Short Story: Constellation Prize18 min read

With thanks to Mel Lion

Editor’s note: this short story contains adult language and themes.  Reader discretion is advised.

I need to talk to someone.

Stella Brown.
Not to be ignored!

Stella Brown.  Not to be ignored!  How to introduce her?  She’s an artist

aspiring,

and astronomer

amateur,

being interviewed by Pareidolia Press.  Because, simply, she deserves to be.  If you’re wondering why, keep reading. 

She’s the sort you cross a cold and clammy country for; even as brilliant white lightning and coal clouds congeal into shimmeringly grim greased grey and the ground goes a submarine sepia tone.  Clattering along the track until the terminal where no one else gets off.  All worth it, to be here hearing her, through a threshold that’s mostly hypothetical and a door that opens easily enough to not need knocking.

The hall’s pretty small but pretty in a small way, even if the paint peels in places.

No good for crowds, I know, but I thought the cramped conditions could at least lead to a little laughter.  He He

Hardly any need for her to apologise, sweet as it is, the exact extravagance that would be vital in coffee or a climate of the same colour.  It’s more than enough to sell whatever joke she thinks she’s telling.  It’s admirable, the way she treats friendship as a function of proximity, so long as you spare the Socratic acid.

Following her through into a kitchen, with a table that takes two chairs, three begrudgingly, but without a choice of where to sit this time.  There’s not much food to be found, outside of formerly-milk that’s evolved beyond being ethical to eat.  Tea, inevitably tea, black by necessity and sucrose-saturated to compensate.

There’s more talk over our tea.

Some days start and end weeks apart.  But then I’d be old enough to solvate it all in ethanol by now.  If I ever am, Dunning-Krugered so hard I’m younger than yesterday.  But, so what?  When I can finally see the stars and there’s so much sky out here.  No one else’s light to block it out.  Before I left home, mother asked me, ‘mean something’ not with those words but I heard it all the same.  And how could I not now I’m out here?

See, Stella needs to know she’s done just that, wouldn’t be here if she hadn’t.

It’s beautiful above here.  Can’t help but think, ‘cause of course it’s all arbitrary, but that didn’t do anything to stop the art.  The same stars I’m seeing, approximately at least, inspired people who aren’t even people anymore.  They lasted long enough to go from gods to gas and don’t even appear perturbed.  Though I can see it being a lot less stress.  Not that they’d be offended enough by our voyeuristic violation for forfending.  We’re probably too small, negligible.  After all the only way they’d see us, is to notice the sun get ever so slightly less bright .

She’s blessed, to have the scale fall into her eye like that, to see how small other people are.  Not that it applies to her personally, but there’s a skill in affecting empathy for the people that don’t matter. 

But what worries me is whether the stars can be both, or if knowing what they really are ruins things.  There’s so much beauty in the stories people told each other, they took a world that wasn’t and made it human because it came naturally to them.  But either humans don’t come naturally to me or knowing the truth means I can’t go back.  Trouble is there’s not enough space for space in my skull.  So how am I supposed to make art out of something I’ve no sense of?  Surely people would get suspicious if I tried to make septillion sound insightful too often.  Not to romanticise the sort of wrong that leads people to think the sun won’t get up in the morning unless hearts are for breakfast.

Wise of her to be weary of people who act like they know what the stars are thinking.

When I arrived, I thought about changing up my look a little, new place new face, that sort of thing.  So, I found pictures of all the prettiest people, who know how to be a fine guy or girl.  Lauren Wren (5:15 4/5), Paul Johnson (12:14 5/5), Kyntharyn Smith (3:16 3/5) ….  I thought there’d be commonalities to pick out of their control.  They make entropy look like a lack of effort.  How could I ever even emulate that?  I don’t know.  So, I stuck with the chaos my afro automatically is, at least it saved me having to find a new way to hide my horns.

Really wish she wouldn’t waste herself on trying to be anyone else.  Enough people are born platinum and peroxide; she should let them be genetically generic without expending effort going out of the way to be one of them.  She’s special, she should be her own beautiful.  But before any objection she changes topic.

How many light years away does someone have to be before it’s ok to watch them undress?  When it’s all out of date, the further away they are the longer you’re looking back.  If they are far enough away to be no longer naked, no longer the same person, maybe not even anyone anymore.  Is it still wrong?  But then I feel like if I asked anyone else this, let these musings of mine go public, they’d just so intuitively know that evil isn’t obfuscated by physics.  Is that how they know they’re human?  Because they can make more people, for problems to be about.

What’s so good about being the same sane as anyone else, when she can be unique?  The things she can do with people when she dehumanises them, it’s inspiring.    

The sun is

4.9e11/(9.8e8 × 60)=8.3

8 minutes and 18 seconds away.  It got me thinking, what would I do if I knew which 8 minutes and 18 seconds.  I’d like to say I could think of anything other than sex, or what to do with the other 5 minutes.  But considering my lack of forward momentum on the fucking front, I’d have to settle for the second best to someone else, myself

Doesn’t she know she could just ask?  Implication would be enough, no need to be explicit.  Regardless of what was impending.  Or is she just being coy, confident in her ability to toy with people.

But we won’t even know, It’s the knowing that seeing that searing.  We’re too distant to even notice it’s exploding until it’s too late.  I’d probably just be doing the things that keep me alive so I can live later.

She’s so right, so why wait? 

That’s what gets me, if we could just know which 8 minutes and 18 seconds, well I think more people would die cumming than shitting.

Ew!  Apologies; Stella’s passion can lead her to be ‘inappropriate’ at times.  But it’s part of her style, and she deserves to be laid bare, presented honestly even when she’s being disgustingly direct.  It would be a castratory sort of clumsy to censor her.   The tea would have to be poured away, shame when it had barely begun being imbibed.  If it couldn’t be drunk, divination would have to do but the leaves are just an amorphous mass of dull and dark.

There was this guy I knew (20 min approx.  2/5 bad after taste), one of the big boys from school.  Contemplating his form was a formative experience for me.  I still do, from time to time, but less frequently and feeling more like a hebephile each time I do.  I’m actually older than him by now.

There’s an honesty in how she talks, captures the common feeling of wanting someone who won’t or can’t want you back.  Who hasn’t been there?  Though it’s a shame she sees any shame in it.  But it’s well past time to be in her room anyway. 

The stairs make the same creepy creek a mountain does but the metaphor can’t make it all the way up with us.  Despite the “Do not Disturb!”  sign at an angle on her door, it’s easy enough to get in.  Piles of variously-washed clothes do more to bar.  Entering sends dust back up for one last dance.  Sprawled out in swirls across her floor is a laundry mosaic, a sign of how much more she has on her mind than maintenance.

If I don’t eke out my ideas in ink, they don’t stay still.  It’s why I’ve always wanted to write, to round off the edges of this fractal thing I’m suddenly inside.  I don’t think I could ever talk to anyone about any of this, certainly no more doctors in case they try to diagnose me again.  But that’s the trouble, the people I could maybe be comfortable talking to are exactly the ones I can’t risk telling.  Can’t have them seeing into me, in case I’m right and they see the same thing I do.  Unlike me, they could leave.

Screw them, seriously, if they can’t handle her then they don’t deserve her time.  Especially not the ‘professionals’, who just want to call her process a problem so they can prescribe it away.

I thought maybe if I wrote it down, abstracted it out as allegory, I could turn what’s inside me into some semblance of sense, if it can’t get better it could please at least be beautiful or coherent, as some consolation.  Something I could be ok with people looking at, so they could see, but I can still say it’s not me.  I just don’t see why I should have to be on fire for people to see how inflammable [sic] I am.

Flammable.

I don’t get how people can talk to each other, without even the right words.  They tell me I’m missing social cues but not which ones or the intent that was meant.  As helpful as being told I keep stepping on invisible landmines and that doing so is very un-good.  But how do I know, before detonation?  By which time the parties I don’t tend to go to have been ruined.  My feet aren’t even that delicious.

This is why, these are the people that need to be shown what she can do, who need to understand what they’re doing wrong. 

I don’t want to be this, knowing enough to know I’m not normal without any sense of how to fix myself.  Is there an alternative alternative to not being anyone at all?  I could be worse, borderline brain dead, but at least I’d be oblivious.  They tell me I’m a special snowflake, but I’m not, I know I’m broken, not that I have been but that I inherently am.  When I still showed people, they said it was beautiful what I did, what I made out of the miasma in my mind.  But I didn’t do any moulding, just cut myself and let it leak.  I didn’t make any of it, just mark down what made me, anyone could do it.  Same as how all those coloured lines on black backgrounds are no more my work than the digits of pi, they belong to the stars, I just copied.

No, she’s wrong.  Being sad is easy, anyone can do it.  Being tragic and tortured and turning that into truth– that’s a hell of a lot harder.  Not everyone can diamondize under pressure, but if they didn’t, we would have as much meaning in the world.  She just needs to see her place, the potential she has to speak out.

They keep giving me compliments, call me smart or civilised, like they just ignore everything so obviously going on inside me.  Should I confess?

What could she have to confess to?

I get sick a lot, something in my sinuses intent on showing me just how much vacancy there is in my head for fluids to hide.  So, I got some pills, nothing serious, just pain killers.  I read the dosage and how easily I could exceed.  Thought that would be all the evidence I’d need.  So, I ended up flushing my meds and stayed sick.

It’s one of the rare times she directly addresses the diagnosis she’s alluded to earlier.  Brave of her to speak openly, humanise herself, even someone as special as she can let the snot suffocate them sometimes.   

The storm’s eye is drawn to a white board above her bed, the only piece intentionally placed.  To see it you have to stand over where she’d sleep.

042276893.  She’s sex smart special.  I was at this Fawkes Hallow party.  She did this thing where she bent time and space to make herself the centre of the universe.  Every star a spotlight and leaving me with all the eternity I needed to think of the right thing to say.  I hope she wasn’t disappointed I didn’t.  If she noticed, it’s not like it’s only me who would have wanted her.  She the sort that can teach you your own anatomy with just aches and inadequacies (1.05, 6.23, 14.48 54.37 10/5).

Who wouldn’t want Stella?  But it’s probably best she’s not with people whose genitals and personality taste the same. 

Stella, I hope moving helps.  But you can always come home whenever you need to.  Did mum know I was going to fail?  But I can’t go back can I, I’m not even loving living at home anymore.

Stella catches herself but the implication is understood, hard to blame her for not feeling much affection for someone who would set her up to fail like that.

Half a brown loaf, also need to refill the juice collection.  TALK TO HER!!!  Why does everyone need a past, doesn’t it distract anyone else how human people are?  Like if someone’s going to sell you a sandwich, I get that you hire teens, but did the teens really need to be babies first?  Why not just get people who were always old enough?  You could just hire people who exist exclusively in office hours.  They’d never get sick or sad or be bereaved.  Maybe I could be comfortable making eye contact then, I could look and not worry about seeing just how far there is to fall into someone.  Without the vertigo.

It’s a shame she doesn’t know how to ignore the people that don’t matter, as much as affecting empathy adds to her art, if only she could turn it off sometimes, for her own sanity. 

Everything was red and burning, thought I was going to finally find out I’m a phoenix but it turns out I’m just fertile.  Which is far more futile than being able to fly or survive catching fire.

She’s being too personal again, this is hardly the time to talk about ‘those’ now, is it?  In a proper interview, but patience.  She’ll be back on track soon enough, though you can be spared the rest of what she has to say on this.

Since I can’t decide which side of sexuality I’m on for myself, I thought I’d try science.  Vary who I think about inside me and use a stopwatch to time how long it takes me to feel fulfilled.   So, I can see if there’s a significant difference, between the sexes and races.  The trouble is choosing confidence intervals, and technically I should check my variables separately.  P-hacking my own private parts hardly seems as rigorous as I have a taste for. 

P < 0.01 would mean less than a percentage chance I’d be wrong, but I’m still not sure that’s acceptable.  I’d just have to collect a lot of data, wear double blindfolds, too, probably.  And even the naughty null hypothesis would be worth proving, whatever it is in this case.

She trails off before coming back to a more important topic.

What if, when I record how I’m feeling, I’m just giving my worst days somewhere to rot while they wait for a reader.  To turn new stomachs as much as they did mine, how could I be comfortable as fodder for someone else’s empathy or schadenfreude?  By marking a grave for my grievances, am I just expecting some stranger to exhume them later?  If so, I’m sorry.  And it’s hardly a phylactery I’d want to be liched back to life from either.

No, this is important, to know someone else feels this way– and think of everything we’re learning.

Can’t I just scream at everyone how sorry I am for being crazy?

But there’s nothing to be sorry for.   She has a telescope pointed out of her window, with enough dust and bugs on the lens to imply we were being invaded.

It’s the supernovae I find most fascinating.  They’re what happens when a star explodes, provided it’s amassed enough criticism.  They’re the brightest things, can be seen if we never knew the star was there.  Visible in broad daylight for weeks until they’re gone again forever.  People used to think it meant the world was ending but it never did, so soon enough, people got complacent about the catastrophe.  Turns out enough distance and time will make even incomprehensible destructions easy on the eyes, not that I can argue they are beautiful.

Funny, does she know it’s her sight that makes it so? 

I like meeting new people.  Even if I rarely do, I get to be normal in their eyes, for a little while at least.  Until I see how much more intimate and infinite it is inside someone than the rest of space could ever be.  Once they see me avoiding eye contact, then they notice.  It could even happen before that, but I only know if I’ve blown it so much later– when it’s finally awkward enough for them to tell me how they’ve felt all along.  Or I never hear from them again with no idea why.  Must be another symptom that I always assume they’ve died instead of that they’re just avoiding me and better for it.

Jerks.  If they avoid her they might as well have done.   

Why would you ever want to know you were?  Isn’t a question I think I thought enough about at the time.

Odd for her to come back to the sinus thing.

Part of me worries the diagnosis is deterministic.  Once you know the problem is part of you, that your head doesn’t work the way it should, you start making excuses.  It’s now something for people to accommodate and not for you to fix.  I don’t know if I’m any more sure I have it.  Couldn’t I so easily have accentuated the signs?  It’s hardly hard to find people getting paid to pretend they have it as performance.  How am I supposed to know how I felt when I’m not thinking about it?  At any time other than now, I’m just another person, and I never figured those out. 

I think it would be funny, to anyone other than me.  I’ve been re-reading some of my writing.  And, well it’s just awful, ain’t it?  It’s the weirdest thing but reading back over it, I just don’t recognise the writer.  I re-read what I think I thought was the deepest and most meaningful thing at the time, but I just don’t feel it.  And it’s terrifying.  I was so scared and sad before, but I was passionate, too.  I’d spend hours agonising over the right words…  and now?  It’s sickening, like whoever was wearing me has walked away to put someone else on, and I’ve this past, these pieces that were written on auto pilot, that I can’t see anything in. 

I couldn’t even assess the quality.  Shouldn’t I at least be able to tell if compared to my worst, which was the only time I really wrote anything substantial, I actually managed to become happy again without noticing or if this feeling of calm is just because I’ve been disemboweled and desiccated beyond being bothered.  I want someone else to read it, I want to dismiss it as shit, but I need someone else I can trust, to say so, so I know.

But it’s not, it is meaningful.  Sure, sometimes honesty hurts but…

Because now all I’m doing is hoping, hoping all I can manage, that what I’ve written isn’t reflective of me.  That these good times I think I’ve had, between sitting to stagnate and scrawl, that when I finally think I’m happy at least some of what I feel is real.  ‘Cause that’s the fucking worst.  I’ve gotten used to having no sense of the quality of what I do anymore, but fuck not even knowing if I’m right about the feeling I’m feeling.  Having to constantly rewrite the same sentiments to find new words when the old ones go mouldy and faded.

I’m sorry, I thought I could help.  I thought Stella would have wanted to know her words meant something.  I thought hearing how they spoke to me would make a difference. 

You think its soul-destroying for everyone else, how little we were ever meant to mean?  Or do they find it comforting, too?  After all, if we aren’t even obligated to exist, how can anything horrible have to happen to me?  I think I need to go.  I’m done here.  Funny how a sense of finality is so freeing, knowing it’s going to be over so soon means I can go.

I said I was sorry, OK!  Just stop, please. 

Falling away from her board and laying on her bed, head too heavy from being full of thoughts.  Hoping this is enough of an explanation that you don’t think I’m evil.  Wondering what would make this right or wrong.  If I’d ever met Stella, not been too late to tell her what she needed to hear…  Or if she can come back from wherever she went, I’ll apologise, I promise, as long as it means there’s still someone I can apologise to.  There must be, what she says couldn’t have meant anything if she wasn’t really there, could it?  I can feel her writhing just under her writing, so alive, she knows me too well not to be.  She couldn’t just go.  She’s too special.  Please, just anything but an aftermath.  I can’t be too late.  I have to ask,

“WHY AREN’T YOU HERE ANYMORE?”

There’s no answer. 
So, we’ll wait. 

avouleance

Avouleance is a writer looking to explore experiences with different mental health conditions through poetry and prose in various places online, while doing a research masters in chemistry on the side.

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