From the Ashes – 003 The D’Bari

Dark Phoenix was hungry, or so the story goes. She was hungry and finally free of constraints put in place by an all-too-human Jean Grey. She took to the sky, where she found in the universe a playground built solely for her. Long dead stars shined around her. She didn’t need to breathe. She was fire and life incarnate. She was alone. She cared little about fallout because why should gods care about fallout? She was hungry, and she feasted on the sun orbiting the fourth planet of the D’Bari system. As it went supernova, more than 5 billion D’Bari died. Realization came in fractions of seconds. They were there, and then they weren’t. Dark Phoenix continued through space, oblivious in oblivion, and only after dying, did Death reveal to her that her appetite for destruction had consequences.

Gvyn and her close friends Vokum and Bavl were on their way to market. They were sixteen. Dismissed from school just 30 minutes earlier, as they walked, they talked about boys – and not just any boys, but a boy from their school. Vokum and Bavl insisted that Gvyn agree to go on a date with him. She resisted, insisting that she didn’t need a mate-maker. She didn’t have time to tell them that her parents refused to let her date until she was at least 17, and, if they got their way, she wouldn’t date until she was at least 25. Gvyn was the only one of her close friends who hadn’t yet been on a date. She thought, as she walked with her friends, that maybe they could arrange to meet the boy and his friends after school. It wouldn’t be a date as much as a get-together. Surely her parents wouldn’t mind if she was with several people after school. She almost said as much. Then the sun went supernova.

In the market, selling some produce harvested that morning, Vak and his business partner Logl were convinced they’d end up selling almost everything before the market closed. Most everyone loved their produce, and while the men stopped short of claiming that theirs was better than anyone else’s on the planet, they didn’t mind when others said it. They’d been selling produce in the market for several years, having inherited the produce stand from their respective fathers, who had inherited the stand from their fathers, and they from their fathers, going back several generations, this joint family business. Vak and Logl were yoked to the produce stand, and believed that there was nothing better for them out there. Logl had a son; Vak did not. At least not yet. His wife, Gertl, was pregnant. They were expecting twins. They were hopeful that they’d have a boy and a girl. Gertl was due in two months’ time. Logl and Vak were showing some vegetables to a customer. Then the sun went supernova.

The D’Bari were ruled by a king who was known as B’rog the Benevolent. He had been king for 74 years, and was expected to remain on the throne for at least another 200 years. On the day of the Great Reckoning, as historians have come to call the day Dark Phoenix came for dinner, King B’rog the Benevolent was arguing with his advisors about the installation of a water park near the public market. The planet had seen its water reserves dwindle in recent months, and though the water park had been planned and in the works for several years, the King’s advisors weren’t sure that opening it as scheduled was in the planet’s best interests. The King didn’t want to disappoint his people. He put them first in each of his decisions, which largely contributed to his earning “the benevolent” as a nickname. B’rog’s advisors suggested postponing the opening until at least the next rainy season, but B’rog countered that no one would want to go to a water park during the planet’s rainy season, which could last upward of four years. The King and his advisors were at a standstill. Obviously, B’rog would make the final decision, but he enjoyed such a good relationship with his advisors – and they had given him such good advice over the years – that he also thought that maybe he needed to take their concerns into account. He was about to suggest that they turn the park – which was already built and waiting only for millions of gallons of water – into an amusement park, but then the sun went supernova.

In the market, the same market where Gvyn and her close friends Vokum and Bavl were headed, several salespeople barked at passersby, offering beads and linens and scarves; jewels like none other on the planet; and a microphone that Lila Cheney used during her 1982 World Tour.

True story, it was her first solo outing, she boasted she could tour 11 star systems in as many days, and she did, stopping in the D’Bari system for an afternoon concert. B’rog the Benevolent hosted her and her bodyguard (even then, Guido seldom strayed from Lila’s side), and when she was done, the pair left, leaving behind her microphone and a speaker that never worked right again.

Salespeople offered apples and oranges and pears that tasted like bananas, and there were live chickens and dogs tied to stalls, and drinks inside scooped out coconut shells. The market was alive with activity and people and what passed for a typical day in the D’Bari system. But then the sun went supernova.

In space, stars screamed as Dark Phoenix streaked by. They dimmed in her wake, each hoping to go unnoticed. Dark Phoenix saw everything, and those dim stars were nothing to her, less than nothing, not even worth what little light they had – she had eyes only for the D’Bari system and the sun that seemed to sing to her – a song of fire and life and heat and passion, something that she knew would make the hunger and hurt and – could it be fear? No, not fear for the Dark Phoenix; more like a bleak willingness to see through to the natural end this life she had carved for herself on earth, millions of miles from the D’Bari system and the creatures who lived there.

The D’Bari had no time to react. The sun simply went to supernova. They were here and then they were gone. Dark Phoenix was satiated – for a time, only for a time – and she headed back to earth, where friends and lovers waited to see what she’d do next.

The D’Bari were peaceful, and if given the chance, would have offered her small parts of their sun, just enough to get her to the next closest star system, but not enough to cause the sun to go to supernova. They had lived in peace for centuries, and save a few who were caught up in conflicts common only to earth, were nothing more than a footnote.

K’vin and N’dia were skinny dipping in a stream that led to a waterfall that led to a valley, where animals lived year-round, feeding on plants and vegetation. Trees provided shade. The water, or so K’vin and N’dia thought, was exactly what they needed to escape the heat of the day. They were looking at each other when the sun went supernova.

In the mountains, near enough the stream to see it, but not near enough to head K’vin and N’dia, the blind Ooral sat and waited. He had had nightmares of the sun boiling the planet alive. He had heard the stars screaming. He knew something was coming, but banished as he was to the mountains – imperfections were not allowed in many places on the planet, and his inability to see marked him as imperfect – he knew no one would hear him. Ooral sat alone, legs crossed on top of each other, his hands folded in his lap. He sat with his head turned up, and he felt the sun on his face, and when the sun went supernova, he knew, for a split second, what the sun looked like.

These stories remained largely untold – unknown, even. No one cared enough about the D’Bari to mourn the planet when its sun went supernova. No one except for Death, who wrote on pillars and beams the names of each D’Bari who died the day Dark Phoenix fed on the system’s sun. These names, when touched, told the stories of mothers and fathers and children, of lovers in streams and friends in the market, of concerts and banquets and a benevolent king who wanted to put in place a waterpark. These stories, each hungry for an ending that didn’t require the sun to go supernova, in place only on structures built on the moon.

In the beginning, there was a sun, and around the sun a peaceful star system orbited. The system was here one second and gone the next, on the day the sun went supernova. Dark Phoenix, after feeding, turned back to earth, leaving in her wake nothing more than broken stars.

Will Henderson is a freelance writer and father. His memoir, Second Person, Possessive, is out now and you can order here. Follow Will on twitter @Avesdad.

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