Prompt: A planet is held motionless by the gravitational equilibrium of a hundred stars: no seasons, no poles, no days or nights, and where the universe stalls, something else steps in…
Five ships approached, burning their night oil. It was best to use it now, because it would lose its name upon the surface of the planet. The planet had many names, those aboard the lead ship called it Ohn, but it had no nights. The darkness was one of many things stripped away from the planet by its remarkable position.
Ohn had the invisible fingers of a thousand stars touching its surface. They all pulled with their gravity, but none were strong enough to overpower the others. For the wave of a galactic arm it had been trapped, lodged in the blackness, held tight, and its potential had been choked.
Ohn could not spin, could not favor any star with its face, and so had no seasons. Its atmosphere was still. Its magnetic forces roamed about, unable to even conjure lights or storms, and grew more listless when they found they had no poles to settle. There was enough light, enough acids, and enough potential for life to form, but it refused. To live there was to be frozen in ice that would never melt.
Life of the biological vein never took, even when various civilizations tried to seed Ohn, tried to make it their Ohn, but it still had its primordial life, the one all planets gained upon birth. On Ohn they called this first life the White Hand. The five ships journeyed there now to meet with it, to convince it to stop.
They faced no resistance when they landed in the midst of Ohn’s single vast desert. There were a few animals, plants, and wayward scholars dotting the placid flat sand, but they minded their own business. They were souls either sent to attempt colonization or philosophers seeking the White Hand’s certainty, but Ohn offered nothing. The visitors stared at the residents, tried to address them, but they all stared into the cloudless sky and said nothing.
Each ship was sent by a different people from a different system to help ensure none of the others were overcome by the uniform malaise of Ohn. Each people could look at the aliens sent with them and use that small edge, that sharpened flint, of hostility between tribes to keep their minds moving. They refused to speak to each other. Everyone needed to stay alien to everyone else. They were here to try their tactics on the White Hand; each of them was only the chance of success.
There was only one structure on the planet taller than any of the visitors: a temple. The walk to it wasn’t far, but it did drain the visitors. They had all sorts of feet: talons, toes, gastric extrusions, but the sand sapped their energy all the same. The footprints they left were gone moments later, even though there was no wind to blow them away. It had to be the White Hand. It had embraced the stillness that birthed it, and would let no activity stand.
The temple was a bubble of unknown material, utterly invisible yet still clearly there. The incredible stillness of the atmosphere turned to simple vacuum past its threshold. The visitors had to don helmets filled with the plants of their home world, flowers to supply them with native air and the scents of home. They ascended the ramp into the vacuum and followed the flow of the satin sandstone to the center.
They found the White Hand hovering off the ground, legs crossed, large pant legs ballooning out, hands holding each other, and head dipped towards them. The god of Ohn wore a crown of white gems with a mask of fog that clouded its eyes. It waited for them to speak.
“White Hand,” one of the visitors began. The creature was amazed to make it through the first word without being killed. He was from the scaled people of a different arm of a different galaxy. As he stood he shed his skin repeatedly, nervously. Back home the winds of autumn would have taken his gray scales away and left him some dignity. “We have come, from five different corners of the cornerless realm, to humbly ask that you cease your efforts.”
“What efforts?” the White Hand asked. Its voice came not from its mouth, or the temple, but from Ohn itself.
“You’ve been moving things!” another visitor declared. She gripped a giant axe, something most species couldn’t even heft, but she felt powerless before the dispassionate god. “Stars, planets… You’ve slowed them as well. You’re trying to turn every pebble into Ohn. You’re killing our seasons, our weather!” Those who held weapons held them tighter. The White Hand did not strike.
“I kill nothing,” the White Hand stated. “Peace is the way of all. Movement is aberration, symptom. I am curing.”
“No!” another visitor, a beast of fiery red feathers and emerald eyes, argued. “You do not understand because you were born in the stillness!” they squawked. They brought forth a stone octagon with a gem-studded lid. They placed it on the ground and opened it. Immediately a figure of red light rose and billowed out. The figure was radiant, enough to nearly blind, and it had a passionate face with unblinking eyes and cheeks that could not cool.
“Who is this?” the White Hand asked of the figure.
“I am the Summer,” it declared, its voice like fire on the surface of a lake, like amphibious things watching it burn from below. “You were supposed to be our sibling. I was born with my planet as you were with yours, but we had rotation. There were four of us, where there is only one of you. I had Winter, Spring, and Autumn to give me perspective. Now it is only Winter and I. Your slowing has killed the others and I have fused with the remaining spirit of Spring.”
“You must enjoy being closer to wholeness,” the White Hand replied. Summer raged at the thought. The incarnation of the season, just a taste held in the native stone and soil inside the box, burned the temple floor and scarred many of the visitors. They were forced to flee. The White Hand was not moved, even as Summer roared a wave of flame over it.
The visitor that had brought the tiny avatar of Summer, a mere splinter of it, didn’t have the strength to contain the season’s wrath. The lid could not be restored. Already they were trapped outside the temple, seated on its flowing stone edges, and staring at the sky. They saw Ohn’s hundred stars and felt their ambient tugs, a constant pain on their heart strings, muscles, and organelles.
The visitors finally spoke to each other while flames licked at the edges of the temple fruitlessly. They broke down their language barriers like breaking the crusts from bread. Now it was fine to share their cultures, for they were all doomed. Summer would surely send a message to all the other seasons of all the other planets. Those gods had a backup plan to stop the White Hand, and it meant sacrificing all organic life over the course of billions of years.
The visitors brought out their actual bread, their exotic nuts, fruits, vegetables, and meats, and shared a meal on the sand, the ground more than clean enough to act as dining table. The seasons, together, had great power. They couldn’t destroy each other the way the White Hand could, they were born to work together, but they could change the universe in which the White Hand lived. They could compress it. They could squeeze its mind out of reality, along with everything but the most basic energies.
The universe would have to shrink, compress to nothing, and end for the White Hand’s cruel slow to be erased. There would be a new universe after. Things always expanded again. The stars would be reborn, the planets, and then the seasons. Hopefully, in the new realm of Andromeda and Milky Way, there would be no White Hand.
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by DeathUnbound during a livestream. I hereby transfer all story rights to them, with the caveat that it remain posted on this blog. If you would like your own story, stop by twitch.tv/blainearcade during one of my streams and I’ll write it for you live!