This telescope has been in the attic for as long as I can remember. It's tall, taller than me and an old sort of metal, shiny silver. It stands in its own space next to the big window right at the end of the room. Right now, the moonlight spilling in from the massive floor to ceiling window shines right on the telescope and makes it look like there's nothing else in the room.
I pad softly across the wooden floorboards towards the telescope, creaky enough to wake my entire family but by now my bare feet know the places to step in order to keep the silence. This is the first time I've dared to go this close, close enough to run my fingers down the cold metal legs of the telescope, leaving lines in the thick dust. I love this light, dim but bright enough to make everything glow slightly. This time of night feels magical, maybe even more so because I know I'm not supposed to be here. But as I stare through the giant window out at the gleaming full moon and specks that are stars, I feel something settle inside me, peacefulness perhaps?
I want to see those specks up closer, see the surface of the moon. I want to know if Mum was telling the truth, that the moon is really made of cheese. I know this telescope would help me see, I've heard Grandad talking about how he used it to see planets when he was a lad.
So I step closer, reach up and pull the smaller end down to my eye level. It feels like such an incredible moment when I shut one eye and squint with the other into the small hole. When the specks turn into slightly larger specks, and the moon grows in size but is still just as blurry as before.
I step away and frown. Am I doing something wrong? Grandad said telescopes made things clearer, yet I can't see anything better than before. Still frowning, I put my back against the eyepiece and feel around for something. I don't know what just quite yet, but I'm thinking maybe there's something to turn to adjust the settings. Finally I figure out that the eye piece I’m looking through rotates, and everytime I turn it my view changes. Eventually I get it to focus and I can actually see the moon! I can see so many more stars, galaxies, and the surface of the moon! It doesn’t look like cheese, but maybe it’s some kind of outer space cheese?
And in the top left corner there’s this weird grey blur, in the shape of a planet. It doesn’t look like any of the planets I learnt about at school, but it definitely is a planet of some sort.
I gasp out loud. Wait. What if I’ve just discovered a new planet? If I told somebody, like the government or scientists or Mum, I could be world famous! A hero!
I stumble away from the telescope, then look at the sky through the window. I can’t see the weird planet, but maybe that’s because it’s so far away the human eye can’t see it, and that’s why no one has ever seen it before! I look through the telescope again just to make sure and sure thing, the blur is there. Strange I can’t focus on it, but that’s probably because it’s so far away.
In a panicked excitement, I spin away from the telescope and race out of the backroom. This time I don’t even look where I’m running, not caring about the old floorboards giving me away.
Mum and Dad’s room is on the second floor, the one below the telescope room. I shoot down the stairs, nearly tripping multiple times. But I get to the second floor and make a flying leap from their bedroom door onto their bed. They wake up quickly, sitting straight up as I bounce around their legs.
“Charlie? What’s going on?” Mum asks, looking concerned.
“I think I’ve just discovered something world changing!” I cry. “Quick! I must show you!”
Dad rubs his eyes and groans. “What time is it?”
Suddenly Grandad appears in the doorway. “What’s happening?” He asks. “There’s a lot of noise up here.”
“Grandad!” I gasp. “I discovered something incredible!”
Two hours later, after my entire family including our cocker spaniel Harry has had a look through the telescope, the reporters arrive with their giant microphones and cameras.
Along with the reporters, a group of scientists make their way to our door.
“Hello,” the woman leading them says when Grandad opens the door. “We are from NASA.”
They’re welcomed in, offered tea, coffee. They refuse, simply wanting to know about the ‘planet’ I discovered.
“You’ll have to ask Charlie about that,” my Mum tells them.
Nine pairs of eyes turn to me. I swallow.
“Hello there, son,” one of the men says. “So it was you that discovered this ‘planet’?”
They question me for what feels like hours, but the big hand on the clock only moves ten spaces. Finally they ask to be shown to the telescope room, so I lead them up, followed by my family, Harry, and a few of the reporters. The rest are still outside, shouting and crowding against our front door.
When we get up to the telescope room, the scientists crowd around the telescope, examining it and peeking through the eyepiece. I stand by the door, nervously watching them. Mum stands behind me, with her hands on my shoulders, gently massaging them. Grandad is fascinated by the scientists, and watches over their shoulders as they work.
“So, kid.” One of the scientists steps back, beckoning me over. I walk over to them, my bare feet still making no sound on the dusty floor.
“We think you have discovered something great,” he says, his eyes shining. Then he turns and flings the window open, not the big one that I looked out of through the telescope, but a small round one that looks out to the front lawn. This man sticks his head out, and it’s such a funny sight. This old man, with giant glasses, white lab coat and hardly any hair, sticking his head out our little window and grinning madly at the reporters three storeys below. He very much so resembles an old wrinkly tortoise.
“Hey!” He shouts. “We’ve discovered a new planet!”
The next few hours are a blur of reporters sticking their cameras in my face, questions being thrown at me, scientists writing things down and calling people. Mum makes so many mugs of tea and coffee, and Grandad nearly runs his feet down to the bone giving them to everyone.
But finally everyone leaves, and I’m left alone. I tell Mum I’m tired, and that I’m going to my room.
But I don’t, instead visiting the room I spent all morning in. The previously dust covered floorboards are now a flurry of footprints, leaving a path to the telescope. It looks just as magical and glowing as it did last night, even though now the sunlight shines on it instead of the moonlight. I stare at it for a second. The scientists told us they’d come back for it tomorrow to take it to their laboratory. I don’t want them to take it for some reason. I feel like it’s mine, like it’s my discovery.
Stepping closer, I look into it again. I can’t see much because it’s daylight, and the sky outside is bright blue and empty of clouds. But the planet I discovered is still there, in the same position that it’s always been in. I move the telescope to the left, and the planet doesn’t move at all, staying in the same spot. My brows furrow, and I step away from the telescope. It should move, shouldn’t it? I should’ve been able to see more of the planet, the rest of it. So why did it move with the telescope?
An idea suddenly starts to form in my mind, and slowly I step towards the front of the telescope, towards the bigger end with the wider lens. Dread settles in my stomach as I stare at the lens, my reflection warped in the thick glass. There’s a smudge, a light blue colour, looking like a fingerprint. Half of it isn’t there, cut off by the rim of the lens. The smudge is in the same place where the planet is when you look through the other end. Slowly, my hands trembling, I tug the bottom of my t-shirt up and wipe the fingerprint off of the lens. Then I walk back around to the small end and put my eye up to the hole.
The planet is gone.