Science Fiction Speculative Lesbian

The star assigned to Naija at birth wasn’t a particularly special star. It wasn’t one of the brightest, or attached to a fancy constellation. Her life would’ve been so much easier if she had an in with the Orion or Andromeda crowds, of course. But still, she couldn’t help but love the distant dim light of Hypellaen, the star that granted her a gentle spirit and positive attitude. She did feel lucky she had a star she could see all year, and every night she made sure to take time to look out her window and thank that sweet, faint light as it cycled across the sky.

The year she turned 25, everything changed.

She’d had a fun night, dinner at her favourite restaurant, and then drinks with her friends at their usual pub. Nothing fancy, but she wasn’t a fancy person. She was everything her star made her: kind, compassionate, caring, always willing to help another person out. Maybe a bit of a pushover, but she’d rather make everyone happy, and that was usually the best way. How could she be anything but grateful, as she tipped her head up to say good night to the star that had blessed her for so many years.

As she looked up at Hypellaen, reciting her familiar manta of thanks, the star… brightened. It brightened so much it made the nearby Polaris look dim. She could almost feel the golden light, the rays stroking her skin, caressing her hair.

It was only after several minutes, when she got out her phone, that she realized her face was wet with tears. She didn’t want to go inside, but she had to know, were other people seeing this? Opening her news app, she saw the top headline had already been updated. As she watched, another article popped up, discussing what may have happened to create such a bright flash. The forum she was on for her star-group was already popping, a new post every minute with pictures of Hypellaen for people not fortunate enough to see the beautiful phenomenon.

“That’ll teach those Polaris pricks!” someone posted in reply to an amateur telescope photo of the gleaming golden light. Naija frowned and flagged the comment. You could always tell when someone was visiting from another section of the forum. No Hypellaen-lit talked like that. Sure, the Polaris-lit were proud of themselves, but they did have a lot going for them. You could hardly fault them.

She skimmed the news article about nova events, explaining how sometimes stars expelled hydrogen and other molecules to create gaseous clouds in space, but she quickly closed it. She didn’t care how it happened. It happened. It happened while she was watching, on her birthday; it happened for her.

She dragged her armchair to the balcony, and wrapped herself up in a thin blanket, determined to follow the star until it was blocked from view.

Naija woke slowly, a crick in her neck. She shivered, but the cool air woke her quickly. She wasn’t sure when she fell asleep, but she’d stayed up for hours, moving her chair to follow the Hypellaen’s path. Part of why she’d rented this place was the excellent view it had of the path Hypellaen was on, especially in the spring months. She stretched, still feeling the glow of her star, like her pores had soaked in the warm light.

For the next few months, she spent most days like this, unable to become jaded to the glow. She also had new status at work, and was a bit uncomfortable with the extra attention. It was nice to be recognized, but she didn’t like feeling like everyone was staring at her.

Her co-worker Ryan, a Regulus-lit who was on the fast track with the Leo clan, made a few comments about enjoying the (subtext: undeserved) perks before the glow faded, but she was used to his comments. And nothing could pop the bubble of her joy, knowing the she saw and was seen.

Of course, the bright glow was temporary. As summer dragged on, astronomers reported the expected dimming had begun. It was hard to tell, since it was gradual, but she couldn’t help being a bit relieved. She had felt the grace of Hypellaen, and she could’ve lived in that moment forever, but the expectations of those around her were a bit exhausting.

It kept dimming, and on her next birthday, and her next, it continued, and eventually returned to its normal state.

But then it continued to darken.

Naija had resolutely ignored the doom-singers, the astronomers who had claimed it was possible this was not a nova but a supernova. The death of a star. The odds were against it, after all. Stars lived to like a billion of years old, and she was supposed to believe this one happened to snuff out the moment she looked at it? But Hypellaen continued to dim, and the chair she’d returned to the living room was dragged out once more.

She knew it was silly, but she felt like if she paid attention, it couldn’t possibly disappear. She just had to keep looking.

Her girlfriend, Myra, tried pulling her away from her vigil. She’d met Myra during those first few months, when everything had been so bright. It was serious, really serious, but it was hard to humour Myra with date nights, or staying over at her place. There were too many trees around her window, and it was hard to get an eye-line to Naija’s star. It made her feel like a traitor. No amount of Myra’s chastising or astronomer’s preaching was enough to convince her.

Until, one day, she could no longer convince herself she could see Hypellaen all.

A long time ago, she’d looked into becoming one of the astrogenetists that could determine a person’s assigned star. It was a complicated mix of math and biology, and the massive amount of formulae to memorize had intimidated her. Hypellaen-lit weren’t great with numbers. But knowing how complicated and precise the field was made this whole incident seem all the more ludicrous. How could one of these astrogenetists who were so educated, so knowledgeable, assign someone a dying star? Maybe this was a different step of the process of making a galaxy? Maybe there was dark matter in the way? She didn’t know what dark matter was, but apparently there was a lot of it, so surely it must block the view sometimes. Right?

Naija fell down a rabbit hole of conspiracy theories, potential scientific explanations, and just plain nonsense as she desperately searched for any answer that lead back to the conclusion that Hypellaen was still there. She couldn’t… not have a star. Everyone had a star.

Her search for answers was complicated by the fact that everyone around her had also become, for no apparent reason, quite difficult to deal with. Her energy was drained by the people in her life, who seemed to expect they could just do what they wanted and she would go along with it. Ryan had long been promoted, but his replacement, another from the Leo clan, was driving her to distraction with his smug attitude. Finally, she had enough, and snapped at him the fortieth time he tried to shove his work onto her, expecting that she would just do it and be happy to help. Did he think she was his personal assistant? She had her own work to do. He looked shocked, but learned fast enough to drop that habit.

Myra was also frustrating her. Why did they always eat what Myra liked? Why did they always go to the movies Myra wanted to see? Naija couldn’t remember the last time they’d done something just for her. When she vetoed Myra’s movie choice, and asked to see something else, Myra looked even more surprised than her coworker had. She and Myra broke up a few weeks later, both confused about why they had been dating so long in the first place. Naija knew she should feel bad, and she did, a little. But she didn’t know how she had never noticed what a bully Myra was, completely incapable of compromise.

Naija was laughing at a particularly sarcastic reply to a Polaris-lit, when she suddenly remembered that comment she’d flagged a few years ago, and her thought at the time. No Hypellaen-lit talked like that. But paging through the forum now, she could see a lot of them did now. She did. Not everyone did, but there were many different voices in the forum now. It used to be a calm place, a little online sanctuary she retreated to. Now it was filled with a multitude of voices a multitude of opinions. It was still a community she treasured, but it wasn’t the place of serenity it had been.

She had been avoiding any article or forum post that discussed Hypellaen like it was dead. They seemed rude and dismissive, talking about a tearing of the soul in scientific terms. But what if it really was gone? What if she saw Hypellaen’s last gasp before it exploded and curled away into a black hole or whatever? Did that mean she had no star? Everyone had a star.

First, she learned if Hypellean had gone supernova, it wasn’t a black hole, it was a white dwarf. Because of the reduced size, it would be very hard to see from earth. As of yet they couldn’t tell for sure if this had happened, due to debris in the system, but soon they would confirm. No one credible seemed debating the issue, and discussed Hypellaen as a white dwarf as fact.

Because Hypellaen was now so small and dim, the light from it no longer reached Earth in any meaningful way. Of course there were billions and trillions of stars, but they don’t all influence people; only the ones whose rays are strong enough to be easily visible with the naked eye. So without the light, the energy and influence Hypellaen gave was gone. 

Naija leaned back from her laptop, an emptiness in her chest. Her light, her constant companion… gone. Obliterated. She almost felt as if her heart had ceased to beat, that her star was her heart, it was her. A person could no more live without a star than without a heart, surely.

At first, this thought was overwhelming. It was too much. She closed her eyes, and tried to go back to her daily life, tried to make herself fit into the edges of who she once was. But it was useless, it was like wearing skin that was too tight.

Eventually she went back to her research. She had to know the truth.

It seemed the last time a star had gone supernova was hundreds of years ago, but back then the study of stars was so primitive: most people considered the idea that stars could influence a person to be superstition. The articles about this event in history noted an increase in unrest over the next decade or so, but things fell back to normal. No one was ever assigned that dead star anymore, the astrogenetists didn’t even consider it. What did that mean? Did she have a new star?

Did she want a new star?

The thought startled her. It wasn’t just loyalty keeping her from wanting a new star. She did still love Hypellaen, the kind and gentle soul of that old star. But she thought of standing up for herself at work, and with Myra. She thought of the multitude of voices on the Hypellaen-lit forum, chaotic but also energetic. Exciting.

She had something new. She had something almost no one else had.

She had freedom.

Naija, and all the other Hypellaen-lit, could choose who they wanted to be. Hypellaen-lit didn’t even make sense anymore, they weren’t lit. The children of Hypellaen were in the dark, but it was a wonderful, mysterious dark. Terrifying, but full of potential. They didn’t have destinies paved out in front of them. She didn’t have to be gentle, she didn’t have to accept others walking over her. She’d learned she actually hated that. She did still want to help people, and something in her warmed at that. She wanted to help people, not because she was led, constrained, to be someway by distant energy and light. It was what she wanted. It was what she wanted.

She could finally be who she chose to be.

That night, she again walked out to her balcony to star at the familiar patch of sky she’d watched for so many years. The darkness still looked empty, like a lacking in the universe.

But she felt gratitude, so much gratitude with all her heart, for the greatest gift Hypellaen had ever given her.

April 11, 2024 21:44

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