[A work of original fiction by Jamie Barringer, Copyright 2014, All rights reserved.] It was midnight and the moths moved on at last, having soaked in all the nectar the giant moon flowers could offer them. Andrea smiled as she watched the huge, pale, winged shapes disappear over the hills. One of those shapes was what was left of her husband, after all, and even in his present state, Andrea liked to think he remembered her and visited her garden of moon flowers specifically to see her.
Of course, he only saw her through the protective glass, if his strange mothy eyes could penetrate the tinted windows to see her anyway. No one in her right mind would venture outside while the moon flowers were open, their strangely beautiful, potent scent in the air. Well, every once in a while someone would go outside during the flowering, and would never be seen again, at least not on two legs.
The flowers had been brought accidentally on the feet of huge space transport ships, and while most things that stuck to the outsides of spaceships died of the cold or the searing heat of entering new atmospheres unprotected, but just as some trees set seed only with the presence of fire, some plants send out seeds that are sparked into germination by the sudden change from space-cold to the burning friction of planetary atmospheric entry. Moon flowers were the first plants discovered with this fascinating trait, and at first mankind was enthralled by the grandly beautiful, shimmery, gray-lavender petunia-shaped blossoms that would open just once a year and last for only a week. They timed their opening to the day after summer solstice, on every planet, and for a week after summer solstice botanists, chemists and artists would gather to study the plants.
That is, until those botanists, chemists and artists began disappearing.
It takes a hefty dose of moon flower pollen to change a full-grown human, so many of the scientists never changed. They took tiny samples and studied them in laboratories where their anti-contamination procedures protected the pollen from its environment, but also protected the humans studying it. But the artists, who communed with the flowers and made music and paintings and sculptures while bathed in the scent of those huge flowers, they soaked in bucket-loads of the insidious pollen, and while at first everyone else thought the artists had just drifted away, maybe chased off by strange giant moths that arrived to pollinate the flowers, some of the artists began recognizing their missing comrades among those moths.
In the years that followed many attempts were made at eradicating the moon flower plants from all human colonies, but they were tough weeds to kill. A plant whose seeds can survive space travel unprotected is not likely to give way to spades and ordinary herbicides. And, where there were moon flowers there were soon also colonies of those strangely melancholy moths, unable to reproduce and live full lives as moths, but cut off entirely from the humans they had belonged to. No one wanted to study the moths, because no one wanted to formally admit what they were.
So, as Andrea watched her husband and his fellows fly away to their new homes among the boulders and scraggly weeds of the badly terraformed Martian hills, she wondered what sort of lives those moths led all year, when the flowers weren’t in bloom. It was a lonely life, now that he was gone. They had moved to Mars on their honeymoon, on a whim almost, and he had gotten a job with the pest control division trying to beat the moon flower infestation that rendered the colonies hostage in their bubbles every year at this time despite the planet’s fancy new atmospheric shell.
The flowers would close in three days, and the colonists would be safe to re-emerge into the Martian daylight, but Andrea would never again stand under that weak sun holding hands with Bronson, and could never have that family they had talked so excitedly about. For, in the course of his work last year, his suit had developed a tear down the back, and as he had worked out under those ethereal blooms, they had dropped their pollen on his vulnerable back. And he had started to change, feeling dizzy and longing to be out in those distant hills, pulled by something he could never explain. He walked away 4 days after those flowers opened last year, and never walked back. Remembering, staring out in the direction he had gone, Andrea realized she always knew what she would have to do.
Tying a string around the last bundle of letters and setting the one for her neighbor on top, Andrea felt one salty tear fall onto the envelope, for all she was giving up. But, she had made a vow, “till death do us part”, and he was not dead. Putting on her favorite dress, the one she had worn for her husband last year on his birthday, not long before he left, she slipped out the back door into the garden. The air was thick with the pollen of the flowers all around her, and she breathed deeply, letting their scent overpower her as she strolled slowly towards those hills where Bronson’s winged shape had gone.
(Flint Browning, for The Mars Monitor, 7 June 2336) Researchers on Mars discovered recently that a new development seems to be occuring among the moon flower moths. Most moths reproduce through eggs that are deposited externally and hatch larvae that look nothing like a moth, but exo-entimologists have reported seeing tiny moon flower moths among the hill colonies, flying in protected formation alongside two full-sized moths. Researchers will be watching the flowers near the colonies for sightings of these unusual moths, but rumors suggest that enough flowers have spread into the hills that the new moths may not need to emerge near any of the major colonies. Reports are not yet conclusive, but the implications are alarming, if indeed the moths have begun reproducing on their own. We will update this article regularly as new information becomes available.