by Mary E. Lowd
Originally published in Fantasia Divinity Magazine, May 2017
The asteroid amphitheater rocked with applause as the suspended final note of Star Shaker’s encore vibrated the atmo-bubble over everyone’s heads. The reptilian pop-star bowed and spotlights shone off of her rainbow-colored scales, making her glitter like the stars all around.
Chirri had loved Star Shaker’s music since she was a little kitten. Once, she’d even shaved off her fur and drawn little Vs all over her naked skin, hoping they’d make her look like she had scales. It had looked awful, but she’d been too young to care. All she knew was that it had made her feel closer to her hero.
Everything felt right when Chirri listened to Star Shaker’s golden throated singing.
The applause died down, and the other fans — all sorts of aliens, from the fuzzy to the feathered, antlered, or scaly like Star Shaker herself — began leaving their seats, heading to the airlocks at the back of the atmo-dome. But Chirri didn’t want it to be over. She stayed in her seat, clutching her bag of supplies — snacks, water, vid-com — hoping to catch one more glimpse of Star Shaker.
Of course, it was the fleet of Roboweiler guards who cleared the stage. It was silly to think Star Shaker would come back out, but Chirri couldn’t let go of the feeling she’d had while watching her hero, dancing so close, singing in the same air — real sound waves from Star Shaker’s silver forked tongue directly to Chirri’s eager pointed ears.
Reluctantly, Chirri stood and started edging her way back through the rows of seats, each pawstep taking her farther away from those perfect moments during the concert. She sighed, accepting that the magic had melted away, and it was time to return to her normal life.
Then Chirri saw her: Star Shaker’s scales were simply silver-gray without the stage lights, and she was small — a full head shorter than Chirri. But it was her. Alive and real and strutting toward Chirri with a Roboweiler on either side of her. The Roboweilers’ mechanical red eyes glowed, menacingly.
Chirri stumbled backward, nearly falling over a seat and tangling her hindpaws in her long tail. When she recovered herself, she could feel that her fur had fluffed out. There were only a few seconds until Star Shaker would pass her on the way to the airlocks, and there would only be a moment then — but there would be a moment. What could Chirri say to her hero in a moment?
Chirri remembered the snacks in her bag — she was a baker and had brought some of her signature Aldebaran sugar cookies. It was stupid… but maybe she could give Starshaker a cookie. Something she’d made for someone who’d made so much for her… Because Star Shaker’s music always felt like it was made only for her. She knew it sounded that way to everyone… That was Star Shaker’s appeal; she was a reptilian alien, but her heart could have been anything — fuzzy, feathered, photosynthetic — she spoke to them all.
But it didn’t matter. Chirri wanted to give her hero something, as a kind of thank you. She dug one of the cookies out of her bag; it was star-shaped and glittered with grains of Aldebaran sugar. Chirri had made the batch especially for this concert. She’d been so excited. And it had been everything she dreamed.
Chirri held out the cookie. Her eyes locked with her hero’s, and the small reptilian alien said, “What is this felinoid doing here? I thought you guys cleared this place out.”
The Roboweiler to the right snarled and advanced, probably just to warn Chirri to keep her distance from the pop-star, but its mechanical teeth startled Chirri so much that she tripped all the way over the seat this time. She landed splayed on the asteroid amphitheater’s floor, ears askew, tail crimped beneath her, and star cookie smashed.
By the time Chirri dusted herself off, Star Shaker and the Roboweilers were well past her. The moment was gone. The moment had been horrible. Chirri relived it — seeing herself over and over again, tripping awkwardly, all dignity lost in front of the one being she most admired.
Chirri’s ears flattened and her whiskers shivered. She looked down at the crumbles of sugar cookie in her paw. Maybe she wouldn’t bake that recipe again for a while.
In fact, she didn’t think she would listen to Star Shaker’s music for a while either. At least, until the memory of this night faded. Because she needed that moment to go away, and she couldn’t imagine hearing Star Shaker’s voice without thinking about it.
The stars still stretched out all around the asteroid amphitheater, but for Chirri, the world had become much smaller, and nothing sounded right. At all.