October 30, 2017 at 9:10 pm #1114155ItzprinceModerator
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There was a man, to whom his mother would say as he was growing up: you’ll never amount to anything, my son. Gog forbid—for they were agog in his sight—you have a wife or children. They will be sorry, you remember that. Then she would mutter some jibberish or other.
She was not a sympathetic woman, but then their planet did not reward sympathy. There was, however, one luxury in which they could all indulge and that was jam. Everyone loved it.
When this man came of age, he grew afraid of failure. This fear made him work unusually hard and, because he was also gifted, he grew to be successful in the jam mining business.
Jam was made underground, by billions and billions of small animals like bacteria and, from there, men extracted and refined it, making it safe to eat.
The man’s success brought him a good deal of wealth and attracted a beautiful and charismatic wife, with whom he was very much in love. They lived together in a large house and, within a few years, had two children who went to school and did well.
During the same period, the mining business went downhill. Jam was less plentiful than it had once been and extracting good quality produce became increasingly expensive. The man was wealthy still, but he became less so. He worried he would let down his children if he lost all of his money.
On the planet the seas and oceans were made of sugary water, which tasted funny. The moon, on the other hand, had seas of the finest jam. In particular, the Mare Confiture was a great ocean of strawberry preserve and the poles were caps of frozen marmalade.
The man got together his colleagues from the jamining business—some were his friends while others were his enemies—and encouraged them to work together to find a way to mine jam from the moon.
At first it was even more expensive than getting jam from the planet, but they calculated that the cost would lessen with time and practice. And, after all, they had to try something with the money they had remaining.
Their gamble paid off. Within a few years, dozens of rockets were leaving for the moon every day and returning a week later full to the nose with jam. They even found a way to turn jam into rocket fuel.
There were still people who sold jam mined from the planet. They claimed it was more natural and of higher quality but, in reality, it was neither. They just made that up because their jam was so pricey. They only stayed in business because there were well-to-do customers who were ashamed to eat like the poor. Secretly, the terran jaminers were jealous of the lunar jaminers, but all they could do was watch, and wait.
They did not have to wait long.
One night, a ship was lost at sea. Many who had been on board were lost also, or found drowned on the shore line, with their lungs full of syrup. The sinking confused sailors because the ship had been spotted in deep water on a calm sea. There was an investigation, but it revealed only a rumour that the tides that night had, for some reason, been unusually strong. This was dismissed because many of the people spreading it were not sailors and knew nothing whatsoever about tides. In a world of mystery, the sea was king.
Almost a year later, a lunatic, standing in his garden in the middle of the night, watching the moon through a telescope, spotted something unusual. A star that should have been behind the moon was, in fact, just visible to one side. He checked the time and checked his telescope. Both were correct as far as he could tell, so he rang the observatory. The observatory made measurements and came to the same conclusion. The moon was in the wrong place and closer to the planet than it should have been.
The press found out and told people, who became alarmed. Many believed, or said, that the moon was falling towards the Earth. Astronomers said it was not, rather, the eccentricity of the moon’s orbit had changed and its libration was perturbed. Few people knew what this meant but took the astronomer’s reaction as a bad sign.
The astronomers searched their star system for planets or asteroids that might cause a perturbation in the moon’s orbit but could find nothing. Though, when asked what they had found, these astronomers claimed they had several important leads and, though these were not conclusive, more money would be certain to make things concrete, in time.
The following month, the tides were so extreme that several places on the coast were flooded. Some there lost everything. Others lost only a little, but pretended to have lost a great deal and profited from the compensation.
Another ship sank because her tidal atlas was inaccurate. She had gone off course, hit a stick of rock and been holed. The company making the charts had to recreate their tidal data and publish corrections, which the ship owners willingly paid for.
The new moon produced winners and victims the world over. Attention turned towards the mining cartel. Before long, the victims began blaming it for their misfortune. The press singled out the man at its head. They began to harass him at his office, at his mint golf club, getting into his car and even at his home. This upset his wife and frightened his children, which made him furious. He angrily denied all their claims and set his people to the task of dismantling their arguments. He came to despise those who connected his business with the new moon. There was no evidence of such a connection.
He wanted to prove to his wife that he would come out on top, so ranted at her saying he would not let them get away with it. But she remained calm and controlled and settled him down.
Contrary to what the man said, a promising young physics student showed that the momentum of all those rockets, firing between the moon and the planet, each with their cargo of jam, led to exactly the orbital perturbations that the astronomers had seen. But all was not lost, he said, and went on to calculate that if the rockets stopped then the moon would eventually settle back to normal.
Everyone agreed that an end to moon-jamining was sensible. The problem was that nobody either wanted it to stop or trusted others to give up if they did.
Time passed. The man got older. His children grew up and his daughter had a child of her own, of whom he was fond of.
The following year, the new moon raised tides and swamped another city. Hundreds were drowned and thousands made homeless. The man should have stopped mining jam, but he wanted to do well for his family. Others should have stopped eating jam but they liked it, so instead of stopping they shouted loudly for others to stop, whilst continuing themselves like guilty children.
The man had been in business many years, was shrewd and so decided on a different approach. He raised the price of his jam. The only way to make people stop is to make it too expensive and, in the meantime, I’ll make a killing, he said.
He claimed to use new orbit friendly mining methods, although this was a lie. People paid the higher prices and claimed to believe in orbit friendly mining but, in truth, what prevented them complaining was their guilt. They knew they were complicit, deep down. Their hope was that poorer people than they would not be able to afford the new price and so be forced to stop eating jam. I’ll stop if they stop first, they said.
One night in August, the cats went mad. All of them. The new moon was too much for their minds. Once-loved pets ran out into the wild never to be seen again. From that time, cats were only seen at night and rarely so.
Some saw this as an omen and became alarmed. They shouted at their governments to do something about the moon-jaminers. The government listened, but replied that many people were employed as moon miners. Besides, the miners were shouting just as loudly back about how important their jobs were. Wealthy, influential people, some who worked in the government itself, others with shares in the jam business said that, what with the price of jam rising, there would be severe repercussions to government interference. In short, the government was as powerless to act as the people. Embarrassed by its inaction, the government decided to seek a third option. It put pressure on other nations to curb their wanton jamining. Poorer countries would be forced to stop, allowing those at home to continue.
All this meant the man was able to raise the price of jam further while the government did nothing. As far as they were concerned, the sooner jam was too expensive for the poor, the better.
People began to get used to the extreme tides and floods. The syrup-tidal defence industry grew and actually enjoyed its new found status. Each day, rockets set off to the moon and each day others returned.
But one night, on which a strong tide was expected, a peculiar thing happened. The water went slack. People looking into the sky noticed the moon was smaller than usual. The astronomers announced that the momentum of the rockets had now destabilized the orbit of the moon to the extend of exceeding the parametric boundary conditions of their models.
It sounded bad so over the next fortnight, everybody watched the sky. The moon, although it started small, became larger and larger. It appeared to be falling towards the planet. People panicked and, in those two weeks, their true thoughts and feelings came out. The astronomers said it was not their fault for continuing to eat jam; the jamining had brought unimaginable levels of funding. What did people expect them to do? The syrup-tidal defence men and women said much the same thing because jam had suddenly made them rich. What were they supposed to do? Stop eating jam? Hardly. The government said they were only defending people’s jobs. Surely that was proper? Everyone else said that jam had been too cheap and they could not be at fault for wanting to eat good, cheap food. Could they? All were shouting and arguing and none were listening. They were afraid.
They could only agree on one thing. If the moon missed the planet, there would be no more of this jam mining nonsense. Of this, they said, they were certain. Yet, in the same breath, some were very secretly wondering (although they told no one) what would happen to the moon’s jam if the moon did strike the planet. Would it just be lying there, on the ground, where they would be able to get it for free?
The moon came closer until it hung large in the sky, almost there to touch. The tides became gigantic. Many cities on the sea were destroyed and hundreds of thousands drowned. People stopped shouting at each other and entered a period of despair until, from the hill tops, the astronomers cried that, according to improved simulations, the moon would come no closer.
As it turned out, they were right. The moon had approached on a slingshot orbit and now began receding and people were jubilant. Some still warned against premature celebration but, one by one, they were silenced as the moon became smaller and smaller. It continued to shrink away for several months.
At nine months from the time of the gigantic tides, the moon had disappeared so that it was only visible in clear skies, either to those with keen, young eyes or those with telescopes. People started to ask whether or not it would ever be seen again.
The man realized one day the moon would not come back, was lost in space and, with it, his entire mining operation. He felt a curious pain in his chest and stumbled onto a sofa nearby. His wife came over.
“I am ruined,” he said to her. “All I wanted to do was create a good life for you and the children, and their children, but I took it too far and now it’s come to nothing.”
“Don’t blame yourself,” she replied.
“I feel like the Gogs have played a trick on us. Why were we not able to control ourselves? They wanted to steal our moon, our beautiful moon with its Mare Confiture. They knew our weakness and they used it against us.”
She put a hand into his hair, “Shhh! You have realized that you cannot control everything. That is something in itself.”
“Thank you,” he said and, taking his wife’s hand, he kissed it and closed his eyes. He took a deep breath, coughed a little then slipped away. He never awoke.
The world was a stiller place without the moon and its tides. Many living things, especially in the sea, that had been lucky enough to survive the gigantic tide now died through starvation. It was a time for retrospection and reflection. Some used this time to gossip about the man’s wife, saying she should be ashamed of her husband for what he had brought about. She, though, would not blame him. She saw that this nightmare was due neither to his fault nor that of any one person but the fault of the group, for the group is neither man nor woman, but a rampaging animal without a brain.
Jeremy Townson0October 30, 2017 at 9:13 pm #1114160ItzprinceModerator
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