Coming of Age Drama Science Fiction

This story contains sensitive content

CW: This story contains themes of substance abuse, domestic violence, and graphic imagery

I don’t think that many people can say they’ve ever seen a supernova. In fact, it can be observed that nobody could ever say that they’ve seen such an interstellar occurrence. There are only a select few who are the exception to this observation: one of them is astronomer Tycho Brahe, who recorded Tycho’s Supernova in 1572. Another exception would be Johannes Kepler, who recorded Kepler’s Supernova in 1604. And another exception would be me. I’ve seen a supernova-multiple, in truth: enough to last a lifetime. But at least I don't have the audacity to name them after myself.

These astronomical occurrences go something like this: a star steadily burns throughout the night sky, like a singular candle shining in the midst of a darkened room. The star shines for millions of years, steadily burning its fuel. But, like a candle, eventually the fuel depletes; the wax begins to melt down. Its very existence leads to its own demise. First it burns through the hydrogen. Then the helium. Carbon. Neon. Oxygen. Finally, the silicon. Once the fuel runs out, it has nothing to sustain itself-nothing left to burn. So, in turn, it collapses on itself and the star explodes. 

If I had to describe the resulting supernova, I would say it looks like a firework. Waves of light emit, flowing throughout the dark sea of the universe. Rainbow debris shoots out into the eternal abyss, evidence that a beautiful death exists. 

I distinctly remember the colors of the first supernova I saw: the colors were red and blue. It was the summer I turned six; such a number can never be a good omen. My parents were barbecuing that night: the night I bore witness to the first death.

It began when the summer sun bid its final farewells, making its descent behind the pine Leviathans in the backyard. Mom and I sat on the second-hand rod iron chairs, watching as the fire on the grill danced. Fire’s flaming dress twisted and spun, her red skirts writhing among the graveyard of ash, a heat seducing her audience, coaxing us to come closer, closer. 

My fingers chipped away at the white paint on the chair. Tiny shards of the paint collected under my nails.

“Stop picking at that, would you?” Mom frowned at the now visible sliver of rust beneath the paint. “You’ll ruin the chair.”

Before she could scold me anymore, dad came through the backdoor, bearing a tray of oozing, raw meat clutched between his hands. He came over, setting the tray down next to the grill, presenting his girls with the butchered flesh. The meat was the same shade as the dress I wore, a rosy hue of baby pink.

“We’re eating good tonight!” he exclaimed, grabbing the bloody slabs of meat between his bare fingers and placing them on the grill. The meat sizzled and squirmed amidst the seductress’ flames, and the rosy shade which it bore quickly crisped into a dusty, charcoal black: any resemblance of innocence, gone. The cool summer breeze quickly turned foul, polluted with the aroma of burning flesh. My dad inhaled, greedily devouring the stench with his nostrils. 

The minutes began to pass, and the sun had completed its journey into the day. The watchful eye in the sky had gone, and no longer was there a judge to prosecute the evil activity that can be seen only within the light. I looked up, looking for the eye of Eckleburg that was no longer there. Mom looked up too. The sky: vacant; the world: night

“I’m getting thirsty. I suppose I could do for a drink,” she said.

“Bring me one too,” dad added.

And so mom disappeared into the house, returning only moments later. In her arms were glass bottles, cradled next to her chest as if she were a mom cradling her baby. She approached, the noisy, clinking glasses announcing her arrival. She set the bottles down, one by one, and pulled out two crystal goblets. She set the goblets down as well, and grasping a bottle of wine, popped it open. The cork flew off, landing onto the concrete below. Nobody bothered to pick it up.

She poured the wine into the glass cups, Pinot Grigio for the feminine, Cabernet Sauvignon for the masculine. Pee for mom, blood for dad. The liquid that liquidates. Then, they raised it to their lips, gulping it down as if it were water in a desert.

This process continued as the night progressed. Pour, raise, drink, repeat. Pour, raise, drink, repeat. Eventually, the meat was assimilated into the routine: Pour, raise, drink, eat, repeat. Pour, raise, drink, meat, repeat. The fuel was steadily depleting.

And eventually, their bodies began to sway, like trees in the wind, like flames in the ash. Their feet never found a consensus on which direction to go, but rather shuffled along, drifting here, drifting there. They danced, but there was no music, and no matter how hard they listened, their ears could not find a tune.

“Bring out the speaker,” dad called out, his slurred words hurling at the little girl. 

Oh god. Not the speaker. Not the dreaded little black box, the one that emits a sound, that the emotional call melodies and the evil call music.

And despite my unvoiced protest, I brought out the speaker. They turned it on, selecting the perfect tunes to feed their drunken stupor. I heard, and my parents listened, as the black box cast out its spells and enchanted its listeners, vibrating the rustic, second-hand, paint-chipping chairs with every beat, encouraging its consumers to dance. 

And oh, did they dance.

Pour, raise, drink, meat, dance, repeat. Pour, raise, drink, meat, dance, repeat. 

“Oh, and can you bring me another glass? And another glass? And another glass? And one more glass? And, I promise, just one more glass? And another glass?”

But, eventually, as all things under Time’s steady hand must march to its inevitable death, this foolery was also brought to its demise. Refreshments were all devoured and only the bones remained. Eventually, the fuel ran out. 

“Get me another drink,” dad commanded. 

“And what are you going to do if I don’t?” The stench of alcohol played within her breath.

Mom tilted her head at him, testing him, an eyebrow raised, hand on hip, waiting to see his next move. 

The consequence? They danced.

Dad took her by the hands and twirled her around. He pushed her down into the concrete. He jumped on top of her, knees digging into her chest. He punched her. He grabbed her hair, twisting it around his fist, yanking it out. 

Six year old me jumps up and down. I yell. I scream. Every organ in my chest drops down into my stomach. I watch, in excitement, in fear, as daddy beats up mommy.


He doesn’t. The fuel had already run out. The star had exploded.

I run into the house, searching for mom’s phone. Outside, the music still plays. The sound of mom’s pleas. The sound of dad’s rage. My chest expands, heart writhing back and forth-faster than any child’s heart should ever have to. Black clouds fog my vision. Adrenaline pumps through my veins.

Finally, finally, I find mom’s phone. My body shakes. My hands tremble. I drop the phone. I pick it up. My fingers sprawl about, searching for the correct keys. Finally, though, I manage.

“911, what’s your emergency?” the voice on the other end greets me.

Minutes roll by, and I watch as the star collapses on itself. 

And I saw, I saw as the supernova exploded. 

I saw the colors, the beautiful, vibrant colors. 

The red and blue, the sirens, lighting up the night sky like a firework.

Waves of light emit, flowing throughout the dark sea of the universe.

Rainbow debris shoots out into the eternal abyss, evidence that a beautiful death exists. 

This was the summer that I finally grew up; my innocence charcoaled black. This was the first supernova I saw. 

September 04, 2023 22:00

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