“The astronomers liken these bright blobs of gas, lit up by newly-formed stars,
to the last drops of blood from the dying galaxy, draining out into space.”
Andrew Fazekas for National Geographic,
Dying Galaxy Found Bleeding Out Into Space, June 3, 2013
Morgan’s grandson was one of the first to see dwarf galaxy IC 3418 – that ultraviolet image of “impending death”, a wide trail of gases whirling into fireballs like pain searing beneath an open wound. Meanwhile, Morgan laid in a hospital bed across town, organs torn as easily as a tissue kite, insides aflame like the galaxy aching 54 million light years away.
Icey – as the luminous cluster was affectionately nicknamed, called so for the bright blues trailing off for thousands of light years behind her – had spent her immeasurable life churning out new stars, spinning solar systems like tiny eddies in her wake, spilling her inner light as she travelled across the skies. Morgan had spent his life teaching high school science, measuring variables in order to mix the right elements in the right conditions, propel them across young minds in such a way that new life could take root, blossom and evolve, bring about new types of environments in his students’ minds. Both she and he had exhausted themselves in their work, dedicating every moment necessary to what they now considered – as they each felt weaker, each one flickering rather than shining – the reason they had come into existence, the “why” others ask about, the source of those crackling sparks that pull one out of bed on restless nights.
One stormy afternoon as his grandson watched the twinkling cosmos flare and recede on his computer screen – witnessing the beginning of Icey’s slow struggle, the process she now felt come to a shuddering, shadowed end – Morgan dimmed, his head tipping to the side on the pale hospital pillow. As his mind flitted to images of his family, the glossy portraits his grandson had shown him of Icy and her astral train, the last graduating class Morgan had seen across the stage, he felt on his unshaven cheek the soft, warm glow of a woman’s face, her radiant eyes revealing nebulae, her glittering mouth sighing into a smile as she slipped her azure fingers around his trembling hands and led him out into the blinding, infinite light of the stars.