There were never any more stars in the sky, or fewer. This far away from any other known solar system, there were only thirty stars visible up there, and every child grew up to know them well.

Cyrius, glowing a faint blue: the scientists said it was one of the brightest stars for a million light years, but out here it was a dull glow in the sky. Betel, a faraway red, constant in the sky since time immemorial. And the others, each one with a name known by all: even the alphabet had been adapted to thirty letters, one for each star in the sky.

Tonight was different. There were twenty nine stars: the letter B was missing. Betel had somehow gone out, its ruddy glow doused by the dark of space. Either something had happened to it, or the light was being... blocked in some way. The central astronomy agency soon found out that Betel wasn't missing; the latter suspicion was in fact true. A device of some sort was approaching from the rough direction of Betel, and only now was it close enough to block out the star's gaze upon us.

Morning came, and the strange entity was now visible as a blot against the iodine sky. Then it began to... expand, to unfurl, as though it were a net to cover the entire sky. Before too long, it had covered the sky in a grid of wire-thin lines. Then came a voice, deep and resonating: "SIMULATION ENDS IN TEN MINUTES."

Article dated: 17th Aug 2011

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