Wish Upon a Star

Rob Nisbet



Annie sat on her garden swing letting her eyes slowly adjust to the darkness, just like Daddy had shown her. The brighter stars appeared first, then the smaller, fainter stars, until the black sky was dotted with tiny flecks of light. It was a perfect night for star gazing. No moon, no cloud. And, tucked away behind the garage, her swing was shielded from the glow of the house lights.

Inside, something was happening. Men from Daddy’s work were talking with Mummy. And Uncle Trevor had come round to visit. Annie hardly ever saw Uncle Trevor, unless it was her birthday or Christmas or something. His visits were always an occasion, so he was always happy. But not today. There was something wrong. Something they all wanted to talk about without her listening. So, Annie had been bundled out to look at the stars.

Daddy had shown her how to find Andromeda. First, she found the W shape of Cassiopeia. That was easy; it was very high above her head. Using the top three stars like an arrow, Annie followed where they pointed towards the seven stars of Andromeda that curved like a smile in the darkness. She smiled back at the sky. These were her stars; Daddy had told her. They shared a name, though Annie was shorter and much easier to say. She counted the specks of brightness. Seven. That was her age. Another connection.

She imagined Daddy’s space station weaving between these stars. Daddy had told her that the stars were very far away. Much much further than the highest orbit of his station. But Annie liked to imagine him swooping past stars and planets – and galaxies.

She leant back on the swing, following her imaginary line between Cassiopeia and Andromeda, till she saw a faint, cloudy glow. The Andromeda galaxy. Her galaxy. It looked like a half-closed eye above the wide smile.

As soon as she found her galaxy, a stripe of light burnt across it. Right to left, across half the sky. In two seconds, it had gone.

“Hello Annie.” Uncle Trevor appeared around the corner of the garage.

“Did you see?” Annie’s eyes were wide. “A shooting star!” She remembered what Daddy called them. “A meteor.”

Uncle Trevor stood by the swing. “Where was it?” he asked.

Annie pointed.

“Andromeda.” His face tried to smile.

As they stared up, another light flared. It zoomed high above them, then, like a firework, it burst apart into white stripes, burning like clawing fingers above their heads.

“Debris,” said Uncle Trevor, sadly. “Burning up in the atmosphere.”

Annie couldn’t see why Uncle Trevor didn’t think this was wonderful. “We should make a wish,” she said.




Frank couldn’t feel that he was falling. Falling fast. From his perspective, he tumbled, slowly, end over end. The universe appeared to swirl around him. He had only a vague sense that the Earth, so very far away, should be beneath his no-longer-heavy boots. Earth should be down, space should be up, and he revolved somewhere in between.

Twisting his head behind the silvered glass of his helmet, he watched the stricken space station accelerating away from him, curving through an arc of gravitational attraction, inevitably towards Earth.

A crackle of static sounded in his ears; the audio system of his helmet still functioning, but, tellingly, there were no voices. The station had split open, right along the bulkhead seam he had been sent out to investigate. Equipment spewed into space, leaving a trail like a comet’s tail between him and the arcing silent hulk.

Frank called out for a while – standard phrases, trying to establish contact – surprised at his own calm. But there was no response. How could there be?

He had limited oxygen, limited heat – limited time. He felt his eyes close. Then, with a fluttering struggle, he opened them again. He could hear only his own laboured breathing; his helmet no longer crackled. Had he been unconscious? The Earth was closer now, blue and white; it magnificently filled all of his perception of down. And there, far far ahead, a fragment of the station rasped against the world’s invisible atmosphere. Like a match, it flared and, for a second or two, seared the sky with a stripe of fire.

Frank didn’t know how much air he had left. It didn’t matter now. Soon, he too, would burn. Another chunk of the station glowed white in the distance, then flared, exploding into multiple glowing trails. He revolved to face the hush of distant darkness. Cassiopeia drifted by. Then Andromeda.




“There has been an accident, Annie,” said Uncle Trevor. “There was a problem on the space station. Do you know what a space suit is?”

Annie nodded, she wasn’t stupid.

“Your Daddy had to put on a space suit and go outside to investigate the problem. The problem was really bad. The space station broke up into pieces.”

Automatically, Annie gazed up at the sky. Another meteor flashed past, then another.

“They are bits of the space station,” said Uncle Trevor.

Annie stepped from her swing. “Then we should definitely make a wish,” she said. “It’s important.” She felt Uncle Trevor place a hand on her shoulder. “I always wish for Daddy to be safe.”




Perhaps a lack of air was affecting his vision, but Frank saw Andromeda change in the sky. An association of ideas, he reasoned. Naturally, his thoughts turned to his daughter. The constellation’s curve of stars became Annie’s smile. The galaxy-smudge of light above it became a single eye as if she winked at him. He smiled and winked back.

“Stay safe, Daddy.” Annie’s voice was clear in the silence. Her face filled the cosmos. “I wish for you to be safe, Daddy. I wish for you to be safe.” Frank felt the heat suddenly rage about him. The fabric of his suit blistered. He held a thick gauntlet up to the glass of his helmet; his hand was already aflame.




One last, narrow streak of fire ignited above Annie’s head. She and Uncle Trevor watched it for a moment as Annie’s wish seemed to echo around them in the darkness.

There were voices now from the house. A door had opened. Annie thought she could hear Mummy crying. And coming towards them, around the angle of the garage, she heard the clump, clump, clump of heavy boots.

** “Wish Upon a Star” is our 2022 Kepler Award short short category winner  **

“Wish Upon a Star”, © Rob Nisbet,  First published here in Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores,  May 28, 2023

Bio: Rob Nisbet lives on the English south coast near Brighton.  He has had approaching 100 stories printed in magazines and anthologies ranging from science fiction to romance (using his wife’s name) to horror.  His wife has recently turned to crime.  Sci-fi credits include audio drama – he has adapted work by Philip K. Dick for radio and has had several audio scripts produced by Big Finish for their Doctor Who range.  He also keeps chickens.
Story comments:  The two contrasting aspects of ‘Wish Upon A Star’: the damaged space station, and the garden swing on Earth, occurred to me as a complete story.  I played with the idea until I felt it worked and I was happy with the result.


Illustration by Fran Eisemann.  Background stock courtesy of NASA

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