We’re going to the moon, we’re going to the moon, I’m going to be the first woman on the moon, Isabel thought, practically bouncing in her chair in Crystal’s staging area. She glanced at Crystal and amended that thought. I’m going to be the first mortal woman on the moon who cares I’m going to be on the friggin’ moon.
“Careful, love. You look like you’re about to bounce out of your seat,” Crystal said in a teasing voice. “Nervous?”
“Nervous? Oh hell no. I’m going to be walking on the moon. Are you kidding me? I couldn’t be more excited if it was Christmas, my Birthday, and Graduation all wrapped up into one.”
Crystal let out a chuckle. “I hope it doesn’t disappoint you.”
“Will I be able to see the Earth being massive overhead?”
Crystal glanced at her console, then nodded. “Anansi’s directions take us to the near side, not the far side, so yes. Earth should be right overhead when we step out.”
“Then I’m going to be perfectly happy,” Isabel said.
“You’re not worried about the lack of air?”
“I mean, you’re going to take care of that until we get to the sphynx and the mysterious moon base, right?” Isabel asked with a frown. “Should I be worried?”
“I’ll be maintaining a bubble of air for you, love, so it should be fine, but if something happens to me…” Crystal let that trail off. “Well, you’ll have a bloody short time to get back to the doorway.”
Isabel shrugged. “And if an astronauts suit gets punctured, they’re dead. Honestly, I think it’s safer than a space suit – instead of relying on materials and fabrics, I’ve got literal divine intervention holding me safe, so I should be fine.”
Crystal smiled at Isabel, and Isabel felt herself begin to flush. “Well, I appreciate the confidence in my abilities,” Crystal said.
“I’d be rude if I didn’t have confidence! You’ve survived for this long just fine, I’m pretty sure you could manage a trip across the lunar surface. Besides, you saved my life once before, and that was way more dangerous than this.”
“Don’t be so sure about that, love,” Crystal said, darkly. “We haven’t encountered moonworms yet.”
Isabel froze. “Moonworms?”
“Oh, bloody hell, did I not mention those? Yes, moonworms. They burrow through the Lunar dust, you see, and they’re attracted to sources of heat. It’s what they feed off of. For living things, they crawl up their legs and try to get as close to the warmth as they can.”
Isabel stared at Crystal with growing horror. “So they…hug your legs?”
Crystal shook her head grimly. “Oh, no, not at all. They have jaws that can cut through lunar regolith, they’ll absolutely try to go as deep into the warmth as possible. Bite. By. Bite.”
Isabel couldn’t contain a frightened “eep.” As soon as she let the sound out, Crystal’s frown vanished to be replaced with laughter. Isabel stared at her for a moment, then crossed her arms as realization settled in. “You were messing with me.”
“Of course I was bloody messing with you,” Crystal said, wiping away tears of laughter. “Moonworms. That’s…I’m sorry, love, you should have seen your face.”
“That was just mean. How am I supposed to know Moonworms weren’t real? A few days ago I was kidnapped by an archangel and a crazy god from a pre-human race and you all were fighting dragons. Are you going to tell me moonworms are absurd when compared to that?” In spite of her annoyance, Isabel was also flushing. You “eeped.” You were being taunted by a goddess, and you said “eep.” Way to go, Isabel.
Crystal’s laughter began to die down. “Oh, come on love, just a bit of a joke, yeah?”
Isabel sniffed in annoyance. “It wasn’t very funny.”
Crystal held up a hand. “You’re right, you had no way of knowing they weren’t real. If it makes you feel any better, Selene fell for the same thing ages ago.”
Isabel blinked. “Wasn’t Selene a moon goddess?”
“Oh, yeah, absolutely. She was so pissed at me for the moonworms, she decided to stay up here for a few days to prove she wasn’t frightened. By the time she got back, everyone decided she was the moon personified.”
“Now that,” Isabel said with a reluctant smile, “that, I have to admit, is pretty funny.”
Crystal’s grin returned. “I know, right? Bloody brilliant, if I do say so myself.”
“So does your humor always involve telling people lies they couldn’t know were lies without some kind of precognition?”
Crystal shook her head firmly. “Do that too often, and people stop trusting you. Now that I’ve done it to you, you’re safe for the next millennia. Maybe two, can’t be too predictable. Just do me a favor, yeah? Don’t tell your brother. Haven’t gotten him yet, either.”
Isabel snorted out a breath. “If you’re going to do it to Ryan, I’ll help.”
Crystal’s grin returned. “I knew I liked you.”
Still a bit annoyed by the joke, Isabel found it easy to prevent the flush this time. “So, this is old hat for you, isn’t it? Going to the moon, I mean.”
“Kinda, yeah. I don’t come up here often, though.”
“Because it’s the moon. There’s nothing up here, love!” Crystal frowned. “Or at least, I didn’t think there was. Should have known a Trickster would have put something up here.”
“Ahh, so the great Crystal isn’t as omnipotent as she seems?” Isabel said.
“Love, if I was half as omnipotent as I seemed, I’d be twice as omnipotent as I actually am.”
“Did you just make a Tolkien reference?”
Crystal just winked at Isabel instead of answering. “Don’t let me being old and jaded spoil the moon for you though. I may have been here a few times, but I’d hate for you to feel like it was somehow less special. Decided what you’re going to be on the moon?”
“I’m going to start as a human,” Isabel said after a moment’s thought. “I want to see it with my own eyes.”
Crystal nodded approval. “Well then, we’re here. You ready?”
Isabel practically threw herself out of the chair, thrumming with excitement. “Yes, yes, please God yes.”
Crystal smiled and opened the door, waggling her fingers to – Isabel assumed – give her some air to breathe on the lunar surface. “Beauty before age, love.”
Isabel didn’t protest, didn’t even register the comment fully. Instead, she bolted out the door and took her first step onto the surface of the moon.
She didn’t pay attention to how light she felt. She didn’t worry about the temperature of the artificial air brushing against her skin. In fact, she didn’t focus on anything at all, instead craning her head up and looking at the sky.
There, above them, just over the Horizon like it was the rising sun, hung the Earth. It was blue and green and brown and swirled with white streaks, half covered by night. She couldn’t quite make out individual continents, not with the clouds covering part of it, but she didn’t need to. Some part of her recognized that multicolored sphere as “home.”
Isabel felt tears spring to her eyes. It was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.