Get Your Authentic Stardust Here by JP Relph
The night the sky cracked, I was sprawled on the hood of my car beside that good-for-nothing boy, naming constellations, ignoring his fingers on my neck.
The star landed in a soybean field outside of Calamity, sent silver dust miles on the night breeze, juddered the power long enough for folks to start banging their radios and TVs.
We were first there, skidding across silvered grass to the edge of a crater ragged and blistered as that left by an enucleated eye. We tried scooping the stardust in our hands: it was like holding onto water, or childhood. The faintest sheen lingered in hair, on skin.
Calamity pitched up on the map that night, became more than just a drive-through town. People travelled from all over to visit the crash site. They’d eat star-shaped waffles in the diner before a repurposed school bus took them to the devastated field. Our former librarian worked as a guide on the bus, regaling goggle-eyed visitors with a dramatized version of events.
The man who once farmed the soybeans with increasingly arthritic hands and a “halfwit” son, ran a tour round the crater. For an extra fifty bucks, the gullible fools could swim in the water that he’d pumped into it. It had a glimmer that mesmerised the believers – they’d submerge in the cold water, profess to being cured of everything from acne to twisted spines.
Back in town there’d be celestial burgers, stellar pies. Numerous gift stalls selling stardust in all forms; jewellery, candles, shampoo. Nobody questioned the origin of “Authentic Calamity Stardust”, despite it seeming duller than expected.
We initially enjoyed the influx of people; our town newly buzzing It wasn’t long though before it felt like an invasion: motor homes parked all up the streets, residents unable to get tables in the diner. It always took days to clean up after the latest tour bus rolled out. Even in winter it didn’t let up – the once-farmer hauling a trailerful of frostbitten visitors behind his snowplough.
Then, a year after the star fell, the sky cracked again. A small comet, trailing a tail of flame, landed in a pecan field outside of Lizard City. The residents rushed to the scene, ate roasted nuts as the comet burnt out. Already seeing a pin drop on the world’s map.
Folks stopped coming to Calamity; a nugget of space rock more appealing than questionable dust. The diner returned to regular waffles, the stall owners dug out their old wares, the farmer hobbled back to his field; opened the crater lake for locals to swim in.
One night, I was sprawled on the hood of my car beside that good-for-nothing boy, pointing out Perseus and the gap where a star once burned and died. His fingers were on my neck when the sky cracked. We both laughed, wondered which backwater town was next, wished it luck, then I finally kissed him. He tasted of the stars and was certainly good for something.
JP Relph is a working-class writer from North West England. Her writing journey began in 2021 with Writers HQ and is mostly hindered by four cats and aided by copious tea. She loves murder programmes, zombies and Marvel. A forensic science degree and a passion for microbes, insects, and botany often motivate her words, which can be found in Splonk, Cranked Anvil, Molotov Cocktail, Lucent Dreaming, and others. Twitter – @RelphJp