None of the Above (Flash Fiction)

“Oh! Did you see that one?” Brian turned to look at his daughter. He could see her wide eyes staring at the stars above them.

“I did!” she said. She traced her finger where the shooting star streaked the night sky. “That one had a long tail,” she said.

“Yeah it did.” Brian rested his head on his sleeping bag. It was still stuffed in its pouch and made for a suitable pillow. He doubted if the night would get cold enough to even unroll them. “It’s sad we can’t see the stars like this from home.”

“But I like camping,” said Susanne. “It’s fun.”

“I know, honey. I do too. But it’d be neat to see the stars like this at home.”

“Where do they come from?” she asked. “There’s so many.”

“I don’t know,” said Brian. “There’s a lot of different theories.”

“Catherine at school says they were all put there by God. But then she got in a fight with another girl because that girl said they were put there by science.”

Brian took a long breath while he watched the Milky Way hang above them. “Sounds about right,” he said.

“But which one is right?” Susanne sat up and looked at him. She learned her body over his so that her face block his view and her hair tickled his nose.

“Both can be right,” he said. He huffed his breath and tossed his daughter’s hair back into her face. She leaned away and nestled into his arm. “Maybe God put them there, maybe not. Science doesn’t say one way or the other. Science just explains what’s happening with them. We know what stars are and what they do and how they die.”

“But not where they come from.” The sound of Susanne’s voice was final.

“Well, not true. We know where stars come from too. We know how they’re formed.” Another shooting star clipped through the corner of the sky. Neither of them saw it.

“But we don’t know where the first stars came from, right?” Susanne shifted and burrowed under his arm. “That’s what Catherine says. God made the first ones and science made the rest.”

“Could be,” said Brian.

“But what do you think?” she asked.

He took a deep breath and felt her head sway up and down with his lungs. He stroked her hair and tucked loose strands behind her ear. In the distance, somewhere deep in the woods, an animal was howling its triumph over another. “There’s nothing out there,” he said. “And if there is, if there is something that made this and us, it went away long ago. It stopped paying attention a long, long time ago.” More beasts joined the triumph and the lone howl became a chorus. Susanne squirmed closer to her father.

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