Character Interview: Phil Henderson’s Mariko

(Kelly was written by Kelly Blanchard. Mariko was written by Phil Henderson.)

Mariko Bradford, by all appearances a woman in her late twenties, sat on a cushion in her living room, bedecked in a purple yukata with white flowers, her head turned skyward to continually watch Earth.  She looked down only to refresh her drinks.  Outside, beyond the protective tinted glass dome, the grey lunar landscape remained bare and unremarkable, save another glass dome a couple miles away, with a bustling metropolis underneath it.

In a swirl of abrupt wind, Kelly appeared before Mariko. She was getting better at making an entrance in these interviews though she didn’t like to show off. Still, this was the moon, and there were only so many ways to get there. 

She took a brief glimpse around at her surroundings but focused on Mariko and smiled broadly. “Must say, I’ve been to many unusual places, but this is the first time I’ve been to the moon!” She then approached her with hand outstretch. “I’m Kelly Blanchard. You must be Mariko Bradford?

Mariko looked upward, gingerly extending her hand.  “Oh, yes, I was told to expect you.  It’s not often I have an Earther in here, least of all one from Timeline Neil Armstrong.”  She smiled at her guest, then gestured to the other end of her heated table.  “Please, have a seat.  Anything I can offer you?  Tea?  Biscuits?  Warm sake?”

Kelly took the offer to sit but shook her head at the rest as she smiled. “No, I’m quite fine. Thank you very much. You mentioned ‘Timeline Neil Armstrong’—I’ve never heard of time being determined by that. How does that work?” She furrowed her brows briefly but then glimpsed around to take in her surroundings some more. After all, how many times for people get the chance to go to the moon. It was about as gray and lifeless as she expected, but seriously, the view of Earth was breathtaking.

Mariko poured herself a cup of sake, looking her visitor over.  “It’s a tool for determining historical timelines that closely resemble one another.  Each one is named for the first person to walk on the moon.  The one we’re in now is Timeline Heinrich Schultz.  The first moon landings were an undertaking in the late 40’s by the German military.  They sent three expeditions, then abandoned the program altogether.”  She then followed Kelly’s gaze up to Earth.  “Looks like it’s dawn in India.”

“It’s absolutely beautiful.” Kelly smiled. mesmerized by the sight, but then she blinked and glanced over to her hostess. “So, you are aware of different timelines? Is it like parallel universes or something? Most timelines are oblivious the other one exists.”

Mariko took a slow sip of her sake.  “Most people in this timeline are unaware.  I was made privy to that information due to the role that I played in history.  A weird bunch of travelers showed up right outside my door in a fancy-looking spaceship.  It materialized out of thin air, much like you.”  She turned her attention back to her tea, which she slowly stirred in the appropriate direction.  “They didn’t recruit me or anything, they just asked me to keep an eye out for anything unusual.”

“Like what?”

She shrugged.  “Things appearing that shouldn’t be there, or historical facts suddenly changing.  But so far, I haven’t seen anything.”

Kelly nodded slowly. “Interesting.” Then she scooted to the edge of her seat, rested her elbows on her knees and clasped her hands together as she locked eyes with Mariko. “But why did they approach you?”

Mariko seemed to have no reservations keeping eye contact with Kelly.  “I don’t know what their mission is or anything, but they chose me because I was one of the founders and the Chief Architect of New Tokyo.”  She gestured with her head to the nearby city.  “I visit now and then, but I prefer a private life myself.  Just me and my husband live here.”

This made a bit of sense, but there was a whole world Kelly didn’t understand, yet she had to start with the basics. “So tell me about yourself. How did you get to this point in your life? Who were you before?”

Mariko inhaled deeply, leaning a bit closer to Kelly.  “When I was young, I was one of eight people selected by Watawara Industries for their moon colonization project.  I’d just graduated from Tokyo University with a Master’s in Geology, and my parents had already been approved for the project.  Father’s a physicist, and mother’s a botanist.”

“And…” Kelly wasn’t sure what else to ask. It seemed as though all was well on the moon and such, but she knew there had to be some sort of conflict somewhere. Otherwise she wouldn’t have been sent into this story. “Is that it? You got selected to be part of a project to colonize the moon, and all is well?” She raised her brows. “Have there been any complications or anything? I mean, people showing up from another timeline is disturbing, but how does it all fit together?”

Mariko scoffed.  “Oh, there were plenty of conflicts.  I guess they just seem so small in retrospect.  I heard that when Watawaru started up, both of its founders had to take out second mortgages on their homes.  Then there was a big corporate battle for rights to the moon between them and one of the firms that sponsored the expedition.  Add to that the American government trying to shut Watawaru down, and their even sending someone here to try and sabotage the project, most of us seemed to think the project was doomed just a few months in.”  She chuckled, pouring more tea.  “They barely stood a chance, though.  Life here takes getting used to.  You’d be surprised how hard it is to properly aim a kick or even a weapon in lower gravity than you’re used to.”

Kelly smirked. “Oh, I can only imagine.” She thought of some space battles several of her own characters experienced in low-gravity environments. Kelly chuckled at the memory but then shook her head and focused on the task at hand. “All right, so…” She was actually clueless at where to go next, so she decided to give Mariko the choice. “I could ask a ton of questions—about your past, your family, your job, and everything, but what really interests you? Or what troubles you the most?”

Her smile fading slightly, Mariko set down her tea.  “Well, building this city was no small task.  We did have a few leftover settlements from one of the German expeditions, and that’s where we all lived for a while.  My first job here was to find a way to refine the soil so that we could grow crops in it.  My husband—well, he wasn’t my husband yet—was the pilot who flew our rocket here. He had nothing else to do, so he went around assisting everyone else. I had to keep biting my tongue when his mannerisms annoyed me.”  She started laughing.  “But in the end, I guess it was his warm, jubilant attitude that drew me in.  I ended up having eight kids with him.”

“Eight kids!?” Kelly’s eyes widened. “Okay, this might be very rude to ask, but…” she leaned in, “How old are you? You look no older than me. Does the low gravity of the moon affect aging? If so, I am so moving here!” She winked with a smile, but she was serious about her question.

With another laugh, Mariko scooted a little closer to Kelly.  “I’m sixty-four.  The gravity definitely has something to do with it, but we don’t know everything yet.  Everyone who was here on the original voyage is still alive.  Dr. Willis–she was our original doctor—thinks I’ll live to be a hundred and fifty.”  She smiled, in a rather intrusive fashion.  “I’d love to have a pretty thing like you here.  But like I said, it takes some getting used to.  Your cells will need to adjust to the low gravity, and you’ll need to get used to the smell of the  dirt—I remember it first reminding me of gunpowder when I came here.”

“That is so interesting! So…EVERYONE from the original voyage is still here?” Kelly lifted her brows—her eyes dancing with many ideas that she could use for stories. “It’s like you all found the kill to immortality. Has anyone died here?”

“Yes, people have died here,” Mariko nodded, “One of the early settlers of New Tokyo wandered too far from the base and got lost.  He tripped and broke his radio, and couldn’t get his foot out of the hole it was caught in, so he ran out of oxygen.”  She shook her head.  “I blame it on a slip in standards.  As fascinating as the whole pioneer thing is, it’s not for people who are careless.”

“Quite amazing! So when was the last time you were on Earth?” Kelly tilted her head as she scooted back into her chair and sat back.

Pouring herself another cup of sake, Mariko shifted so she was leaning on an arm.  “I went back to visit my husband’s family in Vancouver about five years into our stay here.  I hated it.  My mother-in-law scolded me for sitting around all day when I could barely move.  All the time, I felt like I was wearing a suit filled with lead.  And the place smelled funny—like a really strong, grassy smell that was more potent than I’d remembered.  I couldn’t wait to get back to Luna.”  She again scooted closer to Kelly.  “I can’t help but think that trip took a year or two off my lifespan.”

“That is fascinating.” Kelly could only imagine how heavy her limbs must have felt after being in a low-gravity environment for so long, so she didn’t blame her. Mariko’s last statement caused Kelly to furrow her brows. “Just curious, but DOES time move different on…Luna than it does on Earth?” That was something she never considered. “Or did it just feel that way?”

“Let me show you,” Mariko straightened up and cleared her throat.  “Oyasumi!” she called out, and the dome went dark.  “Days here, as I’m sure you know, last about fourteen Earth days.  Of course, we can’t be awake for that long, so our domes simulate night.  Ohayo!”  The dome became bright again.  “We also have sunlight simulators.  Keeps people from getting winter blues.  As for our calendar, well, we just keep to Earth’s calendar for the sake of convenience.”

“Interesting…” Kelly knew she could get sidetracked with so many different questions about this world and how things worked, but she wanted to get to know Mariko as an individual, so she had to set aside a lot of her curiosities and settle on more personal questions. “Now, you mentioned you have eight children. Where are they? Here on Luna or are they on Earth?”

“Oh, they all live in New Tokyo,” Mariko said right away, “They were all conceived here.  If they lived on Earth, they’d be quadriplegics their entire lives.  My three oldest are farmers, two of them work the drill in the water refinery, another studies physics with his grandfather, and my two youngest are builders.  It may have just been the gravity doing it, but I didn’t understand why so many Earth women complain about childbirth being so difficult.”  She smiled.  “I love my children so dearly.  Of course, that’s because I left most of the discipline to my husband.  He had a bunch of younger siblings on Earth, so he really knew what he was doing.”

Mariko enjoyed talking about her family, so Kelly lingered on the topic—wanting to get to know her more. “And where is your husband now?”

“He’s down in the basement, running a few experiments,” she said, pointing to a small hatch in the floor.  “He doesn’t like to be disturbed at all, so he doesn’t mind it when I don’t announce visitors.  Right now, he’s trying to find a way to get more oxygen out of our plants.”

“Ah I see.” Finally though, Kelly felt like she had been sitting for a while. “Do you mind if I walk around?” She rose to her feet. “I’d like to see the view better.” She motioned to Earth in the distance. “Not sure when I’ll be back on the moon.” When Mariko nodded, Kelly drew near to the window and gazed out at this strange way of life. However, her mind remained on the conversation. “So, if anything could come true, what would be your dream for life? How would you like to see all things unfold?” She glimpsed over her shoulder at her hostess briefly before looking back outside.

Mariko stood up and walked to Kelly’s side.  “Well, I would like to see New Tokyo grow a bit, and if possible, I’d like to see us get an actual atmosphere.  But that’d mean increasing the moon’s mass, and the Earthers wouldn’t like that at all since it’d make their tidal waves worse.  I’d like to see my children making families of their own.  Humanity shouldn’t restrict themselves to Earth.  We can do great things.  I doubt I’ll live long enough to see it, but I’d like to see humanity spread out among the stars.”  She stretched her arms, one of them moving past Kelly’s shoulders, but not making contact.  “Listen to me…an old woman who still talks like a dreamy little kid.  It won’t be easy for us to spread out, but it’ll be worthwhile.”

“It is good to dream.” Kelly nodded, glimpsing at Mariko beside her and offered her a reassuring smile. “The day you stop dreaming is the day you die—in heart, at least.” Then she gazed upon the blue and green jewel in the otherwise black sky. “And your greatest fear?”

Mariko held her tea with both hands.  “My greatest fear is that humanity will stop dreaming, that they’ll consider dreams dangerous.  They already tried to send someone out to subjugate us, and said that our lack of government made us a threat.  Funny that they never explained how.  Kind of like how Queen Elizabeth just couldn’t leave Ireland well enough alone.”  She sipped her tea.  “But that fear doesn’t keep me awake.  I think when the Earthers see how we live, they’ll realize that theirs isn’t the only way.”

“So there is no government here?” Kelly motioned to the outside.

Mariko shook her head.  “None.  We’ve never really needed it.  We have a few people who make a living settling disputes, but that’s it.  If they make an unsatisfactory ruling, nobody enlists their services again.  You can’t change people’s basic nature, you can only work with it.  Incentives are as good as it gets.”

“Very interesting.” Kelly mused. She had a lot she could say on this matter, but she sighed because she knew her time here had come to an end. This was all very interesting, and she felt as though she was merely scrapping the surface of the story here, the way of life here. She would gladly spend much more time and even take a tour, but unfortunately that time was not allotted to her.

Kelly turned to her hostess. “I’m afraid my time here has come to an end. I do truly appreciate you taking the time to chat with me and to explain to me things of this life. It’s all very perplexing, but I think I’m beginning to grasp a *little* of it all. I really wish I could say, but maybe I’ll come back for another visit, if you’d have me.” She smiled.

Mariko smiled and winked at Kelly.  “Any time, gorgeous.  Have a safe trip!”

“Thank you!” Kelly smiled but then bowed before vanishing away to her own world with much to contemplate.

<~>~<~>~<~>

Note: Phil Henderson’s book is titled ‘Land of the Rising Moon’, which is planned to be released in December. For more information, follow his Facebook Author Page:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WriterPhilHenderson

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