restricted access Chapter 2. The Target
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17 CHAPTER 2 THE TARGET Once it was filled with juju and mojo. It beamed us messages . It enforced its will. Long gone, those days: now the moon seems to move in a sort of lovely mineral trance. Of course, although we’re not its slaves anymore, the spiritual aesthetics of it command us still. We recognize the hold it has on us. At least we think we do. In fact we were right the first time. The moon teems with power, immense and ungovernable. How immense? There’s a cartoon you may know called Duck Amuck in which an unseen hand puts Daffy Duck through outrageous changes for almost six minutes. It costumes him a dozen ways, draws different environments around him, covers him in polka dots and erases him a couple of times. That’s us in the polka dots. That’s the level of magic the moon actually wields. The fact is, without the moon we wouldn’t be here at all. 18 ✴ THE TARGET No, not true. Creatures would exist, possibly us. But we wouldn’t eat or think the same way, and we’d look completely different. The moon, you see, holds Earth’s axis steady at an angle of roughly 23 degrees. Remove it and our planet would be jumping like a beach ball in a fountain. What’s more, instead of revolving at a relatively sedate 1,000 miles an hour, it would be spinning at least three times faster. Under those conditions any activity, from raking the leaves to running a marathon to sitting on a porch swing with your sweetheart on a Saturday night would have to factor in screaming winds and torrential debris spiking into hurricanes above 200 miles an hour. Also, Earth’s magnetic field would triple. A magnetic field is good to havebecauseitrepelsradiationfromspace.Rampitupthough and asteroids and space junk would be whistling down on us like anvils. Not to mention what it would do to dogs. I’ve got a lab mix named Luther. Like most dogs, Luther usually turns and turns before taking a dump. I’d never thought much about it before; it’s just one of those things you see. Then I came upon a study published in Frontiers in Zoology where I learned that when Luther revolves like that, he is aligning his brain along the north-south axis of Earth’s magnetic field. The source of this canine ritual isn’t clear, but you can bet that if that force field got a whacking great boost, dogs would know it. What would happen then? Does this mean that outdoors in the usual gale yours would turn three Pope Brock ✴ 19 times faster? Nobody’s sure, but you wouldn’t notice anyway hanging onto a tree like a flag. Animal life generally would be much less diverse. Conditions would favor the low, the wide, the vast, the clawed. Plant life would be tough and arthritic. Given all that, you might think human beings would be toast. Not so. According to Dr. Neil Comins, a physicist who has modeled a moonless Earth, we’d be doing just fine. With our heavy muscles and nose-shield cartilage we would fight and mate at hyper-speed while the sun shot across the sky. Our horse-like ears would turn like radar scanning for news in the din. Speech would be replaced by something else: signaling perhaps, with “moveable appendages” operating as “biological semaphore flags.” At night, he says, we might shift to streaming beams of light, a sign language using different colors and intensities. Either that or telepathy. There’s a charged word: telepathy. A sci-fi word. It suggests that thoughts we communicate that way—telepathically— would be smarter than our regular thoughts. They wouldn’t be, of course, especially on a moonless Earth where a lot of the messages would be, “Fuck this wind.” Which is to say, I believe human nature, which even at its sunniest and most loving is racing little inner highways of secrecy and self-interest , would be even more degraded there. Maybe you feel differently. Maybe you would have preferred rotating ears and a language of lights to what you’re lumbered with now. 20 ✴ THE TARGET It’s out of our hands either way. Like the Doubtful Guest, the moon isn’t going anywhere. Why is it there at all, you ask? Well, according to Philippine legend, the moon began as a gleaming silver comb lost in a rice...


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