Polaris laughed. Caught up in a filmy web, racing through the inky black, the sound burst from her for the first time in centuries. The chime of star laughter is a sound not often heard by human ears; stars are old creatures, their laughter taken ill by decades of monotonous mortal disease. But now Polaris was shaking, rolling over and over in the abyss of space, chuckling and screaming, a shooting flame through the sky.

The thing that held her was a Space Net 1130™, the favorite choice of space pirate poachers, spider threads of silver splayed wide across the night to capture unsuspecting star-things in its wake, a splash of milky dust trailing behind the space pirate’s ship as it went.

Most of the stars had screamed fearfully as the Net approached, shrill pitches cut short by the sudden notion that they might hide from the approaching fearful beast. It is not in a star’s nature to hide. After all, the thing that they do for so many years on end is to shine forth through obscurity. Polaris knew nothing more than being seen, and so she did not hide quite well enough, did not wink out quickly enough. She thought she saw Betelgeuse cut a lazy side step through the chaotic night which was awhirl with the movements of a hundred stars like fireflies down on earth in the summer. She thought she saw Sirius open up his sunny arms and greet the challenge with a reckless grin.

Time stretching on had rendered her old and tired. Every mortal year that passed drew colder her shell, her colors setting like the sun into chilly red and orange. Inside, her heart burned white hot, a painful reminder of youth since passed, of hope endlessly unrequited. So perhaps she had allowed the space pirate to catch her, or maybe her way had been so set as to allow her no change in luminosity. On either hand there lay a captured star.

“I’m flying,” Polaris murmured, her voice breathy like a child’s. Though her back was pressed hard against the unbreakable pearlescent web, and the strands cut into her tough skin leaving angry welts of blue, she saw only the endless heavens before her.

This is what falling feels like, she thought. Polaris had always wondered. With each of her fellows that fell, her curiosity grew. But she was steady and she was true and she had never wavered from her post in the night sky. She had yearned though. As ancient as she had grown, she yearned to know what freedom felt like. Being stalwart and strong is all well and good, but Polaris had never had the opportunity to fly free, to chase the heavens to their end. In her core, she was the child who reaches her hand threw bars. Though it horrified her to think it, Polaris wanted nothing more than to know the brilliant agony of burning out in an arch of wishing flame.

Glancing quickly at her silver cage, Polaris sighed. She was not truly free. Stretching as wide as she could go, she felt suddenly so small.

“Watch it,” she snapped, a wonderfully childish heat of anger filling her as Sirius slammed one long leg into her side. He’d been flailing wildly with the motion of flight, a sort of chaotic dance through the darkness.

“Sorry.” While his expression read sheepishness, his eyes held only mischief. There had been a time when Polaris had fancied herself in love with Sirius and his constant, barking laugh, but that time had passed with Polaris’ belief in childhood things, stored away in her private center to melt with the rest of her dreams. It is a little known fact that stars dream; they have little else to do up there in the silent sky.

Now she felt all of those dreams, so carefully bottled, rushing through her veins in a sudden current. Sirius watched her colors grow flushed, his barking laughter joining her chiming chuckles. All of the young stars drew away from the two of them, growing bluer and bluer in the sea of night.

“Are you scared, Pol?” Sirius was, for once, without laughter. Humor was never far from his black eyes, as deep as the night itself.

“No,” she answered, and it was true. Polaris was excited, enchanted with the sudden unexpected adventure. If Sirius was surprised, he didn’t show it. With a shrug, he found some younger stars to wheedle. Polaris watched him and knew that he was not any more frightened than she. They had had many years to get to know one another, and she doubted that his comment was anything more than a hopeful attempt to find an excuse to fling his warmth around her chilled shoulders.

But Polaris was not so cold anymore. For a few moments, she amused herself by imagining the human chaos at her disappearance. How much trouble these particular pirates will be in, she mused, a ghostly smile carving her face.

“It’s been a long time since I saw you smile, Pol.”

“It’s been a long time since you payed attention, Sirius.” He frowned, and the delicious warmth grew within Polaris. She felt like a youth again, playing mean, masking games with the boy stars.

“I was always paying attention, Polaris.” Sirius’ eyes were burning into hers. Polaris wondered, not for the first time, how he had maintained such a happy spirit for so long. Now, however, she found herself infected with the same spirit, the champagne-like bubbly place within her burning through her veins in a sudden current.

Throwing back her head, Polaris laughed. Sirius watched her with gleaming eyes. There had been a time when he had called her the most beautiful star in the sky. That was before she had learned not to believe it.

Polaris was drowning in rebirth, fire sweeping her all over and over again. The Net progressed through the sky, unaware of the joyous star it held within. None of the younger stars had ever seen anyone so bright, so beautiful. They wondered where she had come from, for the Polaris who had entered the Net was not the same as the one they now knew.

Sirius laughed with her. It had once been his dearest wish to shine white hot with tendrils of laughter alongside Polaris. The Net bumped through a meteor field, slamming the two manic beings together. Polaris’ breath left her in a woosh. She slammed against Sirius’ cold, hard heat. Their flames mixed, twinkling brightly in the mess of silver light, a golden heart in the chaos.

For a moment, they were still and silent. Polaris felt younger than she had felt when she was born, a collection of universal matter. She felt younger than she had when Sirius had first ignited her night, younger than when she had danced with Andromeda in the inky spring, or flirted with Scorpio from afar.

Her stellar core was glowing. In a thousand years, she had not felt this warm and alive. Perhaps somewhere along the ride, Polaris realized what would happen next. Perhaps it was when Sirius took her hand with the same whoop of laughter that had proceeded all his childhood adventures. Lying side by side on the shining Net, they stared at the free floating things in the heavens, dark matter and suspended celestial beings. Their smiles were near identical, though there had been a time when Polaris had been unable to fathom smiling as brightly as Sirius. In the last second, Polaris tried to wriggle free, but Sirius drew their joined fists tight over his sparking heart.

And then, in a blink, a wink of stardust, after thousands of years of waiting, Polaris went supernova, dragging Sirius with her by the hand into wonderfully agonizing freedom.


Post a Comment