He was born out of a swirling cloud of gases suspended in space. No one had given him a name yet, so he drew his own; a billion letters long, written in the atoms of his heart. Far off across the stellar nursery his brothers and sisters were waking up – hot bright instances in the cold expanse. They had names too, but no one would ever know them. They were too far apart – at least in physical terms. In time the distance was nothing, for stars can see for billions of years, and they share what they have seen with their brothers and sisters.
He was happy with his siblings, they were all so bright and strong. Their gravity wells drew in rock and ice, even some of the gases they kept from the nursery. These they squished and squashed into balls, which they would throw at each other. It was a brilliant game, the balls made a spectacular noise when they crashed into each other. When they were finished, they picked up all the pieces and moulded them back together. Then they did it again. And again. And again. Over and over for a billion years. When they all started to get bored, the eldest began arranging his toys around him. Everyone agreed it made a very pretty pattern, so they decided to try it themselves. This game was even more fun than the last one. Everyone came up with a different pattern, and they showed them off to their siblings. Some had made little rings out of spare rocks and ice, and they hung these around their toys to make them look prettier. Some even managed to make miniature models of themselves out of the nursery gas, though they were too small and cold to Wake Up like the stars had. The eldest was pleased with his pattern. He had cleared most of the little rocks out of the way, so that he could display his most beautiful toys and nothing would ruin them. He kept some of the little ones though – they whizzed about like the bigger ones had done when he and his siblings were playing.
That was a whole galactic orbit ago; they were too old for those sorts of games now. Many eons passed, the stars changing and perfecting their models. After a while they simply left them to change on their own, just to see what would happen. They found that if bits of ice crashed into the biggest rocks, the ice would settle and melt, forming pools across the surface. Most of the stars thought this looked quite pretty, but in time some of the rocks with water on them started to go all green and murky. The eldest told them not to be sad; he thought the green was pretty, too. He had seen little things moving about in the green, and in the water. He liked to watch them – they changed even faster than the toys did, taking on different forms, learning to live in all the different places they found. It only took them a billion years to escape their toy, joining the stars in space. The eldest was excited, he thought they might be Awake like him. He tried to speak to them, but they couldn’t hear him. They lived so quickly, not even for a second in star-sight. The star could not say one letter before they were gone. In sadness he looked at the toy they had come from. There was far less green now and more grey, and fewer things moved about on it at first. Over time, though, the green returned and cleared away the grey, spreading like solar wind until it once again touched the pools of melted ice. The pools turned blue again, where they had become brown and murky. Before long, new things started moving. Different things. They ran to fill the spaces their forefathers left them, with all the same vigour and ingenuity. Beauty had returned, and the eldest smiled.
Previously published in the UKCCWS Illustrated Anthology Vol. 4 (2017).
Alex Johnson is currently studying for a BA in English and American Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Kent. Never one for individuality, he enjoys long walks on the beach and keeping thick books on his shelf to seem smarter. He has one cat, one brother, one mother and a few other phrases he used to know how to say in French. He would one day like to visit the swimming pool, but first he’ll have to learn how to ask where it is.