a boundary around a black hole beyond which nothing can escape
Event Horizon
Prologue: A Star Collapses
We waited by her bedside for hours, dad and I. Dad held her hand over his shoulder and stared numbly at the minty hospice wall. She lay there, her other arm folded neatly over the sheets, her eyes closed and the mildest smile playing on her lips. And I sat beside her, resting my head against the bedframe, reading her a picture book about the stars.
“... and when a star is oh so bright and hot, it heats up all the planets around it! Sizzle sizzle sizzle,” I teased, gingerly tickling at her bare scalp. Her smile stretched the slightest bit wider, and I could feel the faintest tremor of a giggle.
“Stars keep growing and growing, bigger and bigger, as they make more and more elements in their core. Our star, the sun, is only a medium-sized star compared to other stars!”
Her free hand inched closer to me, asking to see the pictures. Nadia and I had invented our own secret language over the months, as her words had grown mushy and slow.
I scooted closer and held up the book for her to see. Her eyes peered open, and her fingers lifted tenderly to graze the drawings inside: the sun next to flaring red giants like Mira and Betelgeuse.
Her eyes closed once more. Her finger shifted upwards, and I turned the page. Then it flicked to the side, so I started to read again.
“Red giants are older stars, like white dwarfs and red supergiants. When a big star like a red giant runs out of nuclear fuel, its own gravity makes it collapse.”
Nadia sighed. If she could speak, I’m sure she would have said “wow” then. But she just sighed in awe.
“When this happens, the star explodes in a huge supernova, throwing matter out into space. After it settles, a black hole has replaced the star. There’s so much mass inside such a tiny space that it sucks in everything, even light! Black holes can —,”
“Castor.” I looked up. My dad had sat up, kneeling beside my sister, a wild panic in his eyes. “I think — I think she’s...”
Nadia’s breath was staggered and short. The beeping of her heart monitor became choppy, buzzing too fast and pausing for too long. Her breath was reedy and rough. It seemed like she was struggling to stay, trying to breathe in everything before it was all gone.
“Nadia.” There was no reply. I knew there wouldn’t be. She hadn’t been able to speak for three months.
I let the book fall and reached for her other hand. Her fingers were stiff and cold.
We sat there for a long time, dad and I each holding one of Nadia’s hands as they turned brittle and clammy. It spread up into her heart, and she let out one last rattling breath. There were two last, feeble beeps from the monitor. And then she was gone.
No supernova, no black hole, no incredible burst of light or wonder.
Just gone.
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