An Excerpt from Starshine

A new one I’m working on – thoughts?

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” – Oscar Wilde

Prologue

Every joint ached. Intense cold leeched steadily into her bones, and still – she did not move.  Above, a field of stars glittered boldly on a canvas of impossible black, strewn out to the horizon in haphazard clusters and ribbons.  It looked as if some mad artist had stumbled upon the meaning of life and, in his ecstasy, took aim and threw that joy across the heavens. With no moon to dim their shine, the red, blue, and green hues of distant planets had been easy for her to pick out.  She could have lingered there for days, gazing up through the powerful lens of her antique, 21st century Celestron.  Even the biting wind and deep freeze of mid-January in Maine could not persuade her to head back to the house – and the comforting warmth of tea by the fire. She’d been away for far too long and had missed – terribly – this small, much-loved slice of sky along the rocky coast of Steuben. It was where she got her start; and would, no doubt, be the place she met her end.

The salt laden air stung her nose – made red and raw from the cold – while the muted rumble of the North Atlantic growled politely in the distance.  Over the last hundred years, the Earth Aeronautics and Space Administration had mapped every ground-visible star. This was her place. Her sky. She knew every glimmer – even helped to map and name some of the same stars currently dancing above her head.  So when the first few on the eastern horizon blinked out in succession, she noticed. That had been nearly ten years earlier. Since then, the area had grown to the size of a quarter held at arms-length.  That spot caused her stomach clench and sent dread and anxiety crawling up her throat.  EASA had finally sent the coordinates to the JWST 2 – and the aging, second generation, deep space telescope’s mirrors were scheduled to close in on the expanding star-less patch of eastern sky that evening.  The world would have its answers soon enough, she reasoned, and an unwelcome chill skittered up her spine. The year was 2115, and she could not shake the feeling that everything they knew about the natural world was about to change.

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