Friday, 13 May 2011

Flash Fiction: Starfall


"Hold me."
I wrapped my arms around her, her and the bump, the house still shaking from the distant airburst. That had been London.
In May our group in Oxford received confirmation from the La Palma observatory. Not only was our working theory a good fit for observations, it was the best fit. The excitement swept through everyone at the centre. Our group's work was the next and final step in understanding the forces of our universe. History would record us following and furthering the steps of Leibniz, Poincaré and others.
Leibniz's calculus and laws of gravity and motion described the epicyclic motion of the planets around the Earth and the simpler movement of the Sun and Moon. Poincaré's theory of luminiferous relativity gave space substance, something through which light could wave. His theory of rotational relativity explained the movement of all the worlds. All the worlds, but not the motionless stars. A century after his work we determined that stars remain fixed by maintaining an equilibrium, not because they are fixed in some firmament. The force of their light and their attraction to one another balances the pull of Earth.
A slight buzz of champagne and talk of future work and Nobels kept me later than usual. I arrived home to be greeted by more good news and, for me at least, another celebratory glass. A day to remember.
That was May. A lot can happen in six months. Cosmology rarely graces the headlines. The universe is a simple and ordered place. Where is the news? More detailed work on the observations began to suggest otherwise, with implications both disturbing and newsworthy. Headlines soon rebranded the Centre for Cosmological Studies as the Chicken Licken Lab. The mocking humour fell silent when the constellations started to drift and fade.
Stars have dimmed and fallen before. But, as history tells, these comets are occasional and exceptional. The thousands of other stars remain unperturbed. But stars cannot burn forever. It seems their natural lifetime is around six thousand years. And now they are falling, together.
The house shakes.
"Hold me."

"Starfall" was a runner-up in New Scientist's Flash Fiction 2010 Competition. More background here.

2 comments:

John Xero said...

Nice one, very cleverly played. =)

A very interesting peek into an Earth alternative in so many ways.

Kevlin Henney said...

Thank you!