Wednesday, 4 May 2016

The Horror From The Stars

The first that anyone saw of the thing, it was a tiny smudge in one corner of a photograph taken by a telescope during a routine exposure of star fields of the Milky Way. Nobody even noticed it at first. It was only two weeks later, when another routine photo was taken and compared to the first one, that it became worthy of any attention.

The director of the observatory was informed. He tilted his head this way and that, and wrinkled his forehead. “It’s just a minor planetoid,” he said at last. “Don’t waste your time on it.”

“It’s larger and closer to the centre of the photo,” the graduate astrophysics student who had noticed the object said nervously. “I think it’s coming closer.”

“We don’t have budget allocations for looking at unimportant things,” the director snapped. “Don’t bother me about it again.”

But two weeks later, it was still there, even closer to the centre of the photo and clearly larger than ever. The graduate student, more nervously than ever, went to the director.

“Well,” he told her, frowning again and looking at the figures, “it’s clearly coming closer, and could be of some significance. I’ll handle this myself from this point on.” And, licking his lips in anticipation, he set about making sure he kept the credit for the discovery entirely for himself.

By the next morning, however, several different observatories from various parts of the world had begun talking about the object, and all their directors had announced that they were the discoverers, so nobody got the credit, and a huge fight seemed to be brewing. And then the fight was rendered moot by a singular discovery by the original graduate student, who hadn’t been able to resist temptation and, against orders, had taken another look at the object.

It was even closer, and the computer analysis she ran showed that it was about the size of earth’s moon. That was remarkable enough.

What was even more remarkable was that its projected trajectory would bring it close to earth. It would bring it very, very close to earth indeed.

A week after that there was no doubt. The new planetoid would, without the slightest possibility of error, strike the planet. And it was more than large enough to wipe out all life.


All across the world people stopped what they were doing when they heard the news. Politicians stopped stealing public funds for long enough to go on television and assure their constituents that it was all Putin’s fault. Moderate cannibal headhunters stopped shelling hospitals long enough to blame it on Assad. Oil drilling companies ordered their geologists to see what impact the strike might have on opening up fresh deposits. Climate change deniers claimed that it was all a conspiracy by the government. And still the planetoid came on.

All across the world, people began worrying. Omens began to appear. A celebrity claimed to have given birth to a two-headed goat. An ancient temple in India crumbled and fell, and the pure gold statue that stood within it vanished. It was true that the temple was very old, and badly maintained, and that a priest disappeared along with the statue. But enough witnesses claimed they had watched the statue fly through the air and away, so it must have been an omen. And still the planetoid came on.

By now it was clearly visible in the sky, a star in the south-west, which grew larger each day. It was reddish, like an inflamed eye, and as it grew closer, it began to get so bright that the moon itself began reflecting a bit of its glow and looked pinkish.  

In the halls of the United Nations, politicians and diplomats from all the nations of the world – except North Korea, which was not allowed – came together in urgent consultation. So great was the crisis that even Russia was allowed, though the Nazi government of Rump Ukraine promptly walked out in protest; Syria was allowed, though the fascist government of Turkey did the same; and so was Iran, which led to the withdrawal of the zionazi government of Zionistan. So all was as usual.

“We must launch nuclear strikes on the planetoid,” the diplomats and politicians said. “That is the only way to turn it from its course.” And by then so dire was the threat that not even Avaaz objected.

After a lot of discussion and argument, they decided that the Security Council would arrange the nuking of the planetoid, and two weeks later a hundred hastily-reengineered rockets rose off their launch pads and rushed off into the sky, carrying all the nuclear warheads in all the arsenals of the planet. All over the world people watched their television screens, as breathless anchors announced the countdown to the first strikes. And then they saw them, little flashes of light that appeared and vanished, sparkles all over the planetoid.

They were much fewer than they should have been, though, and only afterwards did everyone realise why; all the Security Council members had kept back warheads to use on each other, hoping the others had expended all of theirs on the planetoid. So it had got only a fraction of the strikes it ought to have got. But it didn’t matter anyway, because the bombs that had gone off hadn’t had the slightest, teensiest effect on its path. And even if the Security Council members would agree on a second strike, there were no rockets available for the job, and no time to make them. In which case, they'd first have to agree to honestly send their remaining warheads anyway. And that was not going to happen. 

And still the planetoid came on.

“It’s up to the gods now,” the leaders of the world said. “Science has failed, and there is nothing more we can do.”

So a great interfaith meeting was held, at which all the priests and pastors, mullahs and imams, lamas and wiccans, every believer in any form of religion whatever, came, and they argued and split hairs, and bickered loud and long. Then they all prayed for god to turn the thing aside, and they prayed some more.

And still the planetoid came on, and by now it was so close its red glow filled the windows.  And there were earthquakes and volcanoes across the lands, and rivers changed course and flooded the cities.

At last just three days remained before it would inevitably smash down on the earth, and destroy everything and everyone, including the nuclear weapons that had been held back.

And it was then that the graduate student who had first found the planetoid had a vision. Or, as she put it, a Vision.

No longer was she a mousy little student. No longer did she tremble in fear before the slightest  criticism. Now she was bold with a Mission, a Mission born of a Vision. She was Priestess, and she knew what was to be done.

“We must sacrifice a virgin,” she said. “That will be the only way to appease the planetoid, and turn it aside.”

“Where and when must we sacrifice her?” the people asked.

“We must do it on the very morning of the day that it will strike,” she said. “and we must do it on the lip of a volcano. I myself will rip out her heart with an obsidian knife, and fling it into the boiling lava.”

“It shall be done,” the people said. “O great Priestess and Enlightened One, it shall be done.”

And so it was that one day passed, and the new Priestess took an obsidian knife from a museum, and consecrated it according to rites she had seen in her Vision. And still the planetoid came on.

And so it was that another day passed, and the new Priestess chose a volcano, from among the many that were now available, after divination according to rites she had discovered in her Vision. And still the planetoid came on.

And so it was that the Day of Sacrifice dawned, and the Priestess stood on the lip of the crater of the volcano, her obsidian knife held high, while the multitudes watched; and she chanted the magical Words she had seen in her Vision. And the planetoid was red and huge in the sky.

And then she turned round to the people. “Bring me a virgin,” she called.

Nothing happened.

“Bring me a virgin to sacrifice,” she shouted again.

Nothing happened.

“Bring me a virgin, damn you,” she shrieked.

And the multitude looked at each other uneasily, and at last one of them spoke up. “We are so sorry, Priestess,” he said, “but there seems to be none.”

“No virgins left anywhere,” another confirmed. “Not one.”

“Not one,” the murmur went round. “Not one virgin, not one.”

“Why don’t you sacrifice yourself?” someone asked.

There was a long pause. “I can’t,” the Priestess said at last. “I’m not one either.”

And there was a great silence, while the planetoid came even closer.

And there was no next day, of course.

Copyright B Purkayastha 2016


  1. You are as always with humour ))

  2. Haha! I take it you've read "The Black Cloud" by Fred Hoyle?

  3. No budget and no virgins. This is so much like real life that it is scary.

  4. Oh no! No virgins? Well heck, where is Mr. Branson when he is really needed? (Was supposed to be a joke/play on his various "virgin" companies) Hey Bill, give me a break, I'm 68 and disabled, so some slack would be nice about now. (Need I remind you how often I have promoted your web site over the years?) Sorry, I just 'had' to add that last bit. You used to have "Promote me damn it" just under your photo on this site.

    1. Yeah, that's one of several gadgets that stopped working and which I removed. Blogger's been slowly deteriorating with time.

  5. Brilliant, as usual. I just wish there was some way to get your stuff where a LOT more people could see it.

    Sadly, the MSM says that Hersh, who won the Pulitzer Prize for condemning what Nixon was doing in Vietnam, is now a racist, sexist liar impugning the unimpugnable Obama and Clinton.

    We are assured that the UK and US governments both verified that it was Russia and the evil Syrian regime that bombed the refugee camp, and we are warned NOT to listen to the lies of the Soviet Propaganda channel.

    And most agree that, if Friedman says Iraq and Libya are MUCH better off than before Bush, jr and Obama saved them, he knows. After all, he interviewed many, many Iraqis who said they were eternally grateful to Bush, jr.

    Friedman's no fool. Unlike Rall, he only interviewed people in the Green Zone, and only when the US military was defending it, so yes, every Iraqi he spoke to agreed that Bush, jr made Iraq MUCH better.


  6. Never a virgin around when you need one.

    Good job she didn't ask for any wise men!


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