Long held Estimates Suggest Our star, In main sequence, Will burn For another Five billion Years. And at that time, A roiling Ember, Swollen from Firesworn Devouring Of elements It will Embrace The last trace Of us, The dust that Knit the lattice Of our form, And welcome Us home.
I received my copies of Café Macabre II today and they’re gorgeous! This is an anthology of short horror stories and art by women, curated by author and editor Leah McNaughton Lederman. It includes my short story “The River” which is about the terror of death and the horror we face in life. Beautifully illustrated by Keyla Valerio.
If you’d like to purchase a copy, please visit the following links:
Brenda woke in a cold sweat. The gap in her heavy bedroom drapes let a blade of sunshine through the window that fell across her body, bisecting her. She watched the motes of dust floating in the light for a long time, wanting to delay the inevitable reacquaintance with reality. She could hardly remember the past week. Grief sharpened her memories of her father and dulled almost everything else. She kept thinking of when she was a little girl, feeling invincible, running around the park under her father’s watchful eye, wishing she could go back again.
She’d had an incredibly vivid recurring dream the night before and mulled it over, sitting up and gathering the strength to pour herself out of bed. She could remember a darkness, then a whisper. One that questioned her softly but had an edge to it. A hint of barely contained impatience.
“What would you give?” it asked her. She didn’t know how to reply.
The stars are a fragile constant. Their permanence only an illusion. A trick performed by size and scale and time. Ghosts in the sky.
Our sun is in main sequence. Main sequence means our star is of average size and luminosity. A flickering candle, glimmering in a cathedral at midnight. It’ll take billions of years for it to decay to the point that, when swollen, it absorbs us.
Our minds aren’t made to contemplate time on that scale. Our lifespan, laughably short, stunts our comprehension of it. It becomes an abstract. Knowable but unknowable. Unreachable epochs looming in the deep. Shadows and cinder forever on the periphery.
Light takes one hundred thousand years to reach the surface of the sun from the core. The density inside of our “average” star slows the progress. From the surface it only takes eight minutes to reach us. Standing outside on a sunny day, you are the recipient of something ancient, your skin bathed in relics.
You are also created with them. Calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, iron, carbon, hydrogen, billions of years in the making. The ruins of a long dead star with breath and pulse and synapse and neuron. A cataclysm that laughs.
Neutron star - “a celestial object of very small radius (typically 18 miles/30 km) and very high density, composed predominantly of closely packed neutrons. Neutron stars are thought to form by the gravitational collapse of the remnant of a massive star after a supernova explosion, provided that the star is insufficiently massive to produce a black hole.”
Magnetar - “A magnetar is a type of neutron star believed to have an extremely powerful magnetic field. The magnetic-field decay powers the emission of high-energy electromagnetic radiation, particularly X-rays and gamma rays. The theory regarding these objects was proposed in 1992 by Robert Duncan and Christopher Thompson”
I read once that a magnetar’s magnetic field is so strong it could pull the iron out of your blood from a thousand miles away. It frightened and thrilled me to consider that sort of power. The Cosmos is an unimaginably vast sea full of silent and efficient machines churning and devouring.
I’ve seen people address the universe as if it is some benevolent being with their best interests in mind. “I asked the universe…” they say.
If asked, the universe would answer by atomizing, then ionizing the matter that comprises you.
Existence is the exception, not the rule.
Though the universe may not be vengeful, it is apathetic. That is somehow more frightening as we hurl blindly through space.
We cannot command the universe, bend it to our will, or expect it to be considerate of our desires. What we can do is acknowledge the source of that iron in our blood, the way it was formed.
Over billions of years, as a star burns through its gaseous fuel, it fuses it into heavier elements until finally it produces iron. Iron is the death knell. Iron causes a collapse. This collapse causes a supernova.
The star killing elements are then ejected into space, carried over light years, and deposited in places it can be used to produce complex matter like the blood in your veins.
It is not the universe’s will that you get the job you’ve been hoping for, the love you’ve given reciprocated or that you even exist. But you are part of a stellar life cycle. A sentient artifact of the universe itself. The bloom in the ruin.
Glass is a state of matter somewhere between solid and liquid. Its what’s called an amorphous solid. Glass flows, just achingly slowly. Over eons. While the atoms are more organized than a liquid, they are less organized than a solid. It is not molecularly rigid. It doesn’t crystalize. The molecules will, over vast amounts of time, shift to a more organized state.
But this is not why window panes of medieval cathedrals bulge at the bottom. It is not an allegory for withstanding time, or grace, or bending with the pull of gravity. It is not a study on slow surrender. The bulge has to do with how it was made, and it would take longer than the universe has existed to reorganize itself that way.
Glass breaks. It is still just as much a victim to the entropy trapped inside of it as we are. If there is any allegory to be had, its that we too can shatter when enough force is applied. Accepting the fact that we break is more powerful than pretending we don’t.
We are fragile beings who deserve careful handling. From ourselves and others.
Time is considered the fourth dimension. A force of nature. It is also interwoven with the fabric of space, warped and wobbled by the gravity of heavy celestial objects.
Loss makes us acutely aware of the passage of time, the weight of it like water pouring over us and carrying us away.
The last time I saw my father is at a fixed point in spacetime. That moment hangs suspended, immovable, immutable, and a part of me with it. We have sped away from that point at 130 miles per second for 18 years.
We are now 73794240000 miles from the last I love you. The Milky Way flung from the singularity, inexplicably, irrevocably.
Loss leaves us separated not only by time but an unfathomable distance. My grief, our grief is the long walk back.
There are eighteen Between you and I, Times around an Unflinching sun. In that time stung With cat o’ nine tails, I have been in love twice, And three human beings Brought through me. Baby’s breath from a funeral wreath In a vase by the sink. Baby teeth from A boy who looks Just like me. In summer’s insistent Crematory, You would hate to Spectate silently While my worlds end. And If your bones could weep, If they could bleed Or fight, or if you could Throw yourself Again into the fire, You would, To save me from The Moirai. Six thousand five Hundred and seventy days Since your heart Gave out and I’ve been Pinned against The indifferent earth, Having forgotten The gravity In your voice The last time you Said you loved me. Weak force Fighting Weak force.