Friday, November 1, 2013


by Mickey Hunt
"Welcome to the edge of the universe," I said cheerfully. "The very edge."
The clutch of tourists easing into my parent's store seemed overawed.  At night, part of our sky is lit with nebulae, pulsars, galaxy clusters, and all sorts of stuff, but the rest of the sky is black, pitch black.  As far as anyone knows, no electromagnetic phenomena, gravity, or nothing ever emanates from out there...

Find Spark at 365 Tomorrows.

Read it with a New & Better ending at Rapid River Magazine. (1/7/16)


  1. Someone at Baen's Universe Annex suggested that I make the story the text on a postcard, so I wrote up a version with an appropriate beginning and ending. I changed the body of the text somewhat for this format, but essentially:

    Dear Aunty Katem...

    Anyway, that picture I took of our infinitesimal spark? We couldn't decide on a caption, but we make a ton of money from the new postcard regardless. (Do you like it? Hope you can read my tiny writing.) Maybe, maybe I can afford now to go someplace really fantastic and astonishing.

    Maybe I’ll finally even show up at your door for some of your famous blueberry pie.

    Your loving nephew, Xavier.

  2. Here are a few notes of discussion, in response to critiques. My son, a physics student, said that c-squared is nonsensical. It would be the speed of light (c) times the speed of light. Even at the speed of light multiplied to a figure equal to the number of miles light travels per second, times four years, would not be fast enough for the known universe to appear as a speck. That's why I had a character say, "Holy Higgs Boson! We flew faster than we thought."

    A light year is about 6 million miles.

    So, the ship travels close to 5667 light years a second.

    Estimates for the size for the observable universe range from 13-180 billion light years across.

    So, our junker ship, if traveling at the theoretical max, would take 32 million seconds to cross the 180B light year known universe. That's one year. If the known universe is only 18 billion light years across, then it's about a month. Let's hit the middle and say its 100B light years, so it would take about 6 months. From the edge, the boys go for four years and somewhat less than the max speed. That would mean that the ship travels away the equivalent of eight universe diameters. However, the universe might be much, much bigger than we know. Or, it could be smaller than we think, due to image echoes or other undetectable stuff.

    Given the ship can travel at that preposterous speed, I think its possible that what they see is a speck. But it appears that it would be more of a sphere. I could have the narrator say, "or we might have gone faster" because ship being a junker, they don't really know how fast they're going.

    Then again, maybe light is thin at the edge so, at a distance, it does not project as a bright clean sphere.

    I'll work on it.


    Light speed is 186,282 miles per second

    5,874,589,152,000 miles per year equals light year

    Universe is 93 billion light years in diameter

    At close to e2, the ship’s speed approaches 34,689,807,504 miles per second

    or 186,222 light years in a year.

    So, the Galaxship, if traveling at “c2” would only go 744,888 light years in four years.

    At e3, it would be 34,684,220,843.8 for one year

    And 138.7 billion light years for four years

    More punch, etc? It’s hard to top traveling so fast, so far, (safties disabled) and so long (mostly asleep, as in cryogenic sleep) that the entire known universe appears as an infinitesimal spark, which as I see it is a perfect title. A short snappy word in contrast to the huge scale. The punch is in how underwhelmed the character is, even if he realizes (character arc) that home is not so bad after the experiencing the black void that enthralls the rest of the population of the universe. What would he think fantastic place? Probably a bar with naked dancers, but I leave that up to the imagination of the reader.

    Bad grammar? Voice of the MC.

    Scared? Who wouldn’t be scared? They flew at impossible speeds. Can they get back home?

  3. The story was inspired by our trip to Acadia National Park in Maine in the summer of 2012. We camped and the photo is of a tourist store where we showered. It also is reminiscent of when our boys took a canoe out to sea at night one summer at Hunting Island State Park on the coast of South Carolina.

  4. I've been sending "Spark" around again as a reprint, hoping to find new readers. The personal rejection letter today from Allegory magazine complimented the story, saying, "The concept is fun and exciting and the writing, overall, was solid. Unfortunately, the ending felt too "pat" and we came away thinking the story could be strong with more development. I'm sorry. Best of luck with this one in other markets."

    I think the ending is more or less perfect for the story. I meant it to be pat. I mean, after seeing the entire universe from the perspective in the story, what more is there to say? (Unless you are the reader.)

    I'm sending the story today to the Sci Phi Journal, along with a few "Big Idea" reflections. Check them out at