by Siobhan Gallagher
The stars sang of their loneliness, and Astreya listened. Her heart melted at their pleas, for they had nothing to fill the void between them. So Astreya, sister of the stars, daughter of the wind, dipped her hand into the great pools of galaxies, and collected ice, nitrogen, carbon. She fashioned from these elements fins and a tail, till finally, she had a fish--a gorgeous fish that sailed on the solar winds and left sparkling moon dust in its wake.
The stars were pleased with their new companion. And so, Astreya created a school of fish to fill the many voids.
Of course Caovo, the nebulous nuisance, caught news of her fish, and curious, observed her creating the last of them. He hovered all too close, sniggering to himself. Unease rippled down Astrya’s spine and into her wings. Finally, she had to stop and turned a stormy eye upon him.
“They’re not for you,” she stated flatly.
“You know I would never meddle in your things.” He stretched tendrils of smoke in all directions, expanding his form. “But there will always be something that will.”
“What do you mean?”
“They’re a little too well-crafted, too beautiful. And you know how beauty never lasts.”
Before she had a chance to reply, Caovo had faded into the abyss.
Time passed, her fish multiplied and they were a joy all across the universe. The stars sang songs while the fish swam rhythmically around them, spreading glittery patterns across the eons. If ever a weary traveler of the stars lost their way, they could always count on the fish to lead them back to their homeworld.
But Caovo’s words still rang in Astreya’s mind; a constant ringing that nagged and tore and chewed at her psyche till one day... Space ships, dark and sleek, started netting the fish. First only a few, but as they perfected their skills and as demands for the shimmering fish scales grew, hundreds were being caught every day.
The stars ceased to sing, only wept for the loss of their fishy friends. While Asterya’s own sadness was bitten into frosty anger. How could they? How dare they!
And on cue, Caovo materialized himself from the nothingness that he was, and howled with such laughter, that it shook worlds.
“What did I tell you?” he said. “You should have made them ugly, then no one would want them.”
“There’s enough ugliness in the universe. Why can’t they just...” She seized a rogue planet, sent it spinning straight into a nova near the poacher’s ships. Radiation flared out from the impact, and the ships were left dead in the wake.
“Well, that was unexpected.” Although Caovo had no mouth, his words left the distinct impression of a pout.
Unexpected, but good. She could save her fish, every last one of them; they would never have to suffer again.
Under the gust of her wings, cosmic storms brewed, swirling dust, asteroids and debris. These pseudo-galaxies collided into the dense particles of neighboring star systems, and the shock waves turned axis, evaporated atmospheres, ruptured space stations. Millions of star-travelers lost without communication.
The fish had scattered to the far reaches. The stars were fierce and bright, yet oddly quiet.
The torrent of her rage rose, and she rose with it. Even when the stars sang a soothing tune, like listening to ocean waves, she could not quell this feeling. Maybe she hated, not just the poachers, but all humans as well.
Of course she couldn’t think clearly with Caovo’s constant presence. Like a fog he surrounded her, enveloped her, smothered her. She screamed and fought, her fists coming down on Caovo’s shapeless form-- She hit hardness.
What was this?
She raised her fists again, and it was the same. A barrier.
“This isn’t your universe to wreck,” Caovo said. “I would like something to look at once in a while that isn’t mutilated.”
“Let me out!” She pushed, shoved, banged against the barrier.
“With a temper like that? Never.”
“It was their fault. They hurt my--”
“Oh yes, your pride and joys,” he said sardonically. “If you’re not willing to allow others to ruin them, don’t create them in the first place.”
“I don’t have to allow anyone anything,” she seethed.
Astreya raced all along the barrier, looking for a way out. The universe inside the barrier shrunk; a pocket of itself. She could not reach out to the stars, nor hear their song, let alone the shrill cry of despair.
Silence was such a cruel companion.