Tragic Space: Salvagers Moon


Image courtesy of Creative Commons

Caleb Davy


I lie awake on my cot, blink a couple times, sit upright, and rub the sleep out of my eyes. The morning grogginess hits me like a truck, and my limbs feel weak and stiff. What also hits me is the thought that I’ve been in space for 62 “Earth” days. I say Earth days because I’m currently on the moon, all alone, no crew, no contact, no son. Just a few hours ago my son Cole went missing. Most people would look at me like I was insane, “What kind of parent brings their kid on a space mission?!” My answer to everyone is usually the same, a desperate parent and a single one, and unfortunately I am both of those things.

To be fair, I didn’t really have a choice in the matter. Cole’s mother, who’s now my ex- wife, wasn’t really in his life. To say she had a drinking problem would be an understatement—she abused the bottle every chance she got. Being the remaining and somewhat responsible parent, I gained custody of him, and it’s been me and him against the world ever since. That was until we left it, literally.

It all happened during a routine scouting mission. I had been tasked by mission control to look for anything exotic lying on the crater filled surface of the moon–for research purposes of course—but if you ask me, I’d say they have me out here so I can bring them back a souvenir.  

All jokes aside, my personal mission was to spend some quality time with Cole. As an astronaut and former biologist, there is really no room for father son bonding time, so taking my son on a moon mission is as good as it gets. I watch him jump and skip on the moon’s surface, I don’t stop him because he’s doing what any 9 year old kid would do in outer space, enjoying it. I probably should warn him though, the last thing I want on this mission that’s going all to smoothly is for my son to float away into the endless abyss of space.

“Slow down Cole, remember the gravity here isn’t the same as it is on Earth.”

Cole looks at me with this joyful certainty and confidence in his eyes. “Relax, Dad, I know what I’m doing.”

I decide to back off at this point. After all, once Cole puts his mind to something, there’s little you can do to stop him. I watch him jump from crater to crater, his body light as a feather. The kid must think he’s Superman, with his high jumps and smooth landings, but in just a few moments he and I will both remember that he is not. Cole is just about to land on the next crater, when I notice the crater he’s about to land is unnaturally huge, I try to warn him,

“Cole, be care-“

But before I can get the full word out, he lands, and the crater he lands on shatters like thin ice from beneath him.

“COLE!!!” I scream, I reach out as if I’m close enough to grab him, I’m not. I can’t. I’m too far away. As I run towards the crater I can hear his high pitched screams, they are harshly cut short. When I finally reach the hole I yell for him again,  

“COLE?!” I shout. There’s no response.  

“COLE!!” Again, no response.

I look down the hole in which he fell, and it’s pitch black. I turn on the lights on my helmet in hopes of enhancing my line of sight. Still pitch black. In spite of my analysis, I decide to go down the hole. As soon as the thought passes, I unstrap my bag and take out the climbing gear. I’m rushing through the process of strapping myself to the harness and cord because there’s the constant lingering thought that my son could be dead at the bottom of whatever this is, and with that thought in mind, I descend into the pitch black abyss.




As I descend into the pitch black crater of the moon’s surface, a small spark of panic starts to burn within me. Followed by the panic is fear, fear that my desperate effort to save Cole is useless, but as the fear grows, so do my questions about where he is and what condition he’s in. The questions begin to come at rapid fire: 

“How deep is this hole?” 

“What if something’s down there?” 

“What if Cole broke something?” 

“What if he’s d-… ” 

I silence the questioning that swirls in the back of my mind. I can’t allow my mind to wander there. Maybe I’ll find him down there, but the darkness that engulfs me doesn’t help that theory. With the only light being the one on my helmet, I feel like a small firefly in the black forest of night. 

Eventually my feet find solid earth. The ground feels cold and wet, I just hope the wetness I feel isn’t blood… Cole’s blood. As I move along, I begin to examine my surroundings. I find nothing but huge slabs of rock along the cave walls. I continue to move forward when I hit something solid in front of my feet, something that feels like cold steel and shattered glass. I stop and kneel down to see what the object might be. 

A cracked space helmet.  

In that moment I know my son is gone. All my hopes of finding him are extinguished. It doesn’t matter whether he is dead or alive, because he is gone, and there is nothing I can do. My stomach begins to turn and I feel the hot sting of tears welling in my eyes. I feel like vomiting, but there’s something inside me that holds it all in.  

Through my quiet sobs and slight quivering, I begin to hear a faint shuffling in the darkness. At first I thought nothing of it, thinking it’s just the weak structure of the cave walls giving out. But when I hear the sound again, I start to pay more attention. It now more clearly sounds like footsteps. Fear and curiosity replace my grief and sorrow as I quickly get to my feet. I adjust my helmet light to better scan the perimeter. When nothing appears, I decide to do the next thing that came to mind, 

“Hello? Is anyone down here?” I hear my own echo bounce off the hollow walls of the cave. 

 I begin to call again, when I hear a deafening shriek coming from the darkness. My mind immediately jumps to the thought of the shriek being Cole’s. I take a few steps forward to investigate, but I realize that the shriek didn’t sound childlike, nor did it sound human. The footsteps grow louder and seem closer than before, for a moment I begin to think that this whole thing is a weird hallucination, but the thought soon fades when from the darkness comes what looks like a demon from hell. The creature was tar black, its long white jaws were where its eyes should have been, its stance mirroring that of a predator stalking its prey. For a long time I stood there motionless, not knowing what my next move should be. On Earth, the common rule of dealing with any unknown animal was to stand very still and try to show little fear. 

 But this isn’t Earth. I feel myself trembling, and I am very afraid. With me still not knowing what to do, the creature lunges toward me and my body finally comes to life as I break into a sprint in the opposite direction. I am only able to get a few feet before I feel the creatures claws dig into back. I scream in agony while trying to fight off the creature. Events take a turn for the worst as the creature begins to bash on the glass of my helmet. A webbed crack begins to form, and suddenly I found it a little harder to breathe. With the sudden fear of losing oxygen, I find the strength to force the creature off of me and run. My attempt to run ends up being a slow stagger towards the cable I first used to get down. I summon all the strength to ascend to surface. Unfortunately my efforts just barely get me to the edge of the crater. I’m about to pull myself out, when I feel the creature’s claws burying into the side of my foot, trying to pull me back into the darkness below. I scream in agony once again as I feel its claws digging deeper and the warm blood oozing from the impact. I begin to kick at the black monstrosity, hoping to break its hold. Eventually I deliver a blow hard enough for the creature to release me, and it falls to its death as a result.  

Now free from the creatures grasp and out of its lair, I pull myself up from the dirt, the pain from my wound feeling sharper than ever. Despite the agonizing pain in my foot, I stagger across the lunar surface, hoping to reach the safety of my hub, hoping to find my son Cole, and ultimately hoping to survive.



The next few days are a bit of a blur. My mind is still hooked on the traumatic experience that took place just hours ago. My eyes still see the creature when they close, it’s long white jaws, it’s tar-black skin, and worst of all it’s blade-like claws digging into my flesh. I shudder a bit, desperately trying to rid my brain of the horrific nightmare that I can’t believe is real. The cracked space helmet sits in front of me, it sits there just as lifeless as I do. Then all of a sudden I let out a hard sob. I resist the urge to stop myself because it’s been a while since I let my body feel any real emotions. For so long, I’ve been a scientist plagued by panic instead of a father stricken by grief, and so I let the tears come and fall, from my face to the space helmet now pressed against my forehead. My eyelids feel heavy and eventually they shut and this time I don’t see any horrid monstrous creature, all I see is black. 

I soon find myself in a deep sleep, my body rests on the wall of my hub, when suddenly I hear a voice. “Get up.” The voice is stern, harsh, and feminine, yet so familiar, “GET UP.” The voice repeats louder and angrier than before. My eyes snap open, and when I look up I see her, my ex-wife staring back at me, her eyes cold and fearsome, her face red with rage. “You weak, pathetic, sad little man,” she snarls with an icy hiss. “Our son is down in that crater alone and dying, and here you are bawling your eyes out like a goddamn baby.” 

There is no energy to argue because I know she’s right. Cole is down there suffering and all by himself and I am powerless to act. My silence becomes an invitation for her to insult me further, “You failed him, John, you left him, abandoned him.” There was something about how she phrased those words together that set my heart ablaze. Here I was traumatized by what I had seen after descending into that crater, and she had the audacity to guilt trip me, as if I sat there and watched him die. “You want to talk about abandonment?” I finally managed to say. My voice is soft and trembling, “You walked out of his life drunk when he was only three months old!” My tone had risen from a somber tremble to a rage-filled scream, and I now stand in the face of who used to be my wife. The expression on my face contorts into a scowl, but the expression soon fades as sadness returns. 

“I just wanted to give him an adventure…”  I say, my voice returning to a softer tone. 

“So you took him to space?” she retorts with sarcastic laughter, 

“I had no choice.” There is some truth to that statement. After she left, Child Protective Services got involved and threatened to put Cole in foster care. I fought long and hard for custody and promised I would take time off work to care for him. It worked for the first few years of his life, but money became an issue, so I needed to work again. When I was called to do this mission I couldn’t have said yes faster, and since Cole was at that stage where he loved the Solar System, why not let him tag along? You’d think I’d win father of the year, right? Some parent I turned out to be. 

“Well, you have a choice now,” she says, a bit less enraged from before, but harsh enough to be hostile. “You can either sit here and drown to death in your own tears, or you can get that alien shard out of your foot, get off your ass, and go save our son.” For a long time there is silence, her ultimatum plays over and over, then it hits me. How exactly did she know Cole was missing? How did she know about my encounter with the alien monster? My mind races for answers, any scenario where I would have told her about this mission. Emails, texts, phone calls, conversations, anything, but I find nothing. The confusion that rattles my brain begins to take an expression on my face. I look at my wife once more–this time she smiles. It’s somehow a reassuring, yet unsettling smile. I blink, and just like that: she’s gone.

For a moment my head buzzes.  It feels as though a swarm of flies are buzzing against my skull, and when it abruptly stops I come to the disturbing truth that none of it was real. The dialogue I had with who I thought was my wife was nothing but my own twisted thoughts, a severe fever dream that festered within the walls of my own mind. As terrified of myself as I was, I somehow found all of this…amusing. What starts out as small fits of chuckling rises into mad hysterical laughter, and I now lay on the dusty tarp curled in a ball unable to control my violent cackling. I didn’t have an accurate perception of time, but if I did, I’d say my mad howls of temporary insanity rang out all through the night.