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Spacefaring has two constants. The universe is impermanent, and you never know what you’ll encounter.
Few listen to the stars. Fewer hear what they have to say. One did. Time had molded her hands and face, but her resolve remained unfaltering.
All corners of the cosmos were in her ears. She lived a thousand lifetimes through the people she met. Untold secrets enticed her to travel.
Her name? The Star Whisperer, Cato Rae.
Desert winds whipped up sand in tiny whirlwinds.
The sand was purple, and the sky was deep, burned red. Winds whirled around like dervishes, carrying warning urgency.
Whatever message these gusts carried escaped Cato, but she knew something was coming. It always started this way.
Every moment, it became stronger, begging for a listening ear. Cato leaned against the wall outside the watering hole, watching the sands.
The Star Whisperer was known for her silver mask, concealing all but her eyes and the lower half of her terracotta-brown face.
Every place she’d visited and fulfilled her purpose was tattooed on her sinewy body. Her weapon was a ceremonial dagger.
The message. An ominous echo through space-time.
“Something is about to happen,” she whispered as she peered up at the sky.
Listen to the winds of change to withstand the winds of time. More cryptic than the others.
“What does it mean?” she murmured to the empty street. Cato sensed something lurking beyond the threshold of her awareness.
For many star cycles, it would plague her.
Suns ticked through their rotations. At an asteroid waystation orbiting a small, treacherous planet, Cato rested.
It was called Moonwind because the moon blocked out what little sunlight the place got, and how sideways ice always blew.
Cato found a wild world of ice storms. The Star Whisperer stood at the edge of a glacier. Cold and dead, the air left the planet without breath.
Cato gazed into the abyss below, a sparkling silver filled with frost.
The woman shivered as an ice-crystal chorus echoed through the atmosphere. It fell silent, leaving a melancholy song in Cato’s bones.
As she traversed the planet, she healed the broken pieces with her soul as the universe commanded. Time was meaningless, yet she was restless.
She called out to Moonwind.
Each word was more cryptic than the last. “We know what we do not know.”
Cato nodded, used to its confusing speech. “What is it?”
“The answer to the question you shall ask.”
“What should I ask?” Cato stared at the glacier as if it would reveal itself.
“Many paths to the same destination,” whispered the ice. “You aren’t on the right one.”
“What should I be seeking?” Cato asked.
A long silence followed by a soft murmur tortured her. “Your true self.”
“I don’t understand,” she said.
“What you choose to become.”
“What does that mean?”
“Everything means something.” The winds died again, leaving her alone.
The cosmos taunted her with silence. It spoke in riddles, and Cato was the only one willing to listen. She stumbled, lost in thought.
The snow whipped whirlwinds around her. She breathed in the ghostly air. The planet, rich with red minerals and ancient secrets, yelled to her. “No!”
The simple word was so indignant, Cato gasped.
“We know your kind. Fallen stars, created, not born. You think the only thing that matters is your purpose. Have you thought about what you want?”
Since she’d heard those haunting words, it had been a while.
They’d stayed with her.
The simplicity of the question terrified her. Cato never considered such things, and when she did, the answer was no. She’d never wanted anything else.
Why did her mind question it?
She couldn’t stand it. The endless wandering. Find something worth living for, search the stars for wonders yet to be discovered.
What should she look for? She cried for help, but there was only silence. Cato picked herself up and wandered.
“I’m sorry you’re hurting,” The word was a whisper, running through the calm of space with ease. “Don’t get lost in the past.”
Cato paused, frowning. Her voice was rough from years of shouting. “I’m not lost.” That was a lie, and it tasted bitter.
“I’m still here.” Cato murmured. She sighed, feeling the weight of her thoughts.
Cato landed on the planet of her birth, Ciyonia. Where the piece of the supernova that would become her crash-landed.
She’d seen the night sky for the first time on that precipice. The winds blew, and storm clouds gathered in fractals.
A storm was coming, and in Ciyonia, that meant danger.
The cosmos cried in pain. It couldn’t end.
“No!” Cato screamed as the storm tugged her away. Strange shapes with long shadows taunted her with her unfulfilled potential.
“Don’t let me go!” she begged, but her voice was lost in the thunder. “I’m not done!”
She didn’t want to leave the life she’d built. There was still work to do. Her fingers wrapped around a rock, but she slipped. It claimed her.
The Star Whisperer awoke. She floated in a void of — a nothingness threatening to consume her.
Was the work she’d done for nothing?
The Star Whisperer’s duty to bring hope where there’d been despair. Cato refused to accept her existence ended like this.
“Let me go. You won’t regret it, I promise.”
She had so much stardust left, so the universe relented.
Her eyes opened. She was in Ciyonia. Her surroundings were bathed in a warm light. The storm had passed, and she was enveloped in familiar crimson grasses sloping upwards to meet the sky.
In front stood an ancient tree whose roots lay deep within Cato’s heart. The stars urged her upwards, so she stood. As she looked out over the plains, Cato felt her heartbeat find its way.
She had seen the other side, but a small part of her had vanished.
“I will find your home,” she promised herself as she climbed the mountain’s treacherous slope. Cato felt a new determination fill her. She saw the light again and was guided by it.
She wouldn’t lose it again, and everything would work out. Her story had many more chapters left. Cato wanted a few moments of peace. She made her way up, catching her breath.
It took time for Cato to reach the craggy peak. She couldn’t blame herself for being slow when it had been an eternity since she’d taken care of herself.
When she reached the summit, Cato’s heart was so full she couldn’t speak. She rested on a rough-hewn stone.
“I’m free.” Cato whispered. The sunsets were beautiful in Ciyonia. Cato had never seen one like this – full of hope and newfound peace.
It had been an age since the star that died gave her life, and she’d first seen the universe through the window of a spaceship. There was more to life. She’d find it.
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