A short story.

Stocktrek Images, Inc. / Alamy

Have you heard the story about the Moon crashing into Earth? Of course, it was so very long ago. Far back before any of us were born — One might even say it was Earth before Earth — Nothing like the familiar home we know today. No trees, no atmosphere, and no oceans; just a fiery patchwork party of gas and cosmic dust. The moon too, in a somewhat previous life, much different than the glowing ally we see in our night sky. In fact, not a moon at all but a planet named Theia, according to the story. About the size of Mars, Theia shared our path along the sun, in the earlier and much more competitive days of our solar system. Her orbit, slowly influenced by the persuasive gravity of both Jupiter and frequent rival, Venus; like two gossiping whisperers, instigating the eventual collision with pre — adolescent Earth.

For those who, with faithful optimism, believe everything happens for a reason, and that calamity often alchemizes into prosperity — this catastrophic event rings with a note of serendipity. A blessing in grotesque disguise. A coincidental exchange between accident and reward. Because in many ways, this literal planet crushing collision authored some of the essential conditions that encouraged life on Earth to not only develop but also to flourish.

Venus, the bright queen of the sky, in the long run, would not be as fortunate — And Theia, decimated into a multitude of jigsaw fragments above, is adopted by Earth’s gravity, slowly healing from the collision; collecting, coalescing, and assuming a new form, The Moon.

So it all worked out for us in the end. Our beloved axial tilt — That perpetual 23.4° gangster lean Earth maintains, like a pose on one knee while throwing up an old school peace sign — Is accredited to Theia’s kamikaze clothesline. Without that tilt, Earth would be stripped of seasons, weather in any given region would experience very little fluctuation throughout the year — Considerably throwing off our global cooling system. The explosive shoulder bump also sent us spinning on our heels like the Tasmanian Devil. So fast, legend has it, that one day lasted just about 6 hours back then. This set the core to spin as well, and produced from it, like music from a vinyl record, a geomagnetic field that among other things, shielded Earth from the claws of the solar winds. A necessary first step toward our current sunscreen ozone layer. This hyper day eventually slowed once the moon was formed and its gravity dragged our rotation to its recognizable 24 hour duration. Anyone who bet against Earth likely watched her prosperous comeback with a salty green eye. And from the distance of Jupiter or even Venus, that old school peace sign probably looked more like a middle finger.

And for those who, with faithful pessimism, don’t believe in coincidence — And that the hand of foul play reaches farther than you think — Grew a suspicion that perhaps it was Earth who crashed into Theia. In a sense, deliberately jumping in the way to reap a cosmic claim. The success of life, invested by moon blood money.

Not much is ever said of Earth the Schemer. Or Earth the Sociopath, and Egoist — Overcome with a biological ambition, a blind instinct to step out of step. Haunted by the marionette strings of the future, translucent like dewy gossamer — Fixed upon an inescapable horizon, whose obsession calls into the recesses of Earth’s core…A chorus circulating upward to its mantle…A novel rule or law as confident and confining as a second gravity, holding everything in place. The infrared voice of obsession, heard clearly by destiny, who listens not for words but for the louder and much more articulate song of action.

It’s precisely with this tune, that Earth traps the shattered pieces of Theia. The broken body chasing at Earth’s scented hand as she spirals round like a glowing fairy, buried in a thick cloud of vaporized rock. Poor Theia, her once omniscient eyes, now barren craters — The Titan, reduced. Forgetting her name, collecting what she can. A letter here, the shadow of a syllable there. The amnesiac debris consolidated until it’s as new and lost as an orphan — To be shaped by our choosing.

Swinging the child close. Safely tucked in our arms, as the newborn Moon rotated much nearer to Earth then. Brushing its cheek against our oceans, lifting the tides like a baby grips its soft blanket. Believing itself protected, believing itself native, kindred and loved. Knowing no life before this. Loyal. Later, fending off asteroids and meteors — Some sizable and resulting in deep scars and burns. The Moon was ours. And Life too, would be ours.

Earth’s face, tilted in adoration. Sleepy eyed and smiling — At anxious little Mercury who hurried after the Sun like a puppy…At mischievous Mars who refused to be rushed and proudly took his time…And of course, landing a view at lovely Venus, who had an accident of her own and now rotated on her axis in the opposite direction to the rest of them. Turning very slowly and without an axial tilt or magnetic field, you can just imagine the heat — Like smoke in a burning building with all the windows shut. The solar winds, like great dragons, swooping in — Tearing at her surface — And stripping off the unprotected atmosphere.

Earth imagines it. Everyday, every 24 hours, glancing over in her direction, waiting patiently to catch her slow, powdered, backwards face. While the Moon orbits around Earth’s head like a halo. Something fit for an angel.

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