…the sun wandered the universe alone.
As flaming balls of gas go, he was neither the largest nor the smallest. Neither the oldest nor the youngest, the hottest nor the coolest. He was middling, yellow, ninety percent hydrogen, and lonely. Since his youth he had traveled an outer spiral arm of the galaxy, far from his brothers and sisters and the nursery of his birth. From distant nebulae, the galaxy’s crucible, new stars emerged daily – but not one looked his way.
What would it take, he thought, to get some company around here?
It wasn’t a single event that changed everything forever. Rather, the random bits and sparkles of space paused in their travels, tugged inward by the sun’s unexceptional but not inconsiderable gravity. Bit by bit they converged. A sprinkling became a handful, an aggregation became a clump and then – not all at once but imperceptibly as the turning of the universe itself – accretion began.
The sun rejoiced. Broad discs of matter surrounded him now, shining prettily in his light. In broad swathes they drew inward, each upon itself. Slowly they grew, becoming solid, round, gaining mass and little gravities all their own. Some even cultivated moons. Proud Grandpa Sun beamed more brightly than ever.
Each world also developed a unique personality. Peppy Mercury zipped around his orbit on winged sandals, blazing hot and glacial all at once. Reclusive Venus obscured her face with impenetrable clouds. The outer orbs, the gas giants, held themselves aloof beyond their asteroid wall, Mars their brother standing stoic guard inside.
From her earliest days the Earth knew she was special. Of all her siblings only she could gather liquid water to her surface. Only she could boast green growing things, creatures great and small that clambered over her varied crust. Only she shared her orbit with a single large moon, a partner tugging with her modest gravity to keep Earth’s face new and fresh. Only she had something more than rocks to share.
“What’s this?” said Venus, crushing a tiny contraption of metal and electrics to dust.
“A gift,” said the Earth, shielding hurt feelings from her grumpy sister. “My people want to know you better.”
“Hmph,” said Venus, smashing three more.
“Luna loves hers,” said the Earth. Her little friend beamed, showing off her souvenirs: craters, lumps of metal, a tiny splash of color across her achromic surface.
“Hmph,” said Venus again, but she let the next one land.
“Can I try?” called Mars from his backdrop of tumbling stone. “Whee!”
Soon, all of Earth’s brothers and sisters had received a visitor. The asteroids and a wandering comet were not left out. Pluto, too, the brightest of the outer worlds, smiled as his brief guest hurtled by. Even the Sun felt the glow of admiring mechanical eyes.
Then one day, one of the gifts escaped. Voyager traveled boldly into the unknown. Her sister had fallen behind, and after so many long years she no longer possessed the strength to send a simple message. She had seen so many wonders, so many worlds alien to her birthplace, but now she was on to something greater. The sun’s gravity, unexceptional but not inconsiderable, began to fade behind her. Soon, any moment now, she would be free.
Since that day, the gaze of the Universe has turned. The sun and his children no longer wander alone.