The last book was full of stars; maps, pictures, explanations, constellations and stories. Pages of black from which shone bright white moments.
Everybody called it ‘the last book’ because the others they had bought with them had been lost, ruined or burnt for warmth. Sar had kept the star book safe. She read it as often as she could. She knew every map; the position of all the stars, the names, the ancient names; all this she kept in her head. Each night since the Cloud had lifted she had watched the skies. That’s how she knew this one was different,-out of place. It was unlike any constellation in her book. It didn’t move across the sky like the other stars. It stayed the same. A fixed point. There it was again. The same as last time she looked .The others had moved across the sky but the following night there it was again. The same as the night before.
A fixed point meant something. Sar wasn’t sure what it meant but she knew that it was strange and somehow important. “Sig –nif- i- cant” she said aloud pronouncing each syllable separately. She looked again. She still wasn’t sure that she could trust her own eyes. Above her glistened the patterns she had memorised and learned: dead on the horizon shone the unmoving pattern. It didn’t glisten but each light gave out the same intensity.
Across to the horizon was the Gap - black, empty and somewhere from where no one had come or returned.
“Ganymede! ventured Milford interrupting her train of thought. “Or Neptune?
“No, it’s not stars.” said Sar.
“Must be. What else could they be?
“It doesn’t move. I’ve watched it for week now and it hasn’t moved.”
“What do you mean? It doesn’t move?
“Stars move right? Around the sky?
“Yes. I showed you that.”
“Well this one doesn’t. I’ve been mapping it for days now and I’m telling you Milford - it doesn’t move!
She emphasised the last three words.
“Look here’s my notes.”
Milford took her book and stared intensely at what she’d written. He frowned.
“I don’t understand. I can see what you’re getting at but…”
“I’ve been looking and mapping it for days”, she repeated raising her voice to emphasise the importance of this. Milford just wasn’t getting it.
“And in all that time it’s never moved? Never?
“Never. It’s always the same. And look! See? Stars twinkle; they’re different colours but this...
This is weird. It’s like the lights are all the same. Not twinkly. Not coloured. Just dead white and each one as bright as each other. That’s just strange Milford.”
“And you only ever see it low on the horizon?
“Yes! What do you think it could be?
“I’m not sure. Let’s see.” He scratched his head, frowning. “It doesn’t move. The lights are all the same. It’s low on the horizon as if it isn’t in the sky at all…” his voice tailed off and Sar realised that he was as confused as she was.
“So? she practically shouted.
“So? What do I think? he replied How could it be…? No…no…”
They became quiet at the same moment. The prospect of what it might mean weighed down any words they could think of.
It didn’t move. It might not be in the sky.
So what on earth…?