Contemporary Fiction Suspense

Saturn's Mystery

By Jalissa Mooney

“How long have you owned a telescope,” I asked Alexa?

“Um,” she peered through the telescope and adjusted the knob, “since I was eight. My grandparents gave it to me when I took an interest in this astrology book from the library. It turned out to be a phase that lasted three months.”

“But you kept the telescope?”

“Hey, when you’re out here in the woods, with only a campfire and a tent, things appear differently than they normally do.”

I still couldn’t believe that I had let her convince me to come out here for the weekend. What were two corporate workers doing out in the wilderness anyway? 

Alexa stood up from her crouching position and we walked back to the campfire. Taking our seats on either side of the tent, we slowly drank our hot cocoa and enjoyed the silence. 

“I’ve actually been doing this at least once a year since I was ten years old,” Alexa said. “My father loved the wilderness and insisted on us having a yearly family trip in the woods. Horrible weekends where we ate dehydrated food and had no toilet.”

I shuttered at the thought, “I don’t even want to think about doing that.”

Alex laughed, “Now you know why I picked the campsite with access to some actual toilets. But somehow, we always ended up having a good time together on those camping trips. I even learned a lot of survival skills. You know, in the case of the apocalypse.”

“Did you bring your telescope out on those trips as well?”

“All the time. It was one of the best parts, you’ll see in a few minutes. Actually, stargazing is best done when you're out here as well.”

“Stars aren’t anything impressive. We see them all the time in the sky.”

“This will be different,” Alexa insisted. “When we are home we don’t see even a fraction of the stars in the sky. But out here, you can see the true face of the universe. We can’t at home because of all the light pollution, it keeps us from seeing them all. The further away you are from all the light, the better.”

I nodded, unsure of what Alexa meant exactly. How were stars so special? Then again, I had never seen a sky full of stars like Alexa was describing. Could it be that amazing?

After a while, Alexa started cooking dinner. She placed a special camping pot holder over the fire and set a pot of water on top of it to boil. As it heated up she added soup stock, meat, and veggies to the mix. After a half-hour, we ate what was surprisingly the best stew I had ever been served. 

“Wow, this is really good, Alexa.”

“Thanks. My mom’s recipe for what she calls, “campsite stew”. She would try to think up a new recipe every year for our camping trips. Almost all of them were complete failures.”

We both burst out laughing. I had to admit, the atmosphere was nice. A warm night by a campfire and homemade food. It might still be a little strange sleeping on the ground at night, but this just might make it all worth it. After we ate, Alexa showed me how to clean the dishes and ensure wildlife didn’t get into any leftovers or other camping supplies. 

“It’s almost time,” said Alexa as she glanced at her watch. 

“Is this whole “star” thing going to be worth it?”

“Oh, you of little faith,” she smiled. “It’s about more than just stars. It’s basically a life-changing experience, and that’s just the basics I’m talking about. Those who are passionate about these sorts of things could stare up at the stars forever and never get bored or run out of things to find.”

“Haven’t they learned enough about the universe yet,” I asked?

“You do realize that the universe is still growing even as we speak? Constantly expanding, a never-ending expansion of space.”

“Oh, right, that little fact. This isn’t really the type of thing I normally get into or even think about really.”

Alexa smiled softly, “I know and you don’t have to. I just thought you would like to see this with me. Besides, neither of us was able to get home this year thanks to COVID. We needed a break from city life.”

I nodded in agreement, Alexa wasn’t wrong. It had been a tough year since COVID broke out and things like traveling were off-limits. With the adjustments at work and the stress of daily life, a little time away was nice. 

“Ok, show me what we came here to see.”

Alexa bent down and peered through the eyehole again. AS she raised her head she was smiling.

“Go ahead and look.”

I bent down and looked through the eyehole. What I saw was one of the most beautiful things I had ever viewed in my life and that included the trip to Paris when I was in college. I was seeing another plant. I mean, I had seen pictures in books and magazines before but, somehow this was different.

“Is that, is that Saturn?”

“Yup,” Alexa replied. “With its rings and everything. The first time I saw it, I was twelve years old. Tonight we are in the perfect spot to view it entirely. Another reason I chose this campsite.”

“Wow”, I whispered and looked again. Suddenly, something white and foggy appeared near the rings of the planet. It twirled with one branch of smoke extended outward, sort of like a dancer extending her leg as she twirled. Then, almost as quickly it disappeared.

I gasped and stood up quickly from the scope. Alexa looked at me strangely.

“What’s wrong,” she asked?

“Um, nothing. I just held my eye too close to the scope and it touched my eyeball,” I answered, raising a hand to my right eye. “Is that how it always looks?”

Alexa bent down for another look. I held my breath.

“Just like that,” she said. “It hasn’t really changed much since its first discovery and photograph. Rings might be in a slightly different position though.”

“Oh,” I nodded and looked up at the sky. What had I seen at that moment? Was it a figment of my imagination or had there really been something on Saturn's rings? But there couldn’t be, right? It’s not like aliens were real and ghosts wouldn’t exist on another planet, right? 

How unusual.

February 25, 2022 00:52

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