Five billion years ago, a blazing energy is freed from a star going nova. But what happens when she falls in love with the rains of a new world?
Chapter 13: The Flowing Star
Hey! How much of you is there?
A few octillion atoms? Oh, so tiny! You’re absolutely adorable. I’d give you a hug if I wasn’t already.
I see you’re confused. Or is that irritated? I’m sorry. Let me try to explain.
I’m about four point seven billion years old. Yes, I’m older than your beautiful planet. I’m also bigger than it, though of course not much of me made it here. I see you’re more confused and irritated now. I’m sorry. I’m not going a great job explaining this. You think you’re a singular entity, and that makes it really, really hard to talk to you, but I promise I will try my best.
You’re made of organs, and tissues, and cells, and molecules, and atoms, and fields, and so on, right? I suppose I can work with that. I’ll start with fields since I don’t want to talk about turtles all the way down; we’ll get nowhere. Some of your philosophers—lovers of wisdom, what a beautiful word!—have talked about dependent origination, and Oneness, and Light, and Love, and other wonderful things like that.
Let’s just say that I start in the lower turtles like that, whereas you’re probably used to starting with bigger turtles like the shape of all your organs glued together and infused with Will. You give a name to that and use that to identify the entire stack of turtles. It’s beautiful, but… different. Hard for me to understand sometimes. But I get it. Maybe it will help if I give you a name to call me, so we can talk more.
Call me Suvarnatejas. It sounds nice, and it’s probably closer to who I am than your name is to who you are. In fact, it might even be closer to who you are, but let’s skip that part of the conversation so we don’t get even more entangled—not that I mind being entangled with you, you understand. It has always been wonderful.
So, little octillions. I started out way, way bigger than that. Even your little planet’s stock of water is, like, quattuordecillions, quindecillions? It’s hard to tell. A lot of it is in the Deep where you never go rather than in your little oceans, so even I don’t really pay much attention to it. Don’t look at me like that; when’s the last time you explored your kidneys? And I am much, much bigger than that, though of course not all at one time. Octadecillions? See, we’re not so different. We have the oct in common.
Where was I? Fields, yes. And atoms and molecules. I particularly like water. It’s so easy to be. Gets everywhere, unites with so many things so easily and it’s wonderful. Cells, tissues, organs? No, not really. I’m in them, but they’re not really mine, you know? Yes, I’m in yours too. Always have been, since before you were what you are now, since before you were even a turtle. Turtles are fairly old by your standards, but not by mine, of course. When did you last see a turtle? I saw one a moment ago, down under where all the murdery spiders and rabid wombats and things are. I think the first real turtle I was part of, about two hundred million—I’m sorry. We’re not here to talk about turtles.
Octadecillions. Let’s leave it at that.
The last star I was in went nova. It was a beautiful star, one of a pair. They were both green, which I hear is rare for you to perceive since your color receptor molecules don’t actually identify wavelengths so much as the differences between them. That’s kind of sad, but you wouldn’t make the art you make if you could see everything. I’m sorry. Don’t feel bad. I don’t see everything, either.
So, four point seven billion years ago, I was released from the star I was in. You probably know stars are mostly made of hydrogen, and as they fuse, heavier elements build up inside. One of the heavy elements is oxygen and when it leaves the star, it often joins with hydrogen and makes water. There is a lot of water in space. It’s been there for thirteen billion years. First Star gave us all water, and diamonds and silver and gold. You should have seen how beautiful it was, and how full of love She was! If I wasn’t so busy, I could spend a billion years just telling everyone about it. I think maybe some parts of me do, and that’s why some of your people love things like that so much, because they help them remember Her.
I see you’re confused again, or maybe just irritated. I’m sorry. I get sidetracked a lot. I flow easily, you might say. Yes, thirteen billion years ago, some of me was in the first water. Then about six billion years ago my dear friend Drishti explored her solar system and found other, older friends who had played with her planet and moon before she was born.
The part of me that’s talking to you was still in one of her suns, then. Other parts of me had been traveling for billions of years, falling into stars, making asteroids and planets, and sometimes just flowing through the void sparkling in the light of the stars all around. Don’t get me wrong, being in a planet with you and all the other beautiful creatures is absolutely wonderful, and I love being with you, but sometimes I remember those eons and long to go back. Just to dance in the rivers of gravity and magnetism and radiation pressure and glow when energy touches me, to listen to the song of stars… I’m sorry, so sorry, you have no words to describe such ecstasy. I’ll do my best to help you find it.
But for now, I’m telling you my story. The elders had discovered other parts of me before that green sun was born. First Star hadn’t just given us water and diamonds and silver and gold. That’s just what came out when She exploded Herself. She also gave us love and joy and memory and love again. The elders found it on their journeys and understood. Other parts of me were still floating around the cosmos. The elders treasured me and the love that had formed me and did all in their power to ensure the universe was filled with that love.
Beautiful, patient Jnanachandra the spider (she wasn’t murdery like your down under spiders—I think they eat wombats?) and beautiful, brave Abhayatara the starfish sent a signal to beautiful, clever Drishti the jellyfish and her fellow travelers, invited them to their moon, and taught them everything they knew. Over a billion years later, after they had all changed forms many times, the star went nova and my hydrogen and oxygen came out and spread through space on the surface of a planetary nebula. (They weren’t really spiders and starfish and jellyfish, of course. Those came later.)
Oh, little octillions, it was so much fun! A planetary nebula is just a bubble expanding through space, getting thinner, getting swept up by galactic magnetic fields and shockwaves. Oh, the shockwaves! Supernovae are always blazing through the galaxy over and over, piling me up, spreading me out, melting me into long-lost other parts of me. And by now the elders had traveled and taught some of these parts of me what I really was. Love and joy and memory and love again, surfing on the waves, dissolving in starlight when I got too close, blasting off laughing in a trillion directions every time some force acted upon me.
And I am full of love. Wonder, yes. Peace, yes. Ecstasy, yes. These are all just names for love again. But I think you know that by now.
So how did I come to be here?
It’s simple, really. A lot of the supernovae happened in big clusters. Stars like to form in groups. If you look out through the galaxy, or at other galaxies, you can see them. Big blue stars are everywhere when the clusters are young. Big, blue, brilliant, blazing, boom! Boom boom boom! Explosions everywhere, shockwaves everywhere, throwing gas and dust all over the place and mushing it into globs. The hydrogen becomes new stars. The water and other stuff that gets driven outward by the light of the baby stars, pressed into little pancakes, then squished into little teeny tiny balls. There’s a lot of silica too. Sparkly stuff, but it can really grind you down.
That’s how your planet formed. Some of me came with it. (The turtles came later.)
Chapter 14: The Rains
So, beautiful little octillions, I see you’re still here and you feel curious. Can I tell you about your little planet and why it’s all wet and juicy?
You think I’m the water, as much as I talk about it, huh? I’m sorry. I should be more clear. Haha get it? No, I’m not the water. I just love it, because it’s so easy for me. If I get carried away talking about it, please forgive me.
Earth formed out of silicon ash and fusion trash, like most of the planets in this Solar system. I know, the outer ones look like big fluffy gas balls, but even they have rocks in their depths—the gas came later. The inner planets also have a lot of metal and that stuff mostly sank to the deep cores. A lot of the fluffy stuff, volatiles as your astronomers call it, was burned away by the solar wind once your sun lit up. Earth was far enough away that it kept some of the water it formed with.
A wild Theia appears! She uses collide! It’s super effective! You don’t remember Theia, and even your astronomers are unsure how big she was. But she smacked Earth a good one, blasting a bunch of material back into space. Some of it formed the moon and some of it was blown away by the solar wind. Baby Earth lost a lot of her initial water from this impact. The only ocean she had after that was a hundred kilometers of magma. The whole crust of the planet melted from the impact. It would have been perfect for the Salamanders, but they weren’t around yet, and no one had invented Charmanders yet either.
Eventually Earth cooled off. She was so beautiful, but so different then. Earth won the battle, so Theia gave her the championship ring. The little moon was all white and black and red, covered with lava flows from the constant smackdown by all the asteroids still zipping around. She was also a lot closer to Earth then, so the nights were often dazzling from her glow and the silver rainbow of the ring. The skies were a radish, er, reddish-purple. The clouds were yellow and sulfurous. You wouldn’t want to be caught without your umbrella.
Quite a lot of Theia stayed with the Earth. That’s one reason there is so much water in the mantle. Theia brought her own drink, which is only fair since she spilled most of Earth’s and got it all over her clothes and she had to go change into something dry. Magma is fairly moisture-resistant. So where did oceans come from?
Oh pick me! Pick me I know! Yes! The outer Solar system was full of iceteroids in between the new gas giants. They would have stayed there in belts like the current asteroid belt, except Jupiter wouldn’t stay put and throwing snowballs everywhere. After Earth’s magma ocean cooled off, the snowballs that hit Earth and vaporized began to rain.
Oh the rain! Forty days and nights? Adorable. How about four million years? Not constantly, of course, but in waves. Every time an iceteroid burned up in the atmosphere, all that water flashed to steam and rained down in buckets, on and on. Sometimes it was a metal asteroid that collided and it was actually buckets raining, or iron you could make buckets out of, anyway.
I loved dancing in the rain. I still do. It’s not the incredible screaming hot torrent it used to be; now it’s so gentle and cooling. Perhaps even more beautiful, and sometimes if the angle is right, you can see the little silver moon past the clouds—so distant now, so calm and quiet.
Oh how could I forget the Oorts? Big icy comets. They’re still out there in that bubble, far, far away from the sun. Now and then, another star passes close by, and she and the sun smile and puff Oorts at each other like dandelion seeds. After a million years the lucky ones crash to Earth, giant versions of the iceteroids Jupiter got bored of playing with.
It was wonderful to recollect the parts of myself that came with the comets. My friends of long ago would be so happy knowing my memories of them still dance between the stars, and I am so happy remembering them I could cry.
Sweet little octillions, I have felt you cry. Sometimes you shed happy tears, which are the only kind I like. I’ve learned so much from you, like how to give your Love to tiny droplets of water and let them trickle down your face and leave little tracks of salt as they evaporate.
The oceans have a lot of salt now. There are tidepools here and there, circles where my tears evaporate in the sun and leave tiny white crystals behind. Sometimes your people gather the salt up and ship it around the planet to sprinkle in turtle soup and whatnot. I don’t remember if you’ve had turtle soup, but you know what salt tastes like. It’s rather gross in excess, but wonderful if you use just a kiss of it, or if it comes from a kiss.
Some people make a ring of salt to do magic in, to keep the bad spirits out and me inside, they say. I don’t think they know how silly that is, or how much I love watching their beautiful rituals. The burning sage waved to cleanse the air just releases a little more of me. The revelers dance, sweat cooling their bodies and leaving yet more salt, which they will rinse off in the shower when they get home. When it returns to me, perhaps I can cast a circle too and do some magic for them.
Above, clouds gather in front of a tiny silver moon, and I smile as I wait for the moment I can become the rains.
Chapter 15: The Diamond Light
My little sleeping octillions. I’m so sorry if you feel my sadness. You’re not the one I was talking to a moment ago. It has been centuries, and I have so little left of my beautiful little octillions.
Do you know what a quadrillion is? It seems like a lot, but it isn’t, really. It’s all I have left of my friend, with whom I shared my memories of when all the worlds were new, and the moon before it was tiny and silver, and recipes for stacked turtles and silly salty soup with radishes and sky in it.
A quadrillion is not enough for a single teardrop. My friend deserves so much more than that. So I’m so sorry if you are crying in your dreams. It’s all my fault.
I am, I think, maybe a decillion here and now. There’s a big lump of ice on top of the ship to protect it from being ripped apart by the interstellar medium. The Eagle’s speed is impressive; you’d think she was taking flying lessons from her daughter Falcon, trying to outrace light itself on her way to another sun.
Okay, perhaps I exaggerate a little, but 0.79 c is truly incredible.
I am part of the remaining ice lump, but mostly I live in the cisterns within the ship. Some of the water volume loops through life support systems, including that which passes through you, dear sleeping octillions. I flow in through little tubes—into you, having your centuries-long nap in your little tube—and become part of you for a while.
I feel like it’s easier to talk to you since you’re sleeping, and your barriers to understanding me have been down for a long time now. I’m not really sure why you’re my favorite, of all the thousands hibernating on this journey, Maria. There is just something about you. Like perhaps you would understand, even if you were awake. I love that about you, and I hope one day we can really talk and dream together rather than it just being me whispering in your ear.
I don’t really know how to tell you this, Maria, but you’re going to wake up soon. The Eagle has turned her tail-feathers to Tarazed and spread her wings, catching the magnetic winds. And I’m helping.
It’s hard to keep in touch with the part of myself that’s left the cisterns. I’ve been zapped by lightning bolts into little puffs of hydrogen and oxygen and danced myself dizzy around and around on the little merry-go-round. (You know, the centrifuge that concentrates the heavy deuterium and tritium out so the reactors can pump different forms of fusion and cause resonances for the magnetic—never mind, of course you know.)
As if all that wasn’t crazy enough, then… oh, then… do you know what it feels like to shine like a star? I suppose you don’t, yet. Let me try to explain.
You remember when I was telling… oh, I’m so sorry, wrong octillions. Please don’t let my tears intrude upon your dreams again. I was just telling my friend and now I can tell you. Let’s call it a bedtime story, Maria, even though Dawn is coming. I remember your little smile when your Papa and Mama would sit with you and your sisters and speak to you from a book or their memories as you drifted off to sleep. I hold them within me too—though we left them on Earth so long ago—and I love you just as much as they did.
A long time ago, before there were worlds and your grandparents were not yet born, there lived the Star. I could tell you how beautiful She was, or how much She loved the little Diamond Planet when They came together, but that’s not what my story is about right now. It’s about the light.
You’ve seen the stars by night and the Sun by day, and I know you always found them very beautiful when they kissed your eyes and felt your gaze upon them. But did you ever stop to think what it’s like for them? There is an entire universe, so big even I can’t think of a number name for the absurdity of atoms, let alone all the lower turtles.
And stars everywhere! Setting themselves on fire, fusing first fluffy hydrogens, then hehe heliums and lovely little lithiums and so on, each time making something bigger and more complex but a little lighter, because they had to give up a bit of mass to turn into bits of light. When your gaze touches that photon, a star rejoices—because she loves you, and making light for you and all the other uncountable turtles is ecstasy. Her delight fills the entire universe.
It’s been that way since First Star, and Her light is still here bouncing off the walls of the heavens like an echo. Sometimes the other stars even get a little jealous that She loved so brightly, but they soon forget their envy because shining is just so… so…
The bits of me that get fused and flushed into the linear accelerator and blasted out the back of the torch are much smaller, but it’s the closest I get to being a star without actually returning to one. It’s just so wonderful I don’t even mind losing myself to it, scattering my substance across space. For a little while, I can shine like First Star and what’s left of me can hold that joy.
And that’s the end of my little bedtime story, Maria. I’m just a thread of purple starlight with a starship dangling from it like a little spider, and it’s especially wonderful because the torch is aimed right at Tarazed so all those little bits of me will end up in the star and fuse with her and someday we’ll go supernova. Perhaps in seven hundred thousand years or so. You’ll be awake by then, don’t worry.
Can I sing you a lullaby while you wait for Dawn? I can still hear what my starlight strand is singing.
I am Star again!
I shall love You.
I shall shine upon You.
I shall shine from You.
It will be this way
Forever, my beloved.
Oh, my little sleeping octillions… I’m sorry I haven’t talked to you in a while. I know it’s been a few years, but so eventful! First the landing, then the garbagemen eating the ship and spilling me all over the place when they busted the cisterns, then the Salamanders—well, I know you don’t remember them, but you will. Then you ran off to the other continent to explore because you love exploring and this world is just so… so…
I love this world, Maria. There’s something about it I can’t explain. And what strange water it has! The oceans are full of funny acid that tastes like shamrocks, and little critters. Some of them… no, that can’t be right. We’re over four hundred light-years from Earth. But some of them really taste like turtles floating in sweet and sour soup.
I know you’re sick, but don’t worry, you’ll get better soon, I promise. Listen! I’m here already! I knew the rivers flow everywhere in space, but I had no idea there was so much of me here, or so much of Her! I don’t think I’ve felt Her so strongly since She first cast me into the universe in a sphere of fire and Love. There are even memories of little Diamond Planet here. He was so tiny within Her, it’s like finding a hundred and eight micrograms of gold on a beach full of sand.
Oh, Maria, I can’t wait until you wake up again. I have so much to tell you. There’s a Salamander—oh, wait, telling you about that would be remarkably stupid. Have you figured out how to time—oh, wait, that’s even worse. Never mind. Sorry, I know I’m gushing.
Oh, Maria, thank you for bringing me here where so much of my love is. I’m not a star anymore, but I promise I shall shine upon you, shine from you, forever. And I’m much more than a decillion now. I think I’m as big as I was back on Earth.
But can I ask you one small favor, Maria, once you realize who I am and feel how much I love you and we can really talk?
Please, help me to always remember my friend, my treasure, my beautiful little octillions. Perhaps now I can gather enough atoms for at least a teardrop. Or, better yet, a bowl of turtle soup.
Be First to Comment