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After Constellations Go Dark

In an unexpected act of kindness, a stranger risks their life to help Sidra, who previously thought she was the last person on Earth, see the Aurora lights before she dies.

By R.C. TaylorPublished 3 years ago Updated about a year ago 10 min read
After Constellations Go Dark
Photo by Valdemaras D. on Unsplash

It came at night like all quiet things do.

“Volans?” I ask, a catch in my throat and fear already gripping me when I see how still she is lying on the threadbare rug, “Hunnie?”

A low whine is my only response, a quiet but high pitched sound that cuts off abruptly like a dying radio, and somehow I just know.

There had been a moment two days ago when she had run out of sight through the thicket, but she came back fine, and I never thought another thing of it. But there was a brief amount of time where she was out of my sight and could have gotten into anything.

I place my heavy pack down, arms numb, and just sit beside her, combing through her fur as she pants loudly yet discordantly.

Tears burn my eyes as some of her white fluff comes off in patches in my hands but I refuse to leave her side, resolute that I will be here to comfort her.

It has been 987 days since I had last seen anyone and 228 since I had found the dog that had remained my companion on my journey for human connection. Having been a pilot before the pandemic, with no one around it was easy to commandeer an abandoned plane which I named Apus and go anywhere I wished—something I had wished once upon a time I could do but not like this.

With Apus I journeyed all across the world in search of other survivors—Malaysia, West Africa, even the Amazon rainforest—before I came across her hiding from the rain in an old toolshed in Latvia.

I had hoped to find a person—any person—but instead all I found after years of searching was a lone dog. She was an older poodle mix, not exactly the type of dog I pictured surviving in a post apocalypse, but she was perfect.

“We might be the last,” I remember whispering into her fur, holding her close, as I felt our heartbeats echoing one another, her frantically leaving grateful kisses on my arms, “Want to come with me, huh, Volans?”

The disease, almost like a viral cancer, had ravaged our planet so quickly and thoroughly that it all but collapsed societies to dust. Despite this there had still been people at first, those who lived in survivor camps or secluded themselves for protection. But, eventually, the people I had known and loved and all the animals had become infected and quickly passed away.

Even the forests were all devoid of birds, none left to sing the planet’s swan song.

There were no boundaries between species when it came to the infection; it consumed anything living in its path.

And that’s how I know with certainty, as I watch Volans take her last trembling breath, that I had finally been infected myself.

For a brief moment fear of death makes me angry with myself for ever taking her in but I quickly check myself and squash the emotion. Volans had ended my solitude. Unable to cope with the thought of being the last person alive, I had been on the verge of leaving everything behind of my own volition when I had found her. She saved me. And she was family. A few months with her was better than living out all my days unendingly alone.

I bite my fist to try and stifle my sobs as I look her unmoving form over, already missing her excited yips and hearing them all around me like a ghost of her memory. No more adventures for us.

It takes hours, behind the shack we had found rest in after taking a break from flying, to dig a grave. I'm wildly out of breath and the sand keeps concaving as if there's no solid ground beneath it, making me switch locations several times. The ground doesn’t want to give way to Volans’ grave any more than I want to dig it.

When I finally finish, I heave her close and cradle her to my chest, whispering a broken, “Thank you,” as I place a kiss into her fur before lying her down gently in the hole.

My muscles burn as I painstakingly begin the process of covering her up.

Just as I finish I stake the shovel in the ground when, without warning, I suddenly begin heaving out my guts, my head feeling like it's being split open.

The vomit splatters beside Volans’ grave, kicking dirt flurries into the air.

In between heaving I feel all the grief and anguish build up in me before it tears itself out of my throat in a scream that echoes in the silent world around me...



I turn and see what I have been searching over 900 days for—a person. Right by the large palm tree stretching its leaf fingers towards me.

She’s of short stature, and her afro is like a halo around her face. Despite the heat, she wears dark blue stockings and a green rain coat, her hood red on the inside. Her hands are out towards me and concern is lighting up her brown eyes. She’s across the shore, still a good bit a ways from me despite the fact that I heard her “Hello” as clear as day.

She’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

I want to cry with relief but also rage and grief, and I start laughing hysterically at the irony and while I’m sure I look like a sight to her but I can’t stop.

Finally someone else, and I’m about to kill them with the virus sludging through my veins.

“Do you need help?” she asks.

“Stay back,” I find myself panting, tears blurring my vision as I once again begin retching, vomiting from both my mouth and nose, “I’m infected.”

I want to scream at her, cry and beg her not to leave me alone again. But with effort I don’t. Because her surviving is more important than my comfort. I refuse to be responsible for her death.

I go to put my N-98 mask back over my face but I struggle to pull it up before I begin vomiting again.

“I’m immune,” the woman reveals, much to my disbelief, as she continues to walk forward, “It’s alright. Let me help you.”

“No one is immune,” I bite back, suddenly suspicious of her.

Years ago so called messiahs had pretended to be immune by divine right, gathering cult followings before they, too, were wiped out.

Besides, immunity wouldn’t finally make it’s appearance in humanity’s last hour, would it?

“I’m Amy,” she says. Like my mother.

“Sid,” I reply in turn, “Short for Sidra”.

"Tell me what you would like to do before you…” she trails off.

“Die,” I say at the same time she says, “Let me help you, Sid”.

I feel her icy hand on my feverish forehead then the roughness of a wet washcloth.

I don’t know when we left Volan's grave. My memory feels like it's in tatters.

What do you do when your death is an irrefutable fact?

This isn't a movie. There will be no genius virologist hero swooping in at the end with the cure. This is it.

"Borealis," I say, not sure how long it’s been since she asked the question but answering anyways, "the Aurora Borealis. I want to...I need to least once".

"Then we'll go."

I protest—the last thing I want to be is a nuisance before I die—but she picks me up like I'm nothing, merely a baby on her back.

“We’re the last, I think,” Amy says softly, ruefully, as she begins walking outside, seemingly knowing the way, “Humanity’s last gasping breath.”

“I’ve thought that for so long,” I say, “but then I met you. Maybe it’s egotistical after all to assume that because we can’t find anyone they don’t exist.”

She is quiet, and soon I fall away again.

“My mother was a medic in Afghanistan,” she says at one point as I’m drifting in and out.

I blink in surprise. “Mine as well. War babies, huh?”

She laughs, the sound like swift starlight, then I’m gone again before I can help it. I fear I’ll die on her back while she’s carrying me through the trees.

“I don’t know if I’ll make it,” I confess the next time I wake, existentialist dread and fatigue weighing me down like a boot on my neck. Each breath I take feels like my lungs are laboring a marathon.

“You’ll make it through the night,” she simply promises, so resolute and sure of her words that it comforts me for a little bit.

We settle into a sleepless silence that weighs heavy in the air and this time I feel more clear headed than I have in a while.

I wonder if my fever has broken. I wonder where I am.

“Tell me something you’ve never told anyone,” Amy’s voice implores softly, cutting through the still night and the pretense of sleep I thought we were upholding.

I can’t see her it's so dark, but I feel her hand in mine, warm and alive. My pulse is thudding in my palm and seems to echo in hers.

“I know a ridiculous amount of constellations by heart,” I finally share.

If I squint, I can almost make out the make-believe little lines that trail their way to the next star, forming tales and stories.

“Tell me,” she says simply.

I look upward. The sky is full of constellations and so am I.

Volans,” I trace the constellation in the air though I know she can’t see it, “represents tropical fish that can jump out of the water. They then glide through the air with their delicate wings as they are chased by the predatory fish constellation Dorado. Apus...”

I talk long into the night until my voice becomes white noise for her frantic thoughts and many asterisms later I finally notice that her breathing has lulled.

I wish that I could join her but I know that insomnia has me firmly in its grips with pointy talons until Amy whispers, “sleep” quietly to me and I do.

The next time I wake up, we’re on the beach on a part of the island I haven't been. No one has held me like this since I was a child, warm and secure. She has swaddled me in a thick gray woolly blanket she’s snatched from somewhere. The air, once like a sauna with the oppressive heat, is now bitterly cold.

“Look up, Sidra,” Amy whispers, turning my head upwards when I struggle to do so myself, her hand firmly clasping mine.

“I’m looking, I’m looking,” I say weakly though it takes a lot of effort to open my eyes. But when I finally do light washes over my face, baptizing my body in cool blues and greens.

I laugh, calling out hoarsely for Amy, weak with fatigue and excitement as I watch the lights dance. They’re beautiful.

Her grip on my hand vanishes suddenly.

“Amy?” I call out, my voice hoarse with my fever.


The abandoned beach echoes silently around me, answering back with soft sadness and clarity.

In a haze of delirium I had forgotten that hallucinating was the first sign of infection.

And this moment of clarity before I die almost ruins everything—the lights, Amy—none of it matters and soon I won’t anymore either. And, even if Amy isn’t real, she had been real to me, and I can choose to slip away with the rage of a dying star or in peace. A part of me is actually thankful that with the last of its strength my brain had created something to help me cope with my end.

Looks like Doradas finally caught up to Volans, I think before the aurora lights go dim, waves of light disappearing one by one as if someone is turning off switches and saying goodnight.

And as the light set on me, eating the constellations in its path, so did it set on Earth.

And humanity was gone, just like that—ending in the tiniest blip of confusion, thankfulness, and regret underneath the last constellations anyone would see.

I was here for a moment, and then I was gone, a footnote in history placed right at the end.

Short Story

About the Creator

R.C. Taylor

Part-time daydreamer. Full-time dork.

Follow along for stories about a little bit of everything (i.e. adventure and other affairs of the heart).

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  3. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

  1. On-point and relevant

    Writing reflected the title & theme

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Comments (3)

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  • Cathy holmesabout a year ago

    This is a fabulous story. Well done.

  • Great story

  • KJ Aartilaabout a year ago

    Such a creative and imaginative story - I enjoyed it! :)

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