An essay by Aleksandr Karamazov, as provided by Ashlyn Churchill
Art by Errow Collins
My name is no longer Aleksandr Karamazov. When this record is released, you will finally know that I am the man who brought you the possibility of colonization in previously dead space. But for now, I am nobody–officially nobody.
I’ve been chosen to work with the greatest minds on the planet, geniuses who transcend nationality, race, and law. We are ASA, the Aeronautics and Space Administration. We operate independently for the good of mankind, and our identities have been wiped. I, Sasha Karamazov, who suffers the nickname “Smerdyakov” among my university colleagues, am now an essential cog in the world’s most efficient and well-hidden machine. I will never see anyone I knew again, but it is no great loss compared to what will be gained.
So, it was not, as Rector Mikhailov sneered, a pipe dream as I designed my life-giving pods. Roscosmos refused to pay attention to me, but they were not worthy of my time in the end. I am where I need to be.
I only wish I could see Mikhailov’s face when, tomorrow, I am nowhere to be found, and neither is any record of my employment. His legacy is nothing: a university full of brats with their noses stuck in old books and a nickname (I am certain he started it) that dies with the ascension into history of its sufferer. Tomorrow, my mission begins.
Truly, the potential of mankind can only be achieved in this way, outside of laws written by men of letters rather than men of science. Already, the project, which would have taken years to be approved by any other organization capable of carrying it out, has begun.
The pod has launched today. Incubation on the moon is scheduled to begin within the week. My team and I will monitor its progress from our station, which is secluded lest we suffer interference.
The moon’s iron core has been heated to 1700 K. Seismic activity has altered its appearance enough to be seen by the naked eye. Soon, the world will see the developing atmosphere.
NASA has cobbled together a new probe, which they plan to launch from Crimea. We were surprised to hear that the USA and Russia have put aside their differences in order to jointly study these lunar phenomena. Rumors say Asia will be joining forces very soon, but this is not the place for such speculation.
Our own probe has been there since the beginning, embedded in the ice made of molecules that have been altered, as if by alchemy! We are watching the pod withdraw its drill from the core. There have been no complications. We expect to see liquid water before the month is done.
Progress is good, and the atmosphere is thickening, but there is no liquid water yet. Our mathematician has adjusted the timetable. The ice is expected to melt, and the pod should open in a little over three months’ time, longer than I thought, but Dr. Flores’ math is not skewed like mine by impatience. I am ever grateful for my team.
I awoke this morning at two a.m. when someone all but ripped me off my mattress. I have difficulty remembering Dr. Rothchild’s name, and I can’t help but call him “the Texan” in my head, though he is just as severed from Texas as I am from Moscow. He ripped me from my bed and marched me from the dorm while I was in a state half asleep and half terrified. The Texan is built like a freight train, and I could not fight back until he dumped me in my chair before the monitor in the station. I was convinced something was terribly wrong.
But wonderful news! The ice has melted and become an ocean! The pod is submerged, and it has opened! I am finally sure that the seeds I insulated from the void of space have survived. Life has infected the Sea of Tranquility, which is no longer a dead crater, but an ocean! My ocean!
You must forgive my English if I’ve made any errors. Tonight is not a night I wish to spend nitpicking my words.
Results already! The Sea of Tranquility is warm. Steam rises into the thick atmosphere that makes the moon look like a blob of swirling paint from Earth. My pod releases billows of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen, sprinkles of sodium, potassium, magnesium. I will not go into so much detail here, because the Texan has pages and pages of notes on that biological aspect so we can send more pods to more moons and even planets after this first mission concludes successfully.
I will admit that it is not just raw elements within the pod. It is no secret that Earth is suffering, warming, dying. We needed success to come soon. The Texan and I packed our pod with single-cell organisms, amoeba, and slime mold. We want to kick start evolution.
For the sake of consistency, I place this entry at the time of my writing it, though I still write about June 30. My team and I spent the day watching the screens, roving through the ocean with our probe, taking turns at the controls.
At every juncture there is success! The Sea of Tranquility swims with life! The soil at its shore teems with nutrients. My lunar children, how quickly they grow! How well! The atmosphere swirls as if with a life of its own. Geysers from the heated core warm the ocean and oxygenate the water. We caught glimpses of rain on the Earth-adorned horizon! The moon is becoming a little mother.
I think it was the Texan who opened the scotch. This might be too personal a detail for a log of this sort, but I have no other diary. I did not write this yesterday because I was drunk on joy (and today sick on it)! I must record this somewhere. This is what it feels like to push the limits of what it means to be human. This is what it is to become a force in the cosmos themselves.
Under the influence of the scotch, someone bashed our probe into a cluster of moonrocks that make up the bottom of the sea. Today, July 1st, we ran a systems check and discovered that we had done some damage to the microscope, but it is no great loss. The most interesting and important thing to watch is the mold, and its percolation is visible with the other lenses.
The world is watching the moon. The US and China have correlating plans to send astronauts. They have sent a rover and have seen the transformation of the Sea of Tranquility, but a moon storm damaged their equipment. There is great excitement, imagine how much greater when they discover the evolution of life within the waters!
Tiny invertebrate, like jellyfish half the size of a fingernail, infest the waters. They feed on the various species of mold which have evolved since release into the water. The mold photosynthesizes, just as I knew it would.
The moonfish have become the biome’s first endangered species. A new species of slime mold has grown in the water. It makes up roughly two percent of the overall mold, but its population is growing. It behaves rather like a fungus. We observed the scarlet mold feeding on the corpse of a moonfish.
Today, we observed the scarlet mold feasting on a live and wriggling moonfish. It is not a fungus; it is the moon’s first carnivore!
Its population is greater than we thought. The mold we’ve dubbed “fever” has a sort of chemical intelligence, which we are unable to analyze as carefully as we would like. It appears green or yellow, the color of the photosynthesizing species, until a moonfish moves in to feed. Then the mold swarms the fish and turns scarlet. The moonfish dies, whether first of oxygen loss or the incredible speed at which the tissue is devoured is unclear.
We are unable to tell just how much of the mold is of this strain. We are already building a new probe with a functioning microscope and a more sophisticated system for chemical analysis.
Fever is ravenous. It seems nothing else living remains in the Sea of Tranquility. It has moved to land, and there it sucks the resources out of the soil. We cannot tell if these elements are completely destroyed. It may be that fever’s digestion creates new elements for other alien species to evolve. I remain hopeful that once fever starves itself, new life will emerge.
The US has canceled its plan to send astronauts. We’ve stalled our own preparations to send another probe.
The moon looks like a bastardization of the earth. Gray clouds swirl over a scarlet sea, and white islands poke through like boils on a diseased surface. It makes me sick to look at it. The mold produces nothing but methane. The moon’s atmosphere grows more and more agitated. The storm that is brewing on the moon is visible from earth with the naked eye.
The hurricane on the moon has been raging for two weeks. I was hopeful that its initial ferocity might kill the fever and lay bare a fresh surface, one to which we could send another pod. The storm only grew in violence. The infant atmosphere bucked and heaved. We saw moon’s first lightning storm riddle its surface with new craters. The Sea of Tranquility was sucked away through a massive crack in the moon’s crust, whereupon our probe was destroyed.
I should not have been so expressive in this log. Just setting my hands to this keyboard is painful now.
Not only did my creation cannibalize itself, it has destroyed the moon. We were reduced to telescopes, but we didn’t need them to witness the finale. The entire world saw the moon shatter to several pieces around seven o’clock this morning.
No one told the forty million people along the western edge of the United States that they would be killed today. The government’s silence spared no one the panic at the end before the ravaged moon crashed to earth, though I am not sure if I blame them. ASA has kept silent too. What is the point, now, of coming clean? The world does not need us to apologize; it is too late for that.
Is it noteworthy that breathing makes me sick to my stomach? I cannot eat, cannot drink. We are all scrabbling to calculate the extent of the damage done. I cannot do anything but work. Working drives an iron wedge right into my brain. I cannot be certain of anything I am doing, but I deserve the migraine. I deserve a real nail pounded into my skull with a real hammer. Working, or pantomiming the act of work is the only thing that keeps me tethered to sanity.
The United States is broken. More than half of the western side has fallen into the sea. We felt the impact of the moon from our location halfway across the world.
Japan. We are in Japan. I am not sure why I am reluctant to spill that useless secret.
We do not care to know how everyone is handling this emergency. We have shut ourselves off. The Texan put his fist through the television. He did not even bother to staunch his bleeding. There are gobs of blood all over his station now. By the look in his eyes, I think he hopes that he bleeds out.
Maria put a bullet in her head. We all wish we didn’t know why. Her brain chunks were not enough to cover her calculations, which she did on paper. Stalwart Maria. She was old-fashioned until the end.
The temperature is rising exponentially. The earth’s rotation has stopped, Asia stares into the eye of the sun. It became unsafe to leave our basement, but it is a relief to be away from the damned lab equipment.
The light bleeds through the door at the top of the stairs. It is well over a hundred degrees underground, but the footsteps that used to scamper by have ceased. I think that our building has been swept away. I can feel my skin shriveling. I’m baking like an apple.
No one here speaks. We sit and sweat in silence. I write to keep my mind intact, but I wonder if it would be better just to slip away like the Texan, who hasn’t blinked since waking, like Maria, who must be a sun-beaten skeleton with a hole in her skull by now.
Guilt drives me to write. I do not deserve the relief of madness. I deserve to be flung headfirst into the sun like the planet I have ruined.
i put my ffingers to the metal keys today and my skin peeled off like tissue paper. i stuck a pencil between my teeth. this is how i will die,,, chickenpecking computer keys while wallowing in the stench of my coooked friends. i knoow that i have erred but i wasnot sure how until th is morning. i thought i was building structure within a void. i was wrong. we bio;logical machines, we consume like puny stars. Life is an im,,perfect progr4am and it suffers glitchesss. fever was a g;litch that5 destroyyyed the ,,moon. wwwwwwwwwe are tthe gl;it ch thast destroy6ed the earth. we aRE F.E,V E;;RS OUR,.SE.LFS…….. IF THHHIS REcord finds new life some where in the universE%% be wiser than me. knnow that you are indeed a f0rce in the universe as stUPID A S THE Resstt of it.
Aleksandr “Sasha” Karamazov has high hopes for humanity, excluding his university colleagues. He is a professor of astronomy at a far too literary school where he is called “Smerdyakov” after someone in a book with a title that escapes him. Graciously brushing off this insult, Sasha is driven to save all humankind from the planet we are destroying. His greatest and most overlooked accomplishment is a device that will turn the moon into a thriving biome. Now, having made the right connections, he expects the world to begin lunar colonization within the year. He awaits your thanks.
Ashlyn Churchill is a literary studies student and the proud mom of a rabbit named Molly who doesn’t enjoy watching The Twilight Zone reruns as much as mom would hope. Ashlyn is an avid Dostoyevsky fan and spent too many of her teenage years reading H. G. Wells, but she would give absolutely anything for a conversation over cucumber sandwiches with Oscar Wilde.
Errow is a comic artist and illustrator with a predilection towards mashing the surreal with the familiar. They pay their time to developing worlds not quite like our own with their fiancee and pushing the queer agenda. They probably left a candle burning somewhere. More of their work can be found at errowcollins.wix.com/portfolio.
“Excerpts from ‘Mission Log'” is © 2018 Ashlyn Churchill
Art accompanying story is © 2019 Errow Collins
This story was originally published in Warp & Weave.Follow us online: