Lunar Voices (On the Solar Wind)
Mary was fisting signs in his face, Together are we; together we hope; Baines lives still.
Phulani smiled. Nearby, a dog barked.
He’d recognise that bark anywhere. It was Inja, prancing in front of the rover, as if wanting to play catch. Yes, he definitely wanted to be chased or followed, he’d always pawed at the ground at the start of this game, just like that. But this time, he sneezed with the cloud of lunar dust he’d kicked up with his paws.
Phulani laughed and signed to Mary, Drive you, I show way.
He caught a shadowy glimpse of her expression before she turned to climb into the driver’s seat. He knew he would never be able to tell her he could see a dead dog on the Moon.
It was madness he knew, but he could think of nothing better than to point ahead in the direction that Inja ran, yelping with pleasure, hurtling through the air like a springbok in the lighter lunar gravity. Mary drove on, with an occasional turn of her head, checking the direction of his pointing through her peripheral vision.
They drove for what seemed like an eternity and still, even a dog shade tires…
Inja slowed to a ragged jog and dropped alongside the rover, panting and peering in at Phulani. He stretched across to pat the dog, as he had when a boy, but he patted nothing but vacuum.
Inja was gone.
The rover crawled to a halt, a large boulder ahead obscuring the view. Mary unbuckled herself and turned to him, signing: Okay you? Forgot way again?
He nodded tiredly, forgetting it was hard for her to see his face through his glinting visor.
The Moon felt empty, desolate again.
Mary went to check on Baines.
Phulani closed his eyes and listened to the faint whirr of his oxygen fans. Together we hope.
Old images, paintings and words floated in the darkness of his mind. He tried to hold them steady as light meteors ripped through them, solar storm particles in his brain?
An old book he’d read had charged him with his first excitement about the Moon, painted and spoken by a Moonwalker from almost a century ago. Oh yes, Alan Bean, Apollo Twelve. What had he said again? The solar glare had bleached the lunar landscape, making it hard for them to see when looking into the sun.
Phulani opened his eyes and looked across to his left, up a ragged sloping hill towards the sun. He unbuckled himself.
Where go? signed Mary. She crouched over Baines. Baines breathes still, but almost conscious not.
Something to see. He fisted a reply.
He leaped up the hill, bouncing unsteadily with the thrusting of his boots, bracing himself to slow and stop as Baines had taught him on earlier Moonwalks. He turned to face down the slope, scanning the widened expanse of terrain with the sun blazing at his back. Left to right, slowly, surely, not even sure of what he might be looking for…
There, a faint but regular pattern against the dust in this chaotic jumbled world – just a bit further on and to the right of that boulder ahead of the rover. Phulani bounded down the slope carefully, aware he may just have been seeing things. Still, it was all they had.
Mary was in the driver’s seat again, waiting for him. Phulani pointed ahead and to the right of the boulder, preferring to jog ahead. It took him only five bounds.
He braked to a dusty halt.
It was a line of rover tracks.
“Galactic Navigator”, that’s the name of the particular Bean painting which had stuck in his head. Easy to get lost, but all you need to find are tracks, your marks and patterns in history.
Mary ground to a halt alongside him and gave him a sign for love, which was a bit like hugging herself. She then pointed at him. He laughed with a rush of elation and heat, clambering into his seat.
Which way? He signed.