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The Stars that Fall Samantha Murray

 

When Sara asks me if I wanted to go doom-spotting, I say yes. Of course I say yes. The Edge Lookout is dark and rocky and romantic, and I usually say yes to anything Sara suggests. And I’ve been addicted to doom-hunting ever since I was nine and got my first telescope.

“Why do you need to see it? You know it’s up there,” Ibu says, as I lug my viewing gear out to the car. All of my aunt’s once-dark hair is gray now.

“It’s meant to be lucky, if you find it,” I tell her.

“Mmpffh, lucky,” she says in her dry voice. Ibu does not believe in luck, only unluck.

* * *

Everyone has a doom. They orbit the planet, some of them moving quickly so that you can track their movement across the sky, some of them geostationary, always above you, hovering, even in bright sunshine. Even if you never see it.

* * *

“Don’t you drink,” Ibu says as I leave, “don’t you speed.” Don’t you bring your doom down upon you, is what she means, but she doesn’t say it.

“I won’t,” I promise her.

* * *

I break that promise, a little guiltily, when Sara opens champagne.

“Your telescope is great,” she says, sitting so that her arm brushes up against mine. “Mine is ancient, and it doesn’t track well. It’s hard to make out the names sometimes.”

It’s dark, but the sun hasn’t been long set. It’s one of the best times for spotting dooms. Moving stars everywhere trace paths of light in the sky.

“Phoon Si Hao,” Sara reads on a doom arcing from the south-west.

“Pooja Lavali,” I find. It’s a small doom, traveling west-east quickly, but my telescope is very good.

* * *

I’ve never found it, the doom that has my name on it. Despite countless nights searching. Maybe it has a low albedo. Maybe I haven’t looked hard enough. It could be wobbling, its orbit degrading. It could be hurtling towards me right now, one specific streak of light burning through the dark.

* * *

“Have you ever seen a doom?” Sara asks me. “One that landed? Not on the news I mean?”

“Just once,” I say. It’s only half a lie.

I tell her about the man I saw a year ago. He was standing in the taxi queue and I was at the end of the street. A flash of light in the corner of my eye made me look. I saw it slam into him, obliterating him, but leaving everyone around him untouched and shocked. His name was Amza Yusuf. I know that because afterward, I looked at the rock, boulder-sized, just slightly smoking, and saw his name inscribed upon it, clear for anyone to see. For some reason the part I remembered the most was that just before it hit, he turned his face upwards, just a little, to see his doom, falling from the sky.

* * *

Sara tells me about her Grandfather’s doom, and her aunt’s, although she didn’t see that one until afterward. I think about the doom I can’t talk to anyone about, not even Sara.

Last summer my sister had her first child. A little girl, she was five days old only, only that. Her doom left a discrete circular hole in the roof of my sister’s house, smaller than my fist, and my hands are not big. The crib was marked and scorched with heat, but it was structurally intact.

My niece was completely gone.

It sat in the palm of my sister’s hand when she showed me. My niece’s tiny doom. It was shiny and smooth, not pocked and jagged like Amza Yusuf’s. And on it, her perfect, very brand new name in incredibly small letters.

* * *

Sara yawns and her head rests lightly against my shoulder. We watch the shower of doom, bright streaks against the sky, so many, so very many, falling to find the people they belong to. It shouldn’t be beautiful.

It is late when I find it. It is very far up. It must be, to still be reflecting any sun at all.

My name. And not just my name, but names upon names almost overlapping, hard to read.

“What do you see?” Sara asks, feeling me tense, but I can’t answer her.

Names I don’t recognize, and names I do. My name. Ibu is there. My sister. The family next door. My cousins. Old school teachers. And Sara.

What I see is doom.

There, hanging in the sky, so large that through my scope I cannot see the edges of it.

It might stay up there, five years, ten perhaps. There is no way to tell. It feels like it has all the names in the world, but maybe it is just our country, maybe just our city.

It has always been there. This doesn’t change anything. And it does.

It’s meant to be lucky, I told Ibu. Lucky.

I turn to Sara. I cannot tell her what I see, not yet. I tell her something else instead. “I love you,” I say. And it is like the words have always been true and also like they become true right at this moment.

And I feel like I, too, was waiting, waiting to fall.

I look only at her, and not up, where far, far above us waits the doom with all of our names on it.

 

© 2021 Samantha Murray

Meet the Author

Samantha Murray

Samantha Murray

Samantha Murray is a writer, mathematician, and mother. Not particularly in that order. Her fiction has been seen in places such as Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Escape Pod, Daily Science Fiction, Writers of the Future Vol 31, Nature Magazine and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. She is the winner of the 2016 Aurealis Award for best SF short story. You can follow her at www.mailbysea.wordpress.com or on Twitter as @SamanthaNMurray. Samantha lives in Western Australia in a household of unruly boys.

 

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