The Sun is Screaming

Breeh Botsford

Did you know that the Sun is screaming?  

Well, not exactly screaming. It’s not like you could look up at our home star and hear it shouting profanities at you. But from what we know, it does have a voice. The grating howl of a hurricane; the nightmarish drawl of a storm that’s been going on for just a little too long. As it spews fire and light and magnetic fields strong enough to snap Earth’s own in two, a hollow, ethereal roar echoes out into the endless night alongside it.  

Now, you may think this is silly. “The Sun isn’t alive! It can’t speak! Space is silent, nobody can hear you scream, everybody knows this!” And, well, you’re right. Space is silent, but this is because space is a vacuum. It’s empty! And we all know sound waves need some kind of medium to propagate through. Imagine if, just for an instant, we filled the endless expanse of space with stuff. It could be an atmosphere like we have here on Earth; it could be a hot soup of electrically charged plasma. It could be jello, who cares!  

Imagine if, just for an instant, we gave the universe a voice. What would happen? 

Well, your ears would probably be blown out as a sudden cacophony of inter- and intra-stellar wailing bore down on you. You would, quite likely, go insane. There would be the roar of not only our Sun, but all the other stars in the night sky. There would be the low rumblings of gas and the plinking of dust and the ear-splitting wail of quasars billions of light-years away. People like to think that the mechanics of our solar system and all the other solar systems beyond our own are graceful, an operatic display of elegance, worlds dancing along the invisible lines that govern what is real; a beautiful ostentation…  

…but no. The universe is chaos. The vast expanse beyond the border of our world is inchoate mayhem. A nice, orderly system is not the one we find ourselves in—to be ordered is to be silent. To be nothing.  

So let’s be glad that the Sun is breathing life into this little neighbourhood of ours, hey? 

But that then begs the question! If order is what the universe craves, and that order is the silence of entropy incarnate, then why is the space beyond us so loud? Why does the Sun scream? Is it just garbled nonsense that we humans like to prescribe thoughts and feelings to? 

Or is there meaning behind the roar? 

Let’s try another thought experiment! 

Voyager 1. We all know about Voyager, right? One of humanity’s greatest scientific feats to date. It and its sister craft, Voyager 2, explored our solar system like no probe has ever before, and they both taught us so much.  

Now, Voyager is… very far away. Very, very far away. It’s the first object we’ve made that’s managed to leave our solar system completely. The distance from the Earth to the Sun is a little under 150 million kilometres. Voyager? Multiply that number by 160. Yeah. It’s far. And being as far as it is, it means that it is in territory unbeknown to us. The veritable wild west of space—the interstellar medium—far from the warmth of our mother star, and it has been there for around a decade at this point. Could you imagine that? The Sun, so bright and beautiful and big in our blue sky, little more than a dot, one among many as you hurtle through the nothing of creation. Poor probe. It must be so lonely. 


…remember how the sun is screaming? 

When Voyager slipped from the influence of our home star, far from the hollow echo that is its roar, it heard something in the brief silence. A whine, sharp and vacant in its expression, almost as if the sound was reaching out to touch the craft, to claim it not for Earth, but for infinity. And, well, that’s all well and good. We know space isn’t silent by now! Perhaps it was just the interstellar expanse giving a warm welcome to our little probe, a congratulations for making it so far! It’s pertinent to wonder: how did the Sun feel about losing one of its creation’s, creations’… creations? Did it mourn? Did it celebrate, too?  

Out there, so far on the edge… the screaming must’ve been so quiet. Little more than formless whispers, bouncing around on the eking remnants of the solar wind. What did Voyager hear our star say? A whisper of goodbye? A whisper of anger? A whisper of awe?  

One would like to think that space is dead. That space is quiet. That out there, where no sound can travel, there is order. But… is order really all that great? It is the chaos of creation that brings about life, that brings about substance. Voyager, beyond the reaches of its home, where there is nothing for it to grab hold of, nothing for it to taste, to see, to feel: is it happier out there? Where there is no chaos? Where the universe is closest to what we imagine entropy might be?  

At least it has the siren song of the chaos beyond. The inchoate cosmos.   

At least, so far out there, it does not have to bear the horror of silence. 

So shouldn’t we be glad that the Sun is screaming? That its voice marks the boundary between a sleepless domain of orbits and skies and song? That it keeps us safe from the spasms of this sleeping god that this reality must be?  

Let’s try something fun! 

Pick a point in the night sky. Anywhere, it doesn’t matter! Now let’s imagine what sounds we may find there. That pocket of space? Oooh, the dry buzz of the cosmic microwave background, the afterglow of genesis. How about here? Oh wow! Listen to the way reality tears and rips, the thwomp-thwomp of a black hole, the hungry growl of a cosmic monster. What about there, that patch of darkness that descends into nothing between the stars like an inkwell of despair? What will we find? The swish of an ocean of magma and rock? The rattle of a cloud of dust, the harmonious orbits of worlds, the winding whirl of a neutron star? 

Listen close. 


As close as you can be. 


There’s nothing. It’s completely silent. 


Let’s try another patch of space, shall we? 


Nothing again. Not even the characteristic hiss of what silence should be, the ever-present tinnitus of the cosmos at large. What we hear—or, rather, what we don’t—is nihility. Like the definition of sound itself has been destroyed and in its place a void has opened its maw to swallow all the other words whole. 

Surely this must not be right. 

Occasionally, Voyager still communicates with us. Updates on the probe’s health, its situation, all little things like that. But there have been moments where its voice sutures. Moments where the things it is trying to say come out as garbled nonsense. Which makes sense, one would assume—the spacecraft is quite old. It’s understandable if its circuits may slowly fry, like neurons blinking out, one by one. Electronic aphasia, more or less. Let’s ask a question, though: 

What if that’s not right?  

The Sun is screaming. It fills the entire space of the system with its song. But beyond its influence… maybe the whispers have something different to say. Maybe, by being in a place it should not be, Voyager has learned something new. And it is trying to warn us; just like, in its last goodbye, Mother Sol tried to warn it in a whisper of dread. 

Everywhere we look now, there is nothing but the absence that silence has left. As Voyager embarks on its inconceivable journey across our galaxy, it will drift further and further away from the chaos of our home, and out into the order beyond. Entropy will taste its presence on a tongue of time, and the echoes of what silence once was may be the only thing Voyager will eventually have left. But that fate does not await it for a long, long time… so why is the silence bearing down on us now? 

What did we do wrong? 

Our star keeps us safe. It protects us from the harsh cosmos beyond. Why? There must be meaning in its roar. 

Maybe that meaning is fear. 

Author: Breeh Botsford is transfem, non-binary, & disabled writer who adores writing all kinds of fiction, from sci-fi to fantasy, and makes sure everything she writes is underlain with a creepy and surreal feel just subtle enough that it makes your skin crawl. You can find her at most places via the handle @birbules/@breehbules

Artist: Emma Bruce is a multi-disciplinary visual artist from Yugambeh country working out of Meanjin. Her work discusses the relationship modern society has with the environment through an archival style in hopes to preserve the experience of being in the natural world. Her work hopes to invite her audience to partake in activities that nurture native flora and fauna as well as create a sense of pride to be part of it.

Editors: Kelly Rouzbehi and Fernanda Bustos Venegas