The Other Galaxies 

In the night, the stars are white in a black sea. In the day, when I close my eyes, the stars are amber bursts in seas of crimson. The night stars live in the heavens far away beyond the sky. Where do the day stars live? Where are those amber constellations? The pale blue eyes of the child looked hard into the inscrutable expression of the old grandfather. They live inside of you, said the old grandfather. They are the stars of another universe beyond sleep and dreams. They are the stars of the galaxies that dwell inside your head! 

The Long Voyage 

The strange, conical vessel of smoked chrome, its color indefinable, had crashed into the rough surf on a long deserted beach. A lone naturalist abandoned his observation of night crabs to investigate. Onboard, he found an advanced and yet simple technology and the body of the solitary captain. The consoles lit up and infused the naturalist with instructions. He washed the body in seawater, carried it back on board, and placed it in a casket after wrapping it in dark linens. The cone whirred and whispered, crackling with something quite blue and seemingly electric until a catastrophic explosion of thunder shuddered outside. The vessel lifted off and ascended into the galaxy. The voyage was long. For days or years the naturalist was infused with an epic, or possibly the ship’s log. Moons had cracked, planets had burned, time had warped like wood left in water. The golden dust of nebulae had sung. A transcription of its song followed. It was beautiful but incomprehensible. It trailed off, and then there was silence, as if the song of the nebulae had eaten through the log, eclipsing everything else, until the captain had lost his way and crashed. Through the portholes, the naturalist saw the golden stars, but they were silent. One day, the ship suddenly entered into orbit around a soft green planet marbled with swirls of mocha and vanilla and great black craters. Night fell and only one cluster of lights appeared on its surface. The cone initiated its calm and unhurried descent. It landed sideways in what looked to be the mould of a cone set on rails in a gigantic railway station. Only one humanoid person was there to greet him and the wheeled stretcher on the cold, empty platform with its rusted wickets and luminous, moon-pale analog clock of illegible numbers and sharp, black hands. Dressed in a dark, woollen coat, the beautiful woman had mauve skin, copper hair and mournful golden eyes. She spoke telepathically at first, accustoming him to her language as she led him through the wickets into an abandoned city of brick and stone. They brought the casket to a mausoleum in a cemetery full of willows and maples. She prayed and wept for a moment, then took the visitor by the arm to a steakhouse with the sign of a cast-iron lion. Inside, they dined on rare steak and potatoes by candlelight, served by tarnished androids. Through the windows, he beheld the maze of cobblestone streets, narrow shops and houses, arcades, antiquated lampposts, the distant outlines of castles. Where is everyone? he asked, finally able to converse. They are all gone, she sighed. The day our ship left on its maiden voyage, the afterburner caused a multifaceted catastrophe that annihilated almost everyone. I alone have survived. To return to your planet, you would have to annihilate me. I do not mind, but I fear that you would encounter nothing upon your return to your planet, just as you found nothing here. To travel is to destroy. The naturalist was no longer hungry, and he pushed his plate away to drink his ale in silence, remembering the song of the nebulae. They went outdoors and walked up a great hill in a park overlooking the clocktower and the city. A cold, starry sky swirled above. I am sorry, she whispered, hugging him tightly, rubbing his cheeks with her tears. We never meant to disturb your planet. All of our science assured us that we would find salvation at the end of our travels. The man stared into her golden eyes and hugged her fiercely. Where were you heading? he asked. To Eden, she said. To the morning star. 

The Magellan

One of the last paraloi, a magellan, cruised through the remnant of galaxies at the very edge. The magellan inspected her instruments, gazed through the chronoscopes and chorascopes and made calculations with the logic boxes implanted in her abdomen and skull. Omens seemed to swirl about in the melancholy of the stars she observed and the data she analyzed. The blood orange galaxy atomized in her very face, and it was a miracle that her paralus survived. In another galaxy, a ring of pale blue exoplanets began to smoke and blur and then froze, half-smoking, half-distended, half-iced and still crisply round, but at a dead stop in their orbits, their sun seemingly frozen in amber radiation. She drove hard into the next galaxy to see mauve gas clouds experience a rainstorm of silver phaethons and other particles. Something tempted her to return the way she came. The rainstorm of phaethons went into reverse motion and disappeared. She encountered the blood orange galaxy again, alive and well, where it was not supposed to be in space or time. Lastly, she encountered the pale blue exoplanets, intact, rotating and revolving correctly. Driving on, she saw the blood orange galaxy yet again, once more in tact and in its proper place. The cranioscope registered no imbalances or damage to her neurology or psychology. The chronoscope and chorascope revealed nothing anomalous in time or space. Once again, the blood orange galaxy suddenly burst into flames and vanished. The magellan doubted her own health and the integrity of her machinery. Inside her vessel, she watched television from antiquity. One channel was broadcasting a rerun of a classic film, in which a man tampers with a gaslight to trick his wife into believing she is insane so that he can cover up his crimes. The magellan began to realize what was happening in the universe. She fell asleep and dreamed that she was a tree full of white wolves.

The Observatory

In a distant corner of the universe, an astronomer lost all of his funding within days of building a gigantic observatory with a massive telescope on one of the highest mountains of his planet. Through the telescope he observed and counted twenty six stars, a handful for each of the quadrants–east, west, south and north. This was no more than what could be seen with the naked eye. It was dark out there and disappointing. There were not even enough stars to make imaginary pictures, as one could with cloud formations. Somehow, he had expected more stars.

The Bathtubs

It was not a good analogy, but it was the first thing that came to the mind of the worn out teacher leaning over an astronomical globe and atlas with the young girl. There were blackholes and galaxies. There were new stars and there was emptiness. It was like filling, overflowing and draining countless bathtubs of bubbles and sparkling water. The bell rang and the young girl gathered her textbooks and notebooks into her bag, and stepped out into the afternoon. She surveyed the old street with its abandoned buildings, closed shops, automotive garages, empty lots of weeds and rusted cans, and small humming factories. Coffee cream splashes of a dying sun fell on cracks, dust, stains, warped wood, corrugated steel, tarnish, rust and ash. The world really was dirty, she thought. And yet, who could be taking all those baths up there in the night sky where the stars were so clean, shiny and fresh?