Once a pack of wolves won a defense contract to howl at the moon. The idea behind the contract was a simple one. By howling at the moon, the wolves proposed to ensure that it didn’t fall from the sky and score a direct hit on any of the nation’s political or economic centers. And if by chance the moon did fall, then a contingency plan was expected to bring it down harmlessly somewhere off one coast or the other. All went smoothly for the wolves’ proposed defense initiative in the policy-review and appropriation phases. Congressional hearings were called and witnesses crowded together by the score at long tables to affirm its necessity and high probability of success. Particularly dramatic was the unqualified endorsement voiced by high-ranking intelligence and cabinet officials, one of whom held up a small vial of “potentially devastating moonlight” for emphasis. A brief sampling of testimony in opposition to the proposal was also heard. Then it was approved by a lopsided vote. It was only at this point, when the wolves were readying themselves for the howl of a lifetime, that a few problems began to surface. Most were quickly disposed of, but one remained a constant and growing source of concern: the wolves couldn’t agree on where exactly the moon would be coming from when it rose. Some insisted it would rise in the east as usual. Others insisted just as vehemently that new geopolitical realities called for new thinking. The moon might suddenly shoot up from somewhere in the west and catch them off guard. Still others held that the threat of a rogue moon appearing from practically anywhere should be the true concern. The sole means of resolving this dispute, it was finally agreed, was for the wolves to face in every direction simultaneously and wait in a state of utmost alert. This decision meant the original budget would be inadequate, obviously, but requests for additional funding sailed through once the advantages of the revised plan were explained in new hearings. The vote was as lopsided as before. Then the time came to test the system. As the wolves sat in a circle and warily eyed every inch of the skyline in the gathering dusk, their esprit de corps was high. As the night deepened, however, that mood changed, at first slowly and then ever more rapidly. With each passing hour, it became clearer that something was profoundly amiss. The moon wasn’t coming up at all, anyplace. Perhaps the moon menace was more sophisticated than had been thought. Or the doom it threatened might be on some kind of time delay. The moon might actually have risen long before, but was invisible due to advanced stealth technology. In this worst-case scenario, mightn’t it already be hurtling earthward, bringing mass destruction? There wasn’t a moment to lose. The wolves, as though responding to a single command, began howling in every direction at once: east, west, north, south, up, down. If the moon was out there, they’d find it.
Copyright © 2003-2004 by Geoffrey Grosshans