Someday, when you wish upon a star, you just might find out who you are.

And some day, you may discover stars only come out at night.

But they’re always there, whether we see them or not. Burning away as giant, flaming balls of gas, millions or billions or trillions of miles away. Maybe even further.

They’re mostly all dead. Burned out long ago, spent of their fuel well before they ever were seen by earthly eyes. And if earthly eyes are the only eyes … if we are, in fact, truly alone in the universe … those stars were never witnessed while they existed. Their only encounter with life, after their death.

The stars shone bright the night I visited Blackspire Cemetery, though the moon, in all its newness, hid completely from view. Still, it was there, looking down at me. At all of us in this specific hemisphere. Dark and silent, a dusty gray rock clouded in shadow, devoid of life.

Like Blackspire Cemetery.

Here, much like the stars, the only hint of life are the markers left behind. Yes, trees grow and grass sprouts, and even an owl may shriek in the night. But the people, they are long ago forgotten. Though one could argue that they do, in fact, live on. In memories of those who knew them. Or perhaps through strands of DNA passed along chromosomes from generation to generation, each new level a growing spread of a family tree. Connected through time.

But the people themselves? The breathing, coughing, eating, shitting, lovemaking people … they are gone.

Stardust? Hardly.

More like rotted masses in the ground, feeding whatever comes next.

The trees. The grass.

The worms.

I found VanNeal’s marker right where it should be. A slab of stone at plot 467.

Born May 25, 1963.

Died June 4, 2007.

Forty-four years isn’t much of a life. Unless it’s one lived to its fullest. I don’t know that Marcy’s life had been lived to its fullest, for hers is the only grave bearing the name VanNeal I can find.

Why was I there? Because of the numbers? Because of the trail that led me? All life is a trail. One instance leading to another. Cause and effect. I was there because I decided to go there. Because I decided that the trail led there. The trail grown through numbers and inferences and strange growths that no one but me may see, yet nonetheless must be snuffed out before they spread and cause more effect.

I considered tearing up the earth in that little plot of soil where Marcy VanNeal had been buried all those years ago. Dig deep and reveal whatever secrets lay within her tomb. I’d brought the shovel, after all. And what good was a shovel if not used for digging.

The last time I dug, I found nothing. Perhaps nothing is what I would find here as well. Though I knew nothing would not be what I’d find.

Instead I’d find bones and worms and death sprouting life.

If only things worked that way. But I know better. If I had decided to dig, to pierce the soil with my rusted spade, I may have begun a journey. And that journey would have ended when I hit the concrete sealing the grave.

In a world where we are not allowed to die naturally, but instead are kept alive by tubes and chemicals and protein shakes and fitness models, we surely cannot rot naturally.

There is nothing natural about death. We’ve perverted it.

If I could have dug down, down down down, down through the earth and to the cement and through the cement into the casket I wouldn’t have found rot and death and worms.

I’d have found a mummy, preserved in death.

A star, still shining well after its spark has faded.

But still dead, just the same.

A light grows on the horizon, bright and blue, as the earth begins to tremble.

17 4 97 6.

Oh dear god, they’ve found me.

Continue to Chapter Twelve