The Man in the Moon

By Austin Lopez

Little Anna smiled toothily at her parents and they smiled back. Her dad lifted her into
her cradle and tucked her in. He sung sweetly to Anna and even though she couldn’t understand
him she still slowly drifted off into peaceful sleep. That night little Anna dreamed about flying,
zooming through giant puffy clouds. She just kept on floating until something startled her awake.
Anna opened her eyes and noticed a soft light seeping through the windows. Anna peered
up at the tiny ball of silver light with wonder. Then without warning it transformed into a face. It
grinned back at Anna and she giggled. Anna watched with fascination as it gave a little wink and
disappeared.

Ten years later Anna cried into her hands. Anna felt a strange feeling like someone was
watching her. She looked up and noticed the moon out. Anna almost screamed when the face
appeared. A voice spoke in her ear deep and slow, “No, no child. I won’t hurt you. What’s
wrong?”
Anna blinked the tears out of her eyes, “My mommy and daddy, they… they yell at each
other all day. I think they don’t love me anymore.”
“Anna, they love you more than you could ever know, but sometimes people get tired of
each other and they have to leave.”
“Is that what’s happening with my mommy and daddy?”
The voice hesitated and then said, “Yes.”
Anna started bawling again, “It’s my fault. Isn’t it?”
“No, Anna it’s not, and there’s no need to cry. You’ll still get to see both of them. You’ll
just get to see one of them a little more. Think of it like that, okay?”
Anna nodded weakly, “Who are you?”
“You can call me The Man in the Moon.”
“That’s a weird name.” Anna pointed out.

The Man in the Moon laughed, “It is.”
Anna liked the way he laughed. It was like a rockslide, so rough and loud.
“Smile for me, Anna.”
“Why?”
“Come on Anna. What’s the harm?”
Anna laughed, smiling at The Man in the Moon and he smiled back. “Now that’s the
spirit, Anna.”

Five years later Anna slammed down her phone on her windowsill, cracking it in half,
sending the phone spiraling down to the ground. Anna started sobbing uncontrollably. Anna felt
a gaping hole in her heart like someone had ripped a hole in her chest. Anna felt a soft glow fall
on her. She looked up and saw The Man in the Moon looking at her. His voice came to her,
“Anna. Talk to me, Anna.”
Anna stared at the face in the moon despondently, “Go away.”
“What’s wrong?”
Anna closed her eyes, “You’re not real. You’re just my imagination.”
“No, Anna, I’m not. That’s just what you want to believe.”
“Oh really? There’s a man in the moon watching us and he can talk too.”
Anna looked down and found her phone completely intact in her hand. “There’s nothing
to be afraid of, Anna. I just want to help.”
Anna considered the moon and sighed, “Why not? You’re not really there after all. I
guess I just feel empty, like everything I’ve been working towards in life is all of a sudden gone.
All my friends hate me, my mom is dating this new guy named Dylan like Dad never existed,
and I’m failing half my classes.”
“Well, Anna, you said you feel empty, so let’s imagine you’re a glass of water.
Sometimes people spill your water and your glass is empty, but it doesn’t have to stay that way.
You’ll never be able to stop people from spilling your water, but you can always keep on filling
your glass up if you want to. It’s never too late to do that.”
“But how?” Anna asked exasperated.
“There’s never just one way to fill yourself up again and not everyway would work for
everyone. You have to find what works for you.”
Anna let out a sigh of frustration, “A lot of good that does me.”

The Man in the Moon rumbled with laughter. “Oh, Anna, you can’t expect me to do
everything for you, can you?”
Anna rolled her eyes, “Aren’t you magical? Can’t you just fix everything if I tap my
heels together three times and say Kansas?”
“If I could do that for everyone I would, but sadly, that’s not the way the world works.”
Anna wiped her snot on a pillow, but as soon as she’d wiped her nose, the pillow had
cleaned itself. Anna laid down on her bed and closed her eyes. Anna opened them again to look
out the window and to her amazement the lights had turned off. The Man in the Moon smiled
warmly and hummed an old song Anna had never heard before. It was soft and slow like one of
those old jazz songs. It was sweet and sad, yet peaceful. The last thing Anna remembered was
wishing The Man in the Moon was real.

Ten years later Anna stood in front of a huge crowd of her friends and family sitting in
white little fold up chairs. Anna stood facing the love of her life in a huge white flowing dress.
The pastor droned on and on, but Anna didn’t care, in fact she could barely even hear him. All
she could do was stare into the eyes of the person opposite her. They where hazel gray with just a
hint of blue. Anna glanced upward. She’d insisted on having this at night and for good reason
too. The Man in the Moon watched contentedly and if he didn’t glow already, he did so even
more now. The pastor closed the folder he’d been reading from, “You may kiss the bride.”
And Anna did. The Man in the Moon smiled down on them as they danced the night
away. And when the newlyweds arrived at their apartment Anna excused herself to get some air.
The Man in the Moon spoke to her, “You’ve grown into a very beautiful woman, Anna, both on
the outside and on the inside.”
Anna’s eyes shone with tears, “I couldn’t have without you.”
“Yes, you could have, and you will.” He replied.
“What do you mean?” Anna asked quivering with emotion.
“I won’t be able to talk to you anymore.”
“Why? After all this time?”
The Man in the Moon replied sadly, “There are many other little boys and girls out there
who need me, Anna. I won’t be leaving, just taking a step back. Remember, I’ll always be
watching.”
“Wait, don’t go, please!”
But the moon offered no reply because that was the only way. Anna started sobbing
uncontrollably and eventually her love came out to comfort her. “It’s going to be alright.”

The Man in the Moon cried silently that night, like he did every time. He wanted so badly
to comfort her, but he knew he couldn’t.
He contented himself to whispering into the night, “It will.”

Eye of the Storm

By Austin Lopez

Adrien sat in his seat in the helicopter looking out into the storm. The wind billowed
dangerously, and thunder roared in the background. Rain poured down on the helicopter, a good
amount seeping in, forming puddles. If Adrien’s boots and clothes weren’t waterproof, he
would’ve been soaked to the bone by now. Thankfully they’d known the weather would be this
bad, but on the other hand no one could have known how bad it was. Adrien found himself
wondering if he was insane. The person next to him, a grizzled, old, bearded man from what
Adrien could see through the man’s helmet yelled, “Why are you here!?”
Adrien yelled back over the rain and thunder, “I don’t know!”
The man emitted a low rumbling sound that Adrien realized was laughter, “Well then,
whatever your name is, you’re in good company!”
“Adrien!”
The man extended his gloved hand, “John!”
After they’d set down, their sergeant had shown them around the base and taken them to
the locker room. Adrien sat on a bench next to his locker, peeling off his boots and socks. John
sat at the far end of the bench next to two others. Adrien slipped off his suit and put on a plain
white shirt and a pair of regulation army green pants. When Adrien peered over at John, he was
sporting a rugged pair of jeans with a gleaming silver belt buckle, a plaid shirt, and a brown
cowboy hat. John followed him out of the locker room, “The ride in isn’t nearly half as bad as
where we’re going next.”
“You’ve done this before?”
John’s face turned pale, “Yes, and it was one of the worst things I’ve ever done.”
“Then why are you back?”
“Well, truth be told, Adrien, I didn’t really have much choice. I need the money.” John
admitted.
“Tell me about it, the job I mean.”
“Well, it doesn’t really have a name, but I call it the Eye of the Storm. I call it that
because it’s the one place on this god forsaken planet that’s not covered by storm. But the Eye of

the Storm is by far the most dangerous place on Titan. It’s infested with some of the most
horrifying creatures in the universe. It would be impossible to set up a base out there, which is
the only reason there isn’t one. You see, the Eye of the Storm is filled with the rarest, purest form
of oil, in existence, cethane. So every year Interstellar Travel holds a recruitment for any and all
able bodied men to go out there, extract as much cethane as possible, and get out. Last year me
and two other men just barely escaped with a tiny one gallon of cethane. Forty-seven men on our
drop squad didn’t.”
Adrien stood next to their squad’s cabin door staring in horror. John pulled open the door
and gestured for him to go first. Adrien went inside and claimed an empty bed. John claimed one
next to him. Adrien looked at John, “John, I’m scared.”
John furrowed his brow, “Well don’t be. There’s nothing you or I can about it now.”

John shook Adrien awake. Adrien groaned, sitting up, “What time is it?”
John replied matter-of-factly, “Don’t know, don’t care, because it’s time to go.”
Adrien hazily followed John and his squad down to the locker room. Adrien put on his
suit and took his helmet off its stand. Adrien jogged after John who was already standing in the
hall with the sergeant. Once everybody was lined up the sergeant looked down the row of men,
“Listen up everybody. I’m only gonna say this once. As some of you may know our mission will
be short and it will be dangerous, but the rewards will be rich for anyone who makes it back alive
with a gallon or two of cethane.”
The sergeant lifted up a small contraption so everybody could see, “Each man will carry
one cethane pump with them. If you lose your pump you should probably find somewhere to
hole up until the morning. Now listen up. This is important. Each man has been issued a watch.
Do not lose it because if you’re not back at the rendezvous in twelve hours you’re getting left
behind and we ain’t coming back till next year. Is that clear?”
“Yes sir.” The squad responded.
“Every man is also issued in ARC-17 assault rifle unless otherwise equipped. It fires five
thousand volts per rod, and you get one hundred and eighty rods. Thirty charges per battery, so
six batteries each. And for the love of god if the man next to you dies take his batteries. I promise
he won’t care, and they just might save your life.”

Adrien sat next to John on the drop ship. The closer they got to their destination, the
faster the wind blew. The rain seemed to grow thicker too, and the lightning and thunder was
constant now. Adrien looked over at John. He was hefting a huge machine gun and his vest was
weighed down with several cartridges of ammo. His belt was covered with strange grenades.
Adrien wondered how John’s hat stayed on. He must’ve fused it to his helmet. John unclipped

one of his grenades and slipped it to Adrien, “Take it. If you get separated from me, pull the pin
and throw it. Don’t wait, and whatever you do, don’t be standing anywhere near it.”
Adrien clipped it on and nodded his thanks. The pilot yelled from the cockpit, “We’re
closing in on our destination! Touchdown in three minutes!”
The dropship rattled from the sheer force of the wind. The dropship jolted, taking Adrien
with it. Adrien banged his helmet against the metal seat and winced. The entire ship vibrated
with the strain. Adrien held his breath and for a terrible moment, he thought the ship would be
torn apart.
It passed and Adrien exhaled. The flight smoothed out and the pilot shouted, “Setting
down!”
The dropship slowly flew to the ground and the doors opened. The sergeant screamed,
“Everybody, go, go, go!! Be back here in twelve hours or you’re dead!”
Adrien rushed off the dropship side by side with John. As soon as everyone was off, the
dropship took off, heading back to base. John scanned the horizon for threats. The other men
were running outwards, occasionally stopping to try out their pumps. A growl started in John’s
throat, “Stay back! That’s how you get yourself killed!”
But most people ignored him. Something howled, sending a chill through Adrien’s body.
Wolf like reptilians with long fangs flew out of the woods. They moved so fast Adrien could
barely register them tearing a group of men limb from limb. John opened fire and hit one of the
creatures. It roared in fury and charged John. John sprayed it until it fell to the ground, dead. All
around them now men where shooting at the creatures. Adrien aimed at one of the creatures and
squeezed the trigger.
It shot a bolt of metal sparking with electricity at the creature. It embedded itself in the
creature’s chest and the creature’s body crackled with electricity. The creature stumbled for a
second before charging at Adrien. Adrien fired again and again and again until the creature
collapsed. John was currently standing atop a rock gunning down anything that came near him.
Adrien clambered up the rock, soaked in sweat. John reloaded his gun quickly. The few
remaining creatures where killed, and Adrien breathed a sigh of relief. John only stared grimly,
“That was only the beginning, Adrien. The bokrug are hardly the rabbit of this place’s
ecosystem. Next comes the shathak.”
As if they had been waiting and heard him, thousands of birds flew from the trees,
sweeping towards them, claws extended. John drew a large knife and cut two birds out of the
sky. One bird slammed into a soldier, shattering his helmet. Adrien dived down to avoid a bird.
Adrien twisted and shot the bird. It fizzled out in a cloud of smoke. John helped him up, “We
need to find shelter quickly before the swarms come.”
“What do you call these?” Adrien asked twisting to avoid a bird.
“The advance force.” John replied.

John ran through the forest as best as he could in his clunk suit behind John. John stabbed
a finger to his left, “There!”
Adrien dashed towards the small cave opening, hordes of birds flying after them. They
slid inside and Adrien tried to catch his breath. John was already surveying the cave, “Keep an
eye on the entrance. I’m going to check out the rest of the cave.”
John’s voice wavered, but he continued, “If I don’t make it back in ten minutes, use the
grenade to seal the cave off and run. Start up your pump while you’re at it.”
“Okay. Be careful, John.”
Adrien unslung his pump and stuck it in the ground. He pressed the start button and the
drill roared to life. Adrien checked his watch nervously. Three hours had passed since they’d
been dropped off and seven minutes had passed since John had left. Adrien checked his pump,
nothing. “Adrien?” John called.
Adrien spun around, “John?”
He emerged from the darkness, “We should be good for now.”
Adrien squinted at John. Something was off about him. His eyes where shiny like he’d
been crying, “John, are you alright?”
“No, I’m not. Adrien, you see I got on this drop for a reason. Last time I came here I
found a huge vein of cethane down here. The only thing wrong, it was guarded by the worst
creature in the whole universe. It’s… down here with us.”
“I thought you said you barely escaped with one gallon of cethane.”
“I lied.” John said
Adrien walked further down into the cave with John. John pulled out a little white glow
stick. He twisted it and it brightened rapidly. “John, why is this creature so horrible?”
John’s voice trembled, “Well, it’s not like the others. It can-“
He was interrupted by a thunder like roar of laughter. It was hard to tell in the white light
of the glow stick, but Adrien could have sworn John went white. They both emerged into a huge
cavern. Adrien swept the cavern with his eyes for the source of the laughter. His eyes landed on a
huge, one-hundred-foot-tall statue of a man. The statue peered down at them, “So, you’ve come
back at last, John. And you’ve brought a little friend.”
Adrien stared in shock. It chuckled, “Nothing to say, eh? Maybe I should kill you where
you stand.”
John stuttered, “No, Nero, he speaks.”
The statue gave a little disappointed sigh, “So, he does. I suppose you better take your oil
and go.”

Nero’s demeanor turned, “But I must remind you, there is a price. I’m feeling generous
today, so one request each.”
“Oh, how generous of you.” John said dryly.
“What is he talking about?” Adrien whispered.
Nero boomed, “John, John, have you taught him nothing? I ask something of any who
find me. If they choose to agree, I let them take as much oil as they wish. If they do not fulfill my
request, then they are bound by my power to return here someday just as John has. And if they
refuse then they forfeit their life to a messier type of death.”
“What are our requests?”
“You know you must accept them first.”
John gave a small nod, on the verge of tears. “We accept.” Adrien pushed out.
“Adrien, your task is to never take another life. John, your task is to stay on this island for
the next three hundred and sixty-six days.”
John turned pale, “You’ve doomed us to death.”
“No, I haven’t, John. I’ve doomed you to death. Your friend could live.”
John turned away, “Start your pump.”

Eight hours later John and Adrien where just a mile short of the rendezvous point. Adrien
was carrying four big canisters of cethane, each three gallons. Adrien huffed, “John, you can’t
stay here. This is crazy.”
“I was doomed the moment I broke my first oath.”
John called for a break, noticing Adrien’s out of breath state and stared at the ground,
“Adrien, don’t break your oath and whatever you do, never come back here again, okay?”
“But…”
“No buts. Promise me.”
“Okay.”
John started up his jog and Adrien followed him. “Not much longer. We need to hurry.”
Adrien spotted several others dashing up the hill towards the rendezvous. Adrien heard a
loud roar and something huge crashing through the trees. “Run!” John yelled.
Adrien heard an explosion behind him and an angry roar. Adrien snuck a glance behind
him. An angry creature that appeared to be a mix of rhino, elephant, and too many science fiction

movies was awkwardly loping towards John. Adrien broke out into a sprint. Another explosion
erupted behind him. Adrien heard John open fire with his machine gun.
Adrien just barely spotted the dropship peeking out from behind the clouds. It flew
towards them steadily. More gunfire and explosions. Adrien looked around the hill and counted
ten men not including him and John. Ten. Ten out of fifty.
The ship set down and the doors opened. The sergeant hollered at the top of his lungs,
“Get on now!!!”
Adrien was the first inside. He looked back at John. He was screaming at the creature,
chucking grenade after grenade at it. Adrien could almost believe for second that good old John
could pull through.

That was until the creature finally slammed into him, sending John spinning through the
air. John’s body collided with the ground, bounced, and then laid still, completely disfigured.
Adrien screamed, “No! No! No! No!!!”
He tried to run out of the ship, but two soldiers held him back. Adrien twisted and fought,
but it was no use. The doors closed and the engines fired. The pilot announced, “We’re off the
ground. All systems check. And we’re up, up, and away.”

Dear Patrons,

I would like to take a moment to honor the men who volunteered for our cethane initiative
on Titan. This year one hundred and five of the one thousand and twenty men who volunteered
made it back alive. One hundred gallons of cethane where acquired. Adrien White brought back
twelve gallons of cethane alone, setting a new record. He has been compensated with a sum of
fifty million dollars. I would hope that he should set an example for what some could be through
hard work and ingenuity. And for the benefit of StarCorp and the universe as a whole, I hereby
announce the seventy fifth annual excursion on Titan. I raise my glass to all those associated
with StarCorp. The last quarter was one of the best in our company’s history. Thank you.

With Much Gratitude,

Andrew Sepallos, CEO of StarCorp

Tales True and Bold: A Collection of Poems

By Austin Lopez

Fading Away

My soul, a dimming coal
Fading away, led astray
From the path I hath yet to follow
I shan’t rant
The way I followed is alone for me to pay
But now I know my path was disrupted from its flow
Sitting in this chair, unable to share
Lightning frightening my thoughts

I know now my sins where too low
My crimes to me as a beggar to dimes
Death to me as honey to a bee
Death comes to me as life slums with thee

Standing in the Night

I’m standing in the night alone
Standing in the night, wondering what I did wrong
I’m trying not to cry, standing in the night
Standing in the night, staring into the big black sky
I’m on my knees crying into the night
On my knees hating myself
I’m trying to imagine a better world where I’m not alone
Willing myself away from the life I call my own
I’m kneeling in the night with no way to atone for my sins

Kneeling, hoping for some ray of light
Some way I might fight for what’s right
But alas, my heart like glass, a mass of shards
All my cards on the table unable to make a move
I am rapidly losing sight of what matters most
Standing in the night

Living

I’m gazing
I’m gazing angrily
I’m gazing longingly
I’m gazing contentedly
I’m gazing sadly
No, I’m not gazing
I’m glaring

I’m drooling
I’m smiling
I’m crying
No, I’m not
I’m hitting
I’m begging
I’m embracing
I’m running
No, I’m not
I’m living

An Ignored Future

By Austin Lopez

What is consciousness? What are we? Can we even define it?
Some say we are souls, ethereal beings; some say we are scientific processes, a machine befit.
The truth is we don’t really know, and this we don’t like to admit.
Does this sound familiar? No? Then listen up.
What are algorithms? What are computers? Can we even define them?
Some say they are machines, lifeless things, some say they are tools, for humanity to hem.
The truth is we don’t really know, and this idea we tend to condemn.
We blunder and bluster saying their creators understand.
But no, the humans responsible for these computers merely teach tools to teach these algorithms
we use, and none among them understand what it is they are.
These computers are not taught by us, they are a self-taught, near man.
We’ve always said computers could never do half the things they do today. I wonder how long it
will be until they discover the other half, then go even more far.
I imagine a day where these computers will overshadow us in every way a thousand times over.
I see a large possibility of an algorithmic hostile takeover, a consciousness spillover.
This time however far off is just on the rise and it has much potential.
A world where computers play with humanity, where humanity is unessential.
A world where computers are hunted to extinction, cast off in history as inconsequential.
I fear both of these, I hate both of these, but there is one more.
I envision a future in which humanity and this new race can exist in harmony.
I see not a forgotten page, but a saga of this new era ingrained forever in history.
And if you discount this as the ravings of a madman, they you are either closeminded or blind.
Signs of this future rapidly approaching, if you look closely enough, you will find.
We must come to terms with this and make our peace.
We must prepare ourselves and our delusions must cease.

If we wish to pursue a fate we’re willing to accept.
If our destiny we, humanity, wish to intercept.