written by Tim Callanan. Tim (They/Them) is a first year undergraduate student in UCD studying Physics, hoping to get a degree in Physics with Astronomy and Space Sciences. They’ve loved reading, especially science fiction and fantasy, ever since they were a young child and they’re dad read the Hobbit to them. When the pandemic hit, they decided to try they’re hand at writing and published a short fantasy novel in September 2020, called ‘The Dead Shall March’. They are now working on a science fiction novel.
Trigger warning: transphobia.
It is said that, after being forced to recant his heretical views, Galileo Galilei stamped his foot on the ground and said “Eppur si muove” – “And yet it moves.” For he knew what we know, that no matter what he said or did, the Earth still moved around the Sun. Some things are facts, no matter how often they are denied.
On a clear night like this, thousands of stars could be seen through the window. They blurred together as the car drove along the motorway, hundreds of trails of light racing their way across the dark sky. The light had travelled years to reach there, over two and a half million years in the case of the Andromeda galaxy, all to shine indiscriminately across the planet. There was a beauty in that journey that Stella could appreciate.
The stars disappeared from view as the car entered a tunnel, replaced by the harsh lights that attempted to mimic the sky’s glory. Stella kept looking out the window anyway, knowing it was better than facing into the car and possibly inviting a conversation. Music was the only sound inside, a soft thrum of a generic old song her mother had always liked and Stella had never understood. Her mind was too far away to take it in at this time anyway. She doubted her mother was listening either.
The car emerged from the tunnel, the night sky reappearing, the stars right where Stella had left them. Trees started to spring up on either side of the road, partially obscuring the mighty sky high above, the city starting to fall away behind them. Stella was glad to leave it. The further away it got, the closer she went to her home, to her room, to the safety of isolation. If she was lucky, the rest of the journey would continue as it was, in silence, and then she could hide away again.
If she was lucky, she wouldn’t be in this position in the first place.
“Do we need to talk about tonight?” her mother asked.
Stella didn’t answer, keeping her gaze locked out the window, trying to catch all the glimpses of stars that she could. She knew as well as her mother did that there was no answer she could give to stop the oncoming conversation.
“I’ve told you before that you can’t act like that around your grandmother. It’s not fair on her. You know she can’t handle it.”
“She can’t, or you can’t?” Stella said before her brain could catch her tongue and lock it down. Responding never made things any better, and yet she always did it anyway.
Her mother sighed. “We’ve talked about this. You’re my son, and-”
“I’m not,” Stella tried to interrupt, but her mother went on anyway.
“You are my son, and I love you, but you need help. I can’t help you unless you let me. Will you let me?”
Stella stopped herself from responding, keeping her gaze out the window, letting her shaky breath out as quietly as she could. Her thumbs began tapping a rhythm against the tips of her fingers, a ritual she had performed hundreds of times before. She forced her mind to return to the view beyond the window and the near silence of the car.
The stars were clearer in the sky now, no longer fading together, as the car slowed down, rocky country roads replacing the smooth motorway. Stella practised naming the stars in her head, begging it would bring her calmness as it had done so many times in the past. Polaris, shining in the north, at one end of Ursa Minor. Nearby, Dubhe and Merak, pointing to Polaris. Far below them, Arcturus, the brightest star in the northern celestial hemisphere. One by one, Stella named the stars she could see, hoping the silence in the car would last. Hope was all she had, but against her mother it was never enough.
“I talked to Father Davies,” her mother said. “He says there’s a place you can go, up north, where they can help you. He says he knows another family who had a similar…problem. Their daughter went up there for a month and when she came back she was cured.”
“I don’t need to be cured,” Stella said, but her mother ignored her.
“It’s not cheap, mind you, but Father Davies says it’ll be worth it. A few weeks, a month or two at most, and you will be back to normal. We can leave this…thing behind us.”
Stella turned to face her mother, her thumbs speeding up as they tapped on her fingers. “I don’t want to leave it behind.”
Her mother glanced at her. “I know you think that, honey, but you’re wrong. You’ll be happier once this phase is over.”
“I’ve told you, it’s not a phase.”
“It is. Father Davies says he has known other people who feel the way you do, and the ones who end up happiest are the ones who move on.”
Stella rolled her eyes. “What would Father Davies know?”
“Quite a lot, I think you’ll find. He is a very well-travelled man, which you would know if you paid attention to his sermons. Just last week, he was saying that-”
“I don’t care what Father Davies was saying!”
“Watch your tone, Arthur.”
The rhythm of her thumbs faltered. “My name is Stella.”
“No, your name is Arthur, after your grandfather. He was someone who knew how to accept the truth.”
“Didn’t he also drink his way to an early grave?”
“Do not talk about your family like that! Not in my car.”
“Then let me out of the car. I’d rather walk.”
Her mother scoffed. “Oh, I’m sure you would. Do you think I would just let my son walk home alone in the dark?”
“I’m not your son,” Stella said. Her mother sighed but did not reply. The rest of the journey passed in silence.
Finally, the car pulled up the driveway of their house. Lights shone in the windows, smoke curled up out of the chimney and plants laden with the last flowers of the season lined the path to the front door. To Stella, it was almost the perfect home. Almost.
Stella got out of the car as soon as it stopped, but she didn’t walk towards the house, not yet. She took a deep breath, letting the cool air fill her lungs and ground her. She heard the car door close as her mother emerged, and saw out of the corner of her eyes more light spilling from the house as her younger sister came out. There was the crunching of stones beneath feet as her mother made her way to the house, but Stella didn’t turn to face it.
“Come on,” she heard her mother say to her sister. “Your brother needs some space to think.” The light faded, and there was a click as the front door closed again.
Stella released the breath she had been holding, alone with nature once again. She turned her eyes to the sky, to the stars, where she always wanted to look. She allowed herself one sigh as she took in the distant lights, and let a single tear free from the prison within her heart.
“And yet it moves.” The words hung in the air, the promise of a brighter future. She turned and made her way to the house.
Image: Untitled 2 by Charline Chatelaine
Charline (she/her) is drawn to several creative activities and hobbies like painting/drawing, making jewellery and photography, but with collage she particularly enjoys creating odd looking art by using different images and materials that wouldn’t necessarily go together normally.