The Moon spoke on July 20th. Its voice was deep, a sky-rending baritone just like one might expect from such a massive body. More impressively, despite being hundreds of thousands of miles distant, its words sounded as if they were coming from someone within arm’s reach. In fact, most people did not realize at first the celestial identity of the speaker, but instead glanced around, looking for the source. The Moon’s tone was cautionary but not the slightest bit threatening—almost avuncular in its concern. The message it shared with humanity was perhaps the most mundane imaginable, but of course that didn’t matter: the Moon had spoken.
Scientists of all stripes attempted to explain how it had happened. A new discipline was born before the Moon had even disappeared, as lunogeologists sought to come up with a non-ridiculous theory for how a mouth-canyon the size of Alaska had instantaneously opened on the Moon’s surface—and then just as suddenly disappeared after the Message had been voiced. Physicists then took over, restricted by a stark certainty that sound cannot travel through the vacuum of space. They toyed with every fanciful explanation conceivable, and spoke to each other with utter credulity about gravity waves, dark energy, and a smorgasbord of new types of sound: subsound, hypersound, ultramicrosound, and—the media’s personal favorite, due to its clever acronym—Massively Organized Orbital Noise. None of these learnéd thinkers could agree on anything, and soon research labs around the world were filled with bickering, cursing, fistfights, and even the occasional brawl.
The catastrophic failure to determine the how of the words led most to concentrate on the why. Naturally, Christians the world over proclaimed victory, for the Message had mentioned “Joshua,” which they took to be a slightly modernized name of their Savior. Not to be outdone, Muslims pointed to the inarguable negativity of the Message, and Islam experienced a swell of growth not seen since the 8th Century. Even these recruiting successes were overshadowed by a flood of Neo-Pagans, Lunar Celtics, Moon Wiccans, and so on. Soothsayers and prophets abounded, some of whom were given afternoon talk shows. Doomsayers became more common on city sidewalks than streetlights.
This bubbling well of lunar spirituality was harnessed by those in power with typical alacrity. Conservatives across the world spoke of the need to explore and confront the Moon. Liberals—with some justification—did not hear “explore and confront,” but rather “exploit and conquer,” and so they were quickly shoehorned into the untenable counterposition of ignoring our celestial neighbor as it soared across the sky. In America, the Democratic Party, once home to John F. Kennedy and his Space Race, lowered its eyes Earthward, choosing to scrupulously study the ground rather than the Heavens.
Of course, the Earth did need some attention. Hundreds of millions of people had simply stopped working after hearing the Message. Teachers abandoned their students, and those stalwart souls who stayed were left to deal with classrooms teeming with Joshuas—both boys and girls. Home-schooling reached incalculable levels, as mothers sought to keep their children away from the Moon and its eerie Message through the simple means of keeping them locked indoors at all times. A new generation of homebound lunatics was born, with the beguiling moniker “the Lunakids.”
Without children to help with the chores, farmers found themselves unable to work their fields. Extremist groups flourished in the place of crops as famine swept across the countryside. White supremacists pointed to the “pure” color of the Moon and became an overnight terror, which was soon echoed by Black supremacists, who noted that the crescent Moon was mostly dark when the Message was uttered. For an embarrassing (but still terrifying) two-week period, both groups used the same flag. Tensions were further stoked by Hollywood movie producers, who continually tried to outdo each other in their excesses. The culmination was Moondeath, a revenge fantasy where Neil Armstrong, tears flowing down his aged but undeniably wholesome face, returned to the Moon to replace the American flag with a nuclear bomb. The movie made more money that year than Spain.
Despite the egocentric thinking of Christians and Muslims, conservatives and liberals, whites, blacks, scientists, farmers, and everyone else, the Message was ultimately intended for just one person: nine-year old Joshua Thompson of Driftwood, Pennsylvania. He was about to grab a downed, sparking power line when the Moon delivered its fateful Message: “Don’t do that, Joshua.” Amidst the cacophony and chaos created by these simple words, he was perhaps the only person on Earth to have a sensible reaction. He shrugged his shoulders, turned, and went home.