Lag Time

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A sullen glow leaks from the dying embers, casting a shadow on the young boy carving a wooden present for his father - it must be ready when he returned from sea. What was he carving? Hard to say, it was too early to tell. Boys of his age tend to spend more time doing than knowing what they're doing. His shaggy dishwater blonde hair fell over his amber eyes as he gaily fingered his work, it sort of resembled a duck, or perhaps a boat. It didn't matter. Pa would love it - whatever it turned out to be.
"Have you thrown out the trash, Arthur?"
Grace dries her callused hands on her yellowed apron with a scolding look in her eye, already seeing through any lie her younger brother might have told."Get off you high horse 'n pull your weight boy." she bellows, her wide frame growing ever wider as she grew more vexed. "An' if I catch you meanderin', I swear I'll put you through the mill!"
Arthur knows not to cross her. She's tired, they all were at this hour, but running an inn requires plenty of late work if you want to maintain a decent reputation and keep business rolling. It's nearly time to close, all that's left to do is spruce up, coaxing the last drunk to bed, and lock up. Ma had begun the cleaning, Grace approached the drunk at the bar, and Arthur was to lock up after dumping the trash.
The young boy slips the hunk of wood into his pocket and treks into the cold to perform his task. His nose burns with cold. The stars twinkle in the dark mass of blackness looming over the lonely boy out in the cold with only the stars to watch over him.
"Marvelous, ain't it?"
Arthur jumps. At his side stands a tall, fragile man - no not a man. A woman. A woman in strange breeches. Her hair, bright red and blazing short, like a boy. Yet, it was her gorgeous eyes that gave her gender away, no man could wear those eyes.
"Where'd you come from?" Arthur asked, catching his breath.
"Now, that doesn't matter much, does it. What day is it?"
"Tuesday, ma'am."
Arthur's perplexed. "Yes, ma'am. Are you staying at the inn?"
"No, what inn?"
"It's right over there. It's me home and place of work, ma'am."
"Hmm." She looks him over then turns back up to the sky. "There wouldn't happen to be a high place with less trees?"
"Yes, ma'am. Right over yonder."
The woman smiles, her teeth glimmering like tiny stars. "Would you take me there?"
"Long as I'm not out long."
Arthur leads the woman through a collection of trees towards an open area. He ponders whether she is a fairy, or maybe a princess of some foreign land running away from home.
"My name's Harper."
"I'm Arthur Folly."
"How old are you, Arthur?"
"Seven, ma'am."
"Please, call me Harper."
"Harper, are you from very far away?"
"Not far away. Just far ahead. Can you point out the North Star?"
"My Pa says it that that one. He calls it Polaris."
"Well, you see that bright star next to Polaris? That's my North Star - Vega."
Arthur's baffled, but decides she must just be a confused fairy. They reach the peak of the hill, an area clear of trees and nothing but open grass. Pride swells in Arthur's chest. He looks to Harper, awaiting thanks, but she offers none. She grins up to the starlit sky will such joy, Arthur decides to accept her smile as his thanks though he wonders how the sky could make someone so happy. Harper takes out something Arthur recognizes/
"That's a mighty fine compass you have there. My Pa has one."
Harper doesn't notice his remark and continues to gaze up at the sky. "Look there, Arthur. You see those four bright stars in a row? Well, those aren't stars at all. Three of them are planets. Enormous balls floating in space like the Earth. There's Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars."
"What's the fourth one?"
Harper's grin spread wider than ever before. "Up high in the sky there're two stars dancing together - one's big and red and the other one's small and white. They keep spinning round and round until the little white one can't take it anymore. It's so dizzy it feels like it could explode. So it does. It bursts out with light so bright we can see it from here. And there it is!"
Arthur's eyes grew wide. "That' really happening? Right now?"
Harper sighs and lays back on the grass, her soft red hair tangling into the plush grass.
"It happened 23,00 years ago."
Arthur's brow furrowed. "But I can see it right now."
"So can a man named Kepler staring up at the sky just like us. He's at home in Germany taking careful notes this very moment."
Arthur gives her skeptical look. "You a fairy?"
"Then you're crazy."
"Maybe. I don't know what I'm doing. I'm taking random classes. . . still haven't decided on a major. . . my parents are constantly on my back. . . I just needed some inspiration. And what's more inspiring than the first sighting of a supernova?!"
"But it's not. You said it happened years ago."
"It did, but only now do we get a glimmer of that mass destruction. Only a glimpse. Only a ghost. You look up at the sky and see twinkling stars. I see death. I see the ghosts of stars that have been dead for millions of years. We just haven't hung around long enough to watch them die yet. But just wait, its coming. It'll be marvelous!"
Arthur had heard enough. "Marvelous? What you call marvelous, I call time lag. Now I must go home. I think you need to as well."
Harper sighed. "You're probably right."

About the Author: 
You know that girl who plays football in the mud with all the guys? Yeah, that's me.