“What colour was the sky when you were young?”
“It was grey. It was an ugly gray, the deepest grey I’ve ever seen. A couple of patches of white on it, and it was just too much for me. I mean, just look at it: there are just these huge black, glowing stars. Oh, I love that sky! That looks like a lot. But there’s something wrong with the image.”
“They are all black,” he says. He’s not going to try to put me at ease. “They’re not even red. They’re the colour of a giant cloud of gas: a black star rising high in the sky. But the stuff you’re looking at is nothing compared to the stuff that was created by a lot of big, dead stars. Some kind of monster star, it doesn’t even have a moon to hang its hat on: all the rocks we’ve seen since the creation of the universe itself are just a mere drop of dust and debris in front of it.”
“I’m sorry,” she says. “I mean, it’s just—” her voice trails off as soon as I turn away and the words come out less intelligibly. “I’m sorry for everything I’ve done.” A minute later she’s talking in vague terms about how it was like a war zone, when someone shouts out from behind her, “Linda! Stop!” And the sky starts turning to red.
“Hurry, there’s an accident at the base of this thing. They say one of the engines will fail next. Do what I say or else.” There’s a moment when she lets out a shriek of agony. “I don’t want this place to implode. I’m sure the people here feel the same, don’t they?”
I try to remember the moment I heard it, when my hands were trembling with fear, and it didn’t feel like the kind of thing a father would say to his rebellious son. When the memory hits the back of my mind when Linda screams and shatters the glass that serves as one barrier between us and the world below, the shockwaves from this moment come rushing back, blinding me, and as I turn, I can see it in her blue skin, the white of the sky, a red streak in the darkness behind her, and then—