Let Me Tell You About The Spookiest Star


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I’ve worked at the Allen Telescope Array (ATA) located in Hat Creek, California for a year now and things have been relatively normal for almost the entirety of that time, but yesterday…well, yesterday shit hit the proverbial fan. Let me back up a bit, my main area of research involves measuring the electromagnetic radiation spectra of exoplanets, sometimes I do get tasked with sitting there and “listening” for any sort of signal and I know it sounds super cool and all, but it’s not, it’s really not. It’s just sitting on your ass for hours staring at a screen, not even cool images or sounds, but a bunch of computer jargon. My real job, at least the one I actually enjoy doing, is looking up, using astronomical spectroscopy to see if there are any indications in the atmosphere of exoplanets of intelligent life.

And yesterday…we found something, boy oh boy did we…


The morning started off strange. I was just walking into work when I noticed a tiny black speck struggling across the road. It was a kitten, lost, lonely, obviously abandoned. I heard a rumbling sound, looked to my right, and watched as a guy on a Ducati Scrambler pulled to a stop next to me.

Now, I’ve always been a bit obsessed with bikes—though too afraid to ride one myself—and stared for a moment, admiring it. It was matte black, smooth, and clearly modded. It was very well maintained too. My eyes shifted to the rider; it looked like he was on his way to work and, I gotta say, he cut quite the image in his black suit and tinted motorcycle helmet. And his helmet was…uncanny. I’ve never seen anything like it before; it had to have been a custom Scorpion, it reminded me of Darth Vader’s helmet or maybe a gas mask. Either way, it was cool as hell. But it was what he did next caught me off guard; I wasn’t expecting him to be cool and caring. He kicked his stand out, hopped off, crouched next to the little thing and picked it up. Then, from his pocket he pulled out a black handkerchief and wrapped the kitten up burrito-style, placing it ever so gently within the inside of his suit jacket, before sliding back onto his bike.

He kicked the stand back up and looked over at me, or at least I think he did—couldn’t really tell with the tint, he could’ve easily been looking at ATA behind me—and revved his engine twice before shooting away towards the rising sun. I watched him go, wondering what a guy like that was doing at a place like this. But as soon as I entered work and was met with the frantic flurry inside, he, the kitten, and his bike slipped from my mind.


I have never seen ATA in such an upheaval before, and it took me a few moments to truly comprehend what was happening. It was about a star, but not just any star, it was Tabby’s Star, KIC 8462852, the WTF Star. What the fuck, indeed. The first thing I noticed were all the military men wandering about, looking stern, blocking the doorways to several rooms; the second was how absolutely terrified everyone else looked.

Sue saw me first and made a beeline towards me, I could tell she had shit to say. I ducked inside one of the open rooms and waited for her, but when I heard the door click open and turned towards it smiling, I immediately dropped it from my face and stood straight. It was the director, closely followed by two men in decorated military uniforms. They were wearing stern expressions, but the director, he looked worried. One of the guys in uniform started talking, his voice was deep, harsh, demanding. Two things he told me stuck out, filling me with fear and an encroaching sense of dread; the first was that everything I do, say, see, hear, and so on was highly classified and any leak would be met with “extreme prejudice”; the second was to only speculate in terms of reasonable hypotheses, that anything else—anything alien—would not be considered as a valid explanation.

“So,” the man said, “Welcome to the team.”

“The team?”

“You’ll be tasked with helping us write up a public facing statement on what’s happening. Make sure it’s understandable, short, and succinct. No fear.”

“Fear?”

“We don’t want any sort of mass panic happening now do we?”

“And why would people panic?”

“If stars were disappearing across the night sky for a reason unknown to us and the top scientists in the world, wouldn’t you panic?”

I thought for a moment. “I guess so, yeah. But isn’t that what stars do. Burn out?”

The two military men looked at each other, then at the director who looked down. “They’re not burning out,” the man replied curtly. “Either you agree to the terms or you’ll be terminated.”

“Like fired or killed?” The man said nothing, glaring at me. “Okay, okay, I agree.” They left and Sue walked in after a moment, looking behind her, checking to see if they had really gone.

“Hey,” she said.

“Hey,” I replied. “Gonna tell me what the hell is going on?”

“Yeah, gotta few hours?”

“Give me the too long, didn’t read version.”

“Tabby’s Star, remember it?” Without waiting for a response, she continued, “Well, something happened to it. Something weird. It’s gone.”

“Gone? What? Last I checked it was still there.”

She nodded, “That’s the thing. It is still there, but some astrophysicist from LASP said she saw it disappear for days; she has evidence too.”

“And?”

“And that’s not all. The Pleiades. How many of them are there?”

“Seriously?” She nodded, prompting me to keep talking. “Seven, the seven dancing sisters, so on and so forth.”

She shook her head. “Nope. Six. Celaeno is gone. Actually for real gone.”

“What?”

“Yep. They brought in an amateur astronomer from Colorado—he was scared outta his mind—he said…uh, I don’t really know how to say this, something big ate it.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Ate it? Uh…what?”

“Like an enormous tongue attached to some Lovecraftian horror flopped out from fuck knows where and scooped it up. Swallowed it whole.”

What?”

“Yep.”

“Um, okay…you’re just shitting me right now, aren’t you?”

“I’m dead serious. Don’t know if I believe him though, about Cthulhu I mean, Celaeno is gone though. Back to Tabby’s Star—some scientists are saying it’s just hidden behind something. We’re really only allowed to say rocks, asteroids, space debris, but they think it’s something else, something intelligent…”

“Aliens?”

“Or robots.”

“Made by aliens?”

Despite herself, she laughed, “C’mon, let’s go before they kill both of us…”


That night, after hours of deliberation and hushed discussions in stressed tones, I was finally allowed to leave. But before I made it out the door, the director pulled me aside and told me to be careful and to be back at 6AM on the dot the next day. I quickly agreed and left, only to be met with a sight that jogged the memory of that morning back into my mind: there, parked next to the building, was the black Ducati and hooked to the side of the seat was the unforgettable helmet. It was parked illegally, but none of the soldiers patrolling the area seemed to care. In fact, a few of them seemed to be admiring it, just like I had earlier that day.

Nearby stood three men in black suits: one bald with a thick beard, one greying with mean eyes, one youngish with a reckless grin. I watched them for a moment, wondering which one I saw on the bike earlier and where the kitten went, before the one with the mean eyes noticed me and beckoned the other two inside. The bald one turned to follow immediately, but the other one, the one with wood colored hair, said something and pointed at the Ducati. The mean eyed man replied—he looked pissed, like he was about ready to sucker punch the guy—but the young guy just smiled widely and shrugged it off. As soon as the other men disappeared beyond the door, he caught my gaze and gestured me over with his head. I looked around, seeing that the soldiers were now gone, and approached him hesitantly. Without a word, he handed me a small package wrapped in yellowing newspaper, pressed his finger to his lips, and winked. I looked back up at him and, meeting his nonchalant gaze, I opened my mouth to say something, but he just smirked mischievously and turned away, following the older men into the building.

Later, back at home and away from the prying eyes of my teammates and the soldiers, I unwrapped the package carefully noticing that the newspaper it was wrapped in was from the eighties. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I definitely wasn’t expecting a tattered old paperback. It was titled Star Maker and was by some guy I had never heard of before: Olaf Stapledon. I opened it hoping to see some clandestine information or maybe some ruse, like the book itself was just a cover for a hidden piece of technology. Instead a matte black business card slipped out, falling gently to the floor as if it weighed nothing. I bent down and picked it up, turning it over in my hands, but it was totally blank. Confused, I went to throw it away, thought better of it, and slid it back into the front of the book. I cursed myself silently, wondering if it had been marking a specific spot between the pages and began turning them one by one with care…and there, halfway through the book, on the side of a passage that seemed to be describing the zoo hypothesis, was one word inked in neat capitals.

MEGASTRUCTURE.

I blinked, feeling my eyebrows raise in shock. Ah—I thought to myself—maybe this was it, maybe this was the answer, maybe that’s why the military guy strictly forbid me—us—from speculating about it; it was so… obvious, so simple, so absurd, so easy to deny. I flipped open my laptop and sat down on my couch with a cold one, pulling open Wikipedia, searching two words: Dyson sphere. And there—right there—was information on Star Maker. Intrigued now, I flicked to the first page of the paperback and skimmed it, but soon grew paranoid that someone, or something, may be watching. I deleted my search history, powered off my laptop, and shoved the book into a drawer before turning off my lights and sliding into bed. I tossed and turned for hours, thinking, wondering…

What did that man with the wood colored hair know? Who the hell was he and those other men? Why did he give me the book? And, most importantly, where did Celaeno go and how the fuck did Tabby’s Star disappear completely only to reappear days later?

One thing’s for sure, though: this shit is spooky.

And I’m scared.


One of these things is not like the other

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