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SHE HAD been alone with her dog on her back porch for a while. She stroked the dog’s head now and then, and it looked at her sideways with its grey-haired smile. It was a good partnership, that one: the two old females looking at the stars, in the silence of being comfortable with each other, the almost unbearable heat, and the fact that it was night. It took her a while to detect what was happening, and it was the dog’s faint whine that had made her look around at first, and then in all directions, and then, upwards.

What she saw froze her mid-stroke across the dog’s back. At the same time she felt the shaggy fur between her fingers, she saw, not believing it, how Orion’s stars started to move away in different directions, almost imperceptibly. She thought it was her bad eyesight at first, squinted, and looked once more. They were further out, drifting away at a certain pace, slowly disarming the archer and expanding the figure of the huntsman. The three bright ones of the belt made him seem fatter, a thought that crossed her mind with a smile, for a second.

The dog whined on, and she knew there was something uncontrollable in this, cataclysmic at a scale she had never imagined before, even being a child of the Cold War and perpetually prepared for the imminence of Armageddon. But this was a different thing; this was not human; this was so strange and beautiful to watch at the same time. With her little knowledge of constellations, she checked on the Pleiades, and could not detect anything — those sister stars in perpetual flickering and messy arrangement.

But Orion was something else; as a child, she had been taught by her father to single it out in those once-in-a-while-stargazing nights, those in which she felt the texture of the leather case of the old horse race pair of binoculars. It smelt of time with her father and the stars above them. For a second, she wondered where those binoculars had ended after his death, and she dismissed the thought because it reminded her of how many things she no longer remembered.

Orion always stood out, brave and masculine, in a perpetual curve over all her life’s night skies; always, in that after-throwing tension that had always made her sense the next step was looking for the prey. It was a male triumphant constellation, now not in fashion anymore, she chuckled to herself, and guess what, now physically dissolving into nothingness in front of her very eyes, loosening the pattern into nothing recognizable.

“What an irony,” she thought to herself and almost said it out loud to her dog, “that the end of the universe would first be noticeable through a male figure distorting and expanding into impossible angles and losing all coherence of construction, of oneness, or shape.”

Yet the movement of expansion in its stars — she could only remember the orange one’s name, Betelgeuse — was so leisurely, so unhurried, that for around twenty minutes she convinced herself she must be under an illusion: nothing was moving; it was her old eyes; this was an impossible thing without any space logic at all. She even looked away several times, concentrating on the table next to her, the wicker chairs, the fence at the end of her garden, the sound of crickets on the summer night. But every time she looked into the sky again, there was Orion’s deformed figure, separating arch from archer, the arm slowly becoming an uneven line of lights flickering, and not a raised arm anymore but a loose curve.

And her dog kept whining. It wasn’t a desperate whine; it was more of how, when it’s been raining for days, she looks out of the window and longs to go outside. That kind of whine.

She decided to stand up, walk around, and see if there was any activity in the neighbourhood that spoke of disaster. She cocked her ears to try to find out if her cell phone, laid on purpose on the kitchen sink, was ringing, buzzing, or sending out a light of alarm in any way. Nothing. The neighbours were all inside due to the heat, surely tucked into air-conditioning happiness while watching series on Netflix, and only a couple of distant dogs barking could be heard. And the crickets, of course.
She hesitated: should she go in and take her cell phone and warn her children, thousands of miles away and asleep in their comfortable ex-migrant now-resident home status? Wake them up in the middle of the night and tell them the stars were drifting apart? One more thing to make them worry about her sanity, she thought with sarcasm; it had never helped she would be perpetually pointing at things in nature that no one but she cared about. They laughed and looked at her always with a knowing sort of tenderness, the kind that includes the silent assertion that mom is not nuts but . . . quite peculiar.

No, she would not call them. She would sit down and watch and see how it all developed. Eventually, experts would realize, surely had already realized, and were taking the necessary measures. But what measures? How do you stop the universe from collapsing?

And then she thought of him and decided to sit down, dog in her lap, and if this was the end of the world, to end it with the memory of him. He was not part of the solid cast of characters in her life, like the treacherous ex-husband or the other now-dead husband; the fathers of her children, the ones she had fought with and against all her life. They were forgiven; they were the necessary men, the ones she had accepted the pains of womanhood for and formed homes with. But once, she had read the question, “If you could have all the people you’ve ever known in your life in front of you, like stars spread out, who would you look out for?” and the question had an answer in her mind: his name.
No, not them, him. The Hunter who never got her, the man suspended like Orion in a night perpetual, his arrow thrown into the darkness of her heart, pierced like a deer’s that falls on the soft grass and waits. But this Hunter had never come to take his prey.

She never forgot him, though. Perhaps it was because their love affair was forbidden, or perhaps because it had taken place in the wilderness, and she was always a thing of the wilderness. Perhaps because they had made love in the outdoors most of the times, and twigs on her hair and the rough bark of trees marked in her back were prizes to be worn proudly afterwards. Perhaps because he always gave her seeds of native plants he collected in their walks, as if he had wanted her to be the mother of plant children. But she had not been a plant woman at the time, only with the years, and sometimes she wondered where she had put all those seeds he gave her — in what pockets, drawers, or dustbins they must have lain in oblivion. Had she planted them, she might have grown a garden.
But like Orion, he was wounded and left in the exertion of the movement of the arch; the prey was forever far and uncollected. They could never be together. She remembers the core of it being his fear, and hers, and how he had told her they would never be together, and he had been right. And it had been all right for him to be right.

But back then, she didn’t know she would dream about him for the rest of her life, and that in all her dreams, he would still be in love with her.

So now, sitting as the dog calmed down a bit on her lap due to her embrace (she trembled every now and then, as when there are fireworks), she thought of him as she watched Orion disintegrating into the darker night sky, aware of the impossibility of it all and yet smiling, tapping her dog’s head softly as she heard the sirens, sounding in the distance.


Image of Andrea Ferrari-Kristeller

Andrea Ferrari Kristeller is an Argentinean teacher, writer and naturalist. She loves her teaching practice and the rainforest. Some of her poems have been published by The Avocet, The Dawntreader, Erbacce, ASEI Arts II anthology, “Flight of a Feather” anthology, Poetry Undressed, Braided Way, Poppy Road Review, The Heimat Review, SweetSmell, LastStanza and Seaside Gothic. She participated in the Tupelo Press 30×30 challenge in July 2023. Her nouvelle “The Land without You” was given an Honourable mention at Writers of the Future contest (2018) and published by Edunam in Oct. 2023. “The Ghost at the Whites’ Hotél” was published in the anthology Haus, by CultureCult Press (2022); “Her turning into a forest” by the magazine Globally Rooted (2023), and “The Ocelot” by Commuter Lit (2023).

  1. Intriguing and beautifully written but I got no sense of closure.

  2. Brilliantly written, Andrea.

  3. Thank you for your kind comments. As for closure, I preferred the ambiguous sirens of the ending to make the voice’s perception unreliable.

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