This week’s story is about pushing the limits of endurance, about finding one’s fearlessness once more, about staying true to one’s self and one’s beliefs—even when a night lasts for months, and the sun’s light provides no warmth or meaning.

The 1st Annual Lunar Biathalon by Rachael K. Jones | Crossed Genres

The First Video

The camera is stationary in the first film. As in all the subsequent clips save one, Latoya Barton is alone on the lunar surface. She has wedged the camcorder in a rock cleft, her face hidden behind her reflective helmet. At this point in terraforming, the atmosphere is very thin. While on duty, she monitors the gases, tracking the rate of generation needed to compensate for loss into the void, and to solar wind. Off duty, she creates these videos.

It is nighttime. Moondust ghosts around her ankles. The crater is Earth-facing, far from the comet strike zones where ice is being thawed to create lakes for the next terraforming stage. The camera displays the date in white blocky letters in the lower left-hand corner: one week into the lunar night. Latoya scrambles up the crater’s edge. Her movements are effortless, like a gymnast – an illusion of the one-sixth gravity. At the time of filming, she is forty-six years old.

When she reaches the top, she stands out against the starry horizon. Earth is just visible as a blue sliver in the upper right of the panel. Latoya snaps open her homemade glider – some Army-green nylon bags stitched together over fiberglass tent rods – and threads her arms through the loops. The apparatus looks like a da Vinci drawing, which isn’t too far off base. Latoya is an accomplished engineer.

The glider wobbles as she tries a few test flaps. She jumps off the crater’s edge, toward the camera, arms open, and hangs for measurable seconds, suspended above the forty-foot drop. Then the glider’s left wing flops limp as a pole snaps. Latoya careens to the ground.

The footage runs another ten minutes as Latoya drags herself toward the camera, arms still tangled in the wreckage, one wing tilted up over her head, the rods cutting a furrow in the sand behind her. She is limping. She holds her left arm cradled close to her stomach. Her environment suit is miraculously intact. The last thing visible before the camera shuts off is her lime-green boots.

I can’t pin down exactly what I like about this story except to say that the characters just charmed me. Something about the assured way the narrator leads the reader into the story. Or maybe how it seems to be one kind of thing and then turns into another kind of thing. Either way, I now want to go paragliding on the moon.

Honorable Mentions

Ingebjorg Unspelled by Jessamy Dalton | Luna Station Quarterly

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Hundred Eye By Yukimi Ogawa | Strange Horizons


K. Tempest Bradford is a speculative fiction author, media critic, issuer of the Tempest Challenge. Follow her on Twitter, G+, Tumblr, or her blog.