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The Astrologer's Telling

Therese Arkenberg already has one of those checkered pasts writers always seem to acquire. She's worked at a library, as a craft store cashier, a tutor in logic, an intern writing case studies for an international microfinance organization, and a volunteer income tax preparer. Currently a freelance editor in Washington, D.C., she still has a home in Wisconsin. Her first short story was accepted for publication on January 2, 2008, and her second acceptance came a few hours later. Since then they haven't always been in such a rush, yet her work appears in places like Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Daily Science Fiction, Crossed Genres Magazine, and the anthology Sword and Sorceress XXIV. Her science fiction novella Aqua Vitae was released by WolfSinger Publications in 2011.

Therese enjoys Classic Doctor Who episodes, taking long walks that may or may not be completely planned, minor culinary experiments, and voracious reading. Editing--her own work and others--is both her work and her passion. Another of her hobbies and major talents is feeling guilty for not writing more. She blogs at ThereseArkenberg.blogspot.com.

I have loved the stars too dearly to be fearful of the night
--Sarah Williams, "The Old Astronomer"
They left when Behein began dying in earnest, but long before it went entirely cold. After the sky had gone dark, but before the last of the sturdy and shade-loving trees in her neighborhood's park had withered and died. She would have stayed longer, but it was not her choice. Her father and her aunt (who was now his new wife) insisted, and she was young enough--just a year short of her majority, but young enough--that she must go with them.
In a way, those last days were the most beautiful of all, for after Behein's sun had gone dark, Shebeth could always see the stars.
Afterward she could remember little about the refugee ship except that it was crowded and dirty. It was as if the warden of her mind knew what belonged in it and what didn't, and those memories clearly did not. And if her mind had a bower perhaps, a secret inner chamber for only the most intimate and beloved things, that was where the skies of Behein in the final days rested. Many nights she held them close like a lover, and like a lover, they gave consolation.
At the bottom of the single trunk her aunt-mother allowed her, because space on the ship was precious, Shebeth packed the best of her star-charts and Tellings. Perhaps in other trunks, her customers were packing their own copies, perhaps not. She would have liked them to, but was not presumptuous enough to hope.
Neither was she presumptuous enough to dislike their new home: four rooms plus a lavatory in a brown stone apartment on a brown stone apartment block on Chidah. She heard the city's name several times, but always forgot it. The rooms were warm in summer, but not hot; cool in winter, but not cold; sweet smelling after her aunt's attentions; and serviceable. They weren't the townhouse with its green courtyard back home, but that was hardly their fault. In the same way, Chidah was not Behein, and Shebeth's father's new spouse was only her late mother's sister and not her mother.
Shebeth kept the house with her aunt, and when her father helped his wife get a job managing software at a mechanized silverware plant--Chidah was famed for its precious metals and what it could do with them--she kept the house alone. She befriended neighbors, one family who was native to the city, two that had come from different regions of the same eastern continent, and one other which was from Behein. She turned twenty-one and stayed with her family despite her majority. And then, on a quiet night when both her parents were working late, she drew back the curtains and looked out on strange stars.
Chidah had no moon worth the name, only spare, pale chunks of rock that floated through the firmament or drifted across a daytime sky as if ashamed to be intruding. Its stars, so near the galactic Core, were thick and bright even through the dust and smoke of an industrial and mining atmosphere, so thick and bright that it took her time to learn one from another. But in time she did, and in time she would know more, and by the time her father came home at an hour closer to dawn than sunset she knew what she would do next.
"I am going to become an astrologer again," she told him.
He hitched his coat from his shoulders and it slid to the floor. But there was no denying her, not in this, and he knew it, so he only nodded and smiled, saying nothing. In the morning she went to the library--her family couldn't afford subscriptions to specialized information channels or databases--and read about the stars of Chidah, the shapes they made, and what they signified.
Chidah's constellations were not as fine as Behein's--they formed simple shapes with unimaginative names, like Spilled Wine and Long-Tailed Dog and even one called Fish Fork (she told this to her aunt after a long day at the silverware factory and they laughed together). But Shebeth learned them all dutifully, and read, watched, and absorbed the limited information available on Chidahen astrology. The time came for her first Telling. She made it for the woman from the Davalese family downstairs.
The woman had been born in the third month of spring, beneath the round, bright sign of the Space-Faring Ship. The planet Komann, Chidah's twin in all but its poisonous atmosphere, was in the sign of the Long-Tailed Dog. Together, they marked her nature, a sweet and dissatisfied one.
"Moru, which rules love, is in the house of Tibb, the Murderer," Shebeth explained, her finger on the chart pointing to one of Chidah's more colorful constellations. "Your romantic desires are crossed--perhaps eternally."
The woman sighed, and they both were glad her husband had not come to the Telling.
Other planets and their aspects suggested that the woman was creative, or at least had the impulse, though she hadn't had the energy to express it since her harrowing emigration from Daval six years earlier. And the conjunctions spoke well of financial matters.
Shebeth refused payment for her Telling--she had done it for the joy of practicing her art once more rather than for any gain. But several months later, when the neighbor's business in pressed flower stationary picked up, fourteen murrahs were discovered in an envelope slipped under the apartment door. Shebeth put them in the aluminum tin with the money her aunt-stepmother dipped into for errands.
Behein's sun was visible from Chidah, a tiny yellow spark caught in the web of milky stars. It would be visible for another thousand years, as the light it had sent out like a lover's message traveled through the void, until the void ran out of light and revealed the emptiness now in its place.
It wasn't part of any constellation, and was of no interest to an astrologer. In time Shebeth forgot to look for it.
In the following months, a story was printed and reprinted in Chidah's fiction journals and digests. It was a fantasy, following the adventures of a time traveler. He went far into the future, millions of years, to see that at the end of everything as the universe slowly withered and cooled, mankind had become little more than wage-slaves who punched cards and tapped keys and greased machinery as sluggish and dreamless as themselves. By his understanding of time, the traveler knew this future was inevitable, yet upon returning to his own age he struggled endlessly and in vain to change it. Perhaps his very efforts, warped and twisted in unimaginable gulfs of years, helped to bring about this ultimate fate. The text alluded to such a possibility, but made no clear answer.
The story was extremely popular, though few could confess to liking it. The vain efforts of the time traveler were not even admirable, only tragic.
From the piece's genesis at the desk of an overworked freelance journalist to its archival demise soon after it placed second for the annual prize in Chidahen Fantastic Literature, thirty stars went out across the civilized worlds. In the charts of Chidah's official astrographers, one of the tines of the Fish Fork grew spindly, and the Debutante in her long star-woven dress lost one of her eyes. In the sky they burned steadily as ever.
He came with a friend, a honey-blond willowy girl, and it was obvious she had dragged him in. Shebeth knew upon seeing him that he did not believe in astrology. The girl's sweetly smug smile suggested that she meant to convert him. They held hands, but her clasp was too tight for them to be lovers.
Shebeth received them in the parlor her aunt had allowed her to convert to an office and receiving room for her Tellings. She made the girl's first. He--dark, slender, a little older, perhaps even old enough to join the mysterious and thrilling fraternity of men--stood at the window and watched dirty traffic pass in the street below. His eyes were what said it was dirty.
"Moru, which rules love, was in the house of the Debutante at your birth. That's a lucky sign," Shebeth told the girl. Other signs said she was healthy, that she possessed a unique perspective, that she was likely to travel. Sometimes, rarely, Shebeth charted a Telling she couldn't believe. Though she gave it anyway, she felt this was one of them. It was too neat, and rang somehow false.
When it was done, the girl turned to look over her chair back at the man by the window. "There, Jeho!" she said. "Doesn't it describe me?"
He laughed without humor. "At least you're happy with what you wasted your money on," he said philosophically.
"Your name is Jeho?" Shebeth asked. She could not explain why she asked about his name rather than confronting him.
"Short for Jehoshaphat. It's from some Book." By his tone, he paid it no more reverence than astrology.
"My name is Shebeth. Its old form is Elizabeth. From the same Book."
The girl was frowning. "Well, will you let 'zabeth make your Telling for you?"
His dark eyes looked over them, then back to the window, darting like trapped birds flown in by mistake. "What could the stars tell me? And why should I trust them? They're dying anyway."
"Not all of them," Shebeth said.
"Enough. Fifty-seven, at last count. And it's only been two years, best as can be tracked. In time--we might not see it, but in time, if this continues--they'll all go out. In their millions, they'll be gone."
"Not entirely gone. The mass remains even after the light and heat go out."
"For what that's worth."
"It keeps the planets on their courses." She said quietly, "My family came here from Behein when its sun went dark." Softer still, she added, "I was an astrologer there, too."
His laughter this time was surprised. "All right, Kaja, get out of the seat. I'll hear my Telling."
Shebeth turned her astrologer's pallet to a blank page and scrolled through the book before her--kept in case a Telling became complicated, or for quick reference, not something she relied on. "When and where were you born?"
"The eighth of Judal. In Corshen city, Tirm." He sat forward with his hands clasped, elbows on his knees. "Since you were born on Behein, is your Telling based on its constellations?"
"It would be." She took out a straight edge to draw the lines of the chart.
"You never made one?"
"My uncle made one for me long ago. I lost it."
"You remember any of it?"
She shook her head.
"That's where your interest in astrology started, though?"
"In a way." She double-checked her progress against a figure in the book. "I've always loved the stars."
"You could have gone into space work, then." His voice was warm with amusement.
"It takes money for that sort of education."
"Ah." At first she thought he sounded embarrassed, then she wondered if his low tone disguised something else. Perhaps pity.
"Well." She straightened the chart sharply. "You have an interesting Telling, Jehoshaphat."
"Call me Jeho."
"Jeho." A sheet slipped free from the tablet. He retrieved it and handed it back without looking. "Yes. There's an interesting trick of Chidah's constellations." She spread out the chart and pointed. His eyes went to it as if drawn unwillingly. "Here, opposite the sky from the Core--where there is no constellation, only empty space." Empty by Chidah's exacting standards, though Behein's astrologers could have found shapes in the scattered lights there. "That's where Komann rested on your birth. It governs the soul."
"So my soul is in empty space?" He waggled his eyebrows, but it seemed like an effort. Behind him, the girl laughed shrilly.
"A more generous interpretation would be that your soul is not guided by the stars."
A look of surprise passed over his face, perhaps at her warm tone, which surprised Shebeth herself. But it quickly passed. "So it's up to interpretation. Of course."
She looked back at the Telling. "On the other hand, Moru is--"
He straightened in his seat suddenly. Shebeth fell silent.
"You know," Jeho said, "I'm not really in the mood for an astrological reading right now." He cocked his head and smiled. "Not…right…now."
Shebeth folded the chart down the middle with one sharp crease. Feeling as if she were being toyed with, she said, "I don't suppose you'll be in the mood later?"
"Perhaps I will." His soft tone was so at odds with his cocky expression that she wondered at first if she had misheard. The girl with him looked nervous. "Yes." He stood and offered her his hand. "Fair meeting, Shebeth-from-the-same-Book. Maybe I'll come back for the rest of my Telling. The part that isn't free of the stars."
"Yes," she said, her confusion gone. She knew he would return--and not for the rest of the Telling.
Across the civilized galaxy, and perhaps across the expanse of the entire known and unknown universe, stars, for no reason anyone knew, suddenly went out.
There was no warning. In a matter of hours, or for the more fortunate ones of days, the sun would grow clouded, then utterly dark. Most didn't notice the dimming until the last light vanished, thinking it was only smog or a trick of their own eyes.
An evacuated astronomer recalled that at first it looked like sunspots. His interviewer, impressed by the man's calm and scientific bearing, asked about an explanation. He threw his hands in the air, unscientific terror in his eyes.
None of his colleagues had explanations either, though most of them fared better than he. They did not end their days locked in a room strung with blue-white lights.
Then the cold came. The planet died, and so did any left behind on its surface, as it rotated a star that had become nothing but shadowy matter. No one knew how. No one knew why. Perhaps the why was unscientific.
But that was what they asked--fleeing or watching, all with the same terror and confusion. Not what or how but why.
"What else do you believe in?"
Jeho sat at the tiny table in the apartment's kitchen. A steaming mug of tea sat before him. Shebeth had made it without asking if he wanted any.
She sat across from him. "What do you mean?"
"If you believe fate can be told by the stars, what about other things? Ghosts? Gods? The truth of Books? Xenos from beyond settled space?" He sipped his tea thoughtfully. "You know, the other day I heard a story about a man in Kusural who disappeared walking across the street."
"I don't believe that," she said.
"Really? It's the one thing I do believe." He pursed his lips. "If stars can disappear, why not men?"
The stars didn't disappear--they went out. A distinction that would not, she felt, do much injury to his argument. If an argument it was.
"Xenos are a possibility," she said. "At night I believe in ghosts, in daylight, gods. Perhaps they are the same thing."
He laughed, not mocking but with the surrender of one who feels he is being mocked and doesn't care. "That's... interesting."
She didn't ask if he wanted the rest of his Telling. She did ask if he wanted more tea.
"While you're pouring." He held out his mug. "Have you ever not believed in something--or in anything?"
"At dawn, when the ghosts are gone and I'm not yet certain the gods are real... yes. And when Behein died, for a time I didn't believe in anything. Except for the stars."
"Why did you believe in them?"
She shrugged, not dismissively, but as an expression of inadequacy. She couldn't explain how the memory of Behein's night skies had consoled her. "I am an astrologer," she said at last.
"You believe because it makes you money."
"No. I... it gives me something to do." That, too, was inadequate, but it was closer.
"A purpose?" he asked the wall behind her. He sipped more tea. "It's lonely to believe in nothing."
"I believe that."
They shared a shamefaced smile.
"It's as if..." He shrugged. "My world has empty spaces. Empty spaces that refuse to be filled."
"I'm sorry," she said.
"You wanted something to do." He looked out the window, where one of Chidah's scant moons shone faintly through the dust. "Maybe that's it. For me, it's something to be."
"Like an astrologer," she said, understanding.
"Did everyone on Behein believe in the stars?"
"Many did." She wondered if he was changing the topic. "My father does. My mother didn't. I wonder if my stepmother does." She traced the curve of her mug's handle. "My mother let me make Tellings, even though she didn't believe. I made her one, when I was too young to understand that she wouldn't... well, that it would mean nothing to her. She hung it on her wall and kept it there until she died. And then my father took it down."
"It didn't mean nothing to her," he said.
Shebeth nodded.
He reached across the table and took her hand. There was no reason for it, and the gesture itself was wrong, both too intimate and inadequate at once. Shebeth pressed her other palm against his fingers. "Did you come here looking for belief?" she said.
"I don't know what I came here for."
She raised his hand to her lips, knowing she would never understand why she did. By his expression he didn't understand either, but he knew, as she did, that it was right.
"Thank you," he said. Perhaps a little reverently.
"I hope you find something to fill your empty spaces," she said.
"So do I." He laughed, half embarrassed.
"Hope can also be a belief," she said. "Or as good as one."
"As good for what?"
She shrugged. "Living."
He nodded, but didn't meet her eyes until he said, "Can I come back here?"
"Of course." She added, "I won't even charge you."
And she never did, for all the time they came to spend together, time she might have more profitably used to calculate Tellings or meet with customers. She did not do things because they made her money. She did them because she did. Jeho seemed to understand this, or at least he came close enough to see the shapes of the things he did not understand.
There was some debate, when the news spread as the first stars went out, over the practicality of global preparedness if such a thing should happen to the local sun. Any preparation worth the name would be extravagantly expensive, and many did not see the need.
After three standard years, over half the worlds in settled space had built thermal chambers deep in the planet's crust and an emergency fleet prepared to evacuate fifteen to twenty percent of the population. Some things were worth the cost.
Six planets formed plans to rekindle their suns, using nuclear devices or more arcane things. Two of them eventually had the need to use theirs. Neither of them--and both were quite ingenious--worked. Planets that had followed the progress of this policy turned their own logistics efforts to evacuation.
Drills were not given--for such numbers they would be unreasonable if not impossible--but every news provider reviewed evacuation procedure weekly, including the criteria that would decide who went to the ships immediately and who would wait in the geothermal chambers. These decisions were made differently on each world. On some the sick were given first priority. On others those in hospice care were left behind.
Even with the best preparation, when the star went out there would be panic. When the noontime sky went dark as moonless night, or when the sun set and never rose again, or when evening was unexpectedly cut short, there was restlessness, blindness, a choking fear that only slowly numbed into despair. In some there was a deep, stirring excitement. And perhaps that wasn't so perverse. The end of a world was a thrilling experience.
For those who continued to think at all, thoughts were on the future, not the present, a dark and blurred holographic maze. The past might never have existed. All that mattered were the ships for the lucky, the thermal chambers for those less so, and the evasion of the constant dark and ever-spreading cold.
Exile--a poetic term. Resettlement--more political. They were not always welcome, those ships with their engines stoked to capacity to outpace the failing light of their home suns, carrying tens of thousands of people to worlds not expecting them. But very few were turned away. A planet that rejected the refugees would be shunned forever, and these were not the times for isolation. And so, still dazed by the light, the exiles began new lives on new worlds, under new stars.
Others waited in the thermal chambers as more interstellar ships were built. It grew colder and, it seemed, darker--though of course that was impossible. With each completed vessel numbers dwindled, until the last group left a vast, echoing, empty warren behind. They did not turn off the lights--none of them did, in any chamber on any world. There was no need.
The world remained behind in darkness, circling a shadowy mass. It grew colder and colder until the atmosphere itself froze and the sky came down in drifts of strangely colored snow.
"It's almost enough to make you believe."
"In what?" Shebeth looked up from the map of Chidah's skies she examined on Jeho's personal tablet, which he had lent her weeks before. She meant to return it to him today. She had also toyed with the thought of finally presenting the rest of his Telling.
"Anything." He sat at the chair before the window, head leaned back on his folded arms. A stripe of thin evening light was painted on his neck. "Gods, perhaps. Would gods make the stars go out?"
"Maybe." With a fingertip, she rotated the display. She was learning nothing new from the map, only taking a faint pleasure from studying the stars.
"As a punishment, perhaps."
"I don't believe in divine punishments."
"Why not?" His smile was white in the dim evening.
She shrugged.
"Perhaps it's ghosts, then."
"Not ghosts."
"I wonder if they could be that powerful. And if so, why they never thought to do it before."
"It's not ghosts," she repeated.
"Why not?"
The Debutante on the map was still whole, not like the one in the astrographers' official charts, missing an eye and half her skirt. "My mother would never murder the stars."
"What about other--" He studied her, eyes narrowed. Then smiled faintly. "All right."
She reached to close out of the map, then, at the last minute, went to the application's library and searched for Behein.
"It can only be one thing, then."
The familiar stars flooded the screen, flooded her vision. Shebeth had to blink it clear before speaking. "What?"
They shared a wry smile.
"Is it better to believe in nothing," he said, staring out the window, "or in something that would do--this?"
She didn't answer, her eyes on Behein's stars. After a time he came and sat beside her. Together they looked at the map, the image of a lost sky.
"I can't see the things you see in the stars," the woman, a longtime client, told Shebeth. "But I like to look at them. I sit out on the terrace with only a candle--its light is less distracting than an electric lantern--and stare up and up until sometimes it becomes quite frightening. I feel then as if something is also staring down....
"The other night, I noticed the moths were coming towards my candle. I tried to herd them away, but one stupid, pretty thing blackened a wing before I could save it. That made me angry. So I blew the candle out.
"And I looked back up at the sky--it seemed so much more brilliant for just the lack of one little flame--and then I wondered, are there beautiful, stupid things flying up there, too? In danger of burning up? And is something trying to protect them? Is that why?"
Shebeth did not, could not say yes or no. The woman hadn't expected her to. Shebeth was the sort of person you could tell things to, fancies or dreams, hopes or fragile, frightening suspicions.
Hope can be as good as belief. If stars can go dark without explanation, is it any more impossible or unlikely that they can be rekindled?
It need not be by human hands. There need not be a how, or even a why.
It will never be impossible.
It was noon in the city on Chidah. At the silverware plant, workers took advantage of the fine day to picnic on the landscaped grounds. Not far away, a brownstone apartment block was bustling. The boy who made a few murrahs walking dogs led an army on leashes down the sidewalk. A young man with a slightly dazed look came out of the apartments holding his purchase, a card decorated with pressed flowers and with a love message inside, as if it were made of fragile gold foil. A woman came down from the floor above, holding a chart of stars, also dazed. In her eye was a bright gleam.
Much later, when she regained the nerve to speak, she would claim she saw the sunlight falter first, like a candle flickering before being blown out. Of course that was nonsense. It descended at once, sudden, unstoppable.
The dogs snarled, barked, whined. The young man missed a step and nearly lost his card. From one of the apartment windows came the sound of someone screaming. A worker who had taken his lunch in a part of the factory grounds he had never visited before became lost. A woman reading the previous year's Best Fantastic Literature startled and ripped out a page. She never finished the story.
The sky was filled with darkness and with stars.
Jeho ran down the street, the electric lantern's beam jogging in his hand. He carried the light to avoid tripping over objects that had been dropped in the rush--luggage, clothing, toys, books, even purses--but he knew the way. He followed it without thinking, the way a aimlessly scribbling hand inevitably starts shaping its own name.
The stairs were cluttered with junk, and when he forced the door, he found the apartment itself was, too. Stacks of plates and mugs sat on the table, and a dress was draped over the back of one chair.
He found Shebeth sitting on the parlor sofa. She had turned it to face the open window.
"I heard you weren't coming," he said, voice faint from the run.
"That's right. I'm not leaving." She looked over her shoulder and the electric light made her face blue-gray. "I'm of age, they can't take me with them if I don't wish to go. I knew you would come here, Jeho." She smiled.
"Your family is boarding the ship to Mennor. Tomorrow."
"I know." She looked back at the sky, at the Core spilled across darkness like cream on black velvet.
"Shebeth…if you stay here…" Already he could see his breath. "Won't you at least come to a thermal chamber?"
Softly, she said, "I couldn't see the sky from there."
"You'll freeze up here."
She didn't answer.
He sat on the couch beside her. "Shebeth, if you won't go, I'll stay here with you."
She turned and kissed his cheek. The brush of her lips was cold. "No, you won't."
She seemed to be smiling. And he knew she was right. He had no reason to stay. Not like she did.
They sat together in silence for a while. He thought of telling her what had happened the night before, how they held a candlelit service down in the geothermal chamber, how he had held a candle and mouthed the words. But now he believed none of it.
"Does your world still have empty spaces?" she asked.
She turned to him as she spoke. He had left the lantern on the floor, and he only saw her, faintly, by the stars. He saw the brightness of her eyes, and the white cloud of her words.
Knowing he would never have the chance again, he asked, "Does yours?"
"Yes." She put her hand on his. "These past days, I've been feeling them. But... I don't mind, so much." She nodded back to the window. "Up there, it's all empty space."
"I believe some things I didn't before," he said. Not the candles and the words. Not the Books, not quite. But some things.
"Like what?"
"I'm not certain. In stars, a little. And ghosts, or something like ghosts. And hope. It sounds crazy to say that..."
"I understand."
"And Xenos."
She laughed.
"I believe you'll do what you want, Shebeth, and you'll want to for no other reason than because it's what you do."
"That's true."
"And I believe I--"
She raised a hand to his lips. It was warmer than he expected. "That's enough to believe at one time, I think."
He turned away from her hand. "Then I don't believe. I know. I love you, Shebeth."
"I have the rest of your Telling," she said. "Do you still want it?"
She handed him the folded paper and kissed him once more. The touch kindled heat between them, no more than a spark, no stronger than the glow of a distant star. He rose, removed his coat, and draped it over her shoulders.
"Thank you," she said.
"Thank you."
He left her alone, looking out at the sky. He hurried though the streets, back to the evacuation center with its underground chambers, where he could wait until tomorrow.
Tomorrow he would leave the world behind, and more than a world. There would never be any going back. With past and future held tight in his hands until they crumpled, he walked on. Though the abandoned streets. Into exile. Into empty spaces. Though darkness. He carried everything that he believed in folded between cold fingers, while the suns of a thousand worlds burned steadily overhead.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, April 18th, 2014

Author Comments

"The Astrologer’s Telling," was inspired by an image of stars blowing out, an image that haunted me. But it took a long time to fit into a proper story. I wrote a flash fiction about scientists rekindling the stars, but the story was based on abysmal science that broke my own established worldbuilding rules, as one very constructive rejection letter told me. The letter went on to say my idea, "though flawed, [was] interesting" and expressed interest in the portrayal of humans reacting to cosmic disaster. So I ditched scientific solutions and wrote a full-length story focusing on the human toll and emotional impact. Who would suffer the most from the stars going out? Someone who lived by them--an astrologer. Things fell out quite logically from there. "The Astrologer's Telling" received an honorable mention in the Dell Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing, and I am very grateful to Rick Wilbur and Sheila Williams for constructive commentary after the contest.

- Therese Arkenberg
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