes. "A moon-girl has her secrets," she said. So, It would turn out, does the moon. Probably not to be continued...
Editor's Notes:I wonder why I stopped writing this story. I think it was a hardware failure. I know I wrote at least two other chapters that aren't around anymore. Anyway, this is -obviously- a direct homage to Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress." I remember wanting to take a crack at re-writing "Mistress" without the trappings of Heinlein's culture. I love Heinlein, but he was such a freakin' hippie. A big inspiration for this was drawn from The Hold Steady's "Separation Sunday" album, particularly "Your Little Hoodrat Friend. Life is all about choices. Maybe one day I'll make the choice to pick this story back up. But, since it's here, it's released under Creative Commons, Attribution Non_Commercial Share Alike 3.0 license. That means, you, dear reader, have my leave to pick it up where it leaves off and finish it. All I want is credit, and-- if it's not too much to ask-- a chance to read what you've done.