Life outside of the moon base would be like flowers outside of the garden. Where would they grow? In the pipes and vents, blocking all the wires? Or maybe shooting out of the little cracks in the metal hallways? It doesn’t make any sense. It’s stupid. Just because my grandparents used to live on Earth doesn’t mean we have to go back.
Would a butterfly look back at its cocoon and think, boy I miss that? No. It wouldn’t. It would grow its wings and fly. Fly away from the past and into the future.
Staring at an empty cocoon, I hear Mom come looking for me.
“Lily. Lily, baby, where are you?”
I think about not saying anything, then of calling back, then decide to stay quiet. She’ll find me. It’s hard to miss red hair in a garden.
I watch through the gaps in the daffodils as Mom gets closer. Bugs fly away scared as she walks through the flowers. I feel bad for them. This garden is supposed to be their paradise. I think that’s why they named it Eden. Mom told me why but I forget the story sometimes.
She keeps calling, like the cicadas or the Catastrophe Alarm System. I run my finger against the old cocoon stuck to the leaf of a flower I don’t know the name of yet. It cracks.
“Lily, baby, what are you doing?” she says. “You can’t just run away like that.”
Mom must have seen my red roots through the yellow buds and green stems. I stay silent, and imagine I am a flower minding my own business, happy with my neighbors in the garden. Fine with the ladybugs walking on my arms and the bumblebees smelling my hair. Late for nothing. Nothing expected of me. I am free.
“You’re going to get filthy,” Mom says as she holds out her hand to pluck me from the dirt. My toes are nothing like the roots of the other flowers; Mom tugs on me and up I go.
“If you really wanted to hide from me, you’d pick a better hiding place than here,” Mom says, brushing the dirt off me.
I know that. I’m not stupid. There are hundreds of places I could have hidden where she would never find me. I could have gone into one of the storage units or the med-bay. I could have even gotten into the big room with the machine that pumps all the oxygen everywhere. I know the codes — I saw Mom type them into the keypad once. I could have gone anywhere on the moon and it would have been hours before Mom would have found me.
I came to Eden because I didn’t care. I didn’t care if it took her five minutes or five hours to find me. I just wanted to be with the flowers. I wanted to be with the things that make me happy.
“Funny thing I named you Lily,” Mom says, “it’s almost like I knew you’d love the garden.” Mom smiles as she says that, but I don’t think it’s funny. She’s really smart, but she doesn’t know everything about me.
And when she thinks she does and says stupid things like, “funny thing I named you Lily,” it makes me feel so small. Like I’m that caterpillar about to become a butterfly and the other bugs say to me: “Funny thing you’re building a cocoon, we knew you’d do that, Lily.”
Dragging me from my spot by the daffodils, I watch as Mom crushes some poor flowers. She never even took off her boots, which is against the rules.
“Don’t step on them!”
“Finally she speaks,” Mom says. “We have plenty of seeds. The Harvesters can plant more.”
“No,” I say, trying to tug my wrist out of Mom’s hand. “You’re supposed to take off your shoes in Eden. The sign says.”
I point to the metal sign by the exit, it asks that visitors “remove all footwear, exo-gear, and any other materials harmful to the flora.”
She didn’t even look. “I just had to run in here to pick you up,” she says. “No time to get my feet dirty.”
Mom holds my arm like she holds her toolbox. The calluses on her hands scrape and hurt. We walk up to the exit-pod doors, go inside, and Mom lets go of my arm. I rub where her fingers wrapped around my wrist.
The doors close behind us, and the voice on the speakers counts down to decontamination. Then a cloud of mist sprays down from tiny holes in the ceiling. I close my eyes. I think of the little bugs and things in Eden that get their wings too wet when the misters come on. Then they get stuck and can’t fly.
I don’t like that thought so I think about being a flower in Eden instead. I don’t know what Mom is imagining, or if she even does anymore.
“Decontamination complete,” the voice on the speakers says, “ Have a nice day.”
The doors away from Eden open and Mom and I step through. The metal floors make my bare feet sting or tickle. I don’t know what to call it other than cold. Little clumps of dirt stick between my toes and crumble away as Mom and I walk.
Right outside of Eden is a big window where you can see all over the moon. I look out the window, and Mom does too.
“I know you don’t want to leave. But we have to go,” Mom says.
“Why?” I ask her, still looking. The white surface of the moon looks so pretty next to the black sky of space. In that sky there are thousands of little stars shimmering. They don’t care that space is supposed to be black and empty; they want to shine anyway.
Mom holds my chin with her fingers and turns my head so I have to look at her.
“Lily, baby. We were never meant to live here forever.”
I look back out the window. Along with all the cracks and craters I can see hundreds of metal boxes and tubes that connect them like a constellation. Even though they’re all metal and cold, I still find them kind of beautiful.
“Maybe you aren’t meant to live here forever,” I say.
Mom looks at me. Actually, I can’t see if she really is or not, I’m still looking out the window, but I can feel her eyes watching me. I can tell she’s mad at me, but I’m mad at her too, so it’s only fair I act this way.
“This is all temporary,” she says. I see her raise a hand and point at the colonies. “All of this is a back-up plan.”
Mom keeps talking, but all I hear are the bugs.
“Funny thing,” the bugs say…
I can see from the corner of my eyes that Mom is watching me, but I don’t budge. She sighs and scratches her head. She turns to look back at the doors to Eden and then at me.
“You remember the story I told you about the first Eden, right?” She runs a finger through my hair. Some daffodil petals fall onto the floor.
“I remember.” I hope she doesn’t ask any questions about it.
“So you know,” Mom says, “that the first Eden was on Earth a long, long time ago and we named this one after it, yeah?”
I stay silent and watch all the dirt crumble off my feet as I wiggle my toes. I look up to see Mom nudging her head towards Eden’s doors. Peeking over my shoulders, I see the plaque next to the entrance: “Eden: A promise to cherish what we once forgot.”
“The first Eden was on Earth, Lily. Way before I was born, or before Grandma and Grandpa were born.”
Mom takes my hand and gently holds it. The bumps and cuts on her hands don’t hurt me this way.
“This Eden,” she says, tilting her head towards the metal doors, “was made to remember what we once had. The flowers, the bugs, everything we lost on Earth. But now we can go back.”
Mom lets go of my hand and stands up. “C’mon. I want you to see something.”
Together, we walk across the station. We pass by more windows; I can see the storage facility, the med-bay, and even the big building where they make the oxygen. Eventually, Mom stops and points out one of the windows.
I don’t want to look, but … I see something like a ball floating in black water. Just tough enough to fight against the darkness that was sucking it down. A faraway little bubble.
“Earth,” Mom says. “Today, the Monitors gave us clearance. It’s safe to return. We can go back.”
I stare at the little brown ball drowning in space. I tilt my head one way and then the other, but I still don’t see it. I don’t see Earth. I don’t see a home.
I just see an ugly brown rock floating in space.
“Why do we have to? Why can’t I stay here?”
She turns to me and holds my head in her hand like I’m a delicate flower. Her eyes look like green planets and her freckles look like stars.
“Because you and the rest of the kids are our future, Lily. Grandma and Grandpa are too old, and I’m getting up there too.”
She makes a big frown and scrunches up her face; it makes her look a hundred years old. I laugh, but only a little bit.
Mom smiles. “The earth already had a bunch of old farts everywhere. We think it’s important to have some young people keeping us from doing anything stupid.”
I laugh again and Mom giggles like she’s a little kid. She looks out at the brown rock floating in space and puts her hand on my back.
“We’re lucky, you know.” Mom says.
I look at her, and for a second she does look a hundred years old. All that laughing made the lines around her eyes deep. She seems tired. “If Grandma and Grandpa weren’t already stationed on the moon and if they were still down there when it all happened …”
She stops talking, just froze, staring at that ugly brown rock like it was made of gold. I got scared and started tugging on her hand.
“What, Mom, what?” I asked, “What would have happened to Grandma and Grandpa?”
She turns to me and smiles the way I smile when I’m hiding something from her.
“We’re just lucky, aren’t we Lily, baby?” she says.
I hate grown-ups.
Mom puts her hand on the back of my head and plays with my hair. I don’t brush it enough so she keeps getting her fingers stuck. I think that’s why she wears her hair in a ponytail all the time. The red tangle that comes out the back of her head looks like jet fire from a spaceship.
I still don’t want to go to Earth.
“All of Earth can be like your garden. Like Eden,” she says. Mom runs her thumb down my cheek. “I hoped for this. That’s why I named you Lily.”
She kisses me on my forehead and looks back out the window. I turn away from Mom and look out the window too. The darkness of space turns the glass into a mirror. I can see Earth resting between my green eyes and surrounded by a storm of freckles.
I stare at Earth and imagine what it would look like green.