Stardust by Rebecca Bryn

Last night, I dreamt of a time beyond your fragile human memory, before the sarsens were wrenched from my being, and you thought you had me imprisoned behind this meagre wire. How little you understand, burying your heads beneath your featherless wings and huddling in nests pillaged from my body.

I was light, spreading and coalescing, pure energy, atoms, and molecules. I was everything and nothing, just as you are today, and freedom was a state of being, of existence, not a concept to be longed for and fought over.

But millennia followed millennia, followed millennia on a scale of time that would blow your feeble brains. My atoms and molecules collided, morphed, mutated, built long complex chains, and became something other than chemical and electrical reactions. Call it what you will, creation if you like, but worlds formed from the soup of my universe and became solid, tormented forms: nebulae, galaxies, stars, planets, and moons, giving birth to air, water, wind, and fire. And on some a spark was ignited.

It grew slowly, transforming the bare bones of my skeleton into something so transiently beautiful I’d have cried, had I had the heart or the eyes to perform that simple and telling act. My bones fleshed with the bodies of tiny primitive lifeforms: bacteria, slime, not worth your notice, and over a billion of your years, they nourished their offspring and evolved. Ice followed fire, fire, ice, and fire –continents formed, shifted, and reformed. Seas rose and fell, and mountains pushed up as your sun burned. Life died and was reborn. Their deaths gave me life. My life gave you life.

Like you, as the spark brightened, I searched for something – sentience, a meaning – something to notice my grand existence, but it was more millennia before the microbes became plant forms and animals, before dinosaurs walked my paths and trees gripped my bones with their searching roots, before the first of your kind got up on two legs and looked upon me with anything approaching awe, worshiping my parts as their gods. And why not? Am I not everything and nothing to you as, I remind you, you are to me?

The difference is I can survive very well without you: exist, if not live. Think carefully as you drain my life blood with your hands around my throat, for my throat is your throat: my blood, your blood. But I digress: that’s your problem, not mine; this flourishing is but a passing phase and dust will return to dust.

Five of your millennia ago, barely a breath, not even a heartbeat of a shrew ago, these strong, upright limbs still slept beneath the thin soil of The Downs to the north, and these capstones were worn teeth upon the Preseli Hills to the west in the land you call Wales. They formed the very bones of your Earth.  

But you’d discovered how to bring my fire to life and how to fashion tools from my diverse parts. I provided everything you needed. And I am everything you still need, as I am everything you are, for we are all made of stardust.

Stone-age men came to the Preselis first, with fire, wooden wedges, and stone hammers, bringing with them their small gods. They came to the barren hilltops and to the small valley beside the stream that babbles into the river you call The Gwaun. They came for my blue rock that sparkles in the sun when freshly broken, for it has magic in it, the magic of millennia. And they lit fires upon me, and drove wedges into my wounds, splitting and cracking my bones. And then they hewed and chiselled me into long blocks and rent me from my place of slumber, from my hills with their gorse and heather and soaring buzzards, and my valley with its dippers and wagtails and lichen-hung oaks.

Levered onto rollers, I was hauled in chunks to the frozen river and slid down to the sea. Huge flat rafts of oak carried me across the waves, south, west and then east. The cliffs, proud bastions against the wild power of my ocean, mourned my passing. Did my valley and my hills mourn my passing, too? Some of me will lie forever in the deeps of the Irish Sea where my rafts foundered. For the rest of my bluestones, the way was long and slow, and fraught with hazard by sea, estuary, and river. Land, when it came, proved no easier, and my moon had waxed and waned many times before my stones reached their present resting-place, the place you now call Stonehenge.

Camp was set up at Durrington, but a nano-blink of a star away. Pits were dug, and with ropes and levers and sweat, I was hauled upright until I stood, side by side myself, in a wide circle. Not then, the Stonehenge you know now with my great upright sarsens and my smaller bluestone capstones morticed and tenoned with skill by your masons. This was a simpler monument to stone-age gods, and yet, they recognised my magic and my power, and used it to imbue their gods with mystery and define their small, short, insignificant lives.

You walk before me, now: staring at me and pointing. You discuss me in tiny voices, dig at me with spades, and scrape at me with minute trowels, hoping to discover my secrets, to define and control me. I hear your laughter, and through you I feel: joy and pain, things my insentient self knew nothing of. I feel wind beneath feathers as I ride the thermals, water through gills in the deep oceans, and the grinding passage of earth through the gut of worms. And I know love. But love is the thief of freedom, and the trapped mind paces along its mental strands of insubstantial wire, as you pace now. Yet, you are my children, my eyes and ears and senses, and without you my existence will be impoverished.

You think you have me trapped, here on Salisbury Plain, but I dream my slow dream of a time before my bluestones sat atop my sarsens. I dream of my Pembrokeshire hills, and my small, wooded valley that runs down to the The Gwaun. I dream of moons and stars, of galaxies, and nebulae. I dream of molecules and atoms, of pure energy, and light spreading, fading, and dimming, ever expanding. I dream of the freedom of insentient space and, one day, when your kind are gone and long-forgotten and the part of me you call your sun has consumed this Earth, our atoms and molecules will leave the confines of this solar system and once more be stardust.


Rebecca Bryn lives in West Wales with her husband and dog, where she writes historical, contemporary, and post-apocalyptic thrillers with a twist and paints the stunning Pembrokeshire coast in watercolour.

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