fiction Issue 29

The Fermi Paradox

by Courtney Clute

An abstract acrylic painting. It has a cloud like print with different shades of bright light blue, emerald green, a darker shade canary gold and a lighter shade banana gold.
Soul’s Wallpaper by Sofie Rosalien Deen

Did you know that due to the trillions and trillions of stars and planets out in the universe, it’s mathematically certain that there is some sort of intelligent life out there? But why haven’t my kind come to Earth to get me?

Every night when the moon pokes through the dark sky, I look through my telescope to find my real family. When the speckles of light flicker off the moon’s surface, I imagine it’s them, sending signals with gigantic spotlights. Three flicks mean I love you. Four flicks mean We’ll see you soon.

Tonight, I ask my mom, “Where are the moon people?”

My mom pries me from the telescope, wrapping me with her arms. I inhale her cinnamon smell and snuggle into her sweater. I’m up to her shoulders now, her curly hair catching in my mouth.

“There are no moon people, sweetheart. There are only humans. And they’re on Earth.”

At school, the other kids make fun of my cheeks. They’re hollow, sinking into my face, creating craters like ones on the moon. They call me “moon freak” or “moon boy” asking how the ride to school was on my spaceship.

I believe them.

Why else would I look the way I do? Why else would I feel like I only belong on a big, gray piece of rock 238,900 miles from Earth?

My mom strokes my right cheek, following the inward curve of the bone. She has beautiful, full cheeks, the opposite of mine.

“I think they’re going to come for me,” I say, breaking free from my mom and returning to my telescope. She sighs as she often does. I try not to talk about my moon family because I know it hurts her that I don’t believe she’s my real mom. But tonight, I can’t help it. 

I imagine myself cartwheeling through space, bouncing off satellites and space rocks, not needing a spacesuit because moon people can inhale space air like fish can breathe under water. I see my real family standing on the moon, waving as I float closer. The moon’s gravity pulls me in as if I’m underwater and drifting to the surface, ready to breathe in and see the light. I see my sister and brother, a new mom and dad. I will miss my Earth mom, but she did a good job.

This family has cheeks like mine. There’s no one to make fun of me because the abnormality is normal.

I imagine the myth of how the moon people got their look: One day, thousands of years ago, a storm of tiny, hail-sized asteroids pelted into the moon. The people couldn’t shield themselves, and the fist-sized rocks launched into their cheeks, leaving forever indents, matching the tiny craters that the rock also left on the moon’s surface. The people had children, and those children had children, and they all had cratered cheeks, and one day, someone had me.

I’m not sure how I ended up on Earth. Maybe I accidentally drifted here as an infant and my family has been searching for me since.

“There’s no one out there,” my mom says.

I think about the stars: how insignificant they look among the bulbous moon, glowing full tonight—like my heart once I’m reunited with my moon family. Maybe they’ll let my Earth Mom come. Maybe they’ll carve cratered cheeks into her skin, so she doesn’t feel left out like I feel on Earth.

I return to my mom’s side, leaning my head on her shoulder, and even without the telescope, I see four flicks of light.

Courtney Clute has an MFA from the University of South Florida. Her work has appeared in Passages North, Fractured Literary, Emerge Literary Journal, Lumiere Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, and Z Publishing’s Florida’s Emerging Florida Writers: An Anthology. You can find her on Twitter at @courtney_clute.

Sofie Rosalien Deen is a multidisciplinary artist from Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Inspired by the subconscious, her work consists of abstract paintings, fine art photography and poetry. When she is not creating art she is either busy with her vintage clothing shop, working as a community organizer or playing padel.