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Algol

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I have never, not even in the earliest days of my childhood, felt afraid of the dark. Her luring song and visions were nothing, but fascination for me. At age twelve already I began to sort those glowing spots hiding in her mantle, learned of Callisto and Andromeda, of Capella and Polaris, and Pluto's secret track across the firmament. The tender dance of Gemini meant more to me than a talk with friends, and for all that time the telescope was closer to me than any relative could have been.

All this joy, this affection, lasted until the evening of August 17th, 19XX, being replaced by something far more incomprehensible. For a long time I knew not whether I spent this day entranced by the green fairy or in dreaming fever, since none of the occurrences of this day seamed plausible or explainable to me. As unreal as they may be, as bright they burnt in my skull, and it became impossible for me to turn back without shuddering, to forget the blinking eye that haunted me that night, gazing down serenely between Algenib and the Gorgoneia.

The true terror of this day began not ere dusk set in, but neither morrow nor midday were exactly common, so I regard it as self-evident to recount these incidents. I awoke before dawn, afar from my bed, and pressed flat to the floor. To anyone else, this might seem uncommon, but for an amateur of the night sky, such as me, it was no curiosity. As many times before, when Luna had revealed her pale face to the world, so had I devoted the nocturnal hours the study of the stars, until sleep came showering upon me and I, without chairs or beds in reach, dropped to the ground like a petrified man. That way I rose in the morning, my head buzzing, partly from the fall, and partly from my hard resting place. Amazed I noticed that the small observatory I installed in my garret, was bathed in baleful red light. I pressed my eyelids together, blaming the sight on my headache.

Still, when I opened my eyes after a while, even though my sight became clearer, the room was still struck by crimson light beams, unlike the light of any solar state. The glowing originated in a single spot on the sky, as I could discern, which was far brighter as any of the stars surrounding it, which had already faded in the light of the nearing day. Even the cool, blue light of the Pole Star was not capable of outshining the newcomer. Yet before I could observe the universe's red eye with my telescope, sleep overcame me anew, holding me in his grip until noon.

I woke up then, not having rested this well since a long time.

Relieved, nearly, by the light's disappearance after the break of day I descended the long staircase leading to the ground floor, leaving the house in coat and hat. Recently my efforts in storing food have grown seldom, and therefore I was forced to have lunch at a restaurant in town to at least satisfy my most urgent feelings of hunger. That was just the way – The night sky required more and more of my attention lately, while common tasks like shopping had to wait. Putting one foot in front of the other, I wandered down the steep street, into the vale, the city core. The sound of my footsteps on the sandy cobblestone was the only one accompanying me. When alleyways opened up between the crooked old houses, I could feel and hear a draft of wind, blowing against me both chilling and cutting. There was nothing more. No people. The whole town was completely deserted. Where may they be gone? Sure, this town was no more the destination of the masses of migrant workers it had been fifty years ago. But still, around noon, the small cafes, huddled together, straying from the market square, should have at least opened their doors, offering seats for smoking old men and local couples with their dislike for strangers, for tired salesmen and traveling merchants, making a stop on their eternal voyage. Where were the children, making their summer more endurable in the cool waters of the market fountain

Shivers crept across my shoulders, colder still than wind and water, sneaking deep into my thoughts. Sweat pored from my forehead. Was I really the only person left in town?

I walked on. The people must be somewhere around! One foot in front of the other. Louder grew the echo of my steps, faster their dance on the broken stone.

Up one alley. Down the next. Nobody. Nowhere.

Exhausted I made halt. Took a deep breath.

The echo of my footsteps still pursued me.

The sound of feet on cobbles still surrounded me.

When I turned my head, looking back down the lane I had followed, away from the fountain, I saw the city full of people once more.

Growing more and more insecure about the truth everything I have seen, I soon after took a seat at one of the cafes, ordering a sandwich to satisfy my hunger, and a cup of mocha to have my spirit stay with me. Over an hour later, my food being long gone and my bills paid, I had the waitress bring me a glass of gin, to escape from this reality that stopped following the laws of nature I learnt as a child. Was the star I spotted this morning the source of the changes I witnessed? I kept the thought in he back of my head, and half dreaming I imagined spotting it by the light of day.

I left the restaurant, with my shadow growing long and ghastly thin in the sinking sun of the afternoon. I knew that the darkness of the night would soon be around me once more, and that this day would be no more than a shadow in a remote corner of my mind. One half of me hoped Selene would tear her brother from the heavens before his time, the other believed that Eos would with her horn of bronze chase off the old day. But truly, it was blackness which arrived earlier than I ever would have fathomed. The minute hand had barely finished his round, following my desperate prayer to forgotten gods, when the sun escaped behind the gatehouse, waiting beneath the horizon for her timely wake. It was then, that the bright disk of the full moon appeared amidst black cloud-trees, freeing me from the spell of hours past. Here, below the stars, I felt safe. Ready to flee the full and empty city and her dusty streets, ready to draw out the secrets of the universe in the isolation of my private quarters.

Little did I know, that this was not the time of sweet Selene, but of Hekate nearing.

Town had nothing left for me. She had never been much more than pure necessity, a place to pick up food and supplies. Had I enough money to employ somebody for such business, these streets would never have felt my tread again. As this was not the case, these human urges kept calling me away from the quiet and safety of my own home – how happy was I to be once more within its walls! I continued my ascent, away from the crowds, and, as it seems, the crowds were moving away from me as well. Such provenience could only be satisfying, yet the fact that nobody at all walked the same direction as I was disturbing at first. I did not try to make more sense of the occurrence, not even as I had closed the door behind me already and had reached the garret via the attic ladder. My curiosity was now once more claimed by the radiant images of the night sky. And to one of them especially was my attention drawn: the fiery eye that in the morning had greeted me.

Smiling I put it into focus, in joyous expectation, even though my telescope could recognize, what I had not perceived before. The red lantern, who presented me with such deep sleep, was carried by the hand of Perseus, and blinked at me from the gorgon's head. First it appeared weaker to me than at the morning dawn, as a drawing only of my observation – I knew not whether to be disappointed or relieved at this insight. Maybe it was my naked eye alone, that painted bright Medusa's heavenly one? This thought I grasped, moving back from the ocular. With no success. The heaven was as beautiful as before, yet the glow returned not. I cursed my fate then, noting how much I missed Medusa's gaze, that brought desolation only in the days of yore. One hour I wept over my loss, the next I thanked the more graceful gods, in alternation, then, until sleep got a hold of me once more, as I rolled to a ball on the floor before the telescope.

Morpheus' gift was not long granted to me, but I was laughing across my whole face when I arose from the arms of slumber. She has returned, my crimson blinking patron saint, and baptized me in her light. I had to be closer to her, that I became aware of. From the room I fled, towards the ladder reaching out to the roof, knowing that looking through the long glass would only leave me unsatisfied again. With one single motion I threw open the ledge, climbed up to the rooftop, and smiled back at her from my new position. For a moment only I looked around me, and in the star's light I saw the crowd once more, that had evaded me in my homecoming. In the red glance they were lined up for the procession, they were waiting for me! One last time to the heavens went my gaze, and, like a silent confirmation, I received her wink.

Nothing held me anymore. Down all steps and stairs my path led me, and I needed not coat, nor hat or shoes to bask in her favor. Before the door I stepped, and people received me for the first time with wide blessing smiles. I embraced their foremost man, who as the group's leader had declared me, and in the gorgon's light we traced down the streets, a thousand feet on sand-strewn plaster in endless rows. Just towards her! The forgotten lanterns of the town we left behind, out, out to the hills our way went, where her light seemed all the brighter. The goddess gave me there her red signs, but whence It came I asked her not. In joy I passed it on to my next man, who for a long time knew me but as a strange hermit.

Now, they all followed, to the hill's arboretums top, where crooked ruins seamed our ways – the relics of bygone places of worship. On our journey the star's red color grew but brighter, and we all threw off then our old lives, our old clothes. We needed no more their protection. Half crawling, half limping on broken soles, half joyously jumping we climbed the rocky soil, stood amidst the ancient wrecked temple in her incandescence, where I heard the words “Come to me”, and truly, that was our intention. In the middle of the woodland shade the highest bliss came over us, and we went on with our frenzied rite until all heavens were lit in red candles.

We were freed by her work, by the blinking from the demon's head. And when deep in the dome of stars the portal opened, through which we left the old world behind, and entered the red world, I thought back one last time. To this one day's morrow, and what it promised me. I know now, my sight in the city was a vision, a sweet image of the future, brought by my goddess, in whose womb we lay now in content doze.

The birth of a new generation was upon us, here in the darkness of our last dark night. Here in the brightness of our red ardent future. She whispered to me of the days to come. I would walk among them once more, and sow fire in the cities. The people would follow me again to the hilltop, and pray, pray with their whole bodies between trees and broken stone. The people would follow her, until all cities are vacant, and just the cold wind will remain. I saw salvation from the stars. With this blessing, I awoke.

In an unknown room. An unknown town. But pressed to the floor, with spiraling head. No rarity for a lover of the night sky. I nearly asked myself if all had been no more than a dream, a fever brought on by the green fairy. But what was green against the red of my goddess? No-one had to be afraid anymore in the darkness of the night. And when I left at midday, to satisfy Her hunger, so hoped I to make the future present. I would empty out the cities. I would sow fire amidst the people. For her tender kiss upon my forehead, her security and warmth. For her calling, for her love.

For the blinking of my red star.

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