The megascreen on the far side of the control room flashed with static. We snapped our eyes to the incoming message, and saw a phantom. Lady Macbeth. Her splendor and sashes were torn and tattered, and she was stretched thin. No sound, but mouth agape and eyes wrought in the purest terror I’d seen. The king collapsed to his knees, and I turned to the instruments.
“How long,” the king said, “how long have you known?”
How could I know? How could he guess, or even stipulate I knew?
“My lord,” I said, clearing my throat, “what do you ask?”
“None of your stalling,” he said, “tell me what you know and for how long.”
“Sire, I have only known for moments – “
The king clamored to his feet, grating his grand scepter against the ground.
“Moments,” he said, motioning to the megascreen, “and yet I learn from this forsaken message of your Queen’s death.”
He shook his head and struck the floor. The scepter clanked against the polished quartz and dented the tile. Striking with all his might, he fell to his knees and cast away the scepter. He leaned on his elbows, and pushed himself to his bottom.
“She was a fool,” he said, “a fool without course.” His eyes were fixed on me, but we did not make eye contact. “And yet, we all are. Fools, set to the stars for some purpose neither here nor there.”
Macbeth looked out to the growing darkness, stars lensing around a creeping black hole, now decelerating us. It was a tremendous sight, and, knowing the fault was our own, I cursed the moment men first gazed upon the reaches of space and wondered; the moment men first gazed upon the arms of stars and wandered.
Coming to an anthology near you…