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A Short Story

By Thomas P. Hopp

Smashwords Edition copyright 2011, 2015 Thomas P. Hopp

On the moon, oxygen is the most precious commodity. Without it, death comes quickly. But there are other things of value in the vastness of Luna—and other reasons to die.

Three astronauts moved away from the lunar lander Athena. They went abreast of each other. That allowed their helmet lamp beams to overlap, the better to illuminate the otherwise pitch-black ground ahead of them. Outside the play of their lights, the landscape was enveloped in the inky darkness of a two-week long lunar night. Overhead, stars shone coldly without the benefit of an atmosphere to make them twinkle. Miles away, across the flat floor of Purgatory Crater, the horizon was a rim of hummocks that blotted out the stars with pure blackness.

The three sets of headlamps bobbed as the crew trudged across the dusty quarter mile between the landing area and Purgatory Moon Base. The astronauts labored heavily with the exertion of moving in bulky spacesuits while each was burdened with two hefty duffel bags of supplies and personal gear. Each could hear the others’ percussive breathing through communications headsets. No one said a word. Any exuberance they might have felt at the opportunity to walk on the moon had been sucked out of them by their somber surroundings and the purpose of their mission.

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