The Longest, Darkest Night

Ida Schenck

“Once upon a time, there was a girl named Esmeralda.” I began. “She lived in a beautiful castle, and woke up every day feeling refreshed and lovely from her beauty sleep. On this particular morning–”

“Okay stop.”

“Yeah?” I looked up at Aunt Merryl, annoyed at her interrupting.

“The people on Earth won’t connect to that story.”

“But why not? Isn’t that what everyone on Earth wants? To live in a beautiful castle and wake up every day feeling fresh and wonderful and beautiful?”

“Sure, maybe… some people. But is it what the people on earth have?”

“Well no, I mean maybe someone, but on the whole, no, at least from what you’ve said,” I responded, pulling back the floral curtains and gazing out at the silvery dust of the moon stretching out in front of the house. Light flooded the room, revealing the cobwebs in the unworking light fixtures and the places where the carpet had been rubbed bare by years of Aunt Merryl’s shuffling slippered feet.

Aunt Merryl hated the moon. Had ever since she came up here with a hundred other families when I was one, fifteen years ago. Housing prices went up and we were kicked out of our apartment and living in Aunt Merryl’s car at the time, or so I’ve heard. She would’ve never come here by choice, but one day in the early morning the police came by and woke her up by banging on her car window. They told her there was new, basically free housing on the moon and it was the latest frontier, with opportunities up to here and all that. Besides the opportunities which they’d been instructed to tell people about (they even had a shiny pamphlet which Aunt Merryl still has) the police said we could either get a house now or go to the moon our choice. New city policy.

“Close that back up,” Aunt Merryl snapped, pulling me back to the problem at hand. “It makes my eyes hurt.” I reluctantly slid the curtains shut again, hiding the flaws of the room like a bride covering her scarred face with a veil until after the vows have already been said. “What I’m saying,” she continued, “is why should they give a damn about a girl named Esmarelda who’s perfect and happy when they have places to go and people to see?”

“Well I don’t know,” I said, “either they’ll give a damn or they won’t.”

“Well that’s not good enough, Nora honey. I know you’ve lived here your whole life and you don’t care but I really can’t deal with one more year on the moon. Every day here kills me, and the nights are even worse. Two weeks and negative 208 degrees. Plus, I probably have lung cancer from the air by now.” She tapped her cigarette on the edge of the tray, letting the ashes fall down like gray snow over the old cigarette butts, and then snubbed it out decidedly. “The people on Earth caring about this story is my only chance at getting back there someday. I know how rich people work. If they know we’re here, they’ll give us money to show all their rich friends how good they are and then we can get back home on the next ship and rent an apartment until I can find steady work.”

“Okay well, how do I make them care?”

“Write something people can relate to. If they see themselves in the story, they’ll care.” She put another cigarette between her lips, lighting it with a match. “Do it again, tell the story in a way people on Earth can understand.”

“Okay. Once upon a time, there was a girl named Blanch. She had arms and legs and a head just like any other human. She lived in a small gray house with a kitchen where she would cook food, a living room where she would sit and look at various things on a metal box called a TV, and a bedroom where she never got quite enough sleep. On this particular bleary, gray morning–”

“No, no, no, stop again.”

“What? What’s wrong?”

“It’s far too mechanical. People on Earth already know that Blanch has arms, legs, and a head because all of them, for the most part at least, have arms, legs, and a head. And they already know that her house most likely has a kitchen, living room, and bedroom, because their houses most likely have kitchens, living rooms, and bedrooms. And they know what Blanch uses those rooms for, and they know all about gray mornings and not getting enough sleep.”


“Well, you’ve got to write something that they don’t know about.”

“I thought I was supposed to write something that they could relate to.”

“Scratch that. New plan. What do they not know about?” Aunt Merryl was now on her third cigarette this hour, the second laying in the ashtray like a dead soldier on a battlefield. Hours are still the same as they are on Earth except we add in the number of Earth days it’s been light for as well as the time it is currently in New York City. For example, right now it’s 10:12:30 pm. It gets dark again on day 13. I expect us first-generation mooners will do away with this system once our parents die off, but for now, we make do with the relic and our parent’s nostalgia.

“Well, they don’t know about the moon.” I answer.


“And they don’t know that you and me exist and that we’re trying to get to earth.”

“And they’re not here, so they must not know about this conversation.”

“There we go, now we’re getting somewhere. So write about this conversation.”

“Okay, where do I start?”

“Start with your first story, start with Esmerelda and her beauty sleep.”

So I did and here you are reading it right now. The end.

“There you go,” says Aunt Merryl, “now we’re ready.”