It was Little Bee who saw it first, resting under a Narra tree and looking up at the night sky after an exhausting hour of running around chasing fireflies in his grandmother's backyard with his little net. The sky looked celestial (Brandon, hisolder brother, taught him this word today and he intended to use it despite not knowing how to spell it) littered with pretty twinkling stars and a waning crescent moon (Brandon taught him the phases of the moon last week) hovering above them like a king beholding his land from the highest room of the castle.
The Orion constellation could easily be seen from their little town especially on clearer nights, and Brandon taught him how to spot the legendary hunter–first, you need to find three stars adjacent to each other that would make up his belt, and the two brighter and bigger stars above them would be his shoulders. Add a little bit of imagination and the great hunter would materialize right in front of your eyes with his sword and shield.
Except his belt only had two stars now, when a few minutes ago he was sure they were three. He wondered whether stars could turn on and off whenever they please, like light switches. But then you would need a person to do the switching, wouldn't you? Brandon told him stars don't have consciousness, and Brandon was usually right about these things.
But what if he was wrong? Maybe today would be the day Little Bee would be the one to teach him. Little Bee smiled at the thought. And so Little Bee squinted, concentrating on the legendary hunter blazing brightly in the sky, with unblinking determination. And there it was again! A star on his belt turning itself off. Vanishing in the blink of an eye. So he was right, after all!
"I have to tell him!" thought Little Bee excitedly. He stood up, forgetting his jar of fireflies and running as fast as his little legs could carry him to his grandmother's bungalow. The sleepy cat (unnamed, he was rescued from an alleyway a few days ago) purred as he ran upstairs to Brandon's bedroom.
"Brandon! You'll never guess what I just saw," he screamed, barging in as Brandon (a physics student who would usually read laymen books that explore humanity's relationship with science instead of actual science books–his professors were constantly disappointed) was just putting The Demon-Haunted World back in his bookshelf.
"Dude, I told you to knock first," Brandon said, annoyed but a little amused at his little brother's intrusion. "Anyway, what is it?"
"The stars–they're disappearing!" Little Bee couldn't contain it any longer. It was like word vomit and it was one of those rare moments when he could boast to his genius (self-proclaimed) big brother so it was a big deal.
"The stars! Orion's belt! Missing stars! Just look!" Little Bee pulled him to his telescope that was pointing towards the opened window. "You were wrong!" He added triumphantly.
"Missing stars, huh," Brandon muttered skeptically. Probably just clouds, he thought. But when he looked through the telescope, it was a clear celestial night sky. And Orion's belt was indeed missing two stars, and he was sure it was really Orion (no mistaking it, a boring summer with no internet connection and an interest in astronomy and stargazing would do that to you) and now he was feeling extremely bothered and inadequate because his surface level knowledge of the world could not quite provide an explanation for it.
However, there was that prediction of a famous scientist with the wheelchair and a robotic voice…
He stared and stared, silently wishing there was just a tiny cloud obstructing the light of the missing stars.
And then, above Orion, a little to the right, another star turned itself off.
Like lights in tiny apartments, in thin, tall, imposing buildings switching off for the night because it was time to sleep…
He looked back at his little brother (all smiles and glittery eyes) with a grim expression on his face, surface level knowledge all consuming his tired mind.
"Did you know that black holes have no hair?"