Everyone thought it was an illusion, a mass hallucination, and no one mentioned it to anyone else.
Then it was obvious that something was going on and that whatever had been would no longer be.
Sometime around that time the tides started placing boats on the ground and if they were placed back in the water, replacing them somewhere else. The tides started knocking the piles out from under beach houses and floating away docks built at some point to watch the water come and go and exert its slow, gentle magic on the torments of the human mind. Fish were left on shore, gawping at this irregularity and at their abbreviated lives. And then people started getting grabbed by the tides and taken out and away into deep watery ravines that would open and shut with a shattering clap hundred of meters or kilometers towards the horizon. Ships would get devoured in one gulp in these hungry seas. Islands that once communicated with the large islands of the Americas, Africa, and Eurasia (as the deserts between them were washed away never to return) went silent and were believed gone forever. The waters would rise further today than they did yesterday, sweeping areas of the shoreline that had never seen tides and never been drenched except in rain. And each time they rose curious people who had come out to see where all the water had gone were surprised to see the water coming for them faster than they could run. The local authorities told people to flee inland and all of the roads were packed with cars that could go no further until the cars ahead of them had moved on to higher ground. Sometimes and for some people, the cars no longer worked as they had run out of gas and become obstacles to the onslaught of cars and people fleeing the ravening waters and some begged rides, which were either given to them or, when there were too many useless cars and too many fearful people, not. So the people walked uphill and inland until they couldn’t and hoped that would be far enough. It was for some and not for others, who were pulled back to the deeps increasingly cloudy with lives.
And sometime around that time it occurred to the people who watched such things that the smiling face of the full moon no longer beamed down upon them but had turned, at first imperceptibly, then more dramatically, then quickly and presented all its faces, one after another, as if they were frames in a hand-drawn animation from a hundred years ago. Click-click-click, the faces went, a new face every hour, then minute, then second. And the moon started wobbling as it orbited, as a top running down wobbles at both ends as it is about to drop to the floor and flounder through a couple of useless cycles before it comes to a halt. But the moon wasn’t stopping, it was spinning faster and wobbling faster and its ellipsis around the earth was pulling the tides higher and higher, nearly emptying the ocean at its perigees and sucking the shorelines dry at its apogees.
Then the earthquakes started. Mountains split and deserts disappeared in the raw wounds festered into them. Water washed through them and disappeared, returning in plumes of steam and ash. Volcanos shuddered from their naps and spat mud and lava into the clouds, hanging there like giant question marks over the earth.
Then it became terrifying. The moon’s ellipsis shifted subtly and then it was obvious what was happening. It would get further away at apogee but at perigee, it became a huge, leering, spinning, cackling face grimacing into the hearts of those who remained alive, like the corpulent, round-faced relative playing a discomfiting game of peek-a-boo with a newborn; “WHO’S your uncle? WHO’S your uncle? WHO’S YOUR UNCLE!!!”
But all of that was nothing when it finally came so close that it started brushing the edge of the atmosphere with its pock-marked visage. Tendrils of fire trailed behind its circuit and the tendrils were bits of the moon’s face so the craters became more numerous and deeper and the face became more angry and unpleasant with every orbit and more trails of fire became more rocks falling through the sky and pointing incandescent fingers at the places they would impact if they ever arrived. But they didn’t. They just burnt by the hundreds, then thousands and then millions every day as the moon swung closer in its perilous orbit. And the people who were left realized that this was not going to end well. Not at all.
But those who watched such things noticed something odd about the moon as this all happened. They noticed that way up near what was once the reliable north cap a hole appeared, first fairly small, then wider, then deeper, or as deep as the watchers could tell with their telescopes and satellites, which were rapidly being splattered against the hard dome of the air like bugs on a windshield. It was when it became deeper that the wobble had shifted and the orbit had changed and they had seen that there was some kind of apparatus near the north cap and that the hole was extruding a plume of dust up and back onto the surface around the hole. And there may have been some kind of vessel but it was hard to tell as the dust seemed to mask that part of the picture, so maybe there was no vessel or apparatus but the moon was surely doing its prolate dance and scraping the atmosphere and sending these torrents of rocks into the air.
Then the day came when it came too close and the air turned to fire around the moon as the rocks crumbled off and burned into the earth, larger and larger until they did hit the huge remaining islands or the catastrophe of the seas leaping from their abyssal canyons. And the moon braked further and slowed until, finally, the atmosphere joined the fire and burnt as well. And the moon crashed, splitting the earth open and disgorging both cores.
Sometime near the end, it came to make sense to those who watched. They had wondered what had happened to the moons around Neptune and Uranus, Saturn and Jupiter and Mars, and what had happened to those planets before they had disappeared.
The vessel and its apparatus came in, swept up what remained, and moved on.