The Cosmic King

by Suphala Nibhanupudi
Art by Christine Cheng
Issue: Solivagant (Winter 2018)

A blast of light. A flicker of color that spanned a millisecond. Ripples of lost energy. Another mogul fades away into the quiet still.

Our star, burning blue, slowly spins into existence, a purpose ingrained inside it among flecks of space dust. The young sovereign is filled with hopes and naivete and an excess of hot hydrogen.  The scorching orb sucks in nearby space debris vicariously, commanding its new subjects to swivel around the celestial at a dizzying pace. The star scoffs at responsibility. I mean, who paces themselves these days? It can do whatever it pleases. Whoever interpreted the color blue as serene and somber clearly had never known a star. The monarch gorges on unlucky comets and asteroids, broiling them to crisps and chips. Nothing will dare get too close.

Yet as the centuries blur into millennia, millennia into eons, our star’s appetite wanes. It’s satiated enough to loosen the rei(g)ns. The zealous, commanding blue begins to dissolve into a lethargic, mellow yellow.

Planets no longer cower in fear but drift complacently into orbit, ruled less by fear and more by routine (brush teeth, create atmosphere, orbit Sun-Lord, book club). The star’s belly is stuffed by the spoils of its system, and new, heavier elements. Drowsiness lowers its guard as the ruthless leader lies down for afternoon nap behind its crusty sunspots. Just a quick power-nap…

The sluggish monarch startles awake from its peaceful slumber and gawks at its suddenly red body, in anguish over its weakened, swollen shape. What had happened to its empire? It wanted, expected more planets. When had it become so… old? The star dawdled away so much time and now is a weak flare, a large, useless bundle of heat and bulky elements.

Red, in all its passion and flame, does little service to the star’s power. It’s more the embodiment of its rage.

So in its fury, it starts to expand in an effort to regain some semblance of control as the reactions inside start to fail. It desperately clings to the lasts threads of power. The subjects wait with bated breath to see if their ruler’s ghost would be a starving black hole or a shifty neutron star.

So when our star finally gives in?

It splits into a furious light show in a second, reds and yellows and blues flaring with a tremendously silent bang. Time itself pauses to watch the dying star’s final show of strength, as the star exhales its last wheeze, as it admits defeat and relinquishes its power back to the void.

New stars awaken into the cold vacuum. They look around and see nothing, no one, just the ghostly ruins of a kingdom. They start to feed on their surroundings.

New kingdoms are staked out, hungry new rulers find their place. A new empire has begun.

Organic yet orderly lines mesh with one another while being torn apart. The center of the image is purple, with a rainbow of color continuing radially outward to red until the fringes of the drawing turn black.