image by: @bmacninho
This story is a response to the following prompt on Reddit:
A year ago all the stars in the night sky went out. Tonight they returned, but none of them were in the right place.
Press ‘submit’ on the portal and our tender is uploaded. The website was glitchy tonight. But that’s ‘job done’. It’s 8pm. We’re half a day ahead of the Friday, midday deadline. And by ‘we’ I mean me. I sent the others home an hour ago. I can relax tonight. No need to come into the office tomorrow. Long weekend doesn’t make up for the extra hours for weeks on end, but it’s something.
Check the phone. Supposed to be seeing Shannon tonight. But no text for about an hour and a half. Last text was from me to confirm I was on track. Can’t double-text. Especially to an ex.
She’s probably going to flake. Shit happens but being totally ghosted by an ex, especially after things went so well two weeks ago – ouch.
But shit does happen. People are still acting a bit weird since the stars disappeared. Obviously, nowhere near as bad as when it first happened. People went loopy for a few months. Religious cult maxing. Orgies. Divorces up. Abortions up. Resignations up. Conception rate rock bottom. Consumer debt giving state debt a run for its money.
I can’t be too critical. I went through that ayahuasca phase. And all the stuff with Shannon. Cheating. Arguing about who cheated first. Then the miscarriage. Then the official break up.
But we all became accustomed to the starless sky. The power of hedonic adaptation still shocks me. Good or bad, we just get used to shit.
Even astronomers and cosmologists. You’d have thought those professions would be emptier than the sky. But no. They became obsessed with studying what was left in the solar system with new vigour. A new set of missions planned to all the planets, even the Oort Cloud.
But people are still acting weird. So it’s important not to take anything too personally. I AM taking it too personally. But it’s important to pretend I’m not.
I say bye to the security guard as I’m walking through reception, looking down at my phone, frantically swiping everything on every dating app, to see if I can save my first free Thursday night for weeks. The app crashes, some sort of network overload. WhatsApp has crashed too. Maybe Shannon has texted me. Maybe I should head to the burger bar anyway. It’s only around the corner and I’ve got nothing to eat at home might as well go.
The security guard isn’t there, weird.
The streets are heavy with idiots. All stood still. So many for a Thursday evening. Something must be on at the arena. Is this the week that Taylor Swift is here?
Get my face out of my phone for a minute. Cars are stopped in the street. The drivers have stepped out onto the road. Everyone is looking up. I ask someone why. He looks at me like I’m an idiot, “Haven’t you heard?” I’ve been at work. “The stars are back.”
I can see two dim dots in the sky, dulled by the city lights and my overstimulated eyes. But that’s just Venus and Jupiter, right? I keep looking. My eyes adjust slowly. I am another gormless mouth-breather blocking the street. Is that another dot of light? Another one perhaps. Are my eyes playing tricks on me?
My phone buzzes. It’s Shannon. “Where are you?” she asks.
“Where are you? You ghosted me.”
She laughs, “I’m at the burger place. All the apps have crashed. Have you seen the sky?”
“I’m looking, but… is it real? Hold on, I’m just around the corner.”
Walking the last block to the burger bar with my neck craned, looking up. Bumping into people. Sorry this, sorry that. Nobody cares. They keep looking up, they can’t turn away. Their universe is suddenly infinite again.
Shannon is outside the restaurant with the staff and all the customers, faces on the sky. I don’t say hello. I take her hand in mine. She brings her eyes down and I think I can see a star glinting in them. I want to believe it.
Then someone trips the power and the city lights go dark for blocks. Everyone around us coos. We look up. The Milky Way stretches across the sky. Glitter scattered over sepia and red fog. Shannon squeezes my hand. We’re so back.
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