by Jake Christie

a story.

The Sea of Tranquility reminded AJ of the dirt lot behind his apartment building that all the tenants' kids used to play in. It looked like one of those empty spaces that was constantly being considered for development, bleak and gray and loaded with potential, ignored and dreamt about until it became clear that it would never be more than a bunch of dirt with footprints on it.

“Mare Tranquillitatis,” said the twentysomething tour guide, “is 542 miles wide.” He spread his arms wide, as if for emphasis. AJ could hear him breathing through the microphone in his helmet, which allowed him to share this amazing trivia with the group. He could also hear the breathing of everyone else on the tour through their own microphones, which allowed them to ask the guide amazingly trivial questions. The Sea of Tranquility roared with the waves of vacationing athsmatics.

“How many kilometers is that?” asked a member of the group. He was wearing a worn-in double-XL spacesuit and breathing so heavily that the inside of his bubble helmet was frosted with an opaque layer of fog. AJ turned around. They were only ten or so yards from the all-terrain tour bus and the man was already winded, even though the low gravity made AJ feel like they'd barely moved.

“Great question,” said the guide. He was taking gentle leaps backwards, so that he could speak to the group as he led them deeper into the empty basin. “That would be 873 kilometers.” His footfalls didn't make a sound. The only noise was the sound of breathing in the helmets.

AJ thought back to his first job out of college as a twenty something, when he had to babysit groups of adults in the campus art museum. All of his jobs since had been similar, in restaurants and cubicles, walking people through membership in different areas of human society. He saw the commercials for Moon Vacations as a way to finally escape. He'd always wanted to see the moon, and as soon as he saved enough money he jumped on the first ship up. Somehow he thought it would be different up here.

“Why do they call it the Sea of Tranquility?” breathed somebody else. AJ heard everybody waiting for the answer in his helmet, breathing on the back of his neck.

“Great question,” said the guide.

This story also appears in the Summer 2011 issue (1.2) of The Adroit Journal.

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