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  • Writer's pictureKaty L. Wood

Comet Watching

A little short story featuring Dustin and Vivian from my Glory is Poison series.



Dustin had given up on pinning down Vivian’s sleep schedule years ago. She was either in bed with him at night or she wasn’t. More often than not, she wasn’t. Dustin figured she had to be sleeping somewhere, he just couldn’t figure out where. When he’d gone to bed on that particular night she hadn’t been in the house, nor had he seen her since midday, which made it all the more confusing to his sleep addled brain to find her poking him awake when it was still very much nighttime.

“What?” Dustin mumbled, trying to burrow deeper into the covers of their bed.

“Get up,” she replied, poking his shoulder again.

“‘S sleep time,” Dustin said, shoving his face deeper into the pillow.

He heard Vivian huff, then suddenly the covers were gone. Groaning, he rolled over to look blearily at Vivian who was now at the end of the bed, a ball of blankets in hand and barely visible in the starlight filtering in through the long, thin window above the bed.

“Up,” Vivian said, dropping the covers to the floor.

Dustin sighed and heaved himself out of bed, stumbling around for his clothes in the dark. He figured they weren’t under attack, given the lack of urgency, so he took his time sliding on his heavy canvas pants, flannel, and boots.

“You telling me why we’re up hours before dawn?” Dustin yawned in Vivian’s direction.

“You’ll see.”

Dustin couldn’t make out her face but he could hear her grin. Shoes tied, he followed her through the dark house, attempting to grab and light a lantern on the way only for her to snatch it out of his hand with a shake of her head. Without a lantern, or the moon, Dustin did his best not to trip as Vivian led the way out of the house and onto the road. She still didn’t offer any explanation as to where they were going, so Dustin gave up on figuring it out and just followed her, trusting it would be worth it.

It was July, but the air was still crisp around them this far into the night at this altitude. Dustin savored the way it bit lightly into his skin, a welcome contrast to the heat of the day. Not a single man-made sound broke the silence aside from their footsteps crunching on the gravel of the old dirt road. No trains in the distance, no planes overhead. The whole Milky Way was spread out above them, stretching out in splatters of purple and blue and brown speckled by stars and planets. He was so focused on it, he ran into Vivian when she stopped walking. She chuckled and pointed out through the grove of aspens they were in. Through a large clear spot between the trees, a brilliant comet blazed just above the mountain filled horizon, the tail trailing what seemed like forever behind it.

“Damn,” Dustin murmured, walking out of the trees to get a better view.

“Right?” Vivian said, following him. “I’ve never seen one this big.”

“I’ve never seen one at all,” Dustin said, staring at it in awe. He could just pick out the ball of the comet itself, a white speck amongst the hazy blue tail. The tail faded in and out depending on how long he stared at it, and from what angle, but there was no denying that it stretched an incredible distance.

“Here,” Vivian said, and Dustin looked down to see her offering up a set of binoculars.

Taking them, he sat down with his back against a fallen tree and steadied his elbows on his knees, scanning the binoculars across the sky until he found the comet. It took up nearly the whole field of view, the colors even more saturated when seen through the military-grade lenses. Vivian settled into the sage next to him and after a few minutes he offered up the binoculars. She took them, examining the comet herself.

“Thanks for waking me up,” Dustin said.

“Welcome.”

Vivian set the binoculars in her lap and leaned over to rest her head on his shoulder. They sat for hours, watching the comet until the horizon began to lighten and dawn swallowed it up. The day’s chores would be exhausting after getting up so early, but Dustin felt it was more than worth it.

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