Deutschentalk is unique product of the Moon and its culture. It is a hallmark of the Lunarians. They call themselves the Mondenfolk, a pidgin word for “moon people”, a word that perfectly represents the quirkiness of the dialect itself. It is a pidgin mix of Appalachian English and German, a sort of “hillbilly dutch,” as it has been labelled by some. It is not considered a separate language, but is unique enough to be considered a legitimate dialect of American English. It is spoken in a heavy, thick Appalachian — or “hillbilly” — accent mixed with some German pronunciation, sprinkled with pidgin-German words. For non-Lunarians it is remarkably difficult to understand. It is a rapidly dying dialect. Most adults adapt and emulate what they call Eardenfolktalk to avoid the stigma. Most teach their children Eardenfolktalk from an early age and they never learn the Deutschentalk of their culture. It’s just easier that way, I’ve been told. When anti-lunarian sentiment was at its highest, most lunarians disappeared, taking on fake names and identities. It was easier back then. Those that could pass for earthlings did well, the others just met the same prejudice wherever they went.
And some were just stubborn.
Freya Parrish is an heiress. The daughter of a cleaning supply fortune, of all things. She remains humble, but set in her ways. She was the second generation born on the moon, and the last one to survive it. She is tall, well over six feet, white as a ghost, her features stretched like taffy. She is instantly recognizable as a Lunarian. Standing, when she does stand, her back is hunched over and reduces her height to a much more manageable level. She is thin and wiry. It’s not the muscle but the bones that never adapt to the gravity, they say. Her joints are swollen and knobby, and she rubs them absentmindedly while talking.
“Marno aint shoulda never been born. Back then they’s took all them Germans and hillbillies and said ‘Hey ya’ll come on up here and work them mines like you been doing all your life, you get paid.’ They said, ‘Well, I been working them hills for as long as Peter loved the Lord, and I ain’t never got near what you gonna pay me.’ So they went. There wasn’t many, I tell ya. That’s what daddy always said, they ain’t many willing to go to damnation and leave his land behind. Man could get rich on someone else’s land and lose everything, or get poor on his own, and still have something. A man that leaves is a real man or a goddamn fool, ain’t no two ways about it.
“Ain’t nobody know what hydrogen-3 was. And they ain’t give a damn. Truth be told, you could told ‘em there was cheese on that moon and they would still gone, so long as you paying ‘em the same. These were poor folk, broke as the day is long. ‘50s was some hard years, to be sure. But them folk were good folk, real salt-a-the-earth, but damn, they’s as broke as a one-dollar hooker in a fiddy cent town.
Nobody ain’t tell them what it cost. You know, getting to the moon. Cost an arm and leg, I tell ya. Ain’t nobody tell them. They thought they’s getting paid and that money go in them pockets, easy money. You work, you earn. You work harder, you earn harder. Ain’t nobody tell them that they’s gotta pay that money back. They never got back home again. What you call them… ‘dentured servants? Yep, they’s was ‘dentured servants.
“They had men and women up there, both miners. They’d strike, get on that picket line. Miners are used to that. But where they gonna go? Who gonna care about them there troubles they got, ain’t nobody seeing they problems. All sorts of laws and rules in them mines. But men and women do what men and women will do. And they do it so well.
“Marno was born, I think, probably ‘bout maybe 2059 or 2060. Daddy himself ain’t never figgered out when he was born. His momma and daddy were locked up, then died in prison. He wasn’t the last though. They said they can’t have kids, they said they can’t sprecken ever now and then. Well I’ll tell you, ain’t nobody gonna stop that. I’m 45 and I ain’t never gonna stop, s’long as they’s a man around.
“They didn’t allow no ‘cohol back then neither. Said it was a devil spirit, make us wanna sprecken with each other. They weren’t wrong. They had mondenschein back then, but that was all illegal. The law would take it soon as they seen it. They’d take a swig or two, you know, tell you your ‘shine was good, but then they’d always take it. Caused fights, caused children … but it mostly caused fights.
“They always said you could strip paint with it, that ‘shine. Always said you could clean a greased stove, make it shine just like that ‘shine. I think Daddy may been the first one that said, ‘well, why don’t we sell it as cleaner, iffin’it cleans so well, damn near everybody got need for cleaner.’ Everybody still got need for cleaner, daddy was damn right. What you do with cleaner in your own boden, well, son, that’s up to you ain’t it? Machtenshine was born. Some called it ‘cleaner,’ some called it ‘the maid.’ Lot’s of names, it all sold itself.
“And it sold well … people all needin’ cleaner and needin’ ‘cohol. ‘Shining died and them ‘thorities turned a blind eye.
“Within five years, Marno done bought where he was livin’, then bought the neighbor’s place too. Within 10 years, Marno done bought half the colony, bought the food-growin’ business, damn near bought the shippin’ business … one man, 30,000 people livin’ on his land. They’s named the colony after him, was called Colony RV-3a, now they callin’ Marno. Now that’s a man, ain’t no fool there. That was daddy. Smart as they come.
“You see. Them shippers and ‘thorities needed cleaner, so did them colonies. They could get it anywhere, they got it shipped up from Earth. Musta cost them a fortune, eardenfolk don’t work cheap like mondenfolk do. But they coulda gotten it from daddy for next to nothing. They see a smart choice when they see one. So they let him keep making that Machtenshine, and them pockets just kept fillin’ up. They taxed him good, though, but turned they heads away.
“Then 8/21 hit us like a sack’a bricks. It hit us hard. I just gotten into the comm’s guild. Was a journeyman, damn right, too, gotten in two years early at 12. No one gets it that early. Daddy always said you’d work like you came from nothing so that you earned it when it came to you. I’s workin’ on that Vritra program, cutting up them networks from each other, so’s the österlickers19 can’t get in. It saved us from the worst that dämonmaschine20 gave to ‘em. Didn’t save us from the siege.
“He was old, Daddy was. People weren’t meant to live on that damn moon. Hell-goddamn-no people weren’t meant to live there. But that was our boden, where we was born. Makes me think’a them goddamn Eskimos, living up there in the snow, in the cold, they weren’t meant to live there. Try to move ‘em, see what they say. They’d tell you to go on a fast train to nowhere, that’s their boden, that’s where they blood grew. Daddy was the same. He wasn’t gonna leave cause them österlickers decided they’s gonna to try to take what he goddamn earned by goddamn right. He stayed, he said he’s not gonna leave his boden. He was born there, he gonna die there. That was the last time I saw daddy.”
Freya gives a pause. There are no tears in her eyes, but her hunched back shifts in her chair.
“I used my money for good. I gave a home to the mondenfolk when the gov’ment wouldn’t. I paid for them lasers down in Republic of Hawaii so that we can get back to space. I wanna go home. I ain’t never gonna see it. But I hope my nieces and nephews see it. I hope my brothers and sisters get there and maybe remember. I don’t know … The moon, it may be small. It may be gray, and it may be barren, but I tell you what, that damn thing is my home. I’ve paid billions into them Clear Skies program, and they say that the debris be gone in 20 years. Need more lasers, is all. I ain’t seen the gov’ment pick it up, I ain’t seen them United Nations pick it up. All I seen is the Mondenfolk pick up that slack and do what they was born to do: survive, work, and come back home. And I sure would like to give daddy a proper burial.
The whole damn war, it started with a fluke and ended with a nuke, is that a’nuff recollection for ya?
“Now, Imma have to tell you to go now. My bones is hurting. I’m damn near 50, and you know as well as I do, sweetie pie, that’s old age to us Lunies.”
Stephen Armitage is a researcher for the United Nations, journalist, and war correspondent. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Photo credit: Wing-Chi Poon