This is a story I have tried to write at least 4 times now. Or, rather, I have written the beginning of at least four times now. For some reason, it has never quite come together. So, I have decided to approach it from a different perspective. Since it is both a science fiction story and something of a fairy tale, I decided to write it more like a children’s story — not in a Suessian sense (I’m saving that for Stinky McPhearson and the Zombie Apocalypse) but more in an aimed-at-precocious-4th-graders sense. I am not sure whether I will succeed, but here goes Part One of Elger and the Moon.
Elger Bedford lived a long time ago, before sky lifts and aerocars or even magnemotives. No one had learned how to make these things again, or a lot of other things we all take for granted, so Elger lived in a tiny village and never went very far from it at all. The village in which he lived sat at the foot of a great, big hill. Like a normal hill, it was covered in grass and a few trees, but instead of being filled with dirt and rocks like most hills, this hill was filled with garbage. The people who lived in Elger’s village dug into the hill, mining it for that garbage, and so the village was called Trash Town.
You see, Elger lived so long ago that people were just beginning to find and learn how to use all of the Leftovers from the Time Before. The Masters of Trash Town, who were altogether unkind and greedy task masters, took everything that the people found while mining the hill that was useful or valuable and gave the people food and water and a dirty and uncomfortable but safe place to sleep. As long as the villagers mined the hill and did not keep anything secretly for themselves, the Masters protected them from the bandits and beasts that lived in the wilderness outside the village. The Masters would use the things the people found, or trade them to other villages nearby.
You might be wondering about now why anyone would want to dig for garbage, and even how garbage could still be valuable after so many, many years buried in a hill. Well, the people who lived in the Time Before had so many wonderful things that when they got a new wonderful thing, they just threw the old one away. And there were so many new and wonderful things, and so many people, that they had mountains and mountains of trash. All that trash was quite ugly to look at, so the Time Before people decided to bury it all under a great mound of dirt, plant grass on top, and call it a park. Imagine that! For years and years people played ball and had picnic lunches on top of giant piles of trash. Something that happens when you pile all that trash together and cover it with all that dirt is that no air or water can get to it, so not even time can destroy it. Besides, the Time Before people made most of their wonderful things out of plastic or even stranger stuff that never breaks down or gets ruined, ever.
As you may have guessed, Elger was one of the miners who lived in Trash Town. He was very young, not much older than you, but he lived alone because he was an orphan. Elger hated being a miner. The work was very hard and it was hot and dirty and uncomfortable in the tunnels they dug into the hill. He hated the Masters, too, because they were especially mean to children, since it is easy to cheat children or take things from them since they were small and could not easily fight back. Elger lived on very little food and water in a very small hut because he was small and could not dig well enough to find as much as the grown up miners, and even when he did find something wonderful the other miners or the Masters would steal it from him.
He would have run away, except there was nowhere for him to go. The forest outside Trash Town was very dangerous. When wagons came to Trash Town to trade with the Masters, there were always lots of guards, and never as many as had set out at the beginning of their journey. When the Masters would send out wagons from Trash Town to other places, the same thing would happen: lots of men with weapons would go with the wagons, and not all of them would come back. At night, around their campfires, the traders and the guards would tell stories about the dangers they faced on the road: bandits who would just as soon cook you as steal from you, monstrous bugs the size of horses made of metal, witches with skin like tree bark that could cast spells upon you, and living, noxious clouds. As he was just a boy, Elger was terrified by these stories but could not stop himself from listening.
The one thing Elger loved most was the Moon. When it was full and white, he loved to try to count the craters and the domes. When it was new and black, he tried to count the glowing lines and blinking lights that moved back and forth across the surface. He wondered who lived there and what their lives were like. Were there giant trash mines on the Moon? Elger did not think so, nor did he think there were Masters or bandits or witches or orphans.
Every night the moon would rise and Elger would feel better. How his muscles and bones ached from the hard work of the day would fade and he would not feel the grumbling of his hungry stomach so much. If he was lucky, he would fall asleep before the moon set or became hidden behind clouds, because when he could not see it, all the terrible feelings of the day would come upon him. On those nights, rather than gently drifting off to sleep and dreaming of domes on the moon, he would cry until darkness took him.
Then, one day, while digging in the garbage mine, Elger found something that would change his life forever.