Kory McGaughey

IN THE SHADOWS OF THE MOON

It was actually happening. I would be going out on the moon’s surface again after all this time. Being in my late fifties, I knew that this would be my last trip. In a few years, I would be too old; at least my superiors would think that. Damn them! Sitting at my desk, I grumbled and looked over next to me. Doug, my young, enthusiastic assistant, spoke with the crew downstairs and finally stood up from his chair.

“We’ve been given the green light, John. We’re going outside!”

“That’s good to hear. Let’s head down.”

Arriving at the bottom, we began our walk through the underground tunnel. This area was the coldest of the entire research center. The freezing air hovered in the atmosphere like clouds in the sky. The tunnel itself was made out of metallic matter that was naturally found on the moon. Almost everything else was built with the same material. Shuttling resources from the Earth was possible but was very tedious and time-consuming. Our crew’s purpose was to collect metals for future expansion of the colony.Leaving the top, we looked out at the lunar colony. The dome towered over the entire colony built underneath it. I had been working here since the beginning. It was back when going to the moon was a myth to some people. It actually still felt like a myth to me. Yet, we had begun building it back in 2023 with collaboration of China, Russia, Japan, and of course, the United States, my country. In a span of thirty years, we had a fully functioning moon colony.

From the tunnel, we entered the supply hanger for our equipment. This giant place was scattered with space suits, lunar vehicles, scanning devices, and drills for mining. Most of the surface crew could be found in the front of the room on our left. We moved to the back to begin putting on our spacesuits to the right. Working on our spacesuits, the front of the room quickly became crowded with the whole surface crew working on fueling and powering up our vehicle. I had always been clunky with driving. I would let my assistant drive this time as I thought about the past and smiled. With our spacesuits almost on, I heard someone call me over.

“John! Hey John! Get over here!”

“Oh great. I didn’t think he would be here.”

It was my supervisor, Phillip. He was a bit younger than me. His hair wasn’t quite as gray as mine. He had less wrinkles too. Yet, I was more fit than him. It looked like he was starting to get a little heavy. I tried not to say anything since he was my boss, but he was always pushing my buttons. I couldn’t wait to hear what he had to say to me now. I walked over to him with a disgruntled look on my face.

“So, I bet you’re excited to go back on the surface. How long has it been?”

“10 years or so.”

“Gosh, that’s a long time. Shouldn’t you be retiring now?”

“You calling me old?”

“You are old. Now, we have some last minute changes.”

“Last minute changes? What do you mean?”

“We are adding a third crew member to your team.”

“A third? Why?”

“He’s from the Russian space team. He’s been doing this just as long as you.”

“A Russian? Alright, whatever. Where is he? Has he been briefed?”

“He’s right over there. Why don’t you introduce yourself to him? You can do that, right?”

“Yeah, sure.”

Shuffled in the crowd was an old, determined-looking man with a gray Russian spacesuit on. He looked to be in his mid to late 40s, younger than me. I walked over to him.

“So you’re our third.”

“Yes sir. I am Boris. I just flew in from Moscow. Have you been on Earth recently?”

“Earth? No, not since my wife died. So why are you coming along with us? It’s always been a two man job.”

“I’m sorry. My country’s prime minister is interested in seeing how things are going up here. I am just here to observe.”

“An observer, huh? Well, just let us do our jobs, okay?”

“It will be like I am not even here.”

“Good. Now where is that crazy assistant of mine? Damn kids. Always getting into trouble.”

Walking away from the Russian, I went over to my assistant who was talking to one of the female technicians. Doug was in his mid to late 20s. He had short, brown hair and wore glasses. He was always talking to the ladies. I had to pull him away since we had work to do.

“Alright alright, come on. We have a job to do, young one.”

“Sorry sir, we just started talking, and well, you know how things go.”

“Yeah, I know. So did you hear about our new member?”

“Oh no. What’s he going to be doing?”

“He says he’s an observer, but just keep an eye on him, okay?”

“You got it.”

“Alright, let’s go. I think they are waiting on us now.”

All three of us got in, and the group of technicians cleared the floor. I was sitting in the navigation chair, and Doug was next to me in front of the driving controls. Our Russian friend was in a seat at the back. A few seconds later, a wall came down around us to seal off the area. The floor lifted us up on the surface away from the lunar colony.

“What was the direction again?” my assistant asked me.

“Northeast.”

“Looks like I’ll have to turn it over a few degrees.”

We began to move through the lunar environment, progressing to the zone. Looking over the map, it appeared we were getting closer sooner than I estimated.

“What speed are we traveling at?”

“Only about half.”

“Speed it up just a little more, but be careful. It won’t be too long till we get there from what the map is showing us.”

“Sure thing. Pushing forward on the lever now.”

I pulled out the navigation device given to me by one of the technicians and began transmitting the signal towards the source of energy. We were getting closer and closer to our destination as we rode through the craters, valleys, and hills on the lunar surface. Looking out the window, the surface was lifeless and gray. I was always fascinated with it, though. Some would think it was boring, but I felt it was mysterious and adventurous. Going to the scanner, the device began picking up something.

“Stop right here, Doug.”

Our vehicle slowed down and halted on the top of a small hill near the energy.

“Is it close?”

“The device is mapping out the terrain now. Only at 20%. Come on. Damn it’s slow. I don’t have patience for this.”

“You’d think it would be faster, right? I mean it’s only 2053.”

“Yeah yeah. Gotta love technology. Alright, there it goes. Finally! Okay, the highest energy is over to the east. Head over that way.”

The vehicle turned its direction towards the location and slowly moved off the hill. We moved closer to it as the towering mountains became visible in the distance.

“Get about 10 meters from the bottom of those mountains. We can get our gear ready there.”

The vehicle got closer and stopped.

“Is this good?”

“Yeah, let’s set up here.”

I got up from my navigation seat and moved over to the door. Doug got up with me, and I made sure to grab the matter reader. It was a device that could tell us the composition of what was in these mountains.

“Are you ready?”

“Yes sir.”

Getting ready to leave the vehicle, I noticed that Boris wasn’t moving.

“Are you coming with us?”

“No sir. I will simply watch from the monitor here.”

“Alrighty, whatever you need to do. We’ll be checking out the composition in the area and may begin drilling. If you need anything, just call us on the radio here.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Finishing up in the vehicle, I pressed the button near the door, opening it for us to exit out to the lonely wastelands of the moon. We walked towards the mountains as I studied the levels of matter in the area. We then stopped at the bottom.

“Not too bad. I’m seeing plenty for us to use. Well, I got a complete scan done of the region. Did you grab the drill? We can start now.”

“Oh, man. I forgot it. I’m sorry.”

“Okay, I’ll hurry back.”“It’s alright. I can try to get some quick samples while you go back and get the drill.”

I grabbed one of my tools and began to chip away the rock. It was quiet and barren but peaceful here. I wished it could always be like this. Doug suddenly called me on the radio.

“John! John! Do you hear me?”

“Yeah, what’s up? You couldn’t find it?”

“No, it’s not that. That Russian dude is gone! He’s not here anymore!”

“What! Damn, where the hell is he?”

“I don’t know. What do we do John?”

“Just sit tight. I’m on my way back.”

Getting back to the vehicle, it was empty just like Doug had described.

“Well, what the hell? Did you try to patch through to the colony?”

“I tried, but there seems to be some kind of interference. I couldn’t get through.”

“Hmm, well, he’s gotta be close. I don’t know what he could be up to. Anyways, let’s look around. I should be able to pick up his body heat with my scanner.”

We moved away from the vehicle and began searching. Looking on the screen, I began to find greater energy than where we were to mine. What could this be?

“Hmm, this metal matter seems to be centralized in that dark region there. It almost looks like a cave entrance. Let’s move closer.”

We made our way towards the darkness. The device continued to update the area’s terrain. As we got closer to the opening in the mountain, something was hidden in the shadows. It was hard to see, but something was there nonetheless.

“What is that?” Doug asked me.
“I can’t see anything. Turn on your flashlight.”

Detaching our flashlight units from our spacesuits, we turned them on, shining the light at something that could not be explained at first.

“I cannot believe this. It’s some sort of structure!”

“It looks like an entry door to a structure. There’s no way this is a natural formation. Who could have built this?”

“It’s aliens, John! It has to be!”

“Wait a second. What’s that over there?”

I saw something on the left side of the wall.

“It’s not aliens. You see that flag there?”

“A flag? What’s on it?”

“It’s a Soviet flag. This place was built by the Russians. It must have been some secret base.”

“Secret base? How could they have done this?”

“By doing what we are doing now. They used the moon’s resources to build their structures here.”

“Could they still be here?”

“I don’t think so, but this has to be what that damn Russian was here for. Let’s look inside this place and then we will report back to the colony.”

I walked closer to the door and found that it had already been opened. We walked forward and came to another open door that appeared to be the one for stabilizing the oxygen levels. Unfortunately, it looked like this place ran out of oxygen a long time ago. What could that Boris be looking for in here? We cautiously moved through the rest of the base.

It was small. There were four main rooms, each with different instruments and tools. Stairs were built between each of the rooms, and each had pressure doors. One of the rooms was a central hub for equipment and communication for the base. The rest had some beds and areas where food was stored. From the last room, there was another door that led to a main set of stairs. These stairs led to another part of the base that I myself could not believe I was seeing.

From the stairs, a room with many rows of chairs and a podium could be found. The back wall had maps of the United States and other areas around the U.S. There were marks written on all of the maps. Some things were written on them that looked like words in Russian. Why would they be looking at the United States? Why would they be marking circles on different areas of these maps? Why would they be doing it here?

The scanner in my hand began making a beeping noise. I looked down, and it showed high levels of energy. It started to form the terrain around us and something strange was presented to me. I held up the scanner as an area full of objects displayed radiation in the next room behind the room we were in. Everything started to make sense to me now. This secret base was built to house nuclear weapons on the Moon.

“What’s in that other room, John?” Doug asked me.

“Nuclear warheads. I can see them on the scanner. This was a nuclear weapons facility that was going to be used by the Russians.”

“They were developing nuclear weapons here? What happened to the people? There had to be people here, right?”

“Yeah, I’m not sure. Activate your radiation protection in your spacesuit. Let’s investigate the next room.”

We walked to the back of the conference room. An accessway led around to the other side, and a closed door. I pulled down on the lever next to the door, and at first it seemed to be jammed, then it slowly opened, just enough for me to go through.

“I want you to stay here, Doug. I’m thinking our friend might be in here, and let’s hope his suit is strong enough to shield the radiation in this room.”

“Wait, I can’t let you go alone, John. What if something happens in there? I have to go with you.”

“I’m sorry, this is too dangerous for you. You’re young, and I’m old, according to Phillip. Anyway, don’t worry, I’ll be back in no time.”

“You promise, John?”

“You can count on it.”

Moving through the small opening of the door, I entered the large nuclear weapons chamber. The area itself was extremely dark with nothing visible in the atmosphere. It was quiet, but I could hear a voice in the distance. Was it Boris? I moved through cautiously with my flashlight in hand. The scanner in my other hand picked up extremely high levels of radiation. Without the proper shielding in a spacesuit, you would be dead in minutes.

Looking around a bit more, I suddenly saw a light behind one of the warheads. I could see a figure in the dark that soon became a person. It was Boris. It looked like he was communicating into some kind of radio. There was a lot of moisture on the glass of his helmet. It appeared his suit was not strong enough. I moved in. I had to save him.Moving along, I found rows of nuclear missiles, almost all of them unfinished. I suddenly felt something touching my foot. I looked down and pointed my flashlight to the floor to see what it was. I then jumped back. It was a corpse. Radiation had gone right through his suit. Not long after that, I began to see more dead bodies scattered across the chamber. None of them appeared to be Boris. I began to become sick and disgusted with what I was seeing. I had to find him and get out of here.

“Boris?”

“Dr. Brody! What are you doing in here?!”

“What am I doing in here? What about you? You were supposed to stay put, but now I see why you came along. It’s not safe in here, you know. You better come with me back to the surface or you are going to end up like the rest of these men.”

“I can’t. I am here to make a report, and I’m not leaving till I am finished.”

“You realize how much radiation you are being exposed to right now? That suit of yours isn’t going to keep you alive much longer.”

“I don’t care. This is for my country! I have to do this! Now get out of here! I know what I’m doing!”

“Boris, please listen. Let us go back to the surface and drive back to the colony. You need medical attention. You are in danger being in this room.” I urged him as I began to walk towards him.

“What do you think you are doing? Stay away! I said stay…a…way…I…can’t…he..lp…”

He began to cough and appear to lose breath. He struggled, and I worked my way over to him to rush him out of the room. I pulled and pulled, but it was too late. He moved once more and then stopped. There was no longer any movement. His eyes were wide open now with pain visible on his face. He was dead.

In disarray, I was breathing hard now, and I quickly moved back to the opening and exited the chamber of the dead, closing the door behind me.

“John! Are you okay? What happened?”

“I found our friend. He…he’s dead. The radiation got through his suit. It was too much for him and the other Russians there. I found about ten other corpses with radiation burns,“ I explained, and tried to get the image out of my head.

“He died?! Why would he go in there?! Didn’t he know the risk? And there are others?”

“It appears that he was here to find out what happened. It was never about our mining operation. He was sent to make a report on the status of this base.”

“That’s just crazy! I can’t believe it.

“Yeah, I can’t either. Well, we need to get back to the surface. We need to report this to the colony.”

“Sounds good. Let’s get out of here!”

We began moving back up the stairs and through the rooms of the base to the entrance. Exiting out towards the lunar vehicle, something seemed different on the surface. My vision seemed to blur as the picture transformed the surroundings to a solid black with no stars or anything in sight. What was this?

I began wondering quickly what was happening as the picture transformed again. Everything faded away and was then clear. I saw my wife in front of me, and I felt as if I had fallen down. I was falling and falling. I was lost. Yet, I then opened my eyes with my head leaning back on my chair. I was back at my desk.

I sat up and looked around. No one was in the room with me. I looked over to Doug’s computer and saw a note attached to it. I reached over and tore it off the computer screen. He would be downstairs, helping with some new equipment they were working on. He would be gone for a few hours. I put the note down as I leaned back again in my chair.

Was everything just a dream? It seemed so real. As I started to drift back to sleep, I felt a pain on my right foot. I looked at it, and a burn was present that almost hurt when I moved my leg. Where did that come from? Ignoring it for the time being, I put my head back once again and became lost in the flow of my dreams.

 Kory McGaughey is a junior at OSU Newark majoring in English. He writes: “To put it simply, I am a writer. In my senior year of high school, I was in a creative writing class and was really into writing short stories. I also have a fascination with alternate history and what could have happened or something that possibly happened that we don’t know about. It could be something kept in the dark, and it’s hidden to everyone outside the group that was keeping it secret. I think with this piece that it really showed my imagination and how when I go on my own to write something, I really go out there. Most of my stories are over the top and pretty crazy. I try to keep things interesting and something that makes you go, “Whoa! That’s crazy! I wasn’t expecting that!”

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