BACK to the Main Index
BACK to Heaven and Earth
My dreams are different on nights of the full planet.
The light swirls in my sleeping sight like mists over the Earth herself, and I see, not stars, but odd motes of brightness as if I am moving at ground level and the view is obscured by looming objects.
My brain seems to receive signals of impossible clarity... In my dreams I have a sense of humidity and of dryness, of delicate, lingering food-odors and of chemical-reeking footprints wending from horizon to horizon... The Observatory becomes a world, a spanse of infinite detail.
My nostrils convey as many distinct messages to my dream-mind as my waking eyes do when I gaze at the stars, and though I know my senses cannot possibly function so well in sleep, when I wake and shake off these shadowy dreams I feel that their full-planet clarity is somehow... Frightening.
As though some other entity had taken my body from place to place, scanning my private, waking world. As though the dreams did not belong to Nathaniel D'Yangelo alone.
This may very well be true. It is a truth I would rather not face, but since the age of twelve I have been uncomfortably aware of the cycles of Earth and Luna and their effects on me. My mother, Christina D'Yangelo of what is probably the most soap-opera worthy family on Luna, the Galileo D'Yangelos, has kept from me her feelings regarding my monthly experience. So far, I have no choice but to believe that this indicates a serious mental disorder on my part, one which she is too embarrassed or terrified to share with me. Either way, embarrassment or terror, it makes me uneasy.
And so, every full planet, I sleep in the Observatory.
The Lunar University is the _only_ place to study just about anything. Every department is state-of-the-art and only improving. My special love is astronomy. The astronomy department's crowning glory is the Observatory.
Often, I am the room's only occupant-- nighttime or not. Most of the students, indeed most of the Lunar people, probably feel that they get enough of the blackness and stars during everyday life. But I have to see the stars. If possible, I need to understand them.
Perhaps it is the combined sense of control and freedom. When stargazing, I know that the limits of University equipment and my own eyesight are the only limits of my vision and, therefore, of my territory. Yet I am safe, as I attain this knowledge and freedom, from my own unknown actions. The computer-locked doors of the Observatory keep me contained in an infinitely open space-- a space that connects, by virtue of its telescopes and glass, to the rest of the galaxy.
Before entering the University, and since I was about twelve, I stayed in a mysteriously locked bedroom every night of the full Earth. Mother explains it to me no more now than she did then. But, whatever disorder it is, as far as I know it has not progressed over the years. And in my new freedom as a college student, I decided to have the computer lock me in my favorite place. Otherwise I have tacitly followed Mother's tacit advice. And, for a man from a family constantly in the Lunar news, I lead a fairly normal life. This is probably due to the amount of voluntary time I spend away from the other D'Yangelos.
During the culmination of every cycle I gaze at the blue-white Earth until she moves into complete light, and then I fall asleep.
At least, I think I fall asleep. That I occupy this room is certain, for I invariably rise here each morning after. My own timed door-opening program allows me to command the computer to unlock the doors only after the requisite twelve hours have passed. As long as my strange dream-state does not progress past nights of the full planet, I feel that I have nothing to fear. The fact that my mother's confidentially contacted therapists (I knew who they were, no matter how subtle their visits) gradually stopped coming bears me out, I believe, on that point.
And yet I am uneasy.
I wake on the floor again this month, my cheek uncomfortable against the stiff, clean maroon Observatory carpeting. Must have fallen asleep here without realizing it. The last waking memory I have is of checking my mail at the smooth plastisteel console. I rub bleary eyes and hitch myself up on one elbow, reorienting myself. My chair is wheeled randomly back from the console. I probably fell against the keyboard and my weight pushed the chair back, I reason.
My dream-state fades from memory as I ensconce this logic in my mind. Then I stand up.
I wheel the chair back into position, pleasantly conscious of the ever-present stars above me. I land (a bit heavily, still being tired) in the chair and crack my knuckles in readiness for another mail-check. Had an odd request last night that piqued my curiosity.
There it is again, still waiting.
Who the Hell would want to contact me from Earth?
It is certainly an Earth connector requesting the release of my private address; the request was forwarded to me by the school. Someone on Earth is hoping they might find me here at Luna University. But who? I can't think of a soul I know on that Godforsaken planet.
I'll bet it's someone who wants a ship. The D'Yangelos are known on both Luna and Earth as The Family To Contact if you need passage to Luna. But, Luna being a sane haven from the weird stirrings of dozens of governments on Earth, the legal powers here must do _some_ screening. It's very difficult for an Earth person to gain access. Especially if they show signs of supporting that infernal "magic" insanity. I swear, I think sometimes that all of the decent scientists must have come to Luna during the split. At least culture has advanced here in the past centuries. It's no wonder the Lunar government keeps those Earthies out when it can. Imagine a world of superstition and randomness.
Yes, I'll bet it's someone who wants a ship. The higher echelons of the Immensely Rich D'Yangelo Family have turned them down, and now they're seeking out that son they've heard about-- the one named Nathaniel, who must be at the University now.
Well, at any rate, it won't hurt to let the message get sent through. I can always have the school's computers block any further sendings from the same party, if I don't like it.
I give my address to the sending computer.
The message is patched through to my personal terminal.
The message appears before my eyes.
The message reads:
Or do you go by Nathan?"
"Hope this finds you well and sound. I have had
the opportunity to settle in a castle off the continent
of Iceland and felt a great desire to contact you.
Please respond to this missive if it is at all in
your power to do so.
Yours, eagerly awaiting a reply,
Your father, Oskar Clavius"
Who? What? Oskar... Oh Lord. _Oskar
Many subsequent Scandals have slightly masked the mediafest my mother went through twenty-one years ago... Just before I was born... _My father_. Nathaniel D'Yangelo... Clavius. Never called by that technically correct last name. The only son of a young, high-society woman who had the audacity to go to _Earth_ and be married, only to break it off a short time later and return, disgraced, home to Luna.
What did she come back for? Alone and pregnant?
Why, all Earth inhabitants are insane, of course.
She should have thought of that before she went in the first place.
And the _audacity_ of this man, expecting a civil reply from an adult son he has never seen. Well...
Well... I am from a civil lineage, after all. And I can brush him off when and if things get too nasty or personal.
First, I need a wash-up and some breakfast. I'm still bleary from spending the night here.
Then I will send a reply.
So what the Hell am I doing here on the
platform of McMurdo Base? It was supposed to be
just a reply, just one civil little message to a
man claiming to be my father, a father who had
never in my twenty-one years ever contacted me
Well, my father, I have discovered, is a very persuasive man. No wonder Mother fell for him.
I can't believe I'm doing this.
I stand here, bewildered, frozen, as Base patrons mill past. Seems normal enough _so_ far, except for the fact that everything is so _big_. And absolutely nothing is familiar. I've never left the area of Galileo City, nor have I wanted to. The shapes, the sounds, the echoing hugeness of McMurdo are all well and good for a shuttle-landing site, but as I scan passers-by I find myself sinking into shallow rivulets of panic.
The inhabitants of Earth are insane. Everyone knows that. Everyone on Luna, at any rate. Earth people actually _believe_ in all that "magic" crap that the history archives detail. Who knows what these seemingly harmless persons might do to me if I unwittingly behave in some arcane fashion? And where the Hell is Damien? Oh yes, my mind is full of mild profanities today. And I've only just gotten to Earth.
I don't even know what this "Damien" person looks like. Only that he's my father's valet, and is supposed to be coming to meet me. I continue scanning the crowd. Everyone keeps moving, oblivious to my thin, tall Lunar self, never slowing nor looking my way in any attempt to identify me. Where the Hell is this Damien?
I have never been comfortable with a high, solid ceiling over my head. I like to see sky. The white dome of McMurdo base makes me want to get out, get away. But I can't go anywhere without that infernal valet.
It seems impossible. There is no way I could have gotten snookered into this. Yet I remember the messages, although I'm not entirely certain which lines, exactly, lured me onto the shuttle bound for Earth.
Maybe it was the way he started signing his missives "Love, Dad..."
A figure. Not moving. Standing still. Revealed by the parting of a large group of travellers. He balances carefully on his carefully spaced feet, hands behind his back, long off-black trench coat brushing the cuffs of his brown pants. He sees me, similarly standing still, and even from across the spanse of white I think I see his lips turn up in a slight smile.
A white-gloved hand emerges from behind the coat, and he waves.
Damien. Good. Now maybe I can get out of here. And maybe my father can start in on some explaining. He'd better.
The man is coming towards me, looking not at all nervous. He gives me a real smile as he approaches, and holds out one of those impeccable gloved hands.
"You must be Nathaniel. I'm Damien, and I work for your father. So nice to meet you."
I almost take the hand, but hesitate. Something-- I don't know. Something _clean_. Unnatural. Antiseptic. A false human? Is he an android? No, I decide. But despite his definite real-ness I am not entirely comfortable. I can't see the hand under that snow-white glove... I nod soberly in acknowledgment of his grin and shake his hand.
"My name is Nathaniel D'Yangelo. As you already know. It's... nice to meet you, Mr. Damien."
"Just Damien is fine, Mr. D'Yangelo."
"And you can call me Nathaniel."
That unnaturally clean smell. An incredibly welcoming smile. I weigh my choices and opt for trusting him. The soonest I can get another shuttle back to Luna is in two weeks. I can rot here at the Base, or go with him and meet Oskar Clavius. My father.
Damien grips my hand in what I feel is an oddly cautious way, as though he might break me. Then he takes my elbow, in an equally cautious manner, and directs me to one of the exits. We're taking a plane, a primitive form of transportation still, big surprise, used on Earth, to the island far to the north where my father's newly inherited property lies.
It is on the way to the exit, Damien's hand still on my arm, that I see it. My mind reels so that I actually stop short and vigorously shake my head. I try to clear my sight, but the apparition is still there. Then it disappears down a side corridor and I am left, ashen and breathing rather hard, with Damien looking at me concernedly.
"Are you okay, Nathaniel?"
"Are... you... O-Kay."
"Mm. Yeah. Sure. Fine. Um...What the HELL was that?"
He regards me quizzically for a second, then follows my confused gaze in the direction the apparition took.
"You mean the man who just passed by."
"What man? That was a-- a THING!"
My companion shakes his blond head, smiling in a way which I suddenly find somewhat insulting. "Are all Loonies like you?"
I yank my elbow from his gentle grip and glare at him. "What do you mean by that?"
"Hey, calm down, it's okay. It's just that if you think that was strange... Well, I'll let Oskar talk to you when we get home. But what did you find so all-fired frightening about him?"
You see, I was right. I was raised knowing all of these people are utterly off their heads. I must steel myself for the possibility that my estranged father is as bad as the rest of them. I decide to humor Damien by relating my version of the apparition. "Well, I found the _horn_ growing out of his forehead a bit disconcerting..."
Damien laughs. I sulk. He says, "Oh, I wouldn't worry about that. I'm sure he won't use it for violence. Besides, there are plenty of guards around."
Ab-so-lute-ly nuts. Still, he's my only choice in a sea of madmen. "Well, where I come from, we consider humans with the heads of mythical creatures to be disadvantaged, diseased individuals and I find it extremely inappropriate for such a monster to be out in public by himself."
"He was wearing a pilot's uniform. I'm certain he can take care of himself."
I hadn't noticed the uniform. Damien might be lying. But somehow I find myself unable to avoid liking him. I board the plane in silence.
Twenty minutes later we are winging our way to Iceland.
Uranenborg on Hven.
Yes, my father has settled in a castle, and that castle is the sole building occupying the smallish island of Hven, a few miles south of the southernmost coast of Iceland.
Centuries ago, at the time of the split between the peoples of Luna and of Earth, the Earth's geography was radically skewed.
A Fissure opened, they say, somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, and while many attempts were made to understand its properties none of the expeditions returned intact, nor with much information.
In the chaos following the Fissure's appearance, the smart ones escaped to Luna. There, _normal_ life continued and continues today. Here, on Earth, the Medically Inexplicable mutations run rampant, superstition reigns over decisions of individual and government alike, and people _laugh_ when I show a little shock at the sight of a bipedal Unicorn walking through McMurdo Base.
On Luna, mutants have always been fairly treated, as the ill-fortuned medical cases that they are. Whenever possible, their lives are improved through the latest technology. In some cases, the kindest thing is euthanasia.
But the people of Earth call it "Magic".
Denial of the sickness and chaos the Fissure released must be the only way they can maintain some fragile semblance of sanity. Sad, really.
The castle is beautiful.
No, there are not green swathes of lawn surrounding it. The grass is rather flat and brown, currently.
The stones and decorative carvings of Uranenborg are hardly noteworthy. The sea surrounding the isle of Hven is choppy and grey as we approach in the hired boat that brings us here from the airport in Norway.
Uranenborg on Hven is a large, only marginally handsome castle in the classical sense.
But above, arching forever in a cloudy dome of open air and celestial phenomenons only hinted at from my home vantage point on Luna, is The Sky.
And as we approach, I literally take in my breath in a gasp as the beauty of my father's property strikes me.
For in the middle of the looming structure, shining black and curved in the odd light of a cloudy Earth afternoon, nestled in a heavy decorative balcony circling the highest part of the castle, is a glass dome.
Uranenborg on Hven has an Observatory.
Damien, at my side in the boat, smiles at me. "Pretty, isn't it?"
This could get interesting.
Damien works off his gloves, shaking them out in the chill, humid air, and inspects his hands.
When I next look over at him he is wearing a pair of light-grey gloves.
That's the fifth glove-change he has engaged in, to my knowledge, on the trip from McMurdo.
Nutcases. All of 'em.
The boat-pilot lets us off at the dock jutting from Hven's pebbly shore, and I notice a couple of small motorboats moored to the pier. Hm. I roll my eyes at the incongruity of Earth technology. The only reason that McMurdo itself is so advanced is that the Lunar government oversaw its construction.
I regard the castle skeptically and clutch my small personal computer, resting in my coat pocket. A link to home and sanity. Damien comes behind me as I climb the slope to Uranenborg's front set of heavy, wooden double doors.
I'm very interested in that Observatory, of course. To see the moon from Earth, to own a whole new view of the sky I consider my own... But there is the matter of Oskar Clavius.
And he's standing there at the door now, a goofy grin spread across his face above the grey-streaked beard, dressed to meet company. Beside him is a woman, also dressed for company but protecting her skirt with a large kitchen-apron. I think I see another figure behind them, but it quickly fades into shadow.
I look to Damien for reassurance. At least I am somewhat acquainted with him.
The valet is giving me an encouraging smile which is particularly welcome right now. He waves me on towards the castle, towards the man who out of nowhere has appeared and asked me to come "home."
I take a deep breath, square my shoulders, and continue up the slope.
Thank Goodness he doesn't hug me. The cook, whose name, I learn, is Mrs. Hudson, looks as if she'd _like_ to hug me, but she refrains.
My father just looks at me, that goofy grin pasted on his otherwise-dignified face as though he forgot to take it off when preparing for my arrival.
He's as uneasy as I am.
He's considerably taller, and heavier, than I am. I back off so that the difference doesn't seem so obvious.
"Hello, Son," he manages to say.
I wince. "Just call me Nathaniel, Sir," I say. No one is going to get intimate with me just yet.
He looks just slightly hurt, but recovers. I sense a certain tension in the front hall that may or may not come from the way everyone... smells. Hm. My senses seem to have gone into overdrive since my landing at McMurdo. "Well, Nathaniel, you can call me Oskar. Or Dad. And... It is _really_ good seeing you."
"Yeah, well, about time, I guess."
He motions to Damien and Mrs. Hudson and they exit the hall.
Just us. Father and Son. I fail to feel deeply moved.
He grins, a new grin I can't quite place an emotion on, and ushers me to a narrow wooden door off the main hall. "My own favorite dining and sitting hall is right in here," he tells me in a rough, yet rich voice. "Not too far from the kitchen and not so impersonally huge as the regular dining room. Come on in and have a seat. Please. We have a lot to catch up on."
My father, I have learned so far, is persuasive, strangely impressive, has a beard, and is a master of understatement.
The long, narrow room has a long antique table, two stuffed chairs and several polished cherrywood dining chairs. On the wall, between two of the many tall, lace-curtained windows, is a painting of a man who at first glance looks like Oskar but who is not, I decide, Oskar. I wonder who he is.
Oskar looks at me in rather mournful silence for a minute or two. Then he speaks, and I can't help but inwardly respond to the pleading in his voice.
"I'm sorry, Son. Nathaniel. The first thing you're going to ask me is why not sooner? So I'll answer that question right now.
"I wanted to contact you. Please understand, I did not even know whether my child was a boy or a girl. I could not contact your mother. She made it abundantly clear that her choice is to be away from Earth, away from me, on Luna.
"I thought of you often, every day in fact. Nathaniel, I wanted to tell you of your father, give you knowledge that I know must be impossible for your mother to impart. Ever since meeting your wonderful mother [I scoff inwardly at this-- if he thinks she's so wonderful then why all the Scandal], I prepared myself for the possible arrival of a child, for the possibility that my lineage might affect that child in ways that would require careful explanations and much emotional support during the teenage years."
The teenage years? Dreams... Is he saying this Earth insanity is hereditary? Is that why I have been relegated to a locked room every month? "Well, the sentiment is nice and all, Oskar, but if you were so concerned about my welfare as a child then why did you not show some of this fatherly 'love' a little sooner?"
He sighs and shifts in his chair. "Nathaniel, you don't know how sorry I am that your mother decided to return to Luna. But it was her choice. And you have been hers to raise. Now that you are an adult, you make your own choices. I am grateful for the choice you have made to come to Uranenborg on Hven.
"However, I am going to try not to make the same mistake twice. I assumed that your mother would take certain truths in stride, the way the rest of us on Earth do. I found that I was wrong. Nathaniel, I wish to help you to understand yourself. But you are an adult, and can leave as quickly as you came. I will _try_ to make this explanation one that you can digest, one that will not frighten you off the way I did your mother."
I am about to ask him to elaborate on this strange and wandering story when Mrs. Hudson comes in with cakes and coffee. Smells delectable. I feel my guard dropping a little.
Damien takes me on a tour of Uranenborg as I
turn my father's words over and over in my mind.
"The concourse," says Damien, showing me, and I barely notice the beautifully inlaid floor design, patterned after constellations. I am thinking of how my father is related to the Renaissance astronomer Christopher Clavius, who had Uranenborg after Mad King Rudolph was put into exile, which happened after the castle itself was built for the astronomer Tycho Brahe...
"The music room," he announces, gesturing. But I'm thinking of my father's inheritance, _my_ inheritance, the Observatory, and my great-uncle Manfred Clavius who lived here until...
"The spiral staircase..." ...until his death in an institution in Norway, after which Oskar inherited the castle...
It's not long before I manage to block out Damien completely, telling myself I'll have plenty of time to look around later. I have to order the facts of his words in my mind, sorting out the unlikely and the ridiculous.
Damien may or may not notice my lack of attention, but tastefully continues the tour as if nothing is amiss.
Let's see... There's a girl, someone I haven't met yet, a niece or something. Great-uncle Manfred's daughter? That part doesn't make much sense to me. Of course, the business about _werewolves_ followed right on the heels of the bit about the niece or whoever she is, so it's only natural that I'm a little swimmy about this whole thing.
Manfred. Yes, that was it. He died-- no, his _wife_ died, and then he died, and the girl stayed here. But I still haven't met her yet.
That part seems to make sense. I'll just mentally delete that outrageous bit about werewolves.
So much for breaking things to me gently, Oskar. You've managed to convince me you are completely balmy and I'm keeping an eye out for dangerous behavior on your part.
"Cybernetic parrot," says Damien with another flourish, and this time he gets my attention.