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Sidney sits at his desk staring at the flowery wallpaper behind it but really seeing the universe in all of its suffocating infinity stretch out before him. He can see what he believes to be the Milky Way (it isn’t) not too far off and then other clusters of stars and suns and cosmic debris all of which he cannot name. He blinks and focuses closer in, on the moon, and looks for the one area that he can correctly name. He has to wait about sixteen bars of Beethoven’s ninth symphony until the moon rotates enough so that he can point it out to himself and smile. “That’s the Sea of Tranquillity, Sidney my boy.” He notes the ragged edge of the crater that someone once told him was made by a crashing meteorite. Sidney thinks the sea has been well named and watching it float past always makes his brain slow down. But it’s difficult to stay focused on such a large and near object when all existence pans out in front of him, without boundary, edge or horizon. He lets the moon slip from his eye-line and instead zooms in on a distant group of suns. It takes about two bars of Ludwig’s ninth to arrive and he has to wait three more until the orbs become large enough for him to make out the explosions and licks of super-heated gas erupting all over them. “Fascinating, fascinating.” he mumbles to himself as he leans in towards the wall to see the dancing flames even better. The largest of the four suns glows brightest of all, so bright that its light casts shadows of the other suns onto the surrounding moons. Sidney agrees that it is a marvel to behold. His mouth is open and flecks of dry spittle have collected in the corners like enzyme deposits to be mined later, or just to be brushed away with a sweeping finger of mild self-disgust. As he watches, the biggest sun’s intensity appears to wane and Sidney blinks just in case this darkening is an effect of his eyeballs drying out. “Nope, it is darkening. Perhaps it is going out.”

Despite spending a great deal of his time coasting amongst the stars whilst sat at his desk, Sidney has yet to see the actual moment of death of a star. The chap with glasses and a beard that occasionally he talks to down the pub has told him that when you calculate the number of stars that there must be in the universe it would be more than likely for at least one of them to go ‘super-nova’ every week. “It would be huge. It’s difficult to conceive of really. If we could watch one it would be like all the fireworks ever fired in the world, ever, being let off all at once as well as all the nuclear weapons and flares and all the power stations blowing up. Actually Sidney, it would be even more powerful than that.” Well, Sidney can watch it, if only he could find one nearing its end. The big sun is still dimming and Sidney shuffles his chair closer to the desk to get the best possible view. The sun seems to throb once, twice and again and then it starts to glow brighter and brighter. It is so bright, so quickly, that Sidney shields his eyes against the glare with his hand, but he immediately realises he cannot both watch the sun and block his view. “Sunglasses would be nice. Make a note Sidney.” He does not as now the sun is going dark again but it’s only a moment this time before it is throbbing once more and brighter than ever. The incandescent globe is all yellow, almost white, no red, no orange, as definite as a single light bulb in a pitch black fruit cellar. By contrast the other suns around it are mere moths now, flitting around the bulb, in rapture over the light much like Sidney. The sun is so dazzling that the jet black background of the universe appears to him as dark blue hue and all the other stars that normally sparkle so brilliantly are just splashes of white paint on it. ”Like spilt Tippex on my jeans.” he recalls. Sidney notices that it has stopped throbbing. It is difficult to look at the sun as it is so bright. He thinks he can feel his retina over-heating and curling up like a dead, dry oak leaf in an oven but he does not and cannot look away. Sidney’s hands have involuntarily grasped either side of his wide desk and the knuckles on each one are pale and straining. The tension of the moment is giving Sidney butterflies in his stomach and he keeps swallowing great gulps of air as if he had just resurfaced from a three hundred foot free-dive. He blinks and then notices black dots beginning to appear beneath the surface of the sun, like polka dots on a yellow beachball but the two colours together make the sun look ill. “It’s diseased, it’s dying.” Sidney whispers in a voice so quiet he can only just hear himself. The dots are multiplying and darkening, taking the edge off the brightness of the orb. Sidney has an urge to poke at the sun but his hands do not unclasp from the wooden edge of his desk. “It’s miles away anyway Sidney, and it’s dying.” The dots stop appearing and the ones he can see stop darkening. Sidney’s big breaths stop as well and his mouth closes, dislodging flakes of saliva crust onto his desk, and instead he is now softly drawing breath, attempting to make no noise whatsoever. He blinks the dryness out of his eyes and suddenly a barely noticeable line of red appears on the surface of the sun, creeping its way over the top horizon and advancing between the black dots like a fissure racing its course across pack ice. It starts branching off into one, two, four, countless veins of red, intersecting each other and cracking paths around the black dots. Sidney does not notice but he is biting his lower lip hard enough to draw blood. “It’s cracking up, it’s about to blow. Blood?” It takes Sidney a second to loosen the grip of his left hand on the desk and when he has he dabs fingers on his lips and looks down at them. “Blood.” He looks back up at the broken sun, it’s black dots and angry red veins. “Blood, super-nova, it’s going to blow.” he says distractedly. Nothing matters at this point in time to him other than what he can see. The sun dims, the patches of yellow almost as dark as the black spots with only the red lines glowing; the surrounding suns are now much brighter than the dark orb; it looks like a ball of solidified lava with its heart of fire only visible in the cracks that cover it. Sidney blinks and then the universe goes white. “Holy mackerel.” he mouths and then his phone rings, he blinks and all he can see are pale yellow poppies, pastel bluebells and some sort of meadow grass. He blinks again and looks down at the phone on the corner of his desk. He looks up quickly but the flowers have not gone. He swallows long and hard and picks up the phone. “This had better be important.” Sidney says quietly.

Indeedy Poo.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
As does Absinthe.
And Abstinence (which, actually, is pretty much absence anyway.)


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