Planet Uso was on fire. Mario poked it with his stick so the flames would spread to the back side.
It burned like a comet at the peak of its journey. Its sparks fell for lightyears in every direction, falling and falling like miniature suns that have lost their way.
“Are you playing Apocalypse again?” Ginnie Warther stood at the fence that divided his backyard from hers.
Mario straightened, turning his body to half hide the papier mache solar system. “Hi Ginnie.”
“I can smell the smoke.” She ducked out of sight until she reappeared through the two broken slats toward the back of their properties.
Mario watched smoke trail from the crumple of ashy paper that used to be Uso. “I dreamed it again.”
“Another planet destruction?”
He nodded. “I knew where it was, what it was called. This one had animals living on it.”
“Sort of lizards, but with big ears.”
Ginnie bent her knees and balanced on her heels, leaning over Uso’s remains. “What caused this one?”
Mario glanced up at the blue sky and shuddered. “Space giants, I think. I’ve never seen—sensed—something so big.”
“What, they were having a little cookout and it got out of control?”
“Bonfire. Uso was a piece of wood, I think.”
Ginnie squeezed her eyes shut for a moment. “Hmm.” She peered up at him, and for a second he imagined the freckles on her nose were their own universe. “Well, at least you’ll be able to predict when we’ll be used as kindling.”
“I thought this was all in my head.”
She stood up, laughing. “It is, it is. Come on.” She held out her hand. “Mom made cookies. She’ll let us sneak some before dinner.”
Mario followed her across the fence, only glancing back once to make sure the fire was out. The other planets swayed on their hooks, unaware of how narrowly they had escaped.
Ten light years away, over five light years beyond Alpha Centauri, debris from the scorched surface of Planet Uso began to drift through space.
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