The rocket trip to the Moon takes three days. You sit in the cockpit in the rocket’s nose and watch the earth receding through the porthole. Too gradually to see, but still receding.
When you arrive on at the Moon, the rocket makes two orbits before landing on the Moon’s far side. The touchdown is very smooth and soft, feeling in no way like landing on real ground.
Looking out the porthole windows, you can see something in the far distance. It is white, a surface reflecting sunlight or painted white. You fill your spacesuit pockets with goo bars and water bars and climb down the rocket’s ladder. Spacesuit pockets are on the inside, so you can pull your arms out of the suit arms and reach into your pocket and then into your mouth.
You bounce towards the white thing. As you get closer it looks less and less like reflected light and more and more like something painted. After fifteen minutes it becomes clear that the white thing is a white house. A small two-up, two-down that you can see, as you grow closer, is surrounded by a compact green garden and girdled by a low, ironwork fence. You stop to take a water bar out of your pocket and put it into your mouth.
You reach the garden gate. Where the fence end the ground turns back to moonrock. You pull open the garden gate with one spacesuited hand, and it groans loudly. It is the first sound you have heard outside your helmet since leaving the rocket.
The door opens and an old lady looks out. ‘Hello,’ she says. ‘Is this about the wasps? Come inside.’ You follow her up the garden path and into the house. The old woman wears a woollen cardigan and a plaid skirt. He hair is white and her eyes are dark.
She brings you through the front room into the kitchen at the back. ‘Take off that,’ she says, pointing at the helmet. You unclasp it at the rim and pull it off. Suddenly the room is very loud, not because of any particular sound but because the helmet had been in the way. You can hear the air moving. There is a smell of fresh bread and over-stewed tea. ‘I’ll make a fresh pot,’ says the woman and fills a stove-top kettle from the tap. Through the kitchen window you can see the black sky and endless grey earth and the yellow ball of sun near the horizon.
‘Would you like some brack? I’m sure I’ve some brack somewhere.’ She begins opening presses. You take a seat at the table and watch her. ‘I called last week,’ she says. ‘I was expecting you a bit quicker. Terrible problem with wasps.’
‘Wasps?’ you ask.
‘In the attic. I don’t know how big the nest is but you can hear it morning, noon and night since June. I keep picturing them eating away at the joists. Wasps chew wood, don’t they?’
‘I’m not sure.’
‘Well if you’re not sure I don’t know who is. It’s you who’s paid to deal with them.’
She puts a cup of tea on the table. You plop in some milk from the jug and add a half spoon of sugar.
‘Let me know when you’re ready to take a look up there. I’ll be upstairs.’
You drink the tea and listen to the woman creak upstairs. When you are finished you look out the window again. The view is unchanged but for the sun sitting a little lower on the horizon.
On the landing there is a faint buzzing from the attic space. Behind it you can hear a tiny scratches and taps of insects crawling on wood. The old woman comes out of one of the bedrooms and asks, ‘Did you bring your own ladder? I have one in the back porch.’
In the back porch you find a red foot-ladder behind some compost bags. You carry it upstairs and place it under the attic door. The door is a wooden board covering a hole, and at the top of the ladder you push upwards and slide it sideways. The buzzing sound is very loud. The old woman watches from the bedroom door and blesses herself.
You push your head through the hole into the dark. You can see nothing, but the old woman leans up and hands you a small hand torch.
‘It will be dark soon,’ she says. You shine the pen torch around you but it fails to penetrate the black. You rest the torch on the lip of the door and hoist yourself up until you are sitting with your legs dangling down into the hallway.
‘You’d better come down before the sun is gone,’ she says. ‘Please, you can come back tomorrow.’ You remember about the Moon. All you can hear is buzzing, very close.