Chapter two of Unknown North, a novel that will be published chapter-by-chapter until it’s done. All chapters so far: Unknown North.
Henry Jacobs adjusted the focus on his Bransen Labs Deep X Telescope (“bigger, better, cheaper”) and tried in vain to relocate the four stars of the Star Event. He’d got the telescope last year for his tenth birthday, and was only dimly aware that his mother had forgone replacing the dishwasher in order to afford it. In fact, she was even now at the kitchen sink, washing the dishes by hand.
“Henry!” she called. “The silverware’s ready to be dried!”
Henry swung the telescope wildly until the temporary blindness of the moon filtered through the lens. He recoiled a tad at the strength of the illumination, then swung the telescope back to the left. He was definitely aiming at the right spot in the sky. He stood up straight, hands on his hips, and sighed heavily. The four stars were gone and he, for one, did not believe Dr. Angelo Moore’s excuse that anyone who had seen four anomalous stars didn’t know what they were looking at, because Henry knew damn well what he’d been looking at.
“Henry!” his mother called again.
“Coming…” he grudgingly replied, deep in thought as he wandered into the kitchen and picked up the dish towel. His mother smiled at him and wiped some splashed bubbles off her cheek with her shoulder.
“It’ll only take a minute.”
“I know, Ma. It’s okay,” he answered, sighing again.
“Still can’t find those stars, eh?”
Henry nodded, his young brow furrowing under his rail-straight, jet-black hair that absolutely refused to part any other way but to the right. His eyes were bright, and even when he was down in the dumps they belied the optimism he always let win out in the end. His mother chuckled lightly.
“Well, Sophie will be here soon. Maybe she can help.”
“Yeah…” Henry agreed with a sigh.
Sophie was the ten-year-old daughter of his mother’s employer, and though Henry didn’t fully understand the camaraderie two single, working moms had, he knew that his mom looked forward to “no work Friday nights” and he did all he could to make it easy on them. His grand act of compromise had, however, turned into a real friendship with Sophie, though he didn’t want to let on too much that he’d been counting the days all week to show her the stars through his telescope.
And now they were gone.
He dried the dishes and put them away in silence, his mind thinking and rethinking how he could have been so wrong about what he’d seen. What if the stars hadn’t been there, after all? What proof did he have? His mom watched him, unable to help but smile to herself about her son.
“What do you think they were?” she asked softly. Henry shrugged.
“I can’t find anything like it in any of my books. It was like they’d gone into orbit around the moon, then just froze. Then vanished. And that Dr. Moore’s an idiot…”
“Well now, he probably just doesn’t understand either, and he doesn’t want to scare people.”
“Are you scared, Mom?”
She smiled and stripped off her kitchen gloves, placing them behind the faucet and taking the towel from Henry so she could wipe up the splashed water.
“No. But then, I do the paperwork for a freelance microbiologist. I know there’s a rational explanation, Henry, they just haven’t found it yet.”
Henry grunted dismally and marched back to his telescope. Dr. Angelo Moore might be satisfied pretending something he didn’t understand would just go away, but Henry was not.