Gone Lawn
a journal of literature
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Gone Lawn 11
Summer, 2013
guest edited by Yarrow Paisley

Featured painting, ©2013 by Pd Lietz :

Featured Excerpt
Short Prose
Very Short Prose

Berit Ellingsen

Blue Star, Singular Fire

The blue star is visible in the ceiling, as certain celestial bodies were in the burial chambers of the ancients. We go to sleep, watched over by warm walls and breathing beds. Our eyes and ears and hands reach for that star and move us there, through the quantum veil of time and space. Since our observations must be corroborated, we are three.
Up close, the star is a burning ocean that billows blue-hot, its atmosphere licking the black void with tongues of white fire. They nip at me, surround and embrace me, pulling me in.
“Come,” my companions say, “come.”
I turn back to them, heavily, slowly.
Behind us, a tiny, cold world shines, a drop falling through the darkness, ringing like a silver bell. It’s not as real or as pulling as the star, yet it captures us like flies in lamp light.
There, in that smaller reality, we are half formed, like dreams, or the fall in temperature when someone steps between you and the sun. Where our attention goes, we go. Together we scour the world for liquids, life and secrets. We begin at the North Pole, then move slowly towards the equator and the southern hemisphere. We are vanguards, forward observers, mapmakers. We know what the others are doing without needing to watch or talk. Our results corroborate.
As we move across the stones and the sand, the scent of coldness rises from a crevice. I reach for it. It may be water.
“The atmosphere is too thin,” they say. “All fluids will have sublimated from the surface. Don’t ask us to smell it, like last time.”
The finding goes uncorroborated.
When our minds turn weary, we rest, close to the surface. Even inside our repose, corporeally an eternity away, we sleep and dream.
I wake from moving like long, slow waves, giving and being given, accepting and being accepted. It’s them, but also me, in unity, in fullness. I sit up and gaze at them in wonder, but they shift and turn away and go on melting together. I move out on the plain, curl up beneath an overhang and try not to be pulled back into them again.
We continue to survey. They stay close together, always in sight of each other. It is not prohibited, it is not allowed, we are free to do what we wish. I lose myself in the planet, in the sand and stone and wind and the lightning that arises when the methane clouds lash the ground. I feel the planet in my hands, eyes, mouth, nose, ears. The planet’s core turns warmly, singing as it spins.
“Do you feel it?” I ask them.
“Your results are artifacts instead of facts, and useless,” they reply.
I’m about to protest, when the light turns liquid and heat ripples across the sand. At the mountain-filled horizon the blue star is rising. It was night when we arrived, not day, as I thought. In this remote dreaming, changes in light and temperature are hard to sense, everything seems the same, disembodied and distant. It requires training and experience to detect. Mine has just failed.
Loops of white flames rear up over the peaks, snapping and tearing at the black ocean around them, like heads of the Hydra, before they fall back down and crash into the seething heliosphere. We flee to the night side of the planet. Here, we sear and burn and scream upon the cold ground. Their hearts flutter in quick, weak waves.
Without a thought they rise and hurl me across the plain. Geysers hiss and spit from the pull of the blue star, magma shakes and roars, threatening to crash through the crust, but we don’t notice. I rush back to them and lash out, throw them against the snow-covered summits in the distance. They reflect the second attack, I evade. We fight in the dunes, on the clouds, on the mountaintops, on the dust devils that roam the plain. We leap and dodge and gasp, trembling with rage and intent. Our shrieks sound like meteors tearing through the atmosphere, like demons in the ancient temple plays. Those plays always end with the protagonists renouncing their former lives, or with death, never anything in between. Now I know why.
Then the blue star catches up with us. Its white tongues of fire twist and coil, pull me up and wrap me like a spider in burning silk. It feels like I am sublimating, vanishing, becoming something else. The flames climb far into the universe, slough off what can’t keep up with them in enormous blasts, blue-hot, white-burning and gamma-strong.
I don’t mean to, but I reach for the two others and fill them with fire from the bright core, from the star, from me. One of them is flung into the purple sky and disappears into the vacuum. Across the peaks, the other screams and appears like a shadow before me, kneeling and clasping the hands above the head, weeping in sorrow, for mercy. I drip molten blue on the mountains and the plain.
“Go home,” I say, “go home.”
The shadow turns away and quickly starts to fade. “But what about you?” it says quietly, like a leaf falling through the air, or a whisper of sand across the stone, then it is gone.
The blue star swallows the bruise-colored sky whole, magnetic fault lines shiver and merge in the engulfing, endless light. A tiny flame shoots up from the planet, melts into the white tempests that loop out of the star, and falls down with them. The disturbance causes small waves to spread in the seething surface, like a pebble sinking in a pond, before it vanishes completely.

Berit Ellingsen is a Korean-Norwegian writer whose stories have appeared in Unstuck, SmokeLong Quarterly, elimae, and other literary journals. Her short story collection, Beneath the Liquid Skin, was published by firthFORTH Books in November 2012. That year one of her stories was nominated for the Pushcart Prize and another for the British Science Fiction Award. Berit’s novel, The Empty City, will be out in French as Une Ville Vide (Publie.net) in the summer of 2013.