“Wake up! Wake up! Wake up, Invicta! Wake up!” I heard a girl’s voice softly say as a dim awareness returned to me, peeking through the fog of the sleeping music in my bedroom, not to mention my own grogginess – I remember being struck by how tired and sleepy I felt. “Invicta, wake up!” I heard again as the girl kept her voice soft but rocked me back and forth in my bed.
I must have been really sleepy, because it took me a few moments even with all that stimulation to become cognizant of the voice being that of my own sister, Invidia. I had no idea what was going on, but I summoned the will to open my eyes a bit. There she was, but a silhouette even with the dim night light coming up from the floor, and a diffuse light source from my window, filtered by the shadows of the trellis and all my plants and flowers. That was odd, I thought: such a light coming from there.
Invidia whispered to me “You have to come out and see this! But be quiet; I don’t want anyone noticing that we’re up and about!” As my eyes adapted to the darkness more I could see it was definitely a diffuse light source from my window, and my dear sister, like me in my bed at that moment, had her nightgown on, her hair a bit of a mess. Well, that wouldn’t do for me.
I summoned the strength to rise from my bed and behold the vista through the thicket of flowers that were in front of my window, decorating my delightful room. It looked like a stellar supercluster, the combined illumination from what looked like millions of stars lighting up our surroundings like twilight. “Are we in a galactic core?” I whispered, “I don’t think we were supposed to go anywhere like that tonight.” “That’s just what I mean!” Invidia whispered. “Come!”
I knew it was urgent to go see what my sister wanted me to see, but despite myself I got myself one of my cute hats, a charming straw-like one with a purple bow tied under it, matching my eyes, that wouldn’t have looked out of place in the turn of the epoch, and I used my hands and fingers to straighten and style my hair somewhat, ending up with a big brunette lock next to my right eye, bouncing with every step we made, tentative careful steps so as to not alert anyone to us being awake and in on whatever it was they were doing with our ship.
When we crept out to the hallway, Invidia slid my door back to the closed position. She put her finger over her mouth in a shushing motion, looking adorable under those blue eyes of hers. Tiptoeing up to me, she then whispered in my ear “I closed mine too so no one would notice. Come!” She then took my hand and led me forward, both of us tiptoeing through the darkness of the wood-floored hallway, dimly lit by the hearth behind us, maintained in its eternal glory by robots, providing us natural warmth and heat, and, most importantly of all, ambience.
As our nightgowns shuffled with our gait my mind wandered to how we were so matchy-matchy tonight – Invidia is such a fashionista, much more than I am, so she picks out both our clothes. And what good clothes she picks! Both our nightgowns were sheer and colored black, with opaque starry patterns all over them, forming a faithful depiction of the ancestral sky and all its constellations.
The ancestral sky…one I’ve never seen in person; everywhere I’ve gone to all my life the mother planet and its stars have been shrouded behind more cosmological horizons than I can count, it’s so distant. Even if I did go see it someday the ancestral sky, the sky men saw at the dawn of the space age, is shrouded behind time: it’s been so long Gamma Cephei is now Earth’s North Star, not Polaris, but though it may rotate about a slightly different axis the constellations of our foremothers may still be seen in all their glory, just like they are on our nightgowns, a thought that comforted me as we brushed each other in our motion to and fro, making haste toward what Invidia wanted to show me.
When we approached the ballroom, I saw a faint light streaming from it, at first thinking it was reddish but after a few moments resolving into a rather magical golden glow. When we finally rounded the end of the hallway and tiptoed onto the dance floor, my eyes beheld a brilliance they closed themselves off from; I must have still been really sleepy, because I rubbed my eyes groggily and tried to summon the will to open them up.
I lost the touch of Invidia’s hand as she tiptoed closer to the Gothic windows across the dance floor, me turning my head and looking backward away from the bright light so I could get my eyes open. Taking deep breaths, I opened my eyes, and beheld the ballroom, the wooden dance floor, and its stone walls, complete with its Gothic motifs, lit up by that orange-ish glow, as easy to see as a sunny day yet with an otherworldly glow betraying this was not a sun shining upon us.
Invidia turned her head toward me, and sensing I was now looking everything over, whispered “Psst…come, Invicta! Come!” Turning my head, I beheld the brilliant monster in all its glory – at the heart of the galaxy we had warped to was a supermassive black hole, its shadow forming a huge black circle looming behind the tall narrow Gothic windows, the purest black in the cosmos.
Surrounding it was the soft yet energetic glow of an accretion disk, superheated golden gas, dust, and debris outlining the event horizon and its shadow, and extending on either side, past the distortion of the gravitational lensing, like rings around a planet, or handles around a cup. Suffusing the environment was perhaps the most spectacular vista of all: a gas cloud lit aflame in fiery red, waves and patterns forming a cloud as if in a slow-motion effervescence, the blood color being among the most vivid I’ve ever seen in my travels.
We had to have been rather close to the core of this blood nebula, since we could barely see any stars behind where it blocked our view, the usual brilliant clusters of a galactic core only peeking out where the fire-red waves weren’t so thick. I drank in the view as I tiptoed over to the edge of the window where Invidia already was.
She turned to me and, with her smiling mood reflected in those doe blue eyes of hers, asked me with a soft voice “Sublime, isn’t it?” I smiled too and, making the same expression with those doe purple eyes of mine, answered with a whisper “Awe-inspiring.” After a few moments of gazing at it – which was probably several minutes, I was so tired – I whispered “It must be feeding on all that gas, that blood-red fire. I’ve seen many a black hole in my life, but this one has to be the prettiest.” I turned to Invidia and hugged her, saying “Thanks for bringing me out! It was worth it!”
After we finished our embrace, I noticed “This black hole looks pretty big, but if I’m not mistaken we’re pretty close; like, compared to our usual sightseeing.” Invidia replied, a mischievous grin on her fair face, “I think our pilot must have wanted to take a little time to sightsee.” After a few moments a thought popped into my groggy mind, which I said aloud: “Hey, why do you think we’re even here in the first place? I don’t remember mother or father or anyone saying we were going to a black hole, just that we would be at our destination by the time we woke up tomorrow.”
Invidia whispered “I don’t know, but I’m glad we’re here.” We drank in the ambience more, the diffuse orange glow making our peaches-and-cream faces and bodies, especially with the contrast from our brunette hair and black nightgowns, look positively radiant and warm, like we were in some kind of dreamy fairytale rather than real life.
I vocalized softly “Am I asleep? It’s like a dream.” Invidia got a sly grin on her face and said “I’ll wake you up!”. Taking my arms in hers, I gasped silently when I realized she was taking me in a dance frame. Motioning us to a silent beat made by invisible musicians, be it the rhythms of her mind or the music of the spheres, we started dancing across the floor, going one-two-three, one-two-three, one-two-three, round and round in the tell-tale spiral of the ancient waltz.
One moment the wall with all its Gothic bas-reliefs, a wall grotesque yet beautiful, the next the brilliantly outlined shadow of the black hole, an eye all seeing yet seeing naught, with each spiral my mind and body coming to waken, blood pumping from head to toe, from hand to hand, my senses more and more sharp with each beat Invidia started to hum in a lulling whisper.
At last, she sensed I was now feeling everything much more acutely, and took me in a dip, the two of us locking eyes for a few moments, the sight of Invidia striking to me, her whole body backlit from the black hole, every wave of her loose bedroom hair filtering the light from what looked like a halo of accretion disk around her head, her face in shadow colored warm with the reflection from the wall.
She whispered to me “Real enough?” Gazing at her goddess-like visage, I felt more like I was in a dream than I did earlier, but I softly said “Real enough” anyway. The blood pumping through me, all my senses being so acute, it was dreamy, but Invidia was right: it felt too real to be a dream. She brought me back up on my feet, and took us both back to the windows, where we gazed some more at the black maw, the gold disk, and the blood flames before us.
I gazed into it with more awareness, really taking in the vista, drinking in every detail, little features coming into my vision stretching out into a seeming infinity past my sight. I held my sister’s hand as a thought came into my sleepy little head: “If I had to venture a guess, I’d say our pilot has to stop somewhere to navigate. That’s why we’re here.”
Invidia replied “Yes, Invicta, that could be it. We don’t have a man to be our navigator, all we have is a pilot and a computer, and computers can only take you so far in a single jump with any real accuracy. Sure was grand of our pilot to bring us here for the wayfinding stop.”
I whispered “And we enjoyed it with him. I guess he’ll never know. Soon it’ll all be but a memory.” “Our little secret”, Invidia whispered back, as she clasped my other hand and gave me the littlest of kisses on my lips. After a blushing moment of sisterly affection, I gasped as I saw a warp envelop us from the right, growing ever larger as its rippling distortions of spacetime. A wormhole was being opened up, our starship moving through its throat, leaving behind the most spectacular girls’ night out we’ve ever enjoyed together.
As the last distorted images of our nocturne companion in space rippled by us on the left, my eyes clung to them ‘til there was clinging no more, our vision galaxies behind us now, but a memory etched in my mind for me to cherish forever.
As we silently tiptoed down the wooden hallway and back to our bedrooms, dear Invidia slid my door open for me and let me farewell her with a little kiss. As I silently slid my door closed again and tiptoed back to my bed, tucking myself in for the rest of my slumber, a serenity filled my girlish soul. Stretching myself out and sinking into my bedsheets, through all the feelings tossing and tumbling throughout my being, one truth spoke to me: it was a very good night.