A special press conference was called by NASA. “This is a turning point, not only for space exploration, not only for science, but for all mankind and all of history,” Dr. Roland Gardner announced, beaming. The president’s national address was similarly optimistic, boasting that the United States would lead the way in studying and understanding the strange new discovery. The following Sunday, on “Morning Service with Pastor Norman”, the good Reverend Mr. Patrick Norman praised God and the infinite creativity of His works: “Behold this miracle of God’s creation.”
Every news station was inundated with fuzzy satellite images of a dark spot inching across the gray lunar landscape. An endless parade of talking heads – Dr. Gardner’s and Pastor Norman’s included – tried to provide an explanation, rather unconvincingly.
The thing had suddenly emerged from a meteor that struck the moon a month prior. Beyond that, there was only speculation – but whatever the thing was, it appeared to be alive, and it was growing at an unbelievable rate. When first spotted, it was the size of a city bus – within days, it had quadrupled in size.
As it became more clearly visible by satellite, the thing could be seen to resemble some sort of black bug, or a trilobite, crawling without apparent direction, seldom stopping to rest.
Something had changed in the zeitgeist – as many suspected it might, if extraterrestrial life were discovered. But the world had dreamed of enlightened space-brothers to usher humanity to a new level of consciousness, or exotic microbes, or at least villainous invaders. Not this.
Larger and larger it grew, with no signs of slowing.
Media commentators struggled to explain how such a thing might be possible – how such a creature might exist, even in theory. Dr. Gardner speculated that it might have been super-dense to begin with, and had only increased in volume – or else it was somehow feeding off of the dust on the moon’s surface. That was the only way its growth could make any sense at all.
Meanwhile, Reverend Norman was only the most prominent of many voices claiming that the creature defied science altogether. “Morning Service with Pastor Norman” was retitled “Apocalypse Watch”. Brow glistening, the pastor would pontificate at length about the beast and the antichrist.
“This is no space alien, no creature of science,” he bellowed. “We could not ask for clearer signs of the coming end, my friends.”
The larger the monster became, the less plausible the scientific explanations seemed. Theories became more outlandish by necessity. The talking heads of the media became louder and more frantic. By all appearances, the law of conservation of mass had been repealed. Before long, there was little difference to be noted between the distinguished scientists and the crackpots.
An iconic image of Dr. Gardner, standing with his face in his hands after being humiliated in a televised debate with Reverend Norman, was published on the cover of Time magazine. In the public mind, science had been defeated.
Now the creature was visible with telescopes available on the consumer market. It was an incredible thing to look upon – awe-inspiring in a way that nothing else in the world – or anywhere else – could compare to. It was humbling, yes, but more so… it was disquieting.
Satellite images spared few details by now. It did not look like a miracle of God’s creation after all. Nor could it pass as a thrilling scientific discovery. It was a vermin the size of a city, looking as though it crawled from the depths of Hell itself, squirming and writhing as it crept across the moon’s surface.
The media tried to hang a few different names on it – at first it was the alien, or the anomaly – some scientists even tried to give it a Latin name, as if it were a newly-discovered species of hummingbird. But the only one that stuck was: the monster.
For all the promulgations of Pastor Norman and others of his ilk, that monstrous thing on the moon scarcely resembled anything to be found in the Book of Revelation. With surprising rapidity, new religions sprang up with new messiahs, new tenets, and new symbols.
More disreputable and sensationalist news sources reported that a second meteor, similar to the one from which the monster had emerged, had landed in the Pacific ocean just a few days after the first, only to be hushed-up by the government. No evidence was produced, but the rumors would not be dispelled.
Now the monster was larger than large – a tiny black dot visible to the naked eye at night, its movement just barely perceptible. Drawn-to-scale graphics comparing the creature to familiar, terrestrial landmarks became popular – and one could not help but imagine the result of a monster like that walking the Earth. Cities would crumble under its footsteps.
Before long, all news sources were sensationalist.
Two hundred members of lunar cult arrested amid allegations of human sacrifice. Could the lunar creature constitute an earthly threat? Creature could be capable of reproduction, claims Yale scientist. Second meteor located on ocean floor? Arrival of moon monster predicted by Nostradamus.
War erupts in Asia. Economy threatens to enter depression. Suicide rate doubles. President to address nation in crisis.
Now the size of a continent, a gargantuan cockroach crawling across the Man in the Moon’s face, it was plainly and clearly visible to any observer – maddening to look upon, in the truest sense. Its growth, though finally slowed, had not yet stopped. No one could know if it ever would.
The US president delivered a special address to the world – something suitably historic regarding the human spirit, not being cowed by otherworldly threats, and so forth. His voice cracked. He appeared weak, shaken. But then, nearly everyone did.
Every news station covered the nuclear attack. The world watched as the pinpricks of light flashed across the creature’s surface, ineffectually – pathetically.
This must have been how it was for the ancients, praying to the Sun – looking into the sky and seeing a god as real and tangible and undeniable as anything. One might say that these days, there are no more atheists, yet just the same, not everyone believes in God.
But everyone believes in the Devil.
© David Johnson