Evening Star

In the infant night sky, a tiny speck appears.
Barely discernible at first, sometimes invisible,
And incomparably dwarfed by the unearthly beauty that surrounds it,
But once there, it never goes away.
 
Slowly, inexorably, the glowing mote gains strength.
It brightens.
It expands.
And then, one day, you realize that the star is not growing,
It is getting closer.
What were comforting rays of warmth become a shower of fiery radiation,
What was a cheery glow becomes a piercing light,
And the world is never the same.
 
The fireball of doom gradually continues along its deadly course, always remaining within full view, always hovering ominously overhead.
Over time, its otherworldly neighbors begin to wink out, one by one, next to the growing radiance, until the star is alone, the sole feature of the sky.
But, paradoxically, the more the solar orb brightens and the more insistent its cries for attention become, the more the star is ignored, because by now it has become far too bright to look at with your all-too-frail human eyes.
One brief glimpse leaves spots on the eyes for weeks,
And a view of any longer means blindness.
Your field of vision is gradually forced away from the infinite heavens as the earth becomes the only universe that can be safely contemplated.
 
Eventually, the only refuge is staring downward into your own shadow,
And once the solar rays pierce even that final sanctuary, the terminal star can no longer be ignored.
You look up from the soil, for the first time in years, to discover that the gaseous monster now stretches from horizon to horizon,
And all that remains of your world is the scorched dust that is now the Earth and the infinite fire that has consumed the Heavens.
Facing this terrible, apocalyptic view,
You may succumb to animal reflexes and flee in mindless, futile terror,
Or you may finally stare down the inevitable, seeking comfort or courage from the flames, which instead burn out your eyes.
No matter what your choice, the result is always the same:
 
As the planet begins its final descent into the blaze, you are pulled from the soil by the sun's massive gravity. You are dragged upward with increasing speed through the various layers of the atmosphere until they are ruptured and dispelled as the Earth itself shatters under the increasing pressure. With the atmosphere gone, your final seconds are spent in an airless, soundless vacuum, free at last from the cacophony of life. In forcefully mute awe, you are compelled across the starry void, despite any resistance, towards the fusion-powered pyre, and disappear with a single flamelet into the molten core of the celestial inferno.
 
And then, only the mystery remains.

1996