Tires screeched, a blaring horn--then thudding impact. Dean Roam, a man of eighty-five years fell forward into the steering column of his Chevy Impala, knocking out his breath and cracking several of his ribs, and expelling his dentures onto the dash. The car skidded to a stop and Dean stared out at nothing through fractured glass.
A car door slammed.
"What the fuck were you doing?!" a young man screamed, running towards the Impala. "This is a fucking school zone! Can't you fucking read? God-damned geezer!"
The young man was a blur of glasses and goatee and heavy eyebrows--a red flannel shirt with its ends flaring in the wind, and denim and black leather boots. He pounded the bottom of his fist on the driver's side door of the Impala, screaming incoherently. Dean, dazed, turned to look at him, to vaguely watch the young man's spitting and frothing. Then he heard the sounds of the school playground. He saw the blurs of the forms of the children out on break. They ran to the fence and chattered at the sight of the accident.
Dean felt his chest tighten. His eyes grew wet.
"What are you looking at?!" he screamed at the children, who could not hear him. He gripped the steering wheel as if wringing out a wet towel, and shook his whole body.
The pounding on the window stopped.
The young man pressed his palm against the window, like a dark branch. The fingers spread wide. Dean felt the darkness approach, and turned to look at the hand. The dark flesh widened and seeped into the window--it spread apart to reveal long, bleached, carpal bones. Dean swallowed hard.
"Open the window," said the man outside, in a silky low voice. "Open it."
"No," whispered Dean.
"You can't look at them," said the man. The flesh of his hand started covering the windshield as well, like a thin sheen of chunky crude oil. "You'll go blind if you try to remember that far back."
"I'm not," said Dean.
"It's alright if you do. Some people prefer to be blind. It helps them get through this...phase."
The sheen rolled and quivered over the top of the car in tiny rivulets and started dripping down the passenger side.
"Get off my car."
"Open the window..." The man pressed his bleached ribcage to the window.
"No...not now. I'm not ready."
"You don't have to be ready. It's as easy as exhaling. The weight of your chest will help you...it's so easy..."
Dean switched on the windshield wipers and they smeared the thickening sheen back and forth twice before sticking halfway up. He ground his gums together.
"Did you get to see all the things you ever wanted to see in your life?" asked the man. He stepped back slightly, then lowered his skull and pressed a dark empty orbit to the glass, then his teeth, with jaws slightly ajar, the crack spilling out more of the black sheen.
Dean looked at the spectre, and traced the circle of the orbit.
"How can you see me?" he asked.
"I see all things," said the skull, without moving its jaws. "But I just see. I don't know all things." Its bony fingers slid up to the top of the window and started to press and pull down. "You can help me though."
"Tell me what you wanted to be. Did you get to see and do what you wanted?"
"How does that help you? How does that help me? I get the feeling your going to...take me no matter what."
The fingers momentarily stopped pressing.
"That's true," said the man. "But where I take you...it's not necessarily...linear."
"It's not the end?"
"It's never the end," said the man, scraping at the window again, pulling it down jerkily a few millimeters. "So tell me, Mr. Roam, are you satisfied?'
Dean peered through the dripping sheen of the window, looking into the dimness at the inchoate children, now standing bunched up at the fence. The sun twinkled amber above them.
"No..." said Dean quietly.
The skull faded from the window. The fingers pressed in through the crack, and in a rush the window fell completely and the spectre flooded in, in a rush of black steam. The bones of the spectre penetrated into Dean Roam's body without puncturing, without blood, and they aligned themselves with his skeleton in a blast of intense warmth. He floated up, limbs limp, and passed through the window into an ocean of black.
"What did you want to see?" said the man's voice inside his head.
"You can see the Moon everyday..."
"I wanted to be a rocket man."
"Aaah..." sighed the man. "Your civilization failed you...it happens a lot."
"To the Moon then..."
Silver flashed in front of Dean's eyes. A school of cracking sparks swam closer from the depths of blackness. Electricity crawled and cracked between them. They swam tighter, into a ball. Dean floated closer and the ball grew bigger. Mountains and craters resolved in diverse shades of gray and black and white.
"Is that...how is that..."
"It is," said the man. "Before it was landed and abandoned."
"Wow...it's...it's beautiful..." said Dean.
"Do you want to see it? Really see it?"
"Touch it. You have to reach out. It has all its history, stored, waiting for you. Touch it."
Dean slowly brought up his hand--it was leaden, but still movable. He was shocked to see that it eclipsed the Moon but cast no shadow. He cupped his hand around the southern hemisphere and brushed a mountain range with the tip of his index finger. His mind exploded.
The Moon, still a molten planet, collided with a thunderously rainy, hot Earth. Magma spun off into space, glowing white. Two orbs, two cores, stirred around in mutual orbit. Their debris settled back down, pulled in by attraction. Cooled. A smooth gray ball twirled in his hands as the dark, watery Earth rotated around him. The Moon pocked and dimpled with the impact of a billion little asteroids, and spat up magma and mountain ranges. Then the Moon stopped spitting and moved further and further from the Earth, which itself settled into a pacific blue. The Earth sent its first emissaries of tiny objects, and Dean saw the workings inside them in a flash--gold foil and leds and smooth metal switches and bags of food. Then a pause--the pause of his life--then the dirt of the Moon turned over with rapid colonization--men and machines and androids ripping through the regolith, digging down, wiggling in, nesting, expanding, changing. Tall buildings rose up, domes, dust flew away, lights burned white and red and amber. Green took hold and spread in the blink of an eye. The Moon was carpeted with lush forest and a dense atmosphere. A billion people were born on its surface, played in it's loamy dirt, breathed it's air. They lived and died and laughed and Dean saw them all. Saw everything, but knew nothing of their hearts. He cried. He closed his eyes.
"Make it happen."
"What..." said Dean. He opened his eyes to a barrage of light and color.
"You can make it all happen. So make it happen." It was the voice of a little girl. Dean focused on the source of the voice. The colors condensed. He saw her face, lit by sunlight, and framed with brown pigtails. She smiled at him. Then she turned and looked ahead. "I wonder if anybody died?" she asked.
Dean turned to look where she looked. A young man was screaming at somebody slumped down inside a car with a crumpled front end, pounding on the window, outside the fence.
"That's..." Dean trailed off. His mind felt fuzzy and blank. He looked down at his hands and thought of the Moon.