Like most married couples, Jay and Clover Brewster did not always see eye to eye. But upon one point, there was complete agreement: they just had to get off the moon.
The couple sat quietly at the Sector 7-1 Relocation Center, massaging sweaty palms under the table as their assigned real estate agent worked feverishly at his keypad with long, six-jointed fingers sweeping back and forth. His right pupil, a small white dot on a black cornea, spun around like the second hand on a clock poring over data, while the left pupil remained fixed on the fidgeting couple. With four independent brain lobes, the insectoid Acrisians are expert multi-taskers, ideally suited for such civil servant jobs.
“Now why do you want to relocate?” the agent asked, his right pupil
still spinning over the data.
“Moon dust,” Clover blurted out. “I can’t take the moon dust anymore. It gets into everything.” She scratched at already red forearms.
“My wife seems to have an allergic reaction to moon dust,” Jay calmly clarified.
The agent stared at the couple with both pupils for the first time. “Moon dust is not an allergen,” he coolly informed. “Perhaps your condition is psychosomatic.”
Clover slammed her chubby fist down on the desk.
“I did not come here to be psychoanalyzed by some giant cricket in a blue blazer. I just want off the moon, damn it,” she blurted out before sobbing on her husband’s shoulder.
The agent coolly returned to clicking away at his keypad. “You know the quarantine is still in effect, so you will have to remain in this solar system,” he said.
The couple nodded.
The computer pinged and the agent looked up. “There are four approved relocation sites,” he declared.
“Only four sites in the entire system?” Jay was incredulous.
“Real estate is a precious commodity,” the agent said dryly. “The human population continues to explode. Your species now has an average life expectancy of 126 years, after all. Then there has been the influx of non-natives like me.”
A few quick clicking sounds came from the agent’s thorax. Perhaps it was a stifled chuckle.
Jay sighed in resignation. “Okay, what are the four options?”
“A very nice 4-bedroom Colonial is available on the Mercury colony, if you are willing to accept a day laborer assignment.” The agent glanced back at the screen. “Terra-forming is way behind schedule and they are looking for help.”
“Day laborer?” Jay huffed. “Sounds like a great deal until you get there and find out that one Mercury day is as long as 58 Earth days.”
The agent poked a long finger at the screen and squinted. “Well, there is a nice condo in Venus Cloud City Seven,” he offered.
Clover straightened up in her chair. “Not Venus, dear. The Wilsons used to live there and said the heat is over 700 Kelvin. Also, the pressure crushes everything like aluminum cans.”
Air hissing across the agent’s mouth section conveyed his growing frustration. “The third option is the Olympus Mons mining town on Mars,” he offered.
“I’m assuming there are some drawbacks there as well.” Jay leaned back, arms folded across his chest.
“Well, the average temperature is minus-60 and the planet has no magnetic field protection, so you will be under a constant solar radiation bombardment,” the agent explained. “Just be sure to wear lots of sunscreen.”
“What about all the sulfuric acid in the air? I hear the whole planet smells of rotten eggs,” Jay complained.
“And what about Martian hunger flies? Do their stings really feel like taser shocks right through your containment suit?” Clover gripped her husband’s arm.
The agent shook his head back and forth. “The swelling goes down pretty quickly and besides, the Martian hunger fly season only lasts for three weeks each year.”
“And the last option?” Jay asked, massaging his temples.
The agent double-checked his screen. “Yes, here it is. Cleveland.”
“Cleveland?” the couple asked, surprise rising in their voices.
“Yes. Cleveland. Cleveland, Ohio,” the agent confirmed.
The three exchanged glances without a word uttered for what seemed to be an inordinate amount of time. Jay was the first to speak.
“So, the Martian hunger fly season only last three weeks, you say?”
Jim Hawe has no intention of relocating from his current home just north of Tokyo where he lives with his wife, son, and a hyperactive basenji. His writing has appeared in Altered Realms, Friday Flash Fiction, and several publications in Japan.