Stardust

A novel by Aaron Craiger

First Draft

Chapter 1

I floated weightlessly, adrift in space, the stars around me glowing like diamonds on a black velvet jeweler's display stand. The Earth floated below me, a stunning blue/green marble with scratches of white across it's surface. "Hey, I can see my house from here," I muttered to myself, then giggled at my own inane humor. Here I am, floating in space, and I'm cracking stupid jokes. I turned my head, and saw the grinning visage of the moon leering at my as if it was a hungry tiger and I, and nice hunk of raw meat.

Creepy.

With a rush, creating a lightheaded feeling, I began to accelerate away from Earth. My beloved home planet dwindled to a small point behind me as I flew faster and faster. A small spark of terror fluttered through my chest and alighted on my sternum, egging my heart rate higher as I realized that I couldn't control either my speed or direction. I continued to accelerate, the sun – hell, the entire solar system – becoming but a distant point of light; the stars flashing by me in stroboscopic flashes of light. Good thing I don't have epilepsy. Staring in wonder, I left the galaxy. It appeared to me as a smear, a white imperfection on the black canvas of space. I continued with my unchecked acceleration, having already left the speed of light far behind long ago. I noticed an odd phenomenon as I sped along – the universe seemed to be falling in among itself. Maybe, just maybe, I was traveling so fast that I was loosing the bonds of reality as we know it. With a deafening roar, reality ripped apart around me and wadded up into a crumpled ball of nothingness. I was now surrounded by a blinding whiteness that quickly faded. In it's place was a stunningly beautiful – yet terrifying – vista. The blackness of space was gone, and in it's place was a glowing blue ether. White veins of…something – exactly what, I don't know – traced along, making the vista even more surreal. Glowing nebulas arrayed in unreal colors spread across large swatches of the ether, occasionally blocked out by gigantic planets that are solid, not gaseous. To my left loomed a brick-red giant that would make a red giant star appear to be a mere dot if beside to it. Apparently, the laws of physics did not apply here. My heart soared with exhilaration while simultaneously crashing with despair; terror caused me to quake in fear while curiosity drove me to explore even further. Every emotion I'd ever known, and more than quite a few I hadn't, coursed through me. It felt as if my head would explode as my heart raced to such speed that I could swear I was a hummingbird. White spots danced through my vision. A silvery moon came into view – this one not leering suggestively, but glaring downright maliciously. As I watched, it's eyes focused on me. Suddenly, a fuzzy ball floated over towards me, and it stopped about a foot from my face. Two crimson eyes opened and stared blankly at me. Cautiously, I met it's gaze. Suddenly, the pounding in my chest ceased as I went into full Cardiac Arrest. My hand flew to my chest in shock; my eyes widening in horror. The glaring face in the moon suddenly vanished as I spoke my first words in the strange reality.

"No…no – I'm not ready to die!" I implored the fuzzy white ball. It blinked at me.

"Do not fear new friend!" The fuzzy ball said in a high, friendly voice. "The one you fear has no dominion in this place!" I cocked my head.

"Where…where am I?" I managed to croak.
"Oh…" the ball said sadly, "you have to go now…"

"But…but…" I stammered.

"Bye bye," its said, then bobbed up and down. "Come back!" The ball zipped away into the ether. I was left alone for a few seconds, so I took the opportunity to look around. The beautiful scenery was on the verge of pushing me to tears when I suddenly was yanked back into reality. I woke up in bed drenched in a cold sweat, emotions boiling over inside of me. Tears streamed from my eyes as I cursed both my lack of pants and a girlfriend to deal with my current problem. My tears slowed down and stopped, my current problem quickly deflating. I stood up, shaking, reveling in the afterglow of my experience, every dopamine receptor in my body lighting up like a Christmas tree. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I heard, very faintly, the voice of the fuzzy ball. I couldn't decipher what it was saying, however, and it faded into silence quickly. My thoughts still fuzzy, I stumbled into the bathroom and was greeted by my kind yet intense face in the mirror. My oh-so-manly visage was streaked bright orange from my tears. I peered into the mirror closely, and saw a multitude of bright orange grains of dust still lodged in my eyelid. Leaning down into the faucet, and thankfully not slamming my head into it, I rinsed my eyes to rid them of the last traces of Stardust, and I grabbed my Visine from off the counter. Carefully, after I had dried my eyes, I dripped Visine into both orbs so I could put an end to the irritation that is one of Stardust's most infamous side effects.

"Damn…" I muttered sleepily. After I took a shower and got dressed, my cat slunk in and plopped herself down regally on my discarded uniform pants and promptly meowed at me. "Geez, Blizzard," I said to the all-white ball of fur as I collected my wallet, keys and cell phone from my dresser. "You just can't resist covering my pants in fur, huh?" Blizzard looked up at me innocently. "Oh yeah, plead the fifth. Damn cat." I patted her head lovingly as I pulled the badge off my uniform shirt, and then slid it into my badge holder which was clipped onto my waist. Suddenly, Blizzard lept onto my shoulder and launched herself into the air, paws flailing wildly, yowling.

"What the…" I said, eyebrow cocked. "I'm the only one allowed to do drugs around here, Blizzard," I said. Yowling, Blizzard launched herself at me for another round. I yelped, leapt out of my bedroom, and slammed the door; Blizzard thunked into it. Poor cat. As I grabbed a soda from my refrigerator, I noticed something odd. Usually, after taking a hot shower and dodging my temporarily insane cat, my heart would be racing, but this time there was nothing emanating from my poor chest. Hand shaking from nerves, I put two fingers on my radial pulse point, by my radial bone. Nothing. So, I put my fingers to the left side of my neck and felt for my carotid pulse. Nothing there either. My eyebrows shot up, and I said a few words my mom would definitely not approve of.

I am legally dead.