Nobody can hear a scream in the vacuum of space, or so they say. The stars above lie quiet most nights... then again, they wake up. For those who know when to listen.
I heard the first star beyond the vacuum when I was young. Five thousand years ago... when no one had yet heard of singing ashes or had followed the ships into the Lactyi Desert... never to come back.
I was one of the few left behind. No parents to guide me. My voice was enough. And I didn't let myself be heard by those who listened. Stars looked brighter after the ships vanished. I always thought they had something to do with those deaths.
Swallowing voices, erupting starlight, obliterating any resistance. They look plain and harmless in the night sky. Unchecked, they could end all living things. Stars move imperceptibly; they walk in the dust. And they talk. Not just among themselves.
The stars in our stories are just like these. Those blaring signals to wake up, to get out of deadly explosions. Starshine powers ships, and every crack in a star takes a hundred lives to heal.
I know all this because I've listened. Star language holds no secrets for me. I share it with no one. I let it flow into underworld whispers, gushing like cackles or fearful cries.
Sometimes, I wake up sweaty, thinking they've finally come down. In open daylight. They search among the shadows. Their meetings go unnoticed for now. I tiptoe, and I crawl. I let no star out of sight. Out of mind can turn into undead in a matter of seconds.
And who's to tell how long the stars will put up with us?
In their last song, I heard a note. A tone so different, so cruel. They spoke of us as parasites. No more than worms.
Our ships crumble their dust more each time we land; we've destroyed the lava waterfalls they need to regenerate. And the dust we create is poison to the stars.
A toxic cloud surrounds us and all we do. How long will they let us go on?
How long can we endure giving lives each time a star crumbles to ash?
My parents could talk to them.
I lost that language. I was too young before they left; they didn't get enough time to teach me. In their logs, I found traces; symbols; I recognized some of the words I heard. They could talk to them, steer their will to preserve us, not to kill.
Can they look on us again and see life? I've been trying to teach myself the way of stars, but so far, I'm lacking. I risked going into the light before them once, not again.
My arm was burned, scorched, and still numb.
Patience is not a star virtue. Tolerance is folly to their mind. What could guide them? Who could speak to them once more?
Something creaks, and I suddenly feel warm.
The air shield is activated. Intruder alert!
Bird sounds make a din in the courtyard as several men get caught under an electric shock rain. The waves keep on coming until they're all unconscious.
I did not spare anything in making this place secure.
Talking to stars is a decades-long task. I can't be disturbed without consent, day or night. Who could they be? Am I alone?
'Did you think it would be that easy?' a voice croaks close to my neck.
I feel cold air, a lashing movement.
I push back and touch the wall. I'm in a magnetic field, ten times the power of sound. The man blinks once, tries to reach a knife to my heart. I take his arm and crush him to the floor.
'Who sent you? What are you looking for?'
'You know the star way. You can talk. To them. Dead or alive, I've sent the word. Others will come. You will never be safe again,' he grins.
I feel cold drops of sweat streaming on my back. This secret; I fought so long to keep it shrouded.
'Who wants to kill me? Who paid you to come here?'
'To kill you? Never,' he sneers. 'To take your brain out and find star words, most gladly.'
They don't need me to live. They just want my organs to study everything I've learned. And they could do it in a heartbeat. I know.
I've taught myself many lessons using corpses. But I wasn't the one who ended their lives. I only stole them from their resting place before cremation into the ether.
'Give me a name! Who is it?' I push him harder, and feel one of his arms crack.
He shouts in pain, but I don't stop. I must find out; I'm running out of time.
'He named you long ago. I bet he's sorry he laid eyes on you back then," he spits out.
Who could it be? My father named me, as far as I know.
'You're lying. My father and mother died together in the Lactyi Desert Operation,' I tell him. A doubt starts creeping into the back of my mind... what if... ?
'Think harder. It's not them. Not your parents. At least, not those you know,' he says.
'What do you mean?' I point my laser shells at him. This might be his last offense.
'ERca, the undying roblainrd. The one who almost strangled you as soon as you opened your eyes. Remember him?' he cackles.
'No, you're trying to confuse me. He was destroyed as soon as he touched me. Roblainrds are slaves. They do our bidding since the Maker brought them!'
'He ain't doin' it no more. And he gave you your name. Your parents didn't dare fight it.'
This can't be. The story of my birth is known through the galaxy. My mother, the queen-major, set free all slaves in our dominion to celebrate my coming.
I was named the dawn and the age of sand.
Dune stood my name then, still comes in frightened whispers.
'Dune is not your true name. Star-shadow is your calling. Doomed for eternity. To speak in star words and hear voices of destruction. The world ends with you and the stars. '
What can this mean? I'm not a shadow. I've brought people in the light, tortured them into believing for hundreds of years. I'm no star friend.
And yet, I doubt. Why can I hear star voices when no one can? Why did I always feel I should hide it?
'I'm no star ally. Crawl back to your master and tell him I'll come. No slave conquers his lords.'
I propel the electric shield toward him, burn, and feel flesh searing. I've branded my message on his skin. No voice can I trust to deliver what I want.
'Underskin, under sun, my words will end you. What you can't hear waits.'
It's quiet again. Me and my thoughts. I've teleported him to our dungeon planet. He will get out, but it will take time. And that's precisely what I need.
To hear more stars and understand what he said. Shadow-born, closer to stars? What could this be?
I'll start my search with the caves where my parents lie. No one's disturbed their sleep for millennia.
It's time to unsettle the dust. I will know the truth about the voices. And the stars. Mine... ?
© 2022 Amy Christie