She’s four years old, wearing footie pajamas with giraffes on them, and she wants the moon. She’s very specific about when and where. She would like to have the moon on a plate with her breakfast. That way she can look at it while she eats, and when she’s done, she can play with it.
We’re standing halfway down the wide driveway. Well, I’m standing. I’m holding her so she doesn’t get the bottoms of her pajama feet dirty before climbing into bed. The soft flannel catches against the synthetic fabric of my housekeeper’s uniform.
When I deployed here as a servant, the daughter surprised me. Our intel caught the deceased wife, but missed the child. And tonight her daddy is away and her nanny has fallen ill, so it is my job to finish putting her to bed.
The lights in the front of the mansion have been doused so she can see the moon and stars better.
The city lights twinkle in the valley below. They’d be doused, too, but her daddy doesn’t have quite enough influence to dim Los Angeles.
“Even if I could get it for you, the moon wouldn’t fit on a plate,” I say.
She shifts against me and holds out a hand against the nearly full moon. “Of course it would, Anna. See? It’s little.”
What do I say to that? My training didn’t cover explaining astronomical concepts to four-year-old humans.
My training didn’t cover anything about four-year-old humans. It’s her daddy who’s one of the keys to our mission. I’ve had lots of training on dealing with her daddy.
“It’s pretty big,” I say. “Even bigger than your house. It just looks little because it’s so far away.”
She reaches for it, and I indulge her, lifting her up against the sky until she squeaks in frustration.
“See?” I say. “You can’t reach it. Neither can I.”
“I know you can get it for me, Anna. Daddy says you do magic.”
In that, her daddy is right. My parlor tricks are magic, here. I’ve used them first to pique his interest, then to keep it. I’ve taken the contact slowly, carefully, giving him the time he needs to digest each small bit of what I truly am and what I can do, encouraging and reassuring him at every step. In other cities, others of my team are doing the same with other scientists and leaders and representatives of popular culture. And when we are ready, we will come forward, and these humans that we have chosen will help the rest to understand and accept us.
But it is slow work, for the humans resist the urge to believe, even in the face of empirical proof.
“I’ve seen you do magic, too,” says the child.
“Really? What magic have you seen?” I’m not surprised. She has occasionally been present when I do my parlor tricks for her daddy. An unavoidable but not serious happenstance.
“I’ve seen you get the moon,” she says.
I blink, then focus on her earnest and very serious face. “What?”
“I saw you.” She ducks her head momentarily. “I couldn’t sleep, and I wanted to see the stars, so I went to the window, and I saw you in the garden. And you called the moon down and held it in your hands.”
I had been communicating with my superiors. She doesn’t sound frightened, so I ask, “What else did you see?”
“You stood still a long time, and I got sleepy, but finally you moved, and you threw the moon back into the sky.” She squirms to get more comfortable in my arms. “I’m cold.”
I increase my body’s temperature and hold her closer as I turn and begin walking through the dark toward the house. The scent of her earlier bubble bath still lingers in her hair, oddly pleasant.
“That wasn’t the moon,” I say. “That was… a flashlight.”
“A flashlight? It didn’t look like a flashlight. It was round all over and not as bright, and why did you throw it back, and how does it stay in the sky? When it went to the sky, it was the moon.”
My training is failing me. Her daddy must be shown again and again, until he accepts what he sees. His daughter looks for the magic, expects it, even.
“It was the moon,” she says, and I cannot deny it—for what she saw was closer to being a moon than a flashlight.
We are nearly at the house, and she turns to me, peering through the darkness at my face. “So when you call it down tonight to play with it, you can just… keep it. And share it with me in the morning.”
When she says this, she sounds like her father, and for that second, I can read her as I do him. To her, the request is absolutely reasonable, logical, and even generous. She’d prefer to have the moon now but is willing to wait until breakfast.
I look at her again. Perhaps it is not the adults that we should be approaching, but the children. She smiles and snuggles into my arms, seeking my warmth against the cool evening air, and I brush my fingers against her cheek.
She sighs and her body relaxes as I mount the steps to the tall front door.
Tonight I shall contact my superiors, relate to them what I have learned. The ease with which human children accept the impossible—the magic—may be a better route to our success. We’d have to retrain our agents, though, and adjust our schedule to give the children time to grow to adulthood.
But a painless contact is worth any cost. We cannot afford to repeat our mistakes. This lovely planet, rich with resources and the untapped potential of these humans, cannot afford a mistake.
And tomorrow morning, if my superiors agree, there will be a small moon on a breakfast plate when the child awakens.