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The Cracks in the Sphere

Mari Ness has published many stories here and there and everywhere. She has shared a few dozen over the years with us here at Daily Science Fiction.

It was cold, beyond cold, and dark, beyond dark, between the galaxies. They did not notice. Only one place inside the sphere even had or ever had lights: the large glowing room that grew the cyanobacteria and a few plants, and only the keepers and a few curious children ever entered that place. It was uncanny, and painful, and no one lingered.
Besides, they had much to do, in the dark.
The business of daily living, of course: cleaning, preparing the cold rations, repairing everything broken, small and large, letting fingers run over each and every wall and box and door and floor and ceiling and nook, hunting patiently for cracks. Their legends claimed that a single crack left unsealed, a single thin line colder than anything around it, could make the sphere explode, bringing death. Only legends--but still.
The business of birth and death, which never stopped, even in the dark. Alerting the medics, moving the dead to where they can be processed--an ugly word, but also a truth: in their world, in this sphere, nothing could be wasted. Not even the dead.
The moments when they reached the limits of the sphere, and the odd substance that coated it. Legends spoke of something rather like the glowing room, but much smaller, beyond those limits, but nobody except for the children ever had time to look, and their stories were seldom believed. Still. Just touching that odd substance, so different from everything else in the sphere--was something.
The moments in between: moments of creating elaborate worked patterns on the handles of their tools and furniture, of telling stories of fabulous forgotten places, of dancing lightly in the great hollow rooms of the sphere, nearly free of gravity, free of everything other than movement and touch.
And so, when the sphere slowly turned from a distant pulsing light, towards an even more distant light that did not pulse, and that they had even less hope of ever reaching, they did not notice. They had music, after all, and laughter, and dance; and no need to watch the cold nothingness of beyond.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, February 18th, 2021
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