I wonder if Sophie realises I can walk myself. Although there’s a big chance I wouldn’t, guess that’s why.
If I really want to get away, I probably could, but that causes problems I don’t want.
She brings me to a bookshelf. Since I can’t read anything on the books, it’s just me looking at pictures.
“So, which book do you like?” She picks up one to show me. “This one? Or do you like that one more?” I can’t read them, so no, I don’t like any of them.
“I see, you’re great at making decisions.” She’s making fun of me again, doesn’t she have anything else to do. “Well then, I’ll pick this one. If it’s terrible you can’t blame me, you had a chance.” I’ll still blame you, you can’t stop me.
She carries me and the book to who knows where and puts me down. What now? I’ll just sit on this pillow, that’s better than sitting on the ground. Sophie sits down next to me and opens the book.
“In a time far into the future. A time where everyone has a rocket ship.” The picture shows a big pointy thing in a backyard, I guess it’s a rocket ship as she called it.
She turns the page, this time it shows two little kids with one begging to the other. “Mia really wants to go and see Thalia. But they aren’t allowed to use the rocket without a grown-up. Mia begs Emily to let her use it. ‘Please’ says Mia. ‘Just once!’” Sophie really goes all in with different voices for the characters.
The next page shows them in the rocket ship. “‘No Mia. My parents won’t allow it.’ Emily protests.
‘Your parents are out for the weekend. We’ll be back before they notice.’ Mia promises.
Emily reluctantly agrees. They soar off from Aliv on a hot summer night. Mia excitedly jumps around in the rocket.
‘Did you know that the Kena will die one day?’ Mia asks.
‘As if, how can it die? Stars shine forever.’ Emily shakes her head in disbelief.
‘Stars get their energy by burning hydrogen to produce helium.’” Sophie widens her eyes. “Really, they use words like hydrogen in a child story?” She flips around the pages. “They don’t even explain what it is…” Sophie shakes her head. “Hydrogen is a chemical element, it’s almost everywhere. It doesn’t have a smell, a colour, and taste. So you can’t see it even though it’s really common.”
Sophie silently thinks for a bit before continuing. “It’s really flammable, meaning it it catches fire easily. Hydrogen is the simplest atom possible, and the first element on the periodic table. If two hydrogen combine with oxygen, the air we breathe in, it creates water.
Stars are mostly made of hot gas. The gas is made of hydrogen and helium. It’s probably too complicated anyway, you’ll get this later in school.” She smiles.
Sounds like more magic to me, all this didn’t exist in my previous world. I wonder if they have books on it, but I can’t read yet. Step one, learn how to read the letters here. Step two, find books about all the magic here. Seems like a plan to me.
“Anyway, let’s get back to the story. ‘Slowly, all it’s hydrogen will get used up. Probably in more than five billion years.’ Mia explains. ‘When a star the size of the Kena dies, it becomes a white dwarf. When a star bigger than the Kena dies, it becomes a black hole.’”
Sophie sighs disappointed. “They had such a great chance to explain the info… When a star dies, it expands. The Kena would swallow all the nearby planets, including ours. So that’d be the end for us, but there’s a big chance we would be long gone before that happens.
After a star finishes expanding, it will collapse. All that is left then is a very dense white core. After millions of years it will cool down and slowly become invisible.
A bigger star dies very suddenly. They try to stay alive, but when their fuel runs out they expand like the Kena. But with their size, it’s a red supergiant instead of a red giant.
Their survival tactic is to burn whatever is left, which only works for a few million years. When they have nothing left to burn, they blow apart in a supernova explosion. For around a week the supernova is the brightest thing in the galaxy, then it fades. All that is left is a neutron star, or a black hole.
New stars are created from the elements the supergiant made.” I wonder if it’s common knowledge here, or that Sophie really likes space.
“Wait, I can show you a video on it.” A what? She grabs a weird rectangle shaped object. After pressing a weird button on the side the front lights up. I stare with big eyes, that’s definitely magic.
She presses the front with multiple fingers, really quick. The front seems to respond to her fingers, how? The object is right in front of me, showing a picture. Like a piece of art, but it moves and changes. Art doesn’t do that…
A voice comes out of the object, is someone trapped in there? The voice doesn’t seem scared or anything, just explaining what the object shows.
After the ‘video’ ends I shiver. Black holes are a no go, not going anywhere near there.
Sophie puts the object away and picks up the book. “This time they better be clear with their text…” She sighs. After turning the page there’s a picture with a lot of weird circles and colours. The rocket is in the middle of it all.
“Suddenly there’s a loud beeping. ‘ALERT! ALERT! HEAVY OBJECT PULLING SHIP OFF COURSE.’ The computer says.
‘But I can’t see anything!’ Emily panics.
‘No, look’ Mia says. ‘The stars in Veira’s Knife are no longer in a straight line.’” Sophie sighs. “Veira’s Knife is an asterism, a group of stars that can be seen in the night sky. Veira’s Knife is known to be a straight line, pointy like a knife. If you see four stars in a straight line, it’s Veira’s Knife.” So people named a line? Why?
“Mia gulps. ‘I… I… I think we’re near a black hole.’” That’s a big yikes. Will they die now?
“‘The gravitational field of the black hole is bending the light of the stars near it, like a lens bends light that passes through it.’” The ‘video’ from before told me about the light problems a black hole has, Sophie prepared me well.
“‘Confirmation. BLACK HOLE TWICE AS HEAVY AS THE KENA. MOVING AT SPEED OF THE SHIP. BLACK HOLE EVENT HORIZON FIVE KILOMETRES AWAY.’
‘Black hole?’ Emily asks.
‘W… w.... we need to move away NOW.” Mia stammers. ‘If we reach the black hole, we will be sucked in forever!’
‘Why?’ Emily demands an answer.
‘First, let’s get away!’ Mia says panicked, on the verge of tears.
Emily is shaking with fear. She yells commands at the computer.
‘Full power, double power. Accelerate away from the black hole. Put everything you have.’
‘FIRING EMERGENCY BOOSTERS.’
But the pull is too strong.
‘APPROACHING BLACK HOLE. FOUR KILOMETRES TO EVENT HORIZON. THREE KILOMETRES. TWO KILOMETRES.’
‘We’re being pulled towards it!’ Emily says.
Suddenly, the computer announces. ‘HOLDING AT ONE KILOMETRE. FIVE HUNDRED METRES AWAY FROM EVENT HORIZON. MAXIMUM POWER. HOLDING. HOLDING. HOLDING. HOLDING…’
The rocket remains motionless. A silent fight is taking place.
On one side is the terrible gravitational pull of the black hole. On the other side is the power of the super new-generation rocket.
The computer announces. ‘PULLING AWAY. ONE KILOMETRE. TWO KILOMETRES. THREE KILOMETRES AWAY FROM EVENT HORIZON. MOVING AWAY FROM BLACK HOLE.’
Mia and Emily sigh in relief. They let go of each other and drop into their seats.
‘Let’s go home.’ Emily says.
‘A black hole, when a star larger than the Kena dies. It collapses into itself, it squeezes into nothing and becomes like a hole in space.’ Mia sighs. ‘Even time behaves funnily inside and near a black hole. It runs at a different rate than everywhere else.’
‘What happens when something like a rocket ship falls into a black hole?’ Emily asks.
‘It’s sucked into the centre of the black hole, torn into nothing.’ Mia says.
‘Seriously?!’ Emily squeals.
She realised that they were lucky. Really lucky.
‘Can anything escape a black hole?’ Emily asks.
Mia shakes her head. ‘Not even light comes out of a black hole. The event horizon of a black hole is the point of no return. Anything that falls into it is forever lost to the outside world.’
‘Then, how many black holes are there?’ Emily continues asking with a shudder.
‘We don’t know, scientists guess that there might be one black hole for every thousand stars in the universe. If that’s true, then there’s more than a billion billion black holes.’
Mia explains that there’s black holes even bigger than this one in the universe.
‘There’s a huge black hole right in the middle of our galaxy, with the mass of more than a million Kenas.’ Mia says.
Emily becomes nervous from that. Mia assures her that it’s really far away, about 50 million billion kilometres away.
The rocket zooms towards Aliv. ‘Are we close to home yet?’ Mia asks.
‘I think we’re very close.’ Emily answers.
The computer announces. ‘LANDING. WELCOME BACK TO ALIV.’
They quickly rush out, into Emily’s backyard. Snowflakes hit their face. ‘But it was summer when we left?’ Emily asks confused.
‘Time runs at a different rate near black holes…’ Ava sighs.
In the time they had spent fighting the black hole, six months had passed. Emily’s parents had returned from their trip months ago.
They are in big trouble now.” Sophie skips a few pages and reads something. “So to get to Thalia within a day, the rocket would need to go really fast, almost at the speed of light. Anyone in a rocket ship that goes so fast would die. I guess space traveling just isn’t reachable for us right now.” Sophie sighs.
Sophie closes the book. “Well, that was the end of the story. Did you like it?” No, of course not. Why would I be interested in childish stories.
She pats my head. “I guess you did, huh? Otherwise you wouldn’t have climbed on top of me to see the pictures better.” What? I didn’t climb anyone. She’s lying. I look up and see her face above me. She’s smiling, ugh okay you win. I might have been slightly interested in all the magic mentioned.
I must say, she works way better as a seat than that pillow. Even with a pillow it felt like I was sitting on the ground.
“Well, it’s time for me to go.” Sophie picks me up so she can stand up. She makes me stand next to her and pats my head again. “Bye!” She waves and walks off.
No. Don’t leave me. I don’t want to be left alone. You have to stay, or take me with you! My cheeks start feeling warm. I reach out my hand towards her. “Please… Don’t... leave... me!” She turns around surprised. And that’s the last thing I saw before the world faded.