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This is a story set in The Tomorrowlands Universe; for more information and other writings, see the TTU Wiki at

© 2007, Rob


Smith gazed upward into the cloudless, starry night, and closed his eyes. He was old, so old, but he had never lost the desire, or the childlike wonder.

He wanted to see the stars.

Not through the hazy eyes of an astral projection or a dreaming, but with his own eyes, clear and real before him. Any star would have done nicely, really. Just to be there, if even for a moment ...

He began by gathering up his own force of sheer will. Over the years, it had become a tangible thing to him. It was so strong that he had used it to stave off death for a very, very long time. Now, though, the grass under him was cool and damp, the air still and quiet, and as his force of will gathered like a compressed tempest deep within his chest, the energies around him began to follow. First were the blades of grass; as a one, they lifted him up, and when they had strained their tiny leaves lifting his body as high as they could, the earth around him pushed a little further.

The mud and dirt and rocks and hard-pack were so slow, though, and so heavy. The ground lifted him only a few inches, and only to offer him to the wind. The wind, swift and free and manic, rushed under him and lifted him higher.

And higher.

He had done this so many times before. The experience still hadn't ceased to bring a surge of adrenaline or a gasp from his lips; it hadn't yet become mundane. Just ... familiar.

Always, though, his desire -- powerful though it was -- was defeated by the Earth's simple refusal to acknowledge that it might be possible to fly away.

As the air thinned he instinctively drew a simple shield around himself, enclosing an air bubble that would keep him comfortable for hours.

He could still see them, in his mind's eye. The stars. So remote, so beautiful. So full of the unknown. He wanted it with the yearning of a first love.

The entire planet seemed to collectively tug at him, all at once. It happened just a little bit at first but grew more insistent with every meter.

Please, he thought.

He reached out into the inky depths of the night with his mind and pulled. Tendrils of will power snaked out across time and space, latched on to anything solid it could find, and then he pulled. He pulled with an old man's infinite patience and a fighter's resolve to never give up.

It wouldn't be the first time he had fallen so far to the ground, unconscious.

Please, he thought.

All of his tendrils of will began to migrate to a single random star in the sky, and as they coalesced they shared their energy, growing stronger. Onlookers for miles around saw the brilliant, eerily calm arc of lightning stretching out into space. He could feel it as much as you might feel a taut rope in your hands.

He pulled, stubborn to the very end. He felt the stalemate throughout his entire body; him, an old man, versus a much bigger, much stronger, much older world.

Just a little more.

He rose another meter, and then another, and as he did he felt the Earth begin to lose interest in him. A younger man would have lost his resolve in a burst of elation; he did not. He just kept straining for his star.

And then it happened. Time seemed to stretch out before him into a massive wall mural; for a moment, he felt very much like a little piece of him existed everywhere between the Earth and his star, all at once. Then there was a rubbery snap, and he was there.

Really there.

If he had been the greatest writer ever to live, if he had been the finest storyteller ever to whisper, he could not have described what he felt just then. He hadn't shed so much as a single tear in ... in ... well, since he was a young boy. But, at that moment, a lone tear of palpable joy slid down his cheek. There it was, in front of him; bright and close and fiercely hot. An alien star. His shield had instinctively dimmed, at first to protect him from the radiation.

He just hovered there in space for a few minutes. He had no desire to be anywhere else, to go anywhere else. He was where he had wanted to be for as long as he could remember. He knew what was coming next, at long last, and he didn't mind it at all.

Death came to him as an old friend in a calm shroud, barely visible. They didn't say anything to each other; Smith knew that his magic wouldn't hold out for long so far from the Earth, and he knew that he could never want to return badly enough to make it happen. Besides, at long last, he felt that his life was complete.

Death placed a gentle hand on Smith's cheek, and Smith willingly took it.

In honor of their previous epic battles, Smith was given one gift: for just the briefest of moments, he could see -- even feel -- the whole of the universe. All of it. Every star, planet, nebula. It was so beautiful that Smith closed his eyes.

And the universe breathed a very small sigh of happiness.

Also see: Declination

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