Surrounded by air and invisible strings attaching to all corners of the universe lays a star in the sky. The star’s name is Vincent, his moniker bearing the stamp of the famous painter on Earth to whom his mother was introduced when one of his paintings was lost in space and went floating across her gaze.
Vincent is lazy and his breath is a series of inhaling and exhaling the element of boredom. He has learned not to expect any entertainment from his fellow floating orbs as the splendor of their illumination is juxtaposed by their inability to sing or dance or in any way delight his fancy: they all lay around the galaxy and tell stories about the things they’ve never done, the places they’ve never been and the memories they’ve never actually made. The sky is not liquid but still, except for when the comets come screaming past their stuck counterparts or when a star burns out and then floats away. Otherwise, movement is not allowed. Change does not often occur. Vincent is fixed in a fixed state and he has given in to the stuckness of his existence.
Vivienne is a newer star: relatively new. She has not yet lost the fervor of her “what if” and dreams of destinations beyond the darkness and points of light by which she is surrounded. Vivienne is vivacious and full of wonder: her curves have not yet been chipped away by the chisels of time or NASA’s rumbling past her looser rocks. She is intelligent, bright, an artist at her core who does not spend time lamenting her lack of limbs. Instead, she fills the sky with her songs and laughter and tells stories born in the dreams she has when she closes her eyes to sleep.
One day, a spacecraft flown by human hands nicked the side of Vincent’s ribs. It was clearly an unintended greeting and it caused Vincent a lazy amount of consternation. “The NASA’s don’t understand space, am I right?” He sarcastically dribbled out the words as his body reacted to the impact by shifting ever so slightly to the right. As his roundness circled around by infinitesimal degrees, Vincent could suddenly see a new perspective. The view he had for centuries had been a little off to the left and as his eyes adjusted he whispered into the darkness, “What the?” Newness.
Vincent shook his head and closed his eyes, and then he opened them again in an effort to adjust his vision. Suffering from a bit of near-sightedness, Vincent had to do it again, to refocus. When his eyes opened the second time, his heart was filled with wonder! He could see stars he had never before seen and there was a draft blowing against his back that blew in an unrecognizable way. All of the stars he could newly see were sleeping, ignoring the NASA that had just caused the turning of his perspective.
One of the stars he had never seen before was snoring. As Vincent would later learn, the snoring star’s name is Dick. Dick, known as Richard to those with whom he is not well acquainted, wears a smoking jacket and smokes a pipe in his mind. He pontificates on such matters as the romantic lives of the earliest stars and prides himself on knowing intimate details about the moons surrounding each of the planets.
For centuries there has circulated a planetary rumor that Dick used to send notes of love and longing to Europa. Europa is one of the moons of Jupiter and she has a voice that sounds like a hushed flute: it is high and soft and arresting. Dick’s love notes to Europa were legendary and poetic and they stirred up a romance so engaging that hardly any of the stars within several light-years distance of the lovers slept for the centuries spanning their love.
Until, that is, Europa broke his heart by falling in love with another one of the moons of Jupiter, Ganymede. Since then, Europa and Ganymede have whispered to one another, keeping their romance a private affair. Ganymede is not nearly as showy a suitor as was Dick.
Thus, the community in the sky lost the drama of Dick and Io’s love, plunging them all back into the mundane affairs of blackness, singing pirate songs every now and then, and telling the same stories to the same stars, over and over and over. The order of the sky became like the Moose Lodge on the Flinstones: the same old people, the same old stories and the same old faces.
Until . . . the gods saw fit to allow one NASA to nick Vincent’s side, thus sparking the possibility of new eye contact with stars who had old stories that were new to him. When two personalities meet for the first time it is not only the two whose lives are altered, it is also those around them whose energy is renewed—sometimes for the better, sometimes not. But always for the new.
Vincent widened his eyes and took it all in: the lighter shade of black in the upper right hand corner of his view, the way the light from surrounding planets felt as it newly touched the sides of his face, and the unfamiliar stars whose voices he had heard before but only now could see.
A sense of wonder filled his old heart. He was electrified and slowly felt something inside his soul stir: it sounded like taps on the sides of a Triangle, the ringing of Tibetan bells and a finger running slowly over the surface of a gong. It was a deep and peaceful awareness of life and his aliveness.
Vivienne yawned a long, breathy yawn and opened her eyes as the NASA sped past her head. The moment after her eyes opened, she blinked once. In the moment after that she was aware of two eyes she had never seen before: they were looking back at her. She blinked again. Vincent wanted to say something but, instead, he blinked, too. Four blinking eyes fanning the flames of the souls behind them and filling with a steady fire.
From that moment until now Vincent and Vivienne hang on opposite ends of the sky. They do not speak, they do not sing, they do send notes to one another on the backs of NASA’s flying by. Instead, they hang—separately, gently, precariously—from their invisible strings attaching to all corners of the universe and they blink. And open. And blink. And open. They cannot move toward one another and they will never be able to touch the surface of each one’s visage. Even so, Vincent and Vivienne are evermore connected by the fateful turning of Vincent’s perspective and the captivating recognition felt inside both of these hanging souls in the sky.
—Jill Szoo Wilson