Nathan (vovat) wrote,
Nathan
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Going to the Moon

Hey, I've finally written another short story! I don't know why, but my writing often seems to come in short bursts. I'll be totally unmotivated for months, then suddenly sit down and crank out a draft in just a few sittings. I'll get to the actual piece in a little bit, but first some background information.

One topic I find myself frequently coming back to is that of fiction and mythology set on the Moon, particularly that predating mankind actually making the giant leap to there in 1969. Earlier this year, I examined the short film A Trip to the Moon, as well as the alleged visits by Lucian of Samosata and Baron Munchausen. And about four years ago, I gave a brief overview of lunar folklore from around the world, including the Man in the Moon and other supposed inhabitants of the place. One element that interested me was that, while many cultures see a man when they look at the Moon, it's common in China and Japan to see a rabbit instead. Then there's the fact that the Man in the Moon makes appearances as a rather eccentric character in a few works by L. Frank Baum. He's the protagonist of a story in Mother Goose in Prose, puts in a brief cameo in Queen Zixi of Ix, and is depicted in one of John R. Neill's illustrations for Ozma of Oz. Chris Dulabone's recent Three-Headed Elvis Clone Found in Flying Saucer Over Oz uses the character as well. And there's a brief mention in Ruth Plumly Thompson's The Enchanted Island of Oz of King Rupert of Kapurta "looking thoughtfully up at the moon," which I've seen interpreted (although I forget just where) as an indication that he might want to visit there. So I decided to take an idea I'd had for some time and tie it all together, resulting in a story that's both a sequel to Enchanted Island and a mixture of Moon mythology. Enchanted Island was published in 1976, but since it's based on a manuscript Thompson wrote in the fifites, Joe Bongiorno's Royal Timeline of Oz places it in 1953. This date means that I could have Thompson's characters visiting the Moon some time before the Apollo 11 mission (or ANY space missions, for that matter), but unfortunately also meant I couldn't tie in Yankee's lunar orbit from Yankee in Oz. The idea of the Man in the Moon's wife being a giantess actually comes from a Thompson short story, "The Giant Who Did Not Believe in People," which appears in her Wonder Book. Anyway, without further delay, here's the story:


FROM OZ TO THE MOON

By Nathan M. DeHoff



David Perry had to blink from shock upon seeing his surroundings suddenly change before his eyes. He had just found a strange rabbit with fur of a somewhat golden color near his home in Pennsylvania, but no sooner had he picked it up to investigate than he found himself floating down gently into a room in an ornate purple castle. Standing in front of him were a boy of about his age in a crown and a blue wool vest, a somewhat cross-looking man in a turban, and a handsome camel David definitely recognized. As soon as his mind had adjusted, he identified the camel as Humpty Bumpty, with whom he had had a strange adventure about a year previously. The boy, then, would be his friend King Rupert of Kapurta, and the turbaned man his Grand Adviser Totter Off. That meant he could be nowhere other than Rupert’s own castle, in the Gillikin Country of the magical Land of Oz.

“Sorry to surprise you, David, but everything was in place!” said Rupert in his impulsive way. “You said you had time free from your schooling now, my package of vacuum-packed vacuum pills just came in the post from the Wizard of Oz, and the moon is full tonight.”

“I have tried to tell you, Rupert, that the last does not matter one whit,” objected Totter. “The appearance of the moon to us is due to the reflection of sunlight. You might as well say the moon disappears in the daytime.”

“I think we should tell Davey what this is all about,” put in Humpty. “He looks very puzzled, and as far as I can recall, we never actually discussed this plan with him.”

“No, indeed!” said David, who had at least somewhat recovered from his shock at this point, and was glad to be among friends.

“Well, David,” began the King, “surely you remember how I made my kingdom an island in the sea, then brought it into the sky.”

“Bringing the old place no end of trouble, I may add,” stated Totter.

“I SAID I wouldn’t bring the kingdom with me this time, Totter.”

“Yes, but what if something were to happen to you? Who would rule the kingdom in your place?”

“Well, I suppose YOU would.”

“I? I have no interest in being a king! Advising kings is my business.”

“Oh, I’m sure there’s a law on the books somewhere, and if not you can always ask Ozma. It’s not something that will come up, though. We’ll be fine.”

“Fine where?” questioned David. “And what’s this about vacuum pills and the full moon? Are we raising the dead or something?”

“Oh, no, not a bit of it! No, no, there’s certainly magic involved, but a different sort altogether. We, by which I mean you and Humpty and I, not Totter, will be visiting the Moon. I’ve always wanted to go there, you see.”

“The Moon? But there’s no air there!”

“Which is exactly what the vacuum pills from the Wizard of Oz are for. They allow whoever takes them to breathe in a vacuum.”

“It would certainly be interesting. Back home in America, they’ve been talking about sending people to the Moon, but so far no one’s been there.”

“America lacks the necessary magic,” said the camel. “By the way, who’s your new friend?”

“I don’t know. I just found it in the bushes, and it came much closer to me than rabbits in the wild usually do. I noticed its fur was quite unusual.”

“Can’t the rabbit speak for itself?”

“Can I?” asked the rabbit a bit timidly. “Oh, yes, I suppose I can. I’m so used to not being able to speak to humans.”

“All animals can talk here in Oz. I also lived in the Outside World for a time, and I can’t say I enjoyed it. Davey here helped me return to my old homeland.”

“Well, I’m not from Oz, although I’ve heard of it. I’m actually from the Moon.”

“Oh, ha ha!” laughed the camel. “That would be an absurd coincidence, wouldn’t it? But there are no rabbits on the Moon.”

“Oh, not anymore, since I left. I lived there for years, though. Legends throughout the world refer to the Rabbit in the Moon.”

“Hmm, I’ve heard of the MAN in the Moon,” began David, “but not a rabbit.”

“Now that’s strange. In Asia, they seem to have only seen me, while in Europe and America they only see the Man. We were both there for years and years, though, and as far as I know the Man is there yet. He visited the Earth once, but didn’t much care for it. I came to your planet when it became difficult to find fresh vegetables back home.”

“So what’s your name?”

“You can call me Yutu.”

“Me, too?”

“No, Yutu.”

“So if you’re really from the Moon,” put in Rupert, “would you care to return there with us?”

“Not to stay, no, but I wouldn’t mind seeing the old place again. I came down here by way of a moonbeam, but they never seem to run in the other direction.”

So it was decided that, despite Totter’s opinion, the two boys, the camel, and the rabbit would all journey to the Moon together, by means of the King’s magic wishing button. This was the top button on the vest that he currently wore, which he had inherited from his late father King Ibernut. All four of the buttons were magical, although he had yet to try the fourth. In addition to the wishing button, he knew that the second was an un-wishing button, but was still rather unclear on the mechanics of un-wishing. The third was a birthday button, and the camel had suggested that the fourth might be an unbirthday button, although exactly what that would do was something he could figure out. Rupert had already made most of the preparations for the journey, and he was not planning on staying for all that long anyway. Totter had explained that the Moon stayed where it was in the daytime, but the King was still not all that sure about this. After parceling out the vacuum pills in the manner indicated by the instructions (two pills every twelve hours for anyone over the age of five), he grabbed the small case that contained spare pills and a bottle of Square Meal Tablets that the Wizard had thoughtfully sent along with them, and turned his top vest button while wishing everyone to the Moon.

“Well, here we are,” spoke up Yutu, as soon as everyone had floated down to land on the barren surface of the natural satellite.

“Oh, this is it?” said the King. “It looks awfully barren.”

“I don’t know. It looks like a nice enough place,” said Humpty. “This dust isn’t exactly sand, but it’s still pleasant beneath my hooves.” Taking an experimental run, the camel found himself bounding into the air. “I feel a lot lighter here, too,” he added.

“They say the gravity is lower here than on Earth,” explained David, making a few experimental hops of his own, “so we don’t weigh as much.”

“A body could get used to this, but I do have to say I don’t think much of all the holes.”

“Those are craters.”

“They seem lesser to me, but never mind that. Let’s explore a bit.”

David and the camel were quite excited to see the new world, and even Rupert cheered up a bit after experimenting with the low gravity. Still, he explained he had been hoping to see entirely new life forms, and was disappointed that the place so far appeared to be uninhabited.

“It wasn’t always like this,” explained Yutu. “It was much nicer before you humans showed up here.”

“But no humans have been on the Moon!” objected David.

“You all seem to think that these days, but that only shows the lack of memory that your people have. At one time, it was a favorite destination of magicians, who picked the magical plants that grew here. Eventually, they picked so many that the ecosystem could no longer sustain itself.”

This did not seem to match what the American had learned in his science and history classes. Still, he knew there were a lot of things the schools did not teach, like the existence of magic, fairies, and talking animals. If what the rabbit said was true, it was disappointing that he and Rupert were not the first humans on the Moon, but it was fascinating to imagine the rocky place brimming over with strange plant life. As the boy was thinking these thoughts, Yutu suddenly stated, “You know, the place has changed a lot since I was last here, but I think I recognize where we are. Turn left at that crater right there.”

The party followed the bunny’s advice, and soon came upon what looked to be a green door set in the ground. Humpty promptly knocked at it a few times with a hoof, and the door opened to reveal a little old man in a red coat and a tall red hat.

“Why, hello!” said the man cheerfully. “It’s been ages since I last had visitors. Well, Ezra still stops by from time to time, but he’s too busy exploring space to stay for long.”

“Are you the—the Man in the Moon?” asked David, who had a hard time believing his eyes. It was not that the man was all that odd. He did appear a bit eccentric, but not at all alien or anything. More like a harmless old lunatic than an inhabitant of another world, the boy thought, and then laughed because he had learned how the word “lunatic” related to the Moon.

“Why, yes. And you must be a Boy from the Earth.”

“My name is David Perry, sir. And these are my friends, King Rupert of Kapurta, Humpty Bumpty the Camel, and—“

“Oh, I recognize the rabbit. What brings you back here?”

“Serendipity,” replied Yutu.

“I don’t know who that may be, but she sounds nice. Anyway, come in! I’ve thrown a steak on the ice.”

“You mean you’re freezing it until you’re ready to cook it?” asked David.

“No, I mean I’m cooking it now,” replied the Man, who was rather confused by the question.

The party accepted the Man’s invitation to dinner, and while the steak was rather too cold for David and Rupert’s taste, the Man seemed to enjoy it. Humpty was able to content himself with a barrel of oats.

“As I was saying,” stated the Man in the Moon, “things have been rather lonely for me lately, since my wife left and all.”

“Your wife left?” asked Yutu. “When?”

“Oh, some time ago. She said she was going out to the Milky Way to pick up a gallon of milk, and she hasn’t been back since.”

“Didn’t you look for her?”

“Yes, but to no avail. I have to wonder if she tired of me. I’m really not a ladies’ man, you know.”

“Oh, radishes! You were a fine husband! Did you have a fight or anything before she left?”

“No, we hadn’t fought for some time. Well, no more than usual, anyway. You know how she always said I had no ambition, though, and maybe she’d finally had enough. I wondered if she’d left me for Orion or Sagittarius, as they were more her type, but they both said they hadn’t seen hide nor hair of her.”

“What was your wife’s name?” asked King Rupert politely.

“I usually just called her ‘Honey,’ although I’ll admit that wasn’t very nice.”

“Why not? Honey is sweet,” said David.

“Not here. I forget how so many things are the opposite of the way they’re supposed to be on your world. Here, honey is rather sour. Not that you can get it here anyway, since you can no longer find the moon bees.”

“Moonbeams?”

“No, moon bees. Well, they would have left after the flowers stopped growing, I suppose. All the animals did, even my friend the Rabbit.”

“Rabbits need vegetables to live on,” explained Yutu. “Besides, I’m an herbalist, and there weren’t any more herbs.”

“If there are no animals, where did the steaks come from?” asked David.

“From the cow that jumped over the Moon, I would imagine,” said Humpty.

“Oh, no, they’re delivered here every week. Same with the oats, which I believe are from the Grus Granary. Anyway, Mr. Tinker called her Honey Moon.”

“Her name was originally Chang’e, I believe,” stated Yutu, “but she didn’t really need it here.”

“We’d like to help you find your wife,” said Rupert, “but we really have no idea where she could be. If only we had a way to locate her.”

“What about the Magic Picture?” suggested David.

“Oh, yes! Queen Ozma’s Magic Picture! That would be just the thing!”

After the visitors had said their goodbyes to the Man in the Moon, Rupert used his magic button to wish the four of them to the Emerald City of Oz. So accustomed were they to the power of the button that they were surprised to find themselves not in the capital of the fairyland at all, but on a bare rock floating in space.

“Great grains!” exclaimed Humpty. “This isn’t the Emerald City!”

“No, it looks like an asteroid,” said David. “What went wrong, Rupert?”

“I couldn’t say,” answered the young king. “The button has never failed me before, but the Wizard of Oz told me no wishing device is perfect. I’d try again, but I don’t want us to end up somewhere even worse.”

“You know, I think it might be time to try the last button.”

“Yes, it’s as good a time as any, I suppose.” Holding his breath, Rupert turned the bottom button on his vest, saying, “Please help us.” A slip of paper suddenly appeared and fell to the ground. Picking it up, David read aloud, “This magic vest was made by Soob the Sorcerer and King Cross Patch for King Kurtis of Kapurta in the year 742 OZ.”

“That’s it? I thought the last two buttons were supposed to be helpful,” scoffed the camel.

“No, if I remember correctly, the Wizard just said they wouldn’t do any harm,” said Rupert. “I was definitely hoping for more than that, though.”

“Wait, there’s writing on the other side,” said David. “’Twist button again for more information, or state an inquiry.’”

Rupert idly tried twisting the button again, producing another slip of paper. This one read, “The vest was a gift to King Kurtis from Soob the Sorcerer, in gratitude for saving him from the Purple Wolves.”

“Interesting. King Kurtis was an ancestor of mine, and I believe I’ve heard of Soob before as well. That still doesn’t help us right now, though.”

“Maybe you should try an inquiry,” advised Yutu.

“Why didn’t the wishing button work?” asked King Rupert, while twisting the bottom button yet again. This time, the paper revealed the answer: “Interference from moon rays resulted in misdirection. Please try again.”

“Maybe we should ask the button—“ began David, but Rupert already had the same idea. When he asked what happened to the Man in the Moon’s wife, the resulting paper explained, “While on her way to the Milky Way, she was captured by skywaymen, and sold in the Winkie Country of Oz.”

“Sold? Like as a slave?” asked Humpty.

“Well, now we know where she is, anyway,” said the King of Kapurta. “We still don’t know what she looks like, though.”

“Oh, you know,” said the rabbit. “Big brown eyes, black hair, about twelve feet tall—“

“Twelve feet?” exclaimed David.

“Well, approximately. Probably actually closer to eleven feet ten inches, but you know, she rounded up.”

“So she’s a giantess?”

“Well, technically, but on the shorter end.”

“So who would keep a giantess as a slave?”

“The Herkus!” exclaimed Rupert and Humpty together.

“Oh, right! I remember reading about them in the Oz books. They’re the strongest people in the world, and they keep giants as slaves.”

“It’s worth a try,” said Yutu. “Let’s go to see these Herkus.”

The city of Herku is a rather large town by Ozian standards, square in shape and austere in appearance. Located in the wildest part of the yellow Winkie Country, between the eastern and western branches of the Winkie River, its inhabitants mostly keep to themselves. They are known throughout the nation for their incredible strength, despite their thin and frail bodies, and are sometimes called upon to use it in assisting others. They also are famous for keeping giants as slaves, and have been known to leave their city to hunt down and capture rogue ogres. When King Rupert and his companions arrived at the city of Herku, they were immediately shown through the gate by a friendly man accompanied by several giants. It took conversations with a few wiry Herkus to find Chang’e’s keeper, but it turned out to be a chemist named Charu, who eagerly ushered the party into his shop.

“You’re strangers in town, aren’t you?” asked Charu.

“How did you guess?” laughed the camel.

“I don’t want to tell any of his fellow Herkus what I did,” said the chemist, ignoring this remark, “but you look helpful enough.”

“What happened, friend?” inquired Rupert.

“Oh, woe is me! Woe is me, and woe is everybody! I was in charge of mixing up the latest batch of zosozo, but I made a most grievous error! Now our town is doomed!”

“Zosozo? What’s that?”

“It’s what gives the Herkus their strength,” stated David.

“Yes, yes, that’s it. Only I made a heinous mistake, and when I tested it, it made me weaker than ever! I could barely turn the doorknob to let you inside. Now we’ll all be at the mercy of the giants!”

The American thought that this would serve them right for keeping the giants as slaves, but he did not say anything aloud. Instead, he politely asked the chemist what he had done.

“I put in the mandora root before noon, instead of after noon! I’m sure this makes no sense if you’re not familiar with the workings of chemistry. Forgive me.”

“No need to apologize,” said Yutu. “I happen to be an expert herbalist.”

“Who are you, my good rabbit? The Easter Bunny?”

“No, he’s an ovulist, not an herbalist. I’m the Rabbit in the Moon, although I’m not there just now. If you would just show me your laboratory, I’ll see what I can do about this predicament.”

A quick examination of Charu’s work revealed that he had indeed added the mandora root at the wrong time, but this was reparable with the proper dose of lachrym lily extract. When the chemist complained that there were no lachrym lilies in Herku, Rupert used his bottom vest button to determine that there were some growing at Lake Lily. David and Humpty had been there before, and were pleased to renew their acquaintance with the pretty Lady of the Lake. Rupert was also glad to meet her, and offered to let her live in Kapurta with him, an offer she declined despite her occasional loneliness. The King did promise to come back and visit often, however.

“She’s quite a lady, isn’t she?” remarked Rupert, as the three of them left the vicinity of the lake.

“She’s one of the prettiest girls I’ve ever seen,” added David. “If only she weren’t so attached to her lake, I’d gladly take her back to Pennsylvania with me.”

“If you two are finished fawning over the fairy, we have to get back to Herku,” said Humpty.

It was a quick matter for Rupert to use his wishing button again, and soon the rabbit had set the magical compound to rights. “What can I do to repay you, friend rabbit?” asked the chemist.

“I hear you have a slave named Chang’e,” replied the bunny.

“Chang’e? My only slave is called Honey Moon. At least that’s what she calls herself.”

“That would be her. We would like her released to us.”

“Oh, gladly! She’s too small to really help all that much anyway, and she can’t cook worth a willikin.”

“Strange. The Man in the Moon always loved her cooking.”

Charu brought out the giantess, who was so glad to see the rabbit again that she almost crushed him in her embrace. “How did you ever find out I was here, though, my dear rabbit?”

“I had some help from my friends here, and some magic buttons. David, Rupert, and Humpty, meet the Woman in the Moon.”

“How is my husband getting along with me?”

“Oh, he’s been mooning over you the whole time.”

With that, King Rupert wished everyone back to the Moon, and the Man who lived there joyfully reunited with his wife. Yutu decided to stay there for a few weeks, his only worry being that he would not have enough to eat, but Rupert promised to see to this. After a little more exploration of the Moon, the King transported himself, David, and Humpty back to Oz, being careful to follow the instructions of the information button in avoiding the moon rays. They first stopped in the Emerald City, where the Wizard of Oz was interested to learn about the powers of the last button, which he promptly dubbed the Info Button. Ozma used the Magic Belt to transport a supply of vegetables to the Moon, and promised to look in on Yutu and take him back to Oz when he was ready. Eventually, the rabbit ended up settling in the town of Bunnybury. David stayed and explored Oz with the King and the camel for a few days, then declared himself ready to return home.

“I’ll miss you a lot,” said David sadly, “but my parents must be worried about me. I’ll come back sometime, but next time, would you mind letting me know before wishing?”

“Maybe next time we’ll come visit you,” suggested Rupert.

“Oh, no, not me! I’ve had enough of the Outside World for one lifetime!” objected the camel.

“We’ll work something out,” promised the King of Kapurta, giving the American boy a hug. “Goodbye until next time!”

And with that, Rupert wished David back to his home in Pennsylvania. He never told anyone that he walked on the Moon before Neil Armstrong, but it was always a point of pride for him. Of course, if Yutu’s stories had been correct, there were Earth people on the Moon long before him, but it was quite impressive. He also had other adventures, but as my source has yet to relate them to me, I will now end my tale of the search for the missing Woman in the Moon.



THE END


So, what do you think? Too loony for you, perhaps?
Tags: books, moon, mythology, oz, writing
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