By Isaac Yuen
It’s been a thousand days since the Sun died. Our star. My heart. It took the last light eight minutes to kiss the brow of the hill and the house where we once dwelled. Where little feet of twins pattered above our heads. Where the pampas grass in the yard grew tall and nodded in the summer breeze. It takes one morning to pack your belongings into the rental sedan. I’ll call you when I settle in. On that final sunbeam, you rode away. In the driveway, I stood and watched the light fade.
Five hours from highway to ferry and then the outermost isle. Time enough for light to graze Pluto’s surface. Time enough to entertain thoughts of Charon’s embrace. But then and there, the dusk was still suffused with hope, so I turned my back on the ferryman, choosing to look skyward instead, out to the Kuiper Belt where you might yet be sailing. Full of remnant reminders from faraway times and debris that could have coalesced into something once. But where I sought long, you no longer were.
You called later that night, your voice distant and tinny. You said you had crossed the heliopause, the border at which our solar strength, now wan and spent, no longer guarded against the interstellar winds. Later, I would find the math you calculated on napkins to ten significant figures, and worked out to find the precise vector and thrust necessary to attain escape velocity. You couldn’t chance falling back into old orbits. The searing thrills of impending approaches. The crushing lows of frigid departures. You loved and hated that I would have bent time and space to bring you back if I could. That was why you fled on the one constant in a chancy universe. Let me go.
Light takes a week to reach the Oort cloud. A year and a half to go beyond. In the interim, the paperwork and realization set in. Contrary to the belief that the world would instantly freeze without a star, the void is a poor dissipator of heat. Warmth seeps out slowly over the ensuing months, for even while bleeding out, an iron heart beats long and deep. Gradually, the days of charm and satellite fade away. The memories of sky arcs washed in amber and gold. Yet, certain things endure and intensify, for they had never been forged by sight and were governed by other means. Keener now, the tides tugged by an invisible moon. Sharp, the scent of dried lavender from a bygone age. Tightly, we used to cling together against bitter nights. The way you and I once swayed in the dark.
It’s been a thousand days since the Sun died. Last we spoke, you were about to reach Proxima Centauri, the nearest available star. You had hoped, in time, I might do the same. Maybe Barnard, or Ross—Altair seems like the wistful sort. But being wedded to one world and being too slow to flee, I decided instead to fall between the cracks of a fallen realm, into caverns vaulted as high as extinct skies. Currents black and coursing falling ever on. Paths carved by tongues of secret fires. And while this path may never again lead me back into light, I may yet, in time, gain the ways of this underland, a place where speed and years hold no sway, where one can spend a life and a day tracing the veins of mica and silver, divining love from a different source, found only at depth, in darkness, here, amongst the stars below.