You don’t know how long you’ve been watching this cop show—could be as few as three episodes or as many as five—but it’s not dark outside yet and your curtains aren’t closed, which is why you notice the man on the street. That, and your ad-blocker’s doing its job, so your lenses are actually clear for a mo. You adjust your head slightly, so he stays in your peripherals when the drama resumes.
He wears oversized boots and a puffy white jumpsuit with a blue and red badge on the chest and the sleeve. You assume that it’s some kind of corporate logo, given that he also has an old-fashioned briefcase like a door-to-door salesman. Sure enough, he seems to be pitching your neighbors, methodically making his way down the road.
It’s a shame there aren’t ad-blockers for people like that, you think, and then quickly regret it. In spite of its name, not everybody qualifies for Universal Basic Income, at least not at your level, and some unfortunate people still need to work.
Anyway, most of your neighbors seem fairly intrigued. Only the Tebbits have shut their door in his face, while both the Parrs and Mary Cavendish have purchased his wares. Greg Hoskins appears like he might get one too. And Greg likes to think of himself as a trendsetter, so whatever it is must be worth checking out.
As the man moves away, closing his briefcase, you detect a peculiar bounce to his walk. The briefcase swings strangely, as if in slow-motion—or, rather, as if it takes effort to bring it back down. Behind him, a green luminescence flares out from Greg’s porch, before the door almost reluctantly shuts.
You realize that you’ve all but stopped watching the show and seem to have missed an important reveal. Frustrated, you blink to rewind to a bit you remember. At least, you think you remember it, but you’ve been bingeing so much that it’s started to blur; you’ve got all of the cases and culprits confused. Still, the scene is partly familiar, and you can work out from context what’s going on.
When you glance outside again, however, the salesman is slowly approaching your house. The street seems a little darker as well, but he must have already seen you through the window, so it’s too late to pretend you’re not really home.
Besides, you are curious. More than you would be if it were just another banner advert or lens blitz or a call on your implant. And unlike with those, at least you’re able to keep watching your show as you stand up and walk from the couch to the hallway. You don’t recognize this part, and the tension is building up nicely indeed. The big reveal must be approaching—at almost the same pace as the salesman, in fact. As his footsteps grow louder, the pictures in your hallway tilt towards the entrance, and your grandparents’ old barometer goes wildly awry. It registers high pressure one second, low pressure the next. Your shoes dance on their rack beside the door.
Afraid that you might miss the episode’s twist, yet again, you blink twice to pause.
The salesman knocks.
You flick the latch and turn the handle, only to find that the door feels heavier than normal.
Then heavier again.
Although he has been doing a lot of walking today, the salesman doesn’t seem especially tired, frustrated, or downbeat about his commercial prospects. He greets you with a wide and white-toothed grin. He has a handsome, personable face, and you don’t want to be the only one (besides the neighborhood grouches, the Tebbits) to turn him away, so you decide to hear him out.
However, when he explains that he’s in the satellite trade, you feel a stirring of regret.
You rub gently at your temples to call attention to your lenses, the faint scar of your implant, and show you’re not in the market for that kind of thing. It shouldn’t be a surprise, perhaps, but it seems that his product is as retro and outmoded as he looks.
Satellite dishes, really?
Whichever company that badge represents, it’s preposterous they’re unaware of the distortion caused by orbital debris. Your neighbors, well, you can believe they’d be ignorant, but you’re not about to buy obsolete tech.
You are about to close the door, when he raises his briefcase.
No, it’s more like he allows it to ascend.
You feel pressure tugging your center of gravity, and the shoes on the rack dance more erratically, and the pictures vibrate like they’ll jump off the wall. You’re getting concerned now. Perhaps it’s a weapon. You contemplate blinking and calling for help when he opens the briefcase and turns it around.
At first, if anything, you are even more perplexed. You think they are chew toys, or naff plastic baubles, and you’re about to protest that a.) it’s nowhere near Christmas, and b.) you do not have a dog. But then you refocus, embarrassed, perceiving—at last—they are replica moons.
There are about fifteen left, unexpectedly lifelike, just how you recall it from films and TV. You consider each of them in turn as the salesman gives his doorstep pitch.
It’s getting too easy to lose track of time, he says. Especially for people on Universal Basic Income. Day is blurring into night and vice versa, and sleep patterns are broken. Insomnia, he cautions, is sharply on the rise. Part of the problem, he says, is that people no longer gaze up at the heavens. You glance up far enough to meet his eyes but can’t read any judgement there.
Your body’s still trembling.
Your shoes and your pictures still rattle and dance.
He carries on as you return to inspecting his lunar supply. They are useful, he says, for helping to fix our circadian rhythms, for realigning ourselves with the Earth’s normal spin. They’re moveable, he assures you, so you can hide them in a drawer when it gets light, and then carry them from room to room after dark. They even glow a little to remind you, he says, and they demonstrate as if on cue.
It is perhaps a greener glow than you remember the real moon possessing, but undeniably beautiful, even hypnotic. You let them draw you in closer, your heart rate increasing, amazed by their duplicate Seas of Tranquility.
You’ll be comforted to know that it’s there, the salesman says. You’ll feel more balanced. The tides of your existence will ease and reset.
It’s a bit close to New Age for your usual tastes, but you know—as he does—that he’s got you hooked. He doesn’t even have to quote you a price.
You gesture to the one third from the left at the back. He lifts it up carefully and passes it over. And even though you suddenly realize that the sun is setting, the day almost over with nothing accomplished, you do feel relaxed with this moon in your hand.
He brushes his hair back and presses his implant—unexpectedly fresh—and you press yours as well, to complete the transaction. He gives that wide and white-toothed grin, and walks away bouncily into the dusk.
You shut the door, relieved that the shoes have at last finished dancing and the pictures have mostly slipped back into place. The barometer shows medium pressure again. Only the slightest of shakes as you pass.
You are eager to try out your purchase. To lie back on the couch with the moon on your belly, to see if you really do notice the difference, the motion of time, as you finally witness the show’s big reveal.
The model feels weird, both heavy and not, but you don’t stop to wonder about what it’s made of. And although you detour to close the room’s curtains, you still do not spare a glance up at the cosmos, the heavenly bodies, let alone think to check if they’re all as they were.