An Infinity of Stars - SF Smackdown

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A short story based on four pictures shown in the slideshow on the right.

Pic 2 – balloon cloud, Pic 5 – winged metal skeletons - Angels, Pic 6 – moonscape reflection - Reflector City, Pic 7 – Tower cities

The Brain, is wider than the Sky

For, put them side by side,

The one the other will contain

With ease, and You, beside

Emily Dickinson


An Infinity of Stars

“Watch.” The man rested an arm across the young boy’s shoulders as they sat looking out over the lake from their vantage point on a nearby hillside. Although a gesture was unnecessary, he lifted his free hand, concentrated, and then gave his wrist a peculiar little twist, watching in pleasure as one of the clouds before him shifted, tendrils of vapour appearing to do his will. The boy’s mouth dropped open and he watched in wonder as the cloud roiled and twisted into the recognisable shape of a hot air balloon.

“That was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen,” stated the boy with the certainty of his eleven years experience.

“And now it’s your turn.”


“You.” The old man lifted the boy’s chin with one bony finger. “You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve if you just apply your brain. It is a tool almost beyond your imagination, and yet imagination is the only limitation you have.

“Concentrate. Centre yourself as I have taught you and then reach out to the other cloud. You need no gesture or motion; that is the province of old fools like me. Let your mind do the work, imagine what you want and make it come true.”

Master watched student, the boy screwing his face up in an approximation of calm. He felt the boy reach out toward the distant hills, and watched with a smile as the cloud adjacent to his now dissipating balloon began to shape itself into something that loosely resembled a squid crossed with blob of whipped cream.

“Oh. It’s not very good is it?”

“My first one looked like a baboon’s backside lad, it’s pretty good.”

Beaming, the boy leapt to his feet, his skin cast with an orange hue in the calm sunset. “I did it, I did it!”

“Aye, you did, now sit down there’s a good lad, you’re making me feel old.”

“But you are old.”

“I’m ancient boy, older than the hills,” he said chuckling. “I’m proud of you, you really did do well. Not many can master the cloud exercise at eleven, you show promise. All we have to do now is teach you patience.”

“Yes master,” the boy said and sat down, his eyes travelling back out over the vista that lay before them. A crescent moon appeared from behind the wispy remnants of the boy’s ‘whipped squid’ and he sighed, a look of longing painting his features.

A small smile twisted the mouth of the old man and he sat silently, waiting for the inevitable question.

“Do you think maybe I could go to the moon one day?”

“I don’t see why not. Others are still there.”

“Others?” The boy frowned, catching the wistful tone of the man sitting next to him.

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