Chapter 26: Oddity
‘- launching,’ TM finished.
The window showed nothing but black.
Hissing, distorted voices whispered down the earpiece into TM’s brain:
‘TM!’ That one sounded like Veggie.
‘It - launched, just - gone!’ Marty, TM thought that one was.
‘Can - hear us?’ Derrida, probably.
‘...’ That’d be Dominika.
‘You came for me?’
TM tried to sit bolt upright, but the straps holding him tightly in wouldn’t let him move. ‘Ziggy?!’
‘It’s me, I think, but I don’t… where are you? What are you doing here?’
‘We made a rocket and put the space rock in it, and now I’m in space, I think, and - what do I do?!’ The gravity of TM’s situation suddenly hit him: he was floating in a cobbled-together hunk of metal somewhere in space, having spontaneously travelled from there to here, no idea how or where or when or what could return him safely to the place he’d started - nor, indeed, how he was (at least for now) failing to die in the hostile reaches of space, since he had no suit and the ship couldn’t be enough to keep him safe…
‘Oh, yeah, sorry, I’m here, but... I don’t really know where here is, or how I got here.’
The ship broke apart around him then, the loosely-joined sheets of metal separating and going their separate ways off into the universe. TM caught the Inciting Incident cassette as it floated past his face.
‘Sounds familiar,’ Ziggy’s voice said. ‘Well, you’re here now. May as well appreciate the view.’
The pieces of TM’s tin can capsule dissipated into the far reaches of space; he pulled himself free of the straps holding him into the chair and let it fall away. He hung there, trying not to think too hard about how he was breathing and not imploding in the atmosphereless vacuum. Then he must have rotated, or perhaps just opened his eyes, because the blackness all around lit up with tiny fireflies dancing around each other.
‘I might have wanted to get away from the whole being-a-star thing, but I’ve got to admit… things could be worse.’ It sounded as if Ziggy were sighing wistfully.
‘All the lights in the sky,’ TM said slowly, trying to touch the whirling fabric of pinprick flames.
‘Not sure exactly where you are, but you might be able to see me,’ she told him. ‘Hang on, I’ll…’ One of the lights in the tapestry dimmed, flickered, then let loose a radiant burst. ‘See me?’
‘That’s you?’ TM breathed, staring at the little star with wonder.
‘Aw, thanks.’ TM could hear Ziggy smiling. ‘You might be able to see Earth from here, if you know where to look. It’s all blue.’
Dominika would know where to look, TM thought. Then he shook his head, trying to clear the fuzz that had come over it. Thoughts of the people back home returned; thoughts of the reason he had come. ‘How do I get you back?’ he asked.
‘Yeah, that’s… not really… y’know.’ The little light that was Ziggy pulsed as if thinking about something very important. ‘I wish I could come back.’
‘I want to. I do. But… I went down. I did that. I was human with you. Now that’s over, and I’m back where the universe says I need to be.’
‘Fuck the universe,’ TM said.
‘I want to come back and live more of a life with you and Veg and everyone else,’ Ziggy told him. ‘I really do, but I can’t spend that life being chased forever. Orion, Altair… they wouldn’t ever let me go. You’d get hurt, and I can’t do that to you.’
‘I don’t care,’ TM declared. Tiny, white-hot droplets of water forced their way out of his tear ducts and drifted off into nothingness.
‘I really am sorry,’ Ziggy said. ‘Believe me, if I could choose my life I’d choose the one I had with you. But this is what I am, and I can’t escape it. I’ll always be shining my light on you all, though.’
‘You really can’t come back,’ TM whispered.
‘I really can’t,’ she agreed. ‘But you never know. You might see me again.’
‘Can I stay here?’
‘I think you’ve probably got to go back, same way as I had to.’
TM took several deep breaths of oxygenless space air. ‘What about - you had a twin or something? Or… are there other stars like you? Ones we can help?’
‘There are always stars popping down to visit,’ Ziggy said vaguely. ‘I can’t tell from up here, to be honest. You and Veggie shine just as bright as any star.’
‘I don’t want to leave you.’
‘I don’t want that either, but -’ Ziggy’s voice cut out in a hiss of interference.
‘Ziggy?’ No answer. TM flapped his limbs, willing his body to move towards the distant star that was his friend. ‘Z?’
The weave of stars was swept away like a cobweb, or maybe TM was sent spinning. Out in the endlessness he saw, flashing before him, the intricate dance of the galaxies, held together by the forces that had put them there. He beheld an enormous spiral, composed of billions upon billions of tiny stars, making its inextricable way towards its closest neighbour, and knew that the two would one day collide and start a new, two-person dance.
‘Tell everyone I love them,’ Ziggy’s voice said, faint in TM’s ear.