The Stars Are Dying by Francesca Quarto

Published on by Francesca Quarto

Captain's Log:  HMS Star Chaser

Twenty-ninth Cycle, Year of  Apocalypse,  Galileo Sea

There is little time to do more than mark our identity here and the date of The Ultimate Cataclysmic Event.  No time to list the names of my crew, who having served His Majesty with valor, have all preceded me in death.  Alas, my only companion is my ghostly reflection in the glass of my cabin window.  It is clearly visible against the pitch-black-void surrounding the ship.  A never-ending, unbroken night batters my senses and smothers all hope.  Only the stars, like a scattering of shiny pebbles, provide interruption in this vast expanse of darkness.

We have been drifting upon this black sea  for three cycles now; without benefit of crypto-sounding devices or cosmic scanners.  All went blind and deaf just as we entered these dreadful waters.  My First Mate was among the valiant men to leave the safety of the ship to investigate what appeared to be an impenetrable wall of nothingness.  He took a small party including the Chief Engineer, in hopes of identifying the mass of indigo-black, we sailed into.  The rest of the crew and I soon heard sounds of distress a distance from their Starboard departure point.  The bursts of lasers dotted the night as the cries of my men rose-up from below our bow, smashing like screaming gulls upon our sides.  The twelve never returned from the landscape of the void.  I dared not send others in their wake, but there were no volunteers stepping up either.

We searched the waters using the light spilling from our ship onto the black firmament below us.  Not a single trace of the twelve, or their small, doomed Racer was spotted.  My remaining crew became more agitated as we were moved further and further from the area.  It was as if the myth of the Norse sagas, the great Kraken, had sprung up from the deep and wrapped its long tentacles around the Racer, crushing it and all the souls on board, dragging the lot beneath the inky waters.

Star Chaser was unresponsive to the prodding of the Engineer's Mate. He worked relentlessly to move us out of the murky channel that held us fast to an uncharted passage.  It was clear to my remaining crew, we sailed on evil waters and no longer plotted our own course.  

My tenure of service was known to all my men.  I'd like to believe it gave them some comfort in the perpetual night, as we were pulled like a child's toy ship over the flat face of this sea.  But nothing had prepared me for this phenomenon; nothing short of a Perseus Soothsayer could have given me the insights needed to prevail.  None, but a prognosticator, could have provided my crew with answers and quell their primal fears in the face of what happened to their friends.

When we began this expedition, our planet had already endured prolonged distress. World-wide food shortages, ravaging plagues and relentless environmental degradation, reduced all of civilization to mayhem and backward thinking.  The Star Chaser was launched secretly by order of His Majesty, to explore this possible refuge for the remnant life found upon our return home.  

With the loss of all navigational equipment, we turned to the stars, the silent witnesses to our distress. They have guided seafarers of this world for as long as they stood at a helm.  These heavenly bodies were hardly beacons to us while we swam in this dark soup, in fact, they were mere pricks of light through the heavy black curtain draped above us. The ancient Star Charts were brought from my cabin and stretched out on the illuminated wall where I could clearly see their unique patterns. Even though we were held fast in the course designed by this cursed sea, I wished to determine our current location.  This might somehow, point to a final destination. 

I put my Second Mate in charge of assigning crew to study the dome of our constant night sky.  They were to note our position in relation to the known placement of the stars as shown on the old Star-map.  The first cycle passed uneventfully, until the last man took his place at the watch. 

He'd only begun his study of the bleak dots above our ship, when he shouted a garbled warning over his transmitter.  When I arrived with some of the crew, my Second Mate ordered the man to report.  He rode the small cage he was in down to the deck, where I asked for an explanation for his alarm.  His response chilled the hearts of all who watched his pale face, as he answered.

"I saw a star explode sir and before I could take my next breath, two more exploded into fiery ribbons.  Another  did the same as the cage descended sir."

"Was there any indication that these stars were in some sort of cosmic distress, when you began your scan? my First Mate asked.   Deep concern transformed his face into a grim mask.  We all had a sickly pallor from the lack of natural light for so long, but the man standing just outside the cage looked drained of blood.  

"I never detected any other cosmic activity sir, prior to the explosions.  There was one thing though sir.  A kind of humming sound.  It was faint, like it had traveled over a long distance, but I definitely heard something up there."

Much of the crew had joined us on deck by the time the man gave his report.  With little to do on board, there was no concern of deserting their stations.  When they heard about the humming sound, the air around me filled with speculations until a stern word from the First Mate quelled the excitement.  We all knew something was out there.  Something that was capable of destroying the very fabric of this world. Something was killing the stars.

I have, in truth, never felt so vulnerable.  Even now, alone on this vessel, I bare all with calm, because I understand my fate is already written.  The men were sent back to their stations as the First Mate and I discussed the implications of this horrendous occurrence.  If the stars were dying, what of our own puny lives?  We had no defenses against an invisible, destructive force and were already prisoners on a seemingly endless journey.

It is now two cycles since the last crew member vanished beneath the ebony waters, sent by me to find a peace I know doesn't exist.  I've accepted I shall never set foot upon my home world. In fact, according to the Star Chart, I believe little is left in this part of the Galaxy.  Sailing below the eternal dome, I have watched as stars and planets alike are scrubbed from the vastness of space.

After so much time elapsed, the spirits of all on board were at their lowest.  One by one my crew willingly drank the poisoned waters from the sea that holds us in its grip. They fell like trees under the great winds sweeping Mars.  As their Captain, it was my duty to put off my own escape, until the last was gone.  I returned to the observation post, bringing this Log Book to complete.  I sit inside the useless barrier of the cage, listening to the growing humming sound as it pierces the thin atmosphere on this world.

There is nowhere to hide, so I offer myself as a final tribute to all life forms in the Universe.  Better have gone before me, but I wonder what will follow?

Star Chaser -Captain Jes..................











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