by Edmund R. Schubert
Listen to the audio version
Brian Byrd was headed, with much relief, to prison again, when he spotted a small
patch of nothingness overhead. It was located near the North Star, a void of light
where HD172167 should have been. Given that HD172167 - also known as Vega
- was the fifth brightest star in the sky, Brian was eager to get to prison so he could
get a better look at what was going on.
With the yellow headlights of his dented old jeep reaching into the night, Brian
pressed even harder on the gas pedal, speeding down the deserted stretch of Route
10 between Phoenix and Tucson.
Glancing upward through the windshield again, Brian found his gaze drifting from
the splotch of nothingness where Vega should have been to the bright orange orb
that was Mars. He couldn't help it; as compelling a mystery as the sudden
disappearance of Vega was, Brian was hopelessly in love with the Red Planet.
There was something about Mars that had always captivated him, and this summer
a happy coincidence of orbital mechanics had brought the Earth and Mars closer
together than they had been in almost 60,000 years.
Sweet Mars . . .
Brian pinched his lips and exhaled through his nose. If only the proximity of Mars
and Earth could do something to improve the relationship between Mars and
Venus. But it didn't - not in the Byrd household, anyway.
Where did I go wrong, Brian wondered for the thousandth time. How did my wife
become my boss? My overseer? My warden?
It hadn't always been that way. It had been wonderful. Once.
But now . . .? Now Brian was happy to be going to prison once a week, just so he
could get away from her. Warden Emma.