Author: Steve Smith, Staff Writer

“Do you know what happens when a black star dies?” Tony asks, rhetorically, not waiting for an answer. “It collapses in upon itself, and in one last gasp, ejaculates a single burst of energy into the void.”

His assistant nods, numbly, pen to paper but motionless, unsure of whether this is something she should be writing down.

“Consider the size of the universe, think about the odds of such a burst of the purest concentration of energy hitting a planet with life on it, let alone this,” he pauses waving his hands about, searching for the appropriate words, “this shit hole,” he finishes.

She writes ‘shit hole’ on the notepad.

“And of all the forms it could have taken, cockroach, palm tree, a blade of fucking grass, but no, it coalesces into the form of a man, or mostly man, a kind of androgynous whoever.”

She writes ‘androgynous’, followed by a question mark.

“You can’t keep energy contained like that, not in a fleshy meatsuit, you have to let some of it out, obviously, and what more obvious a form of energy expression than music?” He walks to his desk and pushes piles of paper around recklessly until he uncovers a package of cigarettes, from which he extracts one and lights it, drawing deeply and waiting for the nicotine rush to wash over him and subside so he can speak again.

She writes ‘Hepafilter’.

“Have you ever heard a piece of music and been unaffected?” He waits until she shrugs. “I mean, not ‘get up and dance’ affected, but you either love it or hate it, or it makes your foot tap or stands your teeth on edge, but it affects you, right?”

She nods.

“Imagine what a black star averting death can do, how that kind of energy worms its way into each and every body, tunes us to a common frequency and kind of weaves us all together.” He takes a long slow pull on the cigarette, watching its reflection in the window as the white paper tube is slowly consumed by the crawling orange glow against the blackness of the city outside.

She absently draws a row of stars across the page, each with a continuous stroke, crisscrossing lines without lifting the pen.

“And the crazy thing, we’re all so screwed up, nobody stops to consider that maybe, maybe this really is a star man, not just some crackerjack musician with a hypnotizing voice.” He plucks out another cigarette and lights it off the first before crushing the spent one out in the ashtray. “We’re all pointing our antennae to the sky, decoding static we’re getting from the great black nothingness looking for alien life, while we’re playing a real live star man’s music on our car stereo’s without a fucking clue what it really is.”

She starts filling in small parts of each star, where the crossing lines have created little shapes inside each one.

“And while we’re cluelessly consuming his energy, what happens? Booze, and drugs, and women, and pollution, and disease.” He takes another long pull of the cigarette, then blows the smoke out before fully inhaling. “And these bloody things,” he hollers, waving the half-smoked cigarette in the air for effect.

“And after we absorb all of his energy we’ve pretty much killed him again ourselves, haven’t we?” He stops speaking and stares at her.

She shrugs.

“Do you know what a rare opportunity we had, and we blew it?” He turns back to the window, looking through the glass up into the darkness.

“You only have to turn on the news to realize how much of our world he must have been holding together.” Smoke drifts slowly against the glass, and he watches it roll off in waves. “I give us five years, tops.”


  1. Jae

    “This ain’t rock ‘n’ roll, this is genocide!”

    Good nod to the thin white duke, with fittingly bitter, biting humour. Excellent tale.

    • Stephen R. Smith

      His was a loss I felt more than any other. It’s strange to miss someone you never met, never knew, but his music has been the soundtrack to so much of my life. Bowie and Gord Downie both.

  2. xdhz8

    Interesting commentary with good imagery and a little humor stirred in. Very good.

  3. SimonJM

    A nicely bonkers theory being declaimed by a mildly bonkers professor? And a nicely diffident student? Or, maybe, a gently bonkers inmate and a shrink? 🙂
    Some nice nods to Bowie, to boot!

    • Stephen R. Smith

      Thank you!

      He’s told us not to blow it, ’cause he knows it’s all worthwhile…

  4. blue

    Enjoyable! And really liked the spot on description of the disengaged note-taker…

    • Stephen R. Smith

      Thank you!

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