Vignette - The Rogue

 Overhead, the disk of the Milky Way hangs like a bucket of paint splattered across a black canvas. This glowing backdrop provides the only natural light, illuminating the surface of the world. Darker than moonlight, this is the brightest of days on this quickly rotating planet. Every seven hours the planet rotates in and out of view of the galaxy. Every seven hours that side is plunged into impenetrable inky darkness. The individual halo star-clusters of the galaxy are visible then, mere pinpricks in the curtain of the endless night. 

Toward the core of the galaxy, the nursery system of this lonely world teems with life, basking in the glow of two yellow stars. Where this world would have been floats nothing. A hole in the family portrait, riven by the gravity of two gas giants that had their way with their smaller siblings. 

Every third 'day' the two large moons of this world parade across the backdrop of the galaxy. Visible by virtue of their invisibility, the circular silhouettes stroll through their neighborhood, providing a tantalizing reminder that this world is not completely alone. A miniature family in nocturne, pirouetting and pulling on each other. 

Moving down through the thick, yet transparent atmosphere, a purple and orange hue hugs the land. The air buzzes with the sounds of insects taking advantage of the full illumination. Everywhere blue-white lights reflect off the nearly featureless landscape. A thick purple carpet stretches out to the horizon in all directions, concentrating in hallows, and thinning out on peaks. Insects skitter over this carpet, both living in, and feeding upon, it's biomass. This carpet of chimeric fungi is the dominant form of life on this planet, digesting rock through chemosynthesis, and incorporating it into its structure. 

Much of the land surface is basalt rock, driven to the surface by tidal heating from the the dance of the three bodies. Lava bubbles here and there, and the hydrogen sulfide is greedily absorbed by fungal stalks rising up from the carpet.

Deep in the singular equatorial ocean, animal forms of life live on yet more hydrogen sulfide expelled from hydrothermal vents. Enveloped in absolute darkness, even starlight is a thing of fantasy. The fungi do not enter the aquatic environment, it is much too acidic. 

At the confluence between the land and water, the bioluminescent insects scatter, driven forward by an unseen form. After a moment they settle, hugging the slowly lapping water, their panicked chirping replaced by mating calls. 

With barely a respite, the insects scatter again, raising alarm. A rock skips across the shore. A bright white light turns on, illuminating a helmeted human face. 

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

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