art by Jonathan Westbrook
by Ken Liu
"When I was little," Dad says, softly chuckling, "the Moon was so small I thought I could put it in my pocket, like a coin."
I don't answer because there's no time to talk. The tide is coming.
Every day, we scavenge the beach for bent rails, rusty beams, broken metal sheets. And we weld them into the frame of our tower, lifting our house higher.
Overhead, the Moon looms, taking up a quarter of the sky. Its surface is filled with red and yellow veins, like a crème caramel. It glows so brightly that the beach, a mile below us, glistens like a white tablecloth.
Far away on the horizon, I see a mountain of water, thousands of feet high, rushing at us, frothing white. The tower begins to shake with the faint, distant rumbling of thunderous waves.
"Dad, let's go inside."
Back when I was a little girl, the tower was much shorter. People used to walk right under us at low tide.
"Why is the Moon getting bigger every year, Dr. Pelletier?" They'd ask, craning their necks.
Instead of describing the local gravitational constant, orbital decay, or any of the other cold equations that used many symbols and numbers to say nothing, Dad would stand still for a moment, smile, and say, "I guess the Moon loves the Earth too much. She wants to come closer for a kiss."
The people would shake their heads and move on. Many of them were going to the spaceport, where they would board silvery ships shaped like giant teardrops headed for other worlds, never to return.
"Why don't we leave?" I asked, once.