Edge of the Universe: #StorySunday

This story was written as part of a 1,ooo words in one hour writing challenge to honor Carrie Fisher after she passed away far before her time just after Christmas. Her voice will be sorely missed but the inspiration she provides will, I think, live on. She was an amazing woman who had no qualms about who she was, age, sex, bi-polar disorder and all and that is the sort of person we should all strive to be, the sort of person I strive to be.

I felt this little story would be a good way to open this new blog both to honor the sort of blog I want to have and the event horizon that 2017 is after the crazy year 2016 was. I hope you enjoy it.

edge-of-the

The first woman had hair the color of Jupiter. A thousand reds twisted back into a messy braid that disappeared into her tattered scarf which wound endlessly around her shoulders and neck, layer after layer. The second woman sat straight-backed and proud, the flames of the campfire dancing in her her eyes that had shattered into galaxies when she had witnessed the death of her own. The third was the oldest, her skin unapologetically carrying a line for every friend she had lost, every struggle she had endured.

“Say something?” the woman with galaxies in her eyes asked, eyes staring unseeingly ahead of her. “I’d like to know who I am spending these last moments with.

“My friends call me Jupiter,” the girl with hair like her name replied.

“Lee-Anne Obela,” the older woman answered.

“Mariah Cassius,” the blind woman said, liking the tones of their voices. Lee-Anne especially had a nice timbre to hers, Mariah thought. It reminded her of her mother.

“What would bring two beautiful girls like yourselves to the end of the universe?” Lee-Anne asked them, stoking the fire with a long stick.

Jupiter shrugged, casting a look over her shoulder at the slowly advancing blackness. It had been millennia since it was discovered the universe was expanding, millennia since mankind had begun to explore the furthermost reaches of the stars. That exploration had resulted in a startling conclusion: the universe wasn’t really expanding. It was breathing. The inhale had ended centuries ago, now it was time for the exhale. One by one the stars in the sky were blinking out as the collapsing boundary of the universe swallowed them up. Jupiter had come to watch. They all had.

“I had nowhere else,” Mariah answered. “I lived in the Alpha Renait District on one of the stations there but…” she trailed off. The Alpha Renait District had been wiped out in a terrible war over mining rights five years earlier.

“What about you?” Jupiter asked, nodding towards Lee-Anne.

The older woman smiled and mirrored Jupiter’s shrug; “seemed like an adventure.”

“Death is not an adventure,” Jupiter whispered, absently rubbing at her shirt where it covered an old bullet wound from her childhood.

“Who says we are going to die?” Lee-Anne said conversationally. “We are women. We have survived quite a bit more than the end of the world just by existing in a universe men are still short-sighted enough to think they rule.”

This earned a snicker from the other two women, each agreeing with Lee-Anne. Jupiter came from an abusive father, Mariah from a world destroyed by two dictators each determined to overrule the other, and Lee-Anne from a planet that had sold women as slaves. None of them needed to explain any of these things to the others, however. They knew the truth of one another just by being women who had come together on a dusty moon at the edge of the universe, waiting for that edge to swallow them up.

“How close is it?” Mariah asked.

Jupiter glanced up into the blackness. It was hard to gauge where the edge started, exactly. But if you stared long enough you could sort of see it. A ripple of iridescence to the blackness that only appeared once you’d let your eyes slide out of focus.

“Maybe a mile up,” Jupiter said after a long moment had passed.

“What do you think is on the other side?” Lee-Anne asked, looking up into the void above them. “I like to think it is something we can’t even comprehend.”

“My daughter used to say it would be like being inside a rainbow,” Mariah whispered, her voice thickening with emotion.

“You lost her,” Lee-Anne said softly.

“Yes. She and my wife…they didn’t make it out of Renait,” Mariah told her. She wanted to cry but her eyes were no longer capable. “No one I loved made it out.”

“I’m sorry,” Jupiter whispered.

“What about you, Jupiter? Do you have family?” Mariah asked, wanting the focus off of her.

Jupiter hesitated a moment before answering; “none that matter.”

“Well, then I suppose we shall have to be one another’s family,” Lee-Anne said into the following silence. “I always liked the idea of adopting children, just never quite got around to it.”

This earned a soft chuckle from the other two women, each more than a little comforted by this woman offering to be their mother in what might be their last moments. All three of them had each come to this place on their own. Jupiter on a ship she’d stolen and built up to withstand the journey. Mariah on a pre-programed ship belonging to a pilot who’d had a bit too much to drink and forgotten to get on. Lee-Anne had saved her whole life to pay for a ship of her own for this journey. None had expected the others to be there when they’d set down on this unnamed little moon, but each was now glad the others were there. Together they huddled under their bubble of atmosphere projected from their individual ships, waiting for the unknown.

“Twenty feet,” Jupiter said. The closer the edge got, the easier it became to see.

All three stood up and, without thinking, stood in a circle and joined hands, heads tilted back and breath held. The little fire flickered merrily between their feet as they waited. Jupiter and Lee-Anne were dazzled by the colors, Mariah dazzled by the faint static she could just barely hear.

“Ten feet,” Jupiter said, her voice shaking a little. All three of them squeezed one another’s hands, ignoring the shaking in all of them.

Mariah was the tallest and so the edge touched her first. She let out a gasp but kept her hands tightly clasped on Lee-Anne and Jupiter as what appeared to be blinding liquid light cascaded down over her head and down her body. Jupiter and Lee-Anne watched in awe until the edge touched them as well, allowing them to look down as light cascaded over their bodies as well, pooling on the ground at their feet.

Somehow it got brighter and brighter until they were entirely swallowed up in it, their fire going out with a whoosh. What was on the other side when their eyes cleared was truly beyond anything they could’ve imagined, even beyond being inside a rainbow.

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