We hasten to leave,

lest in clinging to the cradle

we make it our grave.

We've managed to give what was left in us to give,

Not all at once, but in a wave.

The reports are undisputed on only one detail: the constellations disappear. First fade the giants, distant and luminous, breaking apart these connect the dots outlines: Deneb in Cygnus, past three thousand light years, slips out of sight, and the Swan is left tailless.

Each craning his neck, each straining his eye, sees all the swift colony ships, rising high. Columns of fire and smoke multiply,

marvels within and without.

Rigel at the Hunter's knee is gone within the week, and Betelgeuse at his shoulder departs in the same gasp as Antares, the Scorpion finally crushed by his great foe. Homes are evacuated. Interstellar vessels are filled. Stasis machines are tested, checked, checked again. Coma induction medications are mass produced.

And miles above Earth, we wait as they die, singing our songs as we bid it good-bye, each in his berth at the edge of the sky,

we're watching the stars go out.

The puzzle of it all is that they don't seem to be dying. All instruments detect no change in gravity, and the simple expansion of the universe has not justified our observations, for nearer stars have gone before those farther away. Altair was gone before Vega, and all of the Centaur passed at once, yet Sirius and Pollux still shine.

We hurtle through space, we sleep as we fly, each of us dreaming he'll someday know why, now understanding (we hope, and we try!)

what Sagan was talking about.

Some few of us remain awake, to monitor the machines in shifts. Some sit vigil over Sol, awaiting the instant it, too, will wink out and leave us in the empty dark. We are left to conclude they are leaving, not dying. We are left to speculate why. Perhaps they have gone to seed and scattered, dandelion clocks blown out into the night, carried on their own solar winds, or kicked into motion with the pealing laughter of some cosmic child.

We're singing the stars their last lullaby, saying "farewell and goodnight" with a cry, we never expected they'd send a reply -

not "farewell" but "FOLLOW!" they shout!

Not all at once, but in a wave

We'd managed to save what was left for us to save,

so take what we have:

lost and clutching at a candle,

one handful of light.

Iron Noder 2020, 5/30

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