He retraces his steps, instead, and making for the edge of the house sees how back on the patio the sliding glass door is still open. Well, fuck it. Any creepy crawlies make their way inside, it’ll just mean more helpings for him come supper.
Near the corner of the house’s exposed foundation the Moonman stoops down, straining to listen out past the sawing of the bugs and their sheen of noise that by way of sheer numbers they seem able to infuse into the atmosphere itself, coating all that lies below in a living green. He thinks: a word, there’s a word he learned in basic training to identify certain types of shields, and it seems it might apply to this sound, or at least the bodies behind it…
There’s two words, in fact, he thinks to himself, his lips pulled back tight and hard into a reflective frown, that I should know. Two words they taught me to describe the enemy.
He looks down, seeing not so much the grass as some wantonly proliferating life-form, something nauseatingly fecund running riot across the world. Something that if left unchecked will continue to spread, coating surfaces, converting with its creeping advance every material it encounters into a corrupted version of itself, a reduction to the most basic form of substratum, a mere launching point for the spread of yet more of the organism. Seen from the air above those green tendrils will sway, from ocean to ocean shimmering in their sprinkling of dew, so much like those alien bodies that they called…
Iridescent! he thinks, and then, as though trailing in the wake of the first word, the second: chitinous!
He brings his clenched fist down with a spiking motion of his elbow: Yes, yes, fuck yes! Your old pal Moonman is still in the game, boys. Iridescent. Chitinous. The aliens have bodies that are iridescent and chitinous.
Over and again he recites those words with the fervor of a student having just passed an exam by the skin of his teeth.
Standing to stretch in place–he’s been squatting beside the house for longer than he can remember–he dwells on those two words, showing on his face with each repetition less and less of that initial strain and self-critical attempt at recall. “Chitinous and iridescent,” he whispers aloud, looking out towards the fence now with the calm assurance of a man ready to meet his enemy on a more level playing field. Feeling ever the veteran he crosses his arms, lowering his head to one side to spit before casting a look out past the mold-flecked fence, as though sizing up with not some small amount of disdain an adversary, abominable, though no less worthy for all that of some grudging regard.
Yep, he thinks, kicking his feet at the grass before putting his hands on his knees prior to squatting once again, them old changes in atmosphere ain’t totally got to old Moonman yet.
Thinking of the radiation and the stress, the physical and psychological shock that is so much like being subjected to a violent car collision in brain and body both when jumping to the Moon. The home-made space-suits: incumbent upon each recruit to procure his own life-support system prior to being fully processed into the Lunar Corps. The heat of the laser-rifle in your hands; the flash of discharge and eruption in your eyes. Some guys fucked up and didn’t use their visors and burned their corneas. Some came back down to Earth with strange new forms of sickness and disease, their quarantine procedures lacking or else rushed: a particle of Moon dust adheres to your helmet, and then taking flight once back down here in the atmosphere it finds its way, solitary and semi-lucid and borne by a draft, into a nostril, or onto an eye; then comes the illness to eat away at your bones while leaving your flesh intact; or the tumors to sprout all over your face, each burrowing, interminably, insistently, through the skull until finally it plunged its tendrils into your brain; or the messiest, but perhaps most merciful of all: the “bloody spring,” they called it, some chain reaction at the molecular level causing to liquefy in a matter of seconds the newly-volcanic lungs of the suddenly dead.
The Moonman may be forgetting things, sometimes, and he may catch himself every now and then doing things that he has no recollection of having started; and sometimes when he’s stepped out from the shed it’ll be hours before he remembers where he is, what his mission was–but…anyways…the fact is that the aliens are…chitinous. And irredentist.
He smiles as though in pity for those alien bastards. If they seriously thought they had him licked that easy, well, they had another thing coming.
And now with his attention focused back on his lawn he thinks: Yeah, but isn’t it like that? Didn’t those bugs make a sound that almost looked like the color of their shells? An image flashes in front of the Moonman’s eyes, something chilling from up above, on the Moon, that even as he squats in the sun near the baking waves of heat off the house make him shiver. The aliens, the chivalrous ones and the gray ones like you saw in the abduction stories on the TV, were only two of many. Two species out of a whole faction. Up there you had them, but you also had a number of others, like living rocks and jelly-like blobs and the worst–the skin on the Moonman’s scalp and balls alike constrict–those sentient clouds of gas. Like, gas that could actually and truly think for itself. Like it floated around cause there weren’t no winds to disperse it, and if it got on you? It burned. Matter of minutes and it’d turn your space suit to tatters, and you’d see when up there from time to time a recruit writhing in his death throes, burned from without by the gas and the sun, his blood boiling in his veins due to the change in pressure from the vacuum of space. Hell of a way to go. Your friends could only watch, unresolved on whether or not to shoot a laser through your head and end your misery.
The Moonman wills his trembling fingers still, taking the rusty little hook out from the eyelet and pushing open the warped and half-sized wooden door that sits in the side of the house’s foundation. He duck-walks into the crawl-space, and in the shaft of light from outside flares his arms out to either side of his hunched-over form, scanning the damp and chill space; his turf, his secret spot. He’s in…