You taught me the courage of stars before you left.
How light carries on endlessly, even after death.
With shortness of breath, you explained the infinite.
How rare and beautiful it is to even exist.
I couldn’t help but ask
For you to say it all again.
I tried to write it down
But I could never find a pen.
I’d give anything to hear
You say it one more time,
That the universe was made
Just to be seen by my eyes.
With shortness of breath, I’ll explain the infinite-
How rare and beautiful it truly is that we exist.
– “Saturn” by Sleeping at Last
I discovered this song last Tuesday afternoon. By Wednesday evening, I had listened to it I-don’t-even-know-how-many times, and this story had appeared in my head and was begging to be written. So I took a break from my current writing project and let it out.
Technically, it’s fanfiction. But I think it’s a fairly sophisticated piece of fanfiction, and I want to share it.
“Tell me again,” begged the boy.
His old teacher smiled indulgently as he lowered his stiff limbs down onto the red grass, its color faded now that the twin suns had set. The boy was prancing impatiently. “Sit,” said the teacher. He wrapped his arm around the boy’s thin shoulders. Two heads tilted back, and old eyes and young gazed at the stars.
“Can you count the stars?” the teacher asked.
“No,” breathed the boy, trying, but as always, losing track in the places where there were so many he could hardly see the black night sky behind them.
“Yet there are far more than we can see from here. So many that only their Creator knows if they end somewhere, or if they go on forever. And in all that infinity, we exist, too, you and I.”
The boy stared up silently, eyes picking out familiar constellations among the numberless stars.
“Doesn’t it take your breath away?” the old man whispered. The boy could only nod, and his teacher hugged him closer. “Never let it stop taking your breath away, my boy.”
After the boy became the Doctor, he saw his old teacher only rarely. Throughout his marriage and the birth of his children, the stars seemed unimportant in comparison to the joy he could touch. After the loss of his wife, he began to look up again, but only as a possible place to escape.
Then there was a message that the old man had died. Had he thought about it, he would have expected him to be dead already, but there was no doubt that he would go to the burning.
It was dark as he stood near the pyre, away from the other mourners; he knew none of them. He watched the sparks of the old man’s body drift up into the sky to join the stars and thought it fitting, his eyes picking out the familiar constellations.
The Doctor did not go to his own home, but his son’s. He said little, more interested in taking his granddaughter – still too young to speak – up into his arms and out into the night.
He stood in silence for a while, looking up. Then he said, “You’re too young yet to try to count the stars, but it can’t be done. Yet there are more out there than we can see. Only the Creator knows where they end, if they end at all. And somehow, among all that infinity, we exist, you and I.”
He paused and looked down at the child in his arms. She was gazing at him solemnly. “Doesn’t that take your breath away?” he asked.
She didn’t respond. He kissed her and whispered, lips pressed against soft baby hair, “Never let it stop taking your breath away, Susan.”