When Stars Whisper

by Norah Deay


This story began as a prompt in a Writer’s Pen meeting;

At midnight, all the stars in the sky suddenly disappear.


The first time it happened I didn’t pay much attention, assuming cloud cover that hadn’t been forecast. I popped the protector over the telescope and left it ready for the next night. It was early June when the stars weren’t visible until around eleven and the very next night was clear with a blanket of my favourite things draped above and around me. Sitting in my viewing shed I marvelled, as I did every night, at how insignificant I was by comparison to the heavens above. I always kept a notebook beside me, noting movements, new stars and sometimes, those that were missing. From the town below I heard the midnight bell from the cathedral, its last of the day thanks to complaining townspeople. As the last chime faded away a sudden blackness enveloped me and I remembered it was the same time last night when the stars disappeared. Midnight. I pulled the light cord above me and feverishly I scribbled in my notebook, trying to put down my feelings of surprise, fear and, yes I admit it, excitement.

I rushed outside. My house was dark, only the light in the hallway was on to show me the way inside. My family was asleep. Moving quickly I reached the end of my driveway and searched the darkness of the town below. No lights there either. Maybe nobody else knew what I did. I checked myself. No need to get carried away yet. I’d have to see if this happened again.

I walked back to the house, my eyes raking the darkness for a sign of an errant star and felt as if I’d jumped out of my skin when the stars appeared all at once in the sky above me. They’d been gone only a few minutes and I couldn’t think of a single rational explanation.

That night, and the following day were spent in a daze. Mostly of tiredness as I’d spent hours trawling the internet to see if there was any chatter about disappearing stars. Not a whisper did I find.

My family were unperturbed by my distance the following evening. I suppose I was never that present anyway. All I wanted was to get away to my shed. I was prepared. My state-of-the-art video camera, connected to the telescope, was set to begin recording ten minutes before midnight; I would capture the moment the stars disappeared.

The constellations were the same as they always were. I couldn’t see anything that was obviously wrong. At the appointed time my camera clicked into action and I waited. The bells began to chime and I counted aloud.

As the final echo of the bell dissolved into the night, the stars blinked out, not gradually, but all at once, as if a cosmic switch had been flipped. The camera, however, continued to whir in the darkness, capturing what I could no longer see. I waited, breath held, until the stars flickered back to life minutes later, as abruptly as they had disappeared. The camera ceased recording, and I rushed to play back the footage, heart racing.

The playback revealed an astonishing phenomenon: As the stars vanished from my sight, the camera recorded them transforming, not into darkness, but into symbols. These configurations, unlike any constellation I’d ever seen, seemed to spell out something… a message. I spent the rest of the night, and the following days, deciphering these cosmic symbols, comparing them to ancient texts and star maps.

Finally, the message became clear, chilling me to the bone: “We see you, watchers in the dark. Be ready.”

In the solitude of my shed, the weight of this revelation pressed down on me. The universe was alive in a way I had never imagined, and I had inadvertently stumbled upon its secret. The thought was exhilarating yet terrifying. Who, or what, was observing from the other side of that cosmic gaze? And more importantly, what did they want?

I debated whether to share my discovery. The implications were enormous, not just for me but for all of humanity. Could this be the first step towards bridging a cosmic divide, or had I pried open a door that was meant to remain closed? The fear of the unknown gnawed at me. The telescope, once a source of joy and wonder, now felt like a Pandora’s box, its lens a gateway to unknown trouble.

As the days passed, the stars returned to their familiar patterns, offering no further clues or messages. I fancied that my participation was needed for their games and I refused to play. The night sky, once a tapestry of cosmic beauty, now seemed an opaque curtain hiding secrets too vast for me to comprehend. The idea of peering through my telescope again filled me with a vague dread. What if the watchers were still there, observing, analsying, deciding?

Now, I spend my nights standing at the threshold of my viewing shed; the telescope sits on its viewing stand, silhouetted against the starlit sky. The urge to look again, to seek out the watchers, battles with the fear of what might look back. In the end, the telescope remains untouched and I’m left with the haunting realisation that in the act of watching the stars, I had become the watched. The possibility of reaching out across the cosmos remains, a tantalising yet terrifying prospect, leaving me pondering the true nature of the universe and our place within it, under the watchful eyes of a galaxy teeming with unseen observers

If you enjoyed this story you can read more from the Writer’s Pen group on this page