(WP) Mysterious as the Dark Side of the Moon

(WP) Mysterious as the Dark Side of the Moon

               This year, it had been she who’d been selected to journey over to the dark side of the earth.

               Everyone knew that it wasn’t habituated to humans; only the legends had told of what lurked in the darkness on the other side.

               All her life, she’d been bathed in light, safe and happy and content. For the most part. There was a part of her that yearned to explore it, to unlock its mysteries.

Even the old books in the Library’s archive did little to shed light on what had been there before.

There had been rumors, of course. A plague or virus that killed off the human population and mutated the plant and animal life. Human hubris that had ruined all, turned the fertile land to sand. Tales of crops withering and dying, and then the people became crumpled, lifeless husks themselves. No one really knew for sure.

The night before she was supposed to set out, she was allowed a brief repast with her friends and family, on the chance that she didn’t make it back. In her tiny apartment, her family and friends crowded over a meal fit more for a queen than an explorer, even an intergalactic one.

But everyone in town had asked for special privileges for her. The table groaned under the weight of all the food: tureens of hot soup, a whole haunch of real beef, garnished with herbs and spices and horseradish sauce, thick, dark bread with melted butter, even some Earth alcohol that had been discovered in someone’s old cellar. It was a bounty that Ruby felt she didn’t deserve, even if she did die in uncharted territory.

At least her family, her parents and sisters, enjoyed it. And she knew that she should have been enjoying it as well, but she was too worried about the journey ahead to really savor her last night on the part of the planet she knew intimately.

Even though this had been her dream for years, she found that she was still scared; it permeated even through her excitement.

What awaited her, out in the great unknown?

When Ruby lay down to sleep that night, it had taken almost until the early hours of the morning for her anxious mind to quiet.

**

Barely managing to wake up on time, Ruby checked her supplies again: plenty of food that would keep regardless of temperature or atmosphere, water, clothing, and most importantly, her tech: Flashlights and computers and breathing devices, knives that would make killing, if necessary, easier. Mementos of her family and friends, and if distraction was needed, a few old books that were so well-loved that pages were threatening to fall out like yellowed autumn leaves.

In a strange rule, no one related to the explorer could so much as say goodbye: preparation for the mission ahead, she supposed.

When she walked out of the house, she found an old man waiting for her, standing in the grass, eyes on something far away.

“I’ve come to see you off,” He said, his voice whispering like the wind.

“But the Council doesn’t allow that,”

“They made an exception, in my case. For I’ve been in your shoes, missy. I was an explorer, too, one of the only ones to make it back.”

**