9: One Small Step for a Woman...

Enoch has contrived to be carried aloft by two vases filled with — pardon the expression — holy smoke, and he finally parachutes onto the surface of the Moon. So far, everything seems to be proceeding according to plan: without Enoch, the Moon would contain a perfectly good paradise going to waste with nobody in it. However, Enoch seems to land a bit wide of the mark.

Meanwhile, Elijah continues to regale Cyrano with stories of early space flight. As always there are unexpected developments, including a new and different type of spaceship, not to mention a heroine who is one of Cyrano’s best-drawn characters and who will come as quite a surprise after episode 8...

“Enoch was not yet in this garden; he reached it only some time afterwards. It was at the time of the great Flood; your world was engulfed in waters that rose to such a prodigious height that the Ark sailed high up, close to the Moon. The humans saw this globe through the window, but the reflected light from this large, solid body was diffused because they were so close to it, and they each thought that it was a part of the Earth that had not been drowned.

“Only Noah’s daughter Achab, who may have observed that they were approaching that orb as the ship rose, insisted loudly and at length that it most certainly was the Moon. She was told that soundings showed the water was only 15 cubits deep, but she said that the sinker must have come to rest on the back of a whale, that they had mistaken it for the bottom, and that as far as she was concerned it was most definitely the Moon itself they were approaching. As like shares the opinion of like, all the other women were convinced of it, too.

“The men protested, but the women launched a skiff. Achab was the boldest and wanted to be the first to take her chances in the adventure. She jumped eagerly into the boat and would have been followed by all the other women, but a wave moved the skiff away from the Ark. Everybody yelled at her, kept calling her a lunatic, and told her that she would be the reason that one day men would tell all women that they have their heads in a phase of the moon. She just laughed at them.

“And so she sailed out of the world. The animals followed her example; so did most of the birds: they were impatient with the first prison in which they had ever been held captive, and those who felt strong enough to make the trip flew after her. Even some of the braver four-legged animals started swimming. Almost a thousand of them jumped ship before the sons of Noah could shut the stable doors held open by the herd of escaping animals. Most of them reached this new world. The skiff ran aground on a pretty hill, and the courageous Achab stepped ashore. She was happy to find that she was indeed on the Moon and refused to sail back and rejoin her brothers.

“For a while she lived in a cave. One day, as she was out walking and wondering whether she would be sad or glad to have lost the company of her family, she noticed a man who was knocking acorns out of a tree. She was so happy to meet anyone that she ran to embrace him. Her greeting was returned in kind, because the old man had not seen a human face for even longer than she. He was Enoch the Just. They lived together, and had it not been for the impious nature of his children and the vanity of his wife, which forced him to retire into the woods, they would have lived out their lives together in all the sweetness with which God blesses the marriage of the just.

“Every day, in the most primitive retreats of this awesome wilderness, the old man offered up his heart to God as a sacrifice with a purified spirit. Now, as you know, the Tree of Knowledge is in this garden. One day an apple fell from it and dropped into the river next to which the Tree is planted. The current carried it out of Paradise and into a place where poor Enoch was fishing for food. The beautiful fruit was caught in his net, and he ate it. He immediately realized where Paradise was and came to live in it by means you can’t imagine unless you, like him, have eaten of the apple of Knowledge.”

As yet, Cyrano has not had a chance to get a word in edgewise, let alone evince any surprise that Earth-Moon traffic has been as heavy as Elijah seems to suggest. But he must be taking notes on propulsion systems. Almost all the classical elements — earth, air, fire and water — have been used in one way or another so far. To recapitulate:

  • Fire: Enoch uses the Heaven-bound smoke from his sacrifice. (This might also qualify as hot air.)
    Cyrano is launched from Quebec by rockets.
  • Water: Cyrano uses water for flight, namely the dew in the flasks that carry him from France to Canada.
    The Ark, carried by the Flood, takes Achab to the Moon.
  • Earth: The Moon’s attraction of Cyrano’s beef-marrow ointment may, at a stretch, count as a use of dirt mode.
  • Air: Enoch’s robe serves as a parachute.
    Adam and Eve use levitation for flight. (This seems to be a special case.)

But Cyrano is not through yet, by any means, as we shall see in later episodes. Suffice it to say at this point that in traveling from Paris to Quebec to the Moon, Cyrano recapitulates the history of flight in the 20th century — from lighter than air to aircraft to rocketry — three hundred years in advance.

The farcical scene of animals stampeding from the Ark may recall the well-known incident in Rabelais’ Gargantua et Pantagruel (book IV, chapter 8) where Panurge tosses a sheep overboard and a whole flock follows it. However, Cyrano turns that scenario upside down; Noah’s animals are anything but dumb: the Moon means freedom, and they bolt for it the first chance they get.

The Noah’s Ark episode could provide plots for any number of modern science fiction space operas.