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the day when the stars came falling

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The air shifts around Zolf and he blinks, breeze picking up once more. He’s alone on the ridge again. Zolf looks at where Hamid was, where they finally got to see each other, and there’s no one there. The sunlight completely filters out, dust notes floating through the air settling to the ground.

He presses his fingers to his lips and can’t hide the slight smile. 

Hamid.

Hamid’s words slip through his mind, again, crashing the small moment of peace and Zolf lets his hand fall. There’s no time to reminisce, no time for regrets or dreams. They’ll all have enough time for that after the town is safe. 

He swallows, heavily, and sets off back toward the town. If he can pull this off, if he can save everyone in time, he and Hamid will get their chance. Three years in the future, maybe, but they’ll still get a future. The town will live. Everyone Zolf loves will be safe. Going down the ridge is less treacherous than it had been scaling it, but Zolf still doesn’t break into a half-jog until he’s back on solid, stable ground. 

Hamid. 

Hamid. Hamid. Hamid. 

He can’t forget, not again, not now. He refuses to let himself. Even if nothing works, if fate is nailed to the wall and unchanging, he got this moment with Hamid, and he won’t forget that, not for all the gold in the world. 

 

 

“Sasha!” Zolf yells, running back into the town square and spotting her standing there, looking a little lost. She spins around when he calls her name, running over to him as well. 

“Zolf! Thank the gods you’re back, we need to go now, get the plan set up,” she grabs his hand and pulls him back the way he had come, dashing off down the stairs as he struggles to keep up with her. He glances behind himself, trying to catch a single glimpse of Feryn, to try and grab him as well, or Brock, but can’t see them in the crowd, and keeps running. Sasha lets go when it’s clear that Zolf is following behind her, keeping her stride short so that Zolf can easily keep up, running as fast as he can with the prosthetic. They curve around town as they run, and Zolf realizes that they’re heading toward the mines.

“What - Sasha, why,” he starts, but Sasha slips away from him, through a gap in the fence that she beckons Zolf to follow her through. He does, because Hamid had said there was a plan, and he needed to trust that this was it, that this would work. 

“We need to set off the charges,” Sasha whispers, casting her gaze around the small entrance to the mine. “Far enough away so nothing collapses, but they have to be able to see it from town.”

Zolf nods, and grabs a handful of the charges from her. He knows this tunnels like the back of his hand, he knows exactly where to stick these so that they don’t create a mess. 

“Follow me,” he whispers back, even though there isn’t anyone around the mines this late. It’s better to be safe, even if Zolf is moving quicker than he normally would be. They don’t have time to be stealthy, anymore. Sasha follows, and sets down the charges where he instructs her to. He does the same, walking through a mental map of the mine’s curving passage as they go. They double check, triple check, make sure everything is in place, and then Zolf looks to Sasha expectantly.

She pulls out the timer for the bombs and sets it, connecting each wire to it as she gently places it down in the dirt. “This’ll absolutely cause a scene,” she says, giving Zolf a nod. “Just have to sell it.”

“Good. Let’s go,” Zolf says, pulling on Sasha's arm as the time starts to tick down on the bombs. “We need to get back in town before they go off, so people see the smoke and evacuate. Otherwise, no one will believe us.”

“Got it,” Sasha says, and then they’re off, running back to the town while Zolf keeps half his attention on the timer, mentally counting it down in his head.

One minute, he thinks, and tries to pick up the pace, the minute hand slowly ticking closer and closer to zero.

They come across a group of people laughing and clapping as they begin to make their way to the town square for the festival, and Sasha darts in between them, a shadow in the crowd until Zolf sees her pop up in front of them, making herself seen in a way she normally doesn’t.

“There’s something wrong at the mines!” Sasha yells, pointing back the way they came. A few people give her quizzical looks but don’t turn, and then continue on their way to the festival, brushing against her as they go. Sasha turns to Zolf and gives him a worried look, because the bombs should have gone off by now, should have -

There’s a deafeningly loud explosion from behind them and Zolf flinches, instinctively throwing his hands in front of his face even though he knows the explosion won’t reach them. Everyone else reacts similarly, some screaming while others drop to the ground, grabbing whatever they can hold or covering their head.

A plume of dark smoke rises into the air, stark and clear even against the night sky. 

“See?” Zolf yells, pointing back at the smoke. “We have to evacuate to the high school, just to be safe!” The people standing around him nod, terror in their eyes, and head off down the path at a run. He lets out a sigh of relief and turns to Sasha, who’s watching the smoke rise up above the trees with excitement in her eyes. 

“We need to get to the square, that’s where everyone else will be,” Zolf says, and Sasha gives him a thumbs up, taking the lead as they run back to the town. His legs and lungs burn as they run, as fast as Zolf is able. Sasha seems reluctant to leave him behind, as well, keeping a slower pace so that Zolf is running alongside her instead of lagging. 

“Explosion at the mines!” Zolf shouts as they run along the path, motioning for everyone to follow them. “It’s not safe! We have to go!” 

No one follows, and he sees a few people duck their heads together and whisper urgently, clearly trying to be subtle and failing as they point at Sasha and Zolf. 

“They’re not listening,” Sasha says, and cups her hands around as she shouts another warning. Only a few people even look like they care, look like they’re listening at all. One or two of them seem to buy it, setting off with their children toward the high school, but everyone else stays where they are, heading toward the town square. Zolf and Sasha can’t wait around, not when everyone needs to be warned, so they keep running, shouting warnings as they go. Barely anyone listens to them, most rolling their eyes and continuing on their way, even as the smoke curls higher into the sky.

They stumble into the main square, Zolf nearly tripping on the steps, and bend over to catch their breath. 

“Hey! Explosions! Look!” he yells, voice catching as he tries to breathe, and points back toward the smoke. A few people step back in alarm, and whispers grow among the crowd as they all seem unsure of where to go. “Get to the school!” 

No one moves, even though a few people in the crowd are tugging insistently at other people’s sleeves, pulling them in the direction of the school. Everyone else seems frozen, staring at the smoke rising up into the clouds, and Zolf glances around at everyone, absolutely helpless before a crowd that refuses to hear his words. Sasha is a comforting presence at his side, sharing a confused and worried look with him.

“Come on , Brock,” Zolf mutters urgently, eyes darting around everyone giving them confused or outright suspicious glances. Sasha tenses next to him, hand going to her pocket slowly. 

All of the lights flash for a moment, bright, and then die, shrouding the entire square in darkness for a heartbeat. There’s a whirring sound from all around them, and the emergency lights flick on, casting a deep red light over everyone. A crackling noise comes out of the speakers on each side of the square, and then they all hear a faint, deep breath.

This is an emergency broadcast from Countisbury Town Hall. There has been an accident at the mining site. Please evacuate to Countisbury High School as we monitor the situation. Do not panic, and move in an orderly fashion.”

Brock’s voice, slightly modulated, comes out over the airwaves and Zolf heaves a sigh of relief, spinning on his heel and pointing toward the nearest loudspeaker. “Did you hear? We need to go!” 

People finally start moving at that, murmuring worriedly to one another as they leave the square, all forming a line on the way down the path that leads to the high school. Some stay where they are, still giving the loudspeaker a suspicious look, not budging at all. 

“This is an emergency broadcast from Countisbury Town Hall. There has been an accident at the mining site. Please evacuate to Countisbury High School as we monitor the situation. Do not panic, and move in an orderly fashion.”

“Look at the smoke!” Zolf yells again, voice carrying over Brock’s as he points insistently back at the explosions near the mine, gesturing frantically. “Get out of here!”

More people heed his words as Sasha darts around the crowd, herding the groups of people toward the opposite end of the square from where they are, toward the closest pathway to the school. 

It’s working. It’s actually working, their plan is working, and everyone will be safe, everyone will evacuate, no one has to die tonight -

“This is an emergency broadcast from Countisbury Town Hall. There has been - wait! No! Get the hell offa -“ The sounds of a struggle come through the loudspeaker, along with deep voices shouting, covering out Brock’s own swears. “Get to the school! Please!” they hear, and then the sound cuts to dead air, a quiet static noise that filters through the speakers before the line goes silent, as though the plug has been pulled. An eerie quiet settles over the crowd and the festival attendees all start whispering amongst themselves again, confusion evident in their tones. They keep moving toward the high school and Zolf lets out a breath he hadn’t known he was holding, turning back toward Sasha. 

“We have to get Brock,” Zolf says, decisive, and moves toward the high school, Sasha silently following along in his wake. It had been easiest to hack into the line from there, so it had been where Brock had decided to set up shop for the evening. They bob and weave through the line of people making their way there, racing ahead while everyone else ambles along, walking a bit faster than normal. 

They’re halfway there when there’s another explosion and they both stumble forward, Zolf swearing as he nearly trips, catching himself with a hand on a table. 

“Did we set the charges right? Zolf, did we set the charges right?” Sasha yells, panic taking over her face as she turns back, glancing at the new plumes of smoke running into the sky. “I thought the bombs already went off!”

“They did…” Zolf says, taking a step back toward the town. He levels a worried look at Sasha and finds it mirrored on her face. All around them, people are starting to scream as a new pillar of smoke rises above the trees, fire stretching higher than it had before. “Shite, I don’t - I don’t know what happened, I don’t know how to fix it, I can’t -“

Sasha opens her mouth to cut him off when the loudspeaker does that for him, static crackling back to life as Zolf and Sasha trade a confused, apprehensive look.

“This is Countisbury Town Hall. We are currently looking into the incident and will keep all of the residents updated when we have more information. For the time being, please remain where you are, and remain calm. One again, this is Countisbury…” 

“Dammit!” Zolf yells, drowning out the sound of the voice, slamming a fist into his thigh as he glares up at the loudspeaker for the alarm system. “He’s going to be the reason everyone dies, just because he refused to listen.” 

He feels tears leak from his eyes as he looks back at Sasha. They’re all out of time. Everyone is turning back, now, standing awkwardly on the path as they discuss whether to keep going or to turn back or to listen to the announcement and stay where they are. Zolf can hear the whispers being passed along, something about a prank gone wrong, or maybe a false alarm, this was Countisbury after all, no one would attack us, and wants to scream.

“Zolf. Go,” Sasha says, pulling him out of the nightmare of his head with a warm hand on his arm. “I promise I’ll find Brock and we’ll try to get everyone to safety, but we don’t have time. You have to convince your dad.”

“I’m not leaving you and Brock -“

“It ain’t gonna be us who convinces him, mate,” Sasha says, shaking her head. “Go.”

“Sasha,” Zolf says, and it’s broken as he looks at her. She gives him a small smile and reaches out, pulling him into a brief but tight hug. Her eyes are sparkling with tears as she pulls away, and she hides her face, rubbing at her eyes. 

She clears her throat. “Go. We’ll be okay.”

Zolf nods, and turns, running down the road toward town hall. He - he has to trust that Sasha can handle it, that she can find Brock and get out, get the town to listen. The charges that went off just now… they weren’t his and Sasha’s. Something else is happening, something more than just the comet, and Zolf’s dad will have to listen to him now, especially with the black smoke rising into the air. 

He pushes through the crowd, breaking through the throng of people onto the open road and gasps, pressing a hand to his chest, looking up. And then he begins to run, eyes trained on the town hall building.

 

 

The road is silent and empty as Zolf runs, aside from the pounding of his boots on the pavement. He can see the bright light of the comet in the distance and tries to run faster, straining every muscle he has as he pushes his body to its absolute limit. His chest is pounding as he runs, but he can’t stop to catch his breath now, not when the comet is still so close. 

He has to convince his father. Has to make him believe, has to make him get everyone to evacuate, otherwise it’s… it’s all over, for them all. 

Zolf can’t let that happen. Not while he still has a breath in his body, not while there’s still a single, even infinitesimal, chance of him being able to protect everyone. His father just has to listen, for once, and believe in Zolf. 

He has to do this. Not just for the town, not just for himself, but for the chance to someday see Hamid again. They could… they could really be something, the two of them, and Hamid fought against fate and destiny and time itself to bring them together, just for one moment. 

If Hamid could do that, could take the strings and fibers of the universe and twist them, wrap them tightly around Zolf’s wrist until they were tethered together, Zolf can convince his father to evacuate the town. He has to. The only other outcome is… unthinkable. 

He refuses to lose. Not now, not when he’s finally fell in love, when he knows how this all ends and can help stop it, divert the course of the future and save everyone.

Hamid. Hamid, Hamid, Hamid. Zolf refuses to let himself forget, not anymore. 

Hamid. His name is Hamid. And Zolf loves him, and Zolf has to save the town, has to protect everyone, because he needs to find Hamid again, in the real world, when there’s not a comet coming, when they’re not separated by three years. 

Hamid never rejected him, he didn’t know him when Zolf had gone to London, and that’s fine, because he - because Hamid loves him, and Zolf can’t forget his name. Can’t forget him, can’t forget the feel of lips sliding against his, of warm arms snaking around his back, of soft hands resting on his cheek, making him feel loved, so loved. 

He’s running as fast as he can toward the town hall building, because if he can’t get his father to listen to him than it’s all going to be over anyway. The comet is beginning to arc overhead and Zolf tries to run faster, but his chest is heaving and he can barely breathe. 

Hamid.

He can’t fail. Not this time.

H -

The prosthetic catches on an outstretched tile and Zolf goes flying down the stairs, rolling as every single impact causing him to cry out in pain until he reaches the bottom. It feels like it takes an eternity, and he thinks he blacks out for a moment when his eyes open and he’s laying in a crumpled pile at the bottom of the stairs, head throbbing where he must have knocked it against a piece of stone. He curls up into himself, tears falling down his face as it sends a shooting stream of pain throughout his entire body, and tries not to scream. 

He can’t remember his name.

He rolls onto his back and stares at the sky, illuminated by the light of the comet. They’re almost out of time, and he’s going to fail. Everyone will die, and it will be his fault. He - he won’t be able to - there was someone else who told him to do this, but Zolf can’t remember. He just saw them, standing on the ridge, and Zolf can’t remember their name.

(“What if we forget again?” 

“Here. Just in case.” He takes Zolf’s hand, so gently, and writes something on the palm, closing Zolf’s hand up and holding out his own.)

We wrote each other’s names on our hands, he remembers, and uncurls his palm. Sitting there, in stark black ink, the handwriting that he’ll never be able to forget even if he can’t remember who’s it is, are three words.

I love you

Zolf brings his hand to his mouth, clenching his fist as he presses his knuckles against his lips. This won’t help me remember you, he thinks, and it’s a broken thread in his mind, but he can remember a sweet smile, the feel of his face under Zolf’s hands, his warmth, even if everything else is fuzzy around the edges.

I love you.

He can’t remember - he doesn’t know who it is, but he knows how important they were to him, how much he loved them back. This wasn’t nothing, wasn’t a quick romance that Zolf would forget about as he got older. This was something deeper, something meaningful, and Zolf loved them too. He can almost picture their (his?) face in his mind, and then it’s gone, pulled away into wisps, and Zolf rises steadily to his feet. 

He’ll never have the chance to see them again if he doesn’t save everyone. And the only person who can help is his father, and Zolf has to be the one to convince him. 

The comet arcs overhead as Zolf starts running down the road, awkwardly stumbling at first until he can gain more momentum, and then it feels like he’s flying toward the town hall building. 

He knows there are tears streaking down his face, and he might have dislocated his wrist when he had gone tumbling down the stairs, and he looks a right mess but he can’t stop, it has to be him, he has to save the people he loves, and he loves H - H - him, and if he can just convince his father...

The doors fly open at a push of his hand and Zolf stumbles in, breathing heavily. “Dad,” he chokes out, and then Feryn is at his side, giving him a concerned look and gently wrapping Zolf up in a tight hug. 

Zolf returns it, quickly.

“Zolf?” Feryn asks, looking into his eyes, and then nods to himself, letting out a relieved sigh even as more concern fills his face. “Glad you’re back.”

“Where’s dad?” he says, giving Feryn a quizzical look, but they really don’t have time to get into that. Feryn tries to push him down into a chair, being extra careful of the arm hanging limply at Zolf’s side. 

“Zolf, come on, you look like hell, and there’s a huge gash on your head, just sit -“ Feryn cajoles, but Zolf rests his good hand on Feryn’s chest, too weak to push him away but Feryn gets the message anyway.

He’s always been good at reading Zolf like that. 

“I need to talk to him, please,” Zolf says, and Feryn looks him over once more, biting worriedly at his lip until he mutters a low ‘fuck it’ and wraps Zolf’s arm around his shoulders. He steers them to a door down the hallway and gestures, as Zolf pushes it open.

Hirald sits inside, muttering angry words into a phone that he quickly cuts off as Zolf and Feryn enter the room.

“I don’t want to hear it,” he says, and it’s dangerous, low, but Zolf doesn’t care. He stands straighter, and lets his arm fall from around Feryn’s shoulders, taking a shuddering step forward.

He faces down his father on his own, Feryn standing behind him in silent support, ready to catch Zolf if he should fall.

Zolf won’t. He’s done with falling, with letting fate happen to him, and he stares down his father until Hirald’s eyes widen, as though he’s seeing Zolf for the first time.

“Dad,” Zolf says, and there’s no room for argument, no room for discussion. “You have to listen to me.”

 

 

Thousands, billions of eyes watched the comet arc across the sky, pointing up at it in sheer, unadulterated wonder. It trailed a swirling mix of blue and purple light, leaving sparkles and stardust in its wake. 

It lit up the night sky, traveling slowly across the world, a beautiful and wonderous sight to behold.

And then it split, and one comet became ten, burning balls of light traveling at an incomprehensible speed through the atmosphere. The astronomers watched in shock and excitement as it did the one thing it had been predicted not to do, as slowly pieces of the comet burned up in the atmosphere and floated, dustlike into the wind.

Silence, as everyone watched the comet split. 

Silence, as a piece of it broke through the clouds. 

Silence, as the piece of the comet fell to the Earth. 

It impacted.

The entire ground rose up in an explosion of rock and fire, expanding outward with a concussive force and flattening everything in its path. 

The town was silent, houses crumbling, trees snapped in half, as flames and smoke licked at the sky, rising from the shell of land that the comet had left behind.

 

 

Hamid opens his eyes with a start, and he’s lying on the ground, a gentle breeze brushing against his cheek.

He… where is he? He sits up and looks around, struggling to get to his feet, using the weird shrine behind him for balance. 

He jumps as his phone beeps in his pocket with a text, and he pulls it out. 

Saira?

He pulls up the message, squinting in the early morning sun. His phone barely has any battery left, and he swears as he tries to read the message quickly.

Me and Aziza are leaving tomorrow afternoon, please get back here or just let me know you’re okay. I hope whatever you had to do works out, but we’re both incredibly worried.

Hamid blinks, slowly, and shoots back a quick text to his sister saying that he’s fine, but that he isn’t sure where he is. He attaches his location, and - he’s somewhere in the southwestern part of England, some small town that he’s never heard of before.

Saira texts back immediately, asking him not to move so that they can pick him up, followed by a warning that Aziza is definitely going to kill him when they do find him. 

Hamid doesn’t know what to say. He doesn’t… he has faint memories of the previous day, traveling around with his sisters, but he doesn’t remember why they’re here, or what possessed him to come all the way out here.

His phone beeps again but he doesn’t look at it. He can see the road from here, Saira and Aziza will be able to spot him anyway, and he should conserve the battery just in case. The ridge is completely unfamiliar to him, he realizes, and as he looks around the sun casts long shadows across the land, dappled light breaking in through the trees all below him and reflecting off of the lake sitting in front of him. He shields his eyes with his hand and squints. 

“Where… am I?”