August 5

Neil Armstrong (b. 1930)


When Brianna considered the first man to step on the Moon, and his famous quotation about the “one giant leap,” she thought about his footprints on that distant surface, and other marks he and his crew might have left there.

And what they brought back, stuck to the soles of their boots.

Moondust.  Not as romantic as it sounds.

Astronauts had trampled or driven over that fabled face from illustrations in children’s books.  In those drawings, the Man in the Moon usually smiled, giving our Earth a bemused or tolerant sideways glance.  His storybook self never dreamed we’d visit him, first with unmanned probes, then with larger vehicles that transported litter-bearing Earthling who left several moon buggies behind, sections of landing modules, scraps of paper and cloth and even two golf balls,

No wonder that, in recent years, the Man in the Moon had gotten angry at us.  His night-sky smile twisted into a scowl, the brows furrowed above his crater-eyes, and his long-rumored influence on human behavior grew strangely tangible.

Brianna manned the visitor sign-in desk at Memorial Hospital.  She wasn’t an ER nurse or doctor, but she heard stories from them, the rough nights when “the crazies are out in full force,” and the offered explanation:  “It must be a full moon tonight.”  Half the time, when she checked the calendar it turned out they were right — which seemed more than a coincidence.

If the Moon’s gravitational pull can influence tides, and people are 70% water, it only makes sense it might drive people to fight or crash cars or shoot each other or (and one nurse swore this kind of thing happened more than you’d expect) insert peculiar objects into their rectums.

Brianna had her own theory, which she hadn’t shared with the hospital staff, but which she might have heard on some radio show or another during her evening commute to the night shift.  Those astronauts had brought some space dust or virus-carrying spores back with them from their visits to the Moon, and it slowly gathered in the atmosphere.  It’s mind-altering properties intensified when the Moon appeared brightest in the sky.

The past couple of months, the escalation of strange patients had been so dramatic, at Memorial Hospital and elsewhere, that even the doctors and nurses who’d been skeptical of “The Full Moon Effect” began to brace themselves for the worst when that part of the lunar cycle rolled around.

According to Brianna’s desk calendar, tonight was another full moon.  The Face would be looking down on everyone, influencing them.  No telling what might happen…

[…continued tomorrow…]