Darkest Spots in the Galaxy by Joel Hans

Photo Credit: Agkistrodon Piscivorus

Photo Credit: Piscivorus Pictures

I’m swallowing stars along the way, not only to power the infinity machine, but also so that when you come looking for me, all you’ll have to do is search for the dark spots in the galaxy, and they’ll lead you straight to me.

 

*  *  *       * *   *         *  *  *         * *  *   *      *  *  *      *   * *         *     *         *   * *  *        *   *   * *

 

I’m swallowing stars along the way because I can’t get enough of the way the infinity machine quantum-binds the atoms around me, for a few short moments, to a corner of the living room in the house we used to share. I know how you can feel my presence, this gray shimmer by the window like a ghost. Rest assured I’m still soaring ahead, wondering if there’s much of a difference between being here and being nothing at all.

 

*  *  *       * *   *        *  *              * *  *          *  *  *      *   * *         *               *   * *  *        *   *   * *

 

Your absence hurts, but what you don’t understand is that out here, nostalgia means I need to swallow another star, eliminate another whole generator of light and possibility. Of life itself. I try to comfort myself on the few trinkets of yours I brought along—that old T-shirt of so-many miles you ran, that picture of us atop the remnants of a sunken Venice—but it’s easier to open the bay doors, flip on the generator, say an apology.

 

*  *  *       *     *        *  *              * *             *  *  *      *   * *         *               *   * *  *        *   *   * *

 

I’ve swallowed a star to float in our living room and I see you, and you’re crying, and I whisper an apology that wafts in the sunlight like dust from earth’s crumbling atmosphere.

 

*     *       *     *        *  *                 *             *  *         *   * *         *                *   *    *        *   *   * *

 

It’s true that we were careless, that we cared too much about each other. I cared so much that I agreed to go alone if it meant finding a home for the human race. But really, a home for her, and you. I cared so much I believe when the Agency said the infinity machine would make it feel like no journey at all, when they promised you would be on your way in a few years’ time.

Do you remember that goodbye? It felt to me like what I now know to be swallowing a star, where we could become anything, living or dead or ghost or quantum fiber writhing. It’s just that we never thought it could happen, us connecting in that way, you changing in that way. It’s just that I couldn’t stand the thought of our daughter growing up in a world where she could not first learn to fall.

 

*     *       *     *        *  *                  *                *  *           *   * *         *                 *   *             *       * *

 

I’ve swallowed so many stars I wonder if you, standing on the earth and staring up through a sky clearer than ever, can see my course in the decay of constellations: hydra missing a single head, an old god’s bow rendered impotent, massive bear limping over a missing foot.

 

*     *              *          *                    *              *  *          *   * *                         *   *               *        * *

 

Often I float myself onto the observation deck with the hemisphere-shaped window and I try to find the pixel that represents everything I had ever experienced, and everything you continue to. It’s so small, now, a glitterpiece lingering in a nursery, one that contains her, you, the remnants of me.

 

*     *                   *       *                   *              *  *           *   * *                        *   *                        *

 

In the infinity machine, I find the house emptied and dark. An absence of all that I had once loved. There is no answer, only questions: Are you and her packed into your own craft? Are you joining me? Or have you simply left that possibility behind, taken her to a new life? Do you still love me? Are you flying to me, or are you dead, and is there a difference?

*                         *                           *               *  *                 * *                         *    *                        *

 

The unknown takes on the shape of you I barely remember, the sound and weight of her I have never known.

 

*                                                        *               *                     * *                         *                              *

 

I try not to think of you too much.

 

*                                                        *                                       * *                                                          *

 

Soon a red rock, shimmer of water, glean of atmosphere. I will draw in the dirt on a land with no wind, no water, no erosion, permanent as rock, as steel. Permanent as memory. I will carve out a graveyard in the dirt for the worlds I’ve razed to see you again, for a quantum of your touch, her voice.

 

                                                                                                     * *                                                          *

 

I try not to think of you too much. It’s not working.

 

                                           * *

 

I climb into the infinity machine, and now our home is occupied by another family, a man and a woman and their crawling son, and they must have known I was a possibility, because as I arrive they quiet, hold their breath, and just before I am pulled back along quantum channels light years in length, it is they who form their mouths into apology.

 

                                          *

 

Let me say, even if you are no longer listening: There is a moment, between the opening and the closing, the swallowing, this threshold, where potential is just that. Infinite. It is the consistency of my love for you. Maybe you can experience it if you are not yet a ghost. Even if you are a ghost.

Please, take a marble the size and color of your eye and slip it between your lips, let it tap against your teeth. Roll it around your tongue, let it migrate to the back of your throat. Remember me. Remember what we were, are. Your heart beats somewhere, I know, faster. Let it linger, overtake you. Let it hurt, let it make you panic as you believe it may never leave, one direction or another. As you believe it may kill you. This moment. This is how much I love you.

 

 

Please, close your eyes. My dark will lead the way.

 

 

Joel Hans lives and writes in Madison, Wisconsin — for the time being — until he joins the University of Arizona MFA program this fall. His work has appeared in RedividerNashville ReviewNecessary Fiction and others. He is currently working on a novel about algorithms, epitaphs, and final thoughts.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply