There’s an instant at sunset before the sky fades to indigo when a purple ray shines like a laser beam from the horizon before the sun sinks into Earth, and it’s gone.
If you blink, you miss it.
This phenomenon doesn’t happen every day, oh no: you need the right atmospheric conditions, and frankly, a bout of luck, so much so that many people spend their lifetimes looking out for it, and yet they never witness it.
But if you have what it takes to be the chosen one, the purple ray will manifest itself to you spontaneously.
Its neon quality light materializes into a suspended bridge across the heavens, all the way across the galaxy, to reach the Sun’s twin star Porphyria.
Porphyria is the Sun’s fraternal twin – some say the evil twin, but that’s mostly astronomical gossip – and it is smaller and colder so that it can be comfortably inhabited by an intelligent life form, the Porphyrians, regarded as the Earthlings’ cousins.
Porphyria’s atmosphere is lilac during the day and violet at night. If Earth looks like a blueberry from space, Porphyria looks like a blackcurrant, with its indigo oceans and periwinkle land, covered in wisteria-hued forests.
Porphyrians’ lavender skin glows translucent, their glossy hair shines electric blue, and their amethyst eyes sparkle. Their glow is not just physical, but mainly emotional, as it reflects their inner peace at living in an open-hearted, inclusive, fair society that rejects war, where meritocracy is the basis for democracy and ageism is applied only to fine wine – which of course is always of a deep rich shade of burgundy!
Porphyrians are attracted to each other’s glow and gloss. Lust is consummated in a blizzard of glitter. Babies are born out of universal love, delivered not by the stork like on Earth, but by comets’ icy tails.
But, alas, Porphyria is slowly dimming out, fading away, dying. It is burning out because of the negative cosmic rays which criss-cross the universe and drill holes in the space-time continuum.
Porphyria is fading to black at an alarming rate – and it is turning into a black hole!
So, Porphyria’s President, the Honourable Iolite Ioss, calls an urgent plenary planetary contingency meeting with all the heads of the seven planets of her solar – pardon… Porphyrian – system.
Delegates from all seven planets flock to Porphyria to attend Iolite’s summit, bearing lavish gifts, typical of their cultures: the Vizier from Erhythra offers the power of passionate love; the Chieftain of Narantx has a potion that protects from contagion; the First Lady of Xanthis a golden kernel to feed the hungry; the Grand Sheriff of Chloron puts a vegan lifestyle guru at Iolite’s disposal; the Chamberlain of Kyan bears gemstones from the planet’s rich mines – aquamarine, turquoise, sapphire, and lapis lazuli; the Viceroy of Añil carries a spaceshipful of indigo dye, favourite in Porphyrian haute couture; and last but not least, the Leukan holy Defender of Health offers an endless stock of its most precious export, an immune-system booster serum rich in leukocytes.
The opening ceremony over, and the last flute of purple champagne drained, the eight heads of state and their aides move to the conference room – and get to work.
‘My Friends!’ Iolite Ioss cries out, dramatically wrapping herself in her titanium-thread embroidered violet velvet cloak, ‘Our star is dying, fading to black, fading to obscurity, and its warped wavelength is bringing you all down with it! We must save our star in order to save your planets!’
‘We’re ready to do what it takes!’ The heads of state pledge in unison. ‘Just say the word. What do you command us to do?’
Iolite releases with a snap the cloak from the grip of her dainty fingers, reminiscent of Thunbergia grandiflora blooms. The cloak drapes beautifully around her majestic figure. ‘I don’t command. I demand. I demand your advice.’
Veet-Amin-Cee, the Chieftain of Narantx, the largest planet in the system that was once a dimming star hurtling across space, eventually attracted into Porphyrian orbit, smiles slyly. Secretly harbouring the hope of a coup d’état to restore his planet to starry glory and become the centre of this solar system, with Porphyria kicked to the outmost orbit, he unctuously suggests, with a theatrical bow: ‘Perhaps, my Honourable Spaceship Mastership, you should sacrifice your Graceship for the greater good of all of us and jump into the volcano as a token to appease the gods…’
There is uproar in the room: ‘If we do this, we do it together!’
Iñigo Moratón, the Viceroy of Añil, who is also secretly harbouring his own plan of dominance, thus supporting Veet-Amin-Cee’s bid, quips, in his hissing S’s and rolling R’s: ‘I second the volcano motion. We should all gather around the crater, join hands and channel our combined positive energy into the star’s very core, so that we can reheat it, restart it, and make it to glow purple again.’
He blurts it out with such panache, that Iolite is convinced. She claps her hands: ‘So be it. Let’s gather there at midnight.’
Iñigo pulls Veet-Amin-Cee aside and makes him part of his plan: ‘When we gather at the top of the volcano, we make sure that you and I are the ones closest to Iolite, so we can hold her hands, and while she’s is distracted chanting, we hurl her into the crater… and we can volunteer to be the caretaker rulers, and then, you know, turn caretaking into permanent…’ his speech drowns into a sinister sound, halfway between chuckle and guffaw.
And so they do. When the eight heads of state gather at the rim of the crater, dodging rivers of forget-me-not-coloured lava and amethyst-geode lapilli, under a cloud of mauve volcanic ash, Iñigo and his partner in crime elbow the others out of the way, for the honour of holding Iolite’s hands, with the excuse that Narantx is the largest planet in the system, and Añil the densest, with the strongest gravitational pull.
Their colleagues respectfully abide, and a mystic circle is created around the crater.
With their eyes closed, they sway at the rhythm of the ancient Porphyrian chant: ‘Make light out of night. Shine bright with all your might. Shine right, without fight.’
And as they pronounce the very words ‘without fight’, when they know that everyone is concentrating the most to deliver them with feeling, the two villains viciously thrust the oblivious Iolite into the simmering mauve magma below.
She plunges without audible sound, perhaps just the murmur of her mantra.
But the spell is broken and the other dignitaries gasp in dismayed unison, peer down the crater and yell outraged: ‘Toss those two no-goods in too!’
Everything stands still in eerie silence. Time is frozen for an interminable second and then the sloping ground under their feet – and paws, tentacles, tendrils… – starts quaking.
A low rumble brews from inside the crater until a blur of ash is coughed skywards and it rains back down on them, scorching and unforgiving.
Surprising, not on all of them: just on Iñigo and Veet-Amin-Cee, who both turn into purple pillars of ash!
Suddenly, a voice booms from the ash cloud: ‘Azzurro Zooz, general Chamberlain of Kyan, and Rufus Edom, grand Vizier of Erhythra, shake your hands in amity right now!’
It sounds like Iolite’s voice, but it has a crystalline quality to it, as if it was amplified through quartz. They obey, mystified. They shake hands vigorously, and suddenly red and blue beams spark from their joined hands, mixing in the darkened atmosphere into a bright purple ray.
The magic ray hits mercilessly all the nasty black spots riddling the rocky ground, and instantly turns them a glowing hue of perfect purple.
The glow bounces from rock to rock, from mountains to planes, from lands to oceans, from seas to rivers, from forests to metropolises, and it spreads like a benign wildfire across the whole planet. It reverberates into the sky, the atmosphere, the heavens.
Azzurro and Rufus fall on their knees, drained by the effort of upholding the beam, and when the crater’s sill crumbles under them, they plummet into the piping magma.
Iolite’s voice booms again: ‘Amaryllis Citrus, First Lady of Xanthis, ruler of the colour yellow, the most cheerful of the rainbow, complementary to my purple, please topple those ash pillars into my volcano now!’
Amaryllis obeys without question and Iolite continues: ‘Lebana Xion, defender of the tiny planet of Leuka, please push Lady Citrus into the crater now!’
‘Me?’ Lebana recoils. ‘Not me! I am a pacific pacifist. And the tiniest of all planets!’
‘Tiny but mighty,’ Iolite replies. ‘Your white light carries and conveys all our colours together at once. You are true unity in diversity.’
Lebana hesitates, but Amaryllis helps accomplish their fate by diving into the crater on her own accord.
As soon as Amaryllis is lapped by magma, a blinding tractor beam pulls Lebana into the gaping hole. Lebana falls weightlessly, but she doesn’t feel the heat, as her drops of sweat ascend against gravity and turn into lustrous pearls – and suddenly there is only clarity around her.
The crater’s lip caves and collapses, so that this gateway to the star’s inner sanctum is sealed forever.
The beam envelops the star in a shimmering net and sparks a shockwave reaching the farthest ends of its solar system. Balance is restored on all its planets, thanks to their leaders’ ultimate sacrifice.
Now, of course, all planets will have to call general elections for new leaders, ready to save again – should a new emergency arise – this wondrous parallel solar system invisible to the naked eye from Earth.
And you Earthlings, watch out for the purple ray: it may be a S.O.S. signal from Porphyria.
Or most probably, just a thank-you card.