The Hermit


The Hermit

The sun arced around itself as I drifted away; I was now far enough that I could watch its orbit in full. Mine had broken, and the planetoid that I lived on was now adrift amongst the stars.
The growing field of ink was beautiful, and the gemstones that glowed against the horizon were far enough for me to not worry about floating into them, but close enough that I could still see them twinkle. I tried to grab a handful in giddy delusion.

The open universe was much quieter than the pulsing-crackling of the sun that I’d known so long. I was left only with the humming inside my own ears and throat as I swallowed mouthfuls of nothing. Finally, I thought. There was time to read the wall of pulp novelettes and thick classical tomes that half of my house was made from.
I started on the pulps – they made up most of the collection. I was a little more into them when I first came here, those twentieth century tales of space travel and Martian princesses written on a wave of sci-popularity.

I skipped all the parts mentioning suns. They really ought to have put in a warning.

Time passed, and the pulps thinned to as thick as those stories were. As each one was done with, I hurled it into the air and watched it drift away into small-smaller-nothing. I don’t know why, it was a way of tracking my progress rather than just putting them on another pile. If there was enough atmosphere for me to have burned them, I would have, because I’d immediately noticed how cold the planetoid had become.
The thicker books went much quicker than I’d thought – I guess when I had the momentum from reading 501 shorter books, I found it pretty easy to tear through Poor Fellow My Country and most major holy books. The harder part was launching them out into space – even in the low gravity, my reading-dwindled arms made it difficult to heave them above my head. Eventually, after they had all been done with, I decided instead to stack them into a particularly uncomfortable chair and watch the stars whiz by.

Mine was now nowhere to be seen.

I thought I’d be relieved by that. I really did. But the uncertain clusters of lights did nothing but fill me with a heavy feeling in my stomach. There was nothing left to distract me now, all that delayed my realisation that I truly was adrift. There was nothing freeing about it, just the horror of not knowing what to do next.

Pacing lost its appeal, and I’d thrown every loose pebble into the blackness until the planetoid was so smooth that I nearly slid around on it.
The remaining books crumbled in their overuse.
Where was I going? The silence crushed my windpipe and wore my brain down until it deflated. What now?
Nothing for days, for whatever that was worth – nothing marked the passing of time but the stars that moved across the sky. I built primitive sculptures from the books until they’d been in every possible position. I wished I was grounded again, in orbit around my star. Just something that could exist in the background of my being, a frame of reference, a normality.

It burned through my eyelids as I slept, as if it had come to me in some kind of painful dream – red and bloody as the womb itself, fresh and new. Night had come all of a sudden, bringing day in tow. When I climbed from the pile of ragged pages, I saw that the planetoid had caught a young star at an angle, and was now hurtling around its circumference as fast and exciting as the old. I’m glad I caught its orbit, because I never want to let go. My warmth, my shining light.


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