It happened in a late night Karaoke bar on Mars. Neil had hit the high note on the Pop Remix of â€œSome Enchanted Eveningâ€ when he felt a white exultation, his feet lifting off the stage by a celestial breath, his eyes cracked open but unseeing. Then he fainted.
His friends took him to a doctor. They werenâ€™t particularly worried; doctors could bring a person back from anything more than dust and Neil was still breathing. Neil was slight and pale from living underground, easy to carry into the doctorâ€™s office.
The doctor looked at the light in Neilâ€™s belly and told him the answer even before he did any tests. Neil had a baby star inside him. The doctor didnâ€™t seem as surprised as Neil imagined he would be. He told Neil that people were made of ancient stardust; it was only logical that one could be born inside a person as much as in the depths of space. The doctor was very concerned. Too much longer and Neilâ€™s organs would be consumed, already his liver was ash.
There was a cure.
The doctor took Neil to a place far underground, near the Mars core, to a room guarded by old-fashioned metal robots. There, in a sterile room, was a box, bound in black skin and iron rivets. It was a squatting, monstrous box that formed frost around it. Inside, the doctor told him, was a little black hole. The box itself was old, made by a race that had fallen into extinction far before the earth had even started to spin. It was made for eating stars.
Neilâ€™s doctor could chain him to the wall and open the box, just a tad, just a crack, and the star would be sucked right out of him. His damaged organs could be replaced, but if he waited much longer, he would be dust. Neil put his hand on the box, his fingers stuck like magnets to the top. The cold chewed his skin like a mouth full of needles. The skin on his belly glowed with a peach light that pulsed rhythmically. The star was growing.
The hungry box waited.
Neil said he wanted to think about it, but the truth was he didnâ€™t want to think at all; he just wanted to get out of that room, away from that box. The doctor warned him there wasnâ€™t time, but Neil pushed out to the street, to the spaceport, where he maxed out his credit and bought a ship. By now, his fingertips were twinkling.
Neil pushed the ship out as far as he could, burning white from the inside. He inhaled toxic gases, spray-paint, glue, whatever he imaged stars ate. He lived in a pool of his own sweat, his skin as dry as sand. When he was deep in space he opened the hatch door and the cool sucking dark enveloped him. Neil opened his arms, a supernova sky.
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