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The Smallest Star


A Not-quite-forgotten Tale of Neverland


            Gliese was beautiful, but she was rather small. In fact, she was the smallest star in the Milky Way. She was so small that, on several occasions after she was born, the nurses misplaced her. This was rather embarrassing, as Gliese’s mother was in charge of that particular nebula. But each time Gliese disappeared, she would eventually come rolling down the hallway and ended up back in the nursery where she belonged. Aside from being a bit dizzy, she was no worse for the wear.

         The moment her parents brought her home, everything there began to revolve around Gliese. Let us look into the nursery—see how frequently her father checks his pocket watch. Is it her bedtime? You see, for stars, there is no night and day. There is only closer to and farther away from other stars. Like all parents, stars must put their children on a schedule, or they will never go to bed and only play. And, just as children everywhere, the longer they stay awake, the angrier they get, until the universe is shaking and close to tearing at the seams.

          The only way for parents to get their children to sleep was to tuck them snugly into a bed of Darkness, sing them a song, and then move slowly away. We have just missed Gliese’s father clumsily tuck her into bed, and now we wait for the song. It begins as a halting whisper, but then picks up speed (and a bit of mass, too). As starspeak is not my first language, we must satisfy ourselves with knowing only the general thrust of the song: something falls, then rises (or is it several somethings?). But the rising is too fast, too far. Something falls again, but is caught by gentle hands, and lovingly placed somewhere (or is it several somewheres?). The hands then speak (or is it a voice behind the hands?), saying that the sky is now settled, with everystar in its place, never to fall again.

           This appears to be a common story told by the stars. No one is quite sure where this story came from, not even the oldest stars. There are, of course, other stories passed on from star to star that claim to explain why they must stay still when they grow up. One such story speaks of stars, a very large tree, two birds, a wolf, and possibly a hammer, but this is difficult to sort out. Another story tells of a single star, whose rapid climb to the farthest reaches of the sky somehow caused an oddly specific ratio of the other stars to fall into their places, while all of the remaining stars were free to wander. But, as stars speak so quickly, it is difficult to tell which of these are genuine stories of origin, and which are made up simply to cause problems for overworked historians.

        Where were we? Ah, yes—Gliese has just heard her bedtime song. She yawns the smallest yawn, closes her eyes, and dims just a bit. Her father glows noticeably but quickly dampens his light so as not to wake this, the smallest of stars. He tip-points away from his darkened bundle of brightness and returns to his wife in their living room, who is now knitting a tiny hat for their daughter. She is especially radiant, as all mother stars are. He drops into his favorite chair beside her and we would forgive him for falling asleep, as putting a child to bed is no easy matter. But every time he begins to nod off, he snaps upright and looks around the room several times before sinking back into his chair. This would be quite amusing in another place, such as a post office, but I am sorry to tell you that it is not all amusing here. You see, while everything is now peaceful in their home, not everything is right in their galaxy. There is an Unspeakable Fear lurking somewhere outside their rather modest—and completely transparent—walls.