Time for the Tide
by Carol A. Cole
“Stop, Jared! You’re killing them!” Patrice yelled.
Jared ignored her plea. He kept pouring water over the creatures that were frantically trying to escape a scooped-out hollow.
“Hell, they’re only moon bugs,” he answered, watching how the rush of water carried them down the darkened red slopes. “They look like ants scrambling over the soil.”
Two of the larger creatures moved as if to protect several smaller ones. High-pitched chattering reached Patrice’s ears. She almost swore they were calling to her. “Listen to them. We don’t know that they’re not intelligent,” Patrice said, grabbing his bottle and clamping it to her belt. “Besides, you’re wasting water.”
“This moon is solid desert,” he said. “There may be water deep underground, but we’ve found no reason for the Council to start a settlement here. Plus, it’s not easy to breathe around here.” Reaching for his helmet, he added, “I say it’s time to head back to the base.”
“What about them?” Patrice asked, pointing toward the creatures. “Wouldn’t they need water to survive? I can’t imagine them being able to burrow far under this hard ground.”
“We haven’t seen one sign of water in four days,” he said. “I think it’s time to cross this moon off the list and get the hell out of here.” Jared stomped toward the hover car, making sure his boots crushed dozens of creatures along the way.
“There’s no need to kill them!” she shouted.
Without looking back, he swung up to the car seat. “You coming or staying with your new friends?”
Patrice watched the creatures stream toward the rocks for safety, then followed Jared into the hover car. They rode in silence back to the landing site.
The sky darkened as they approached their ship. An eerie red haze appeared on the horizon.
“Start the preflight while I stow the supplies,” Jared said, heading for the rear hatch. “Strangest sky I’ve seen on any of these moons. No clouds. Just haze with barely any sun.”
He finished packing their gear, then drove the car up the ramp into the ship’s rear hatch. He started to close the hatch when he noticed something shining in the distance.
“Hey,” he called on his mike. “We must’ve forgotten something. I’m going back to check.”
Jared retraced his steps. “Gotta love this gravity. Bounding ten feet at a time is much faster than walking.” Suddenly, something wet struck his face. Hitting the mike, he said, “Look out the front portal. It’s raining.”
The drops fell faster. The gully began to fill. Patrice started the take-off sequence. Hearing a clicking sound, she tapped the speaker. “Jared, the rain must’ve knocked out the antenna. Did you get everything stowed away?” She heard a soft beep indicating the rear hatch was closing. “So, don’t answer me. I guess you’re mad about the time we wasted time here. Or about my hollering when you killed those creatures.”
Jared saw a wall of water heading toward him. He slipped while trying to escape. Water rushed into his suit. He screamed for help. Only the creatures heard. A moment before water covered his head; he saw the ship blast off.
Lightning crackled as thousands of tiny creatures swam around the bubbles rising to the water’s surface.
The food the rains brought would sustain them for another lunar year.
Published online as “Lunar Justice” by:
Apollo’s Lyre, April 2006
Flash Tales magazine, in 2006
Copyright © 2008 by Carol A. Cole