The Exploding Star
She’d woken me in the middle of the night with her chin on my temple. “But that’s not fair,” I whispered to her, “I don’t want you to go.” Rain pelted the bedroom window and she squeezed two tears firmly between her eyes. “By the end of the night, you’ll know why I’m going away,” she replied.
We reached a clearing in the tunnel and sped off toward the shoulder of the expressway. “What are you doing? You can’t stop here,” I said as the car neared the river. “Stop being a baby. Come on,” she said. A big eighteen-wheeler truck sounded its horn as we veered right off the road and onto the bumpy foliage beside the woods. She put her hair in a bun before opening the door.
The bridge wobbled under us and I saw a quarter drop deep into the rainy river below. “Over there is where we’re going,” she told me, pointing to some gigantic buildings in the east. “How long have you been keeping this from me? Weeks? Months?” I asked, tugging on her raincoat to stop her. “It doesn’t matter,” she replied, “this is more important.” We finished crossing the bridge and walked downward into the the bowels of the big industrial cityscape. Smoke billowed out from chimneytops, dense and yellow-colored from the foglights. “You and I are important, too,” I yelled ahead.
We got up on top of the tallest building in the city. She grabbed my hand. “I’m going on the Sunday after next,” she said. Her face was full of rain, and the droplets were exploding onto her cheeks from the surface of my polyurethane jacket. “Where?” I said. She pointed up beyond the moon. “I’m going to be part of the first mission,” she said with her pointer finger extended, “They need me, I’m the last one with the blood type.” There was a lightning bolt in the sky.
“You’re going with them? So you and I are going to end like this?” I shouted. She grabbed my jacket collar and turned me around, guiding my head until it was aligned with something straight across the tops of the buildings. She let her hands drop from my shoulders and down to my waist, squeezing onto me tightly from behind. “What is that?” I asked.
Out on the perimeter of the clouds, just hanging there, was a small heart-shaped hole in the sky. As the fog passed, the hole revealed itself to be faintly red, like the last claws of life from a fire-burning ember. It was seething. “Unless there’s some sort of pill that makes us live forever,” she got in front of me and said, “one of us is going to leave the other no matter what. And I’d rather us end right here on Earth while we’re together, than go down in flames from that exploding star when we’re apart.”
more by DOMINICK NERO
Photograph by Martin Murphy