t's all very well to picture the Little Prince on his little planet, staring blank-eyed into space. It's quite another thing to be on such a planet in real life — a planet so small that, by arching forward or back to my fullest extension, I can almost see myself around it. The tragic little prince, his limited tragedy was contained by the littleness of his domain, and the limited range of expression on his cartoon face. My thoughts and feelings, by contrast, range out into the cosmos, with no bulk to speak of to tie them down, and the black immensity of space so close, all around, to be filled up with them.
For a while it wasn't even clear if my planet would have enough mass to hold me down and keep me from flying away. I clung to it fearfully, awaiting my doom. But we were able to come to an agreement. I attract it and it attracts me, and so together we hurtle through space, and neither one of us falls off. I have grown brave, and stand at my full height, extended into the nothingness that seems to swallow me whole, like the whale swallowed Jonah.
It is fortunate that I arrived wearing my spacesuit. It makes air that I can breathe, gathers nutrients from the sky to keep me alive, disperses waste matter harmlessly into the void. But where I came from and how I came to be here, I can only dimly recall. I knew once, but that knowledge has faded along with its usefulness. There was a launching pad, a sickeningly even expanse of tarmac. An early morning, a skeletal tower climbing out of mist, an awkward unsatisfying kiss on closed lips, then darkness, and now this.
At night the stars grow dim because I close my eyes, and in the morning they are still there, blinking in much the same way. I have not identified a single constellation — I can't imagine narrowing down the million things the stars suggest to just these ancient names: Cassiopeia, Andromeda, Hunter, Bear. When I look down I see the grey-green stone that is my tiny planet, and when I look up again, I just see stars. And when I look within, with my other eyes, I see the same throng of confusions I have always seen there, whether I was in cities or jungles, castles or villages, ponds or caves or right here on a very small sphere of rock hurtling through the cosmos.
Matt Everett is in his second year at the New School's MFA Writing/Fiction program, where he's developing a series of short stories and tales as his thesis project. He is originally from Providence, Rhode Island, and now lives in Queens. Before taking up fiction writing, he was a songwriter and musician.
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story copyright by author 2008 all rights reserved