Life on the Planets

When life on the planet became too unpleasant, its inhabitants fled to other worlds. Some left as nations, bearing flags, in fleets of ships that filled the sky like sparks from a kicked-up fire. Some left in hordes, out for plunder, but lost their bearings in the deafening upthrust of takeoff. Some left in sects, covering their ships in idols that burnt off as they passed through the atmosphere. Some left in political factions, chanting slogans at the stars, which diminished into atonal warbles the further out they travelled. Some left gallantly, swaggering through orbit, mistaking empty space for freedom. Some slunk away ashamed, taking cover behind new moons where their old world wouldn't see them. Some left with their families and bickered over rations. Some left with other people's wives or husbands, venturing into erotic unknowns. Some stragglers left in twos and threes, sharing their stasis pods with strangers. Some lonely ones left with their cats and a lifetime's supply of kibbles. Some left in cacophonous multitudes, some left in nervous swarms. Some just wandered out alone, their heads full of nothing.

Some settled on a mountainous world where the gravity was askew, and grew enormous bulbous heads and feet that trailed like weeds. Some settled on a world with colours none had ever seen before, and fell prey to violent new emotions and breakdowns of rational thought. Some settled on a putrescent planet whose core was a decaying ball, and their nostrils covered over with protective films. Some settled on a gas giant, and developed silver-winged balloons that billowed through the acid-green murk as if across an ocean. Some settled on a world with nine suns, and were followed by nine shadows. Some settled on a world of ash that plumed high above their heads, and communicated by anonymous choking. Some settled on a world of rain, where words like 'dry' and 'desiccation' vanished from their language. Some settled on a world of ice, and evolved to be shy and strange. Some settled across an asteroid belt, connecting their disparate chunks of rock with a perilous system of ladders. Some wild ones harnessed meteorites, and rode them bareback through the void. Some came across a space-capsule pointlessly orbiting a frozen sun, and lived their lives in nostalgic yearning for the photographs it contained. Some tuned in to old radio waves long-ago broadcast from their world, thought them transmissions from unknown aggressors, and scattered in terror through space. Some learned to live on suns, in protective bubbles of supercooled steel, and grew to look like furious insects with burnt matchstick heads. Some settled inside a black hole, and forgot themselves. Some didn't settle at all, but wandered forever between the stars in the hope of something better.

Some died in chemical reactions, melting into fantastical sludge that congealed into outlandish stalagmites. Some died in brilliant sublimations, bursting into light. Some spun freezing through the vacuum, watching the breath inside their visors bloom into flowers of ice. Some turned into fiery comets whose trails were the memories of former loves. Some were beaten to death by space-brutes. Some were bewitched by galactic perverts with thin lips and quivering fingers. Some were absorbed by sentient gases. Some wandered into perilous frequencies, and became pure sound. Some comprised the dust of new worlds. Some grew huge and sad, like clouds. Some giggled themselves to atoms.

The planet they had originally left shrivelled up like an old tangerine. Some ventured back, after countless years, but didn't linger long.