January 31, 2018

Stardust

by: Vivian Zhu

In which a girl sits on the Sun in search for home.

ASTRA has been to many places. Many, many places. Whether that be the tip of the Milky Way, or a tiny, rundown town in Africa, her adventures have always been in search for shelter. For a place she could call home.

How many years had passed since then? A thousand? A billion? Now Astra is the universes she traveled to. She sits on top of the Sun of Universes, watching over the Planets of the Universes, and observing as billions of stars explode. Each thing in her universe is a magnification of other ones—one planet represents others in different galaxies.

This has been her home since forever. But where is her real home? There has been a place, right? A place from a long, long time ago…

***

We are made up of the same stuff as the stars.

                The sun, the moon, the stars. Astra floated down the molten lava of the Sun, feeling the heat of a thousand more as her fingers held the golden liquid.

                “Hey, Sun,” she said, her voice muted in the blackness of space. “How are you?”

                 Her hands were the color of pure energy, faded white and dulled after billions of years of sitting on the Sun. Her once blonde hair, golden and yellow, was blackened into the color of deep space. And the eyes of the girl were no longer warm brown, but clear white with no iris or pupil.

                  The splash of freckles on her face was perhaps the only color in her entire body. The small dots were multicolored, a long time effect from centuries in space. Blue and purple were tucked in the corners of her nose, while soft pink and light teal dotted the frames of her cheeks.

                   Astra wrapped her arms around her legs. Today was worse than the rest—the feeling of loneliness enveloped her insides entirely.

                   “Hey, Sun,” she said absentmindedly, her low voice thoughtful. “Are you ever lonely? Are you ever sad? Do you ever feel like… like there’s something so heavy on your chest that you can’t describe it with one word?”

                    She inhaled sharply. This was a conversation she had held back for as long as she could remember. On the glowing ball of warmth, Astra’s blank eyes of no color felt moist.

                    “What am I saying? You’re not human.” She laughed harshly, but it was cut short with streaming tears.

                     And then it all came out. For the first time in thousands of centuries, her loneliness and desire for home poured out of her. But her tears were not water—they were streams of liquid silver.

                     It was beautiful.

                     Her tears were the same as the stars.

                     And though it was impossible to cry in space, her tears of stars kept streaming down her face, defying gravity and all laws of science.

                     “Hey, Sun,” Astra said, her pale hands reaching to wipe away the silver tears. “You’re not human, so you don’t understand. But I don’t understand why I’m crying either—so does that mean I’m not human too?

                      “What does it even mean to be “human”? What is this place called Earth? Why do I still have memories of a place where I was safe and sheltered?”

                      And when she finally reached her ultimate question, the planets before her shook as her melodious voice rose into a crescendo of volume.

                      “Why am I even here?”

                      In this universe where one planet represented a million others, where one star was the magnification of a billion, why did Astra even belong in a place so desolate and perfect? The planets had no answer as they continued their relentless orbit.

                      “Yes,” she whispered, her voice catching. “Why am I even here?

                     The blazing sun beneath her seemed to shudder. It’s flames of pure energy erupted, engulfing her body in a shower of prickly warmth. Astra was surprised, for she had never felt such a wonderful feeling consuming her body inch by inch. The Sun had never flared, not like this before.

                       Before a word could escape from her lips, the molten star beneath her feet gave way, and then she was falling.

***

                       Astra opened her eyes. She felt an unfamiliar touch against her body, something that was rough and fuzzy and strange. She sat up, squinting at the sudden brightness.

                        What was this?

                        She seemed to have fell asleep. But how? The last Astra remembered was the sudden blast that came from the Sun, then darkness and falling as she plummeted to the unknown. Where was this, though? Her eyes flitted to the bright enclosure.

                        The word came before she realized it. Tent.

                        A tent. And the thing that was covering her was a blanket, the strange cushion beneath her head was a pillow, and the blinding light coming from outside was…

                        The Sun.

                        “What in the world?” Astra breathed. Her voice caught when she stared at a small oval contraption on the right of her makeshift bed. Mirror, she remembered, but the face she saw in it couldn’t be her own. For as long as her memory stretched, Astra’s hair was black from the darkness of space. Her eyes were white, with no pupil color. The girl in the mirror, though, was a gorgeous beauty with wavy blond locks and dark chocolate irises.

                         “Is this… me?” she wondered aloud, her eyes wide. “Is this… home?”

                         A sudden crash from outside the tent startled her. Astra blinked, watching as a girl popped into her shelter. She was young, way younger than her, with smooth chocolate skin and curious almond eyes. Her hair was close-cropped and curly.

                         A man emerged from behind her. He was thin and reedy, and sandy hair blocked out the lights in his blue eyes. “Hey, Astra. Get up.”

                         Astra obliged. “Where am I?”

                         The man raised a brow. “Really? Now? Did you hit your head or something? Gods, Astra, we need you. Stop with the joking. This is Africa, and we have a mission.”

                         She had no clue what he was saying. “I don’t know who you are.”

                         Anger replaced the mild amusement on his expression. Astra flinched, but before the man could strike her, the young girl with curious eyes stopped him. “She’s not lying. You can see it. Astra, do you not remember us?”

                         The girl in bed shook her head. This was too much for her. The only memory she had was the one of the planets and the Sun.

                         Then the world spun upside down and everything went black.