June 2024

Take My Heart to the Event Horizon

Felicia Martínez

Play Audio
read by Rachel Wixom

art by Tim Ferrell

Lenticular galaxy NGC 1277 wasn’t always this dusty, this rusty. Wasn’t always asleep. No stars firing above 5,000 kelvin, though a core so hot no particles can accrete, lump together, grow. Low luminosity on the long view. Metal-rich and red. No blue giants—like terrestrial bears, deep paws padding in aurora-tinged snow. Nothing to nuzzle the seething depths of the void.

Red and dead.

Careen out a few dozen mega parsecs and NGC 1277 is a veritable shooting mass, clipping  through the Perseus Cluster at millions of miles an hour. Too fast to collide with other galaxies. Too fast to grow life on their own.

Nascent gases whizz by.

NGC 1277 misses the billowy comforts of monatomic gasses and high-energy radiation of the stuff between the stuff between the systems of the stars. Mostly NGC 1277 misses having arms. Arms to spiral, reach out.

Beyond the gravity-dense globular clusters haloing gloriously in a fiery arc, the galaxy once had beautiful arms, youthful and blue. Brightest wonders of molecular clouds. Nurseries made from the interstellar medium. Always busy and matter-rich. Not just full of all that plasma. Not so hot. Sometimes, little globs of hydrogen formed. Molecules. NGC 1277 thinks of them. Misses them. They are still kind of there, in the way the galaxy’s dark matter halo is there. Sort of present. Not really visible.

What does it matter if the galaxy’s stars are billions of years ancient? What does it matter if it has a bit of a bulge. An enormous bulge-to-disk ratio, really. Positively spheroidal. “Bulge dominant,” the galaxy thinks. “So what?”

“I rushed, but I’m still waiting!” NGC 1277 calls out to the endless dark.

Sometimes, more quietly, “I am alone.”

The galaxy’s hazy neighbor—more green valley than luminous blue—dances lightly in the distance, still growing stars. Slowly, but a life maker. A little bright gem teaming with life nestles like a canary in its galactic plane. Living and alive.

“Oh,” says NGC 1277, a bright vision of generations arising, little ones to keep safe, hold tight.

Their absent arms wobble. Grow cold.


In the beginning, in an unbelievable burst, both attenuated and wild, NGC 1277 prodded its gasses and clouds, pooling and collapsing them alarmingly. Gravity anchored and growing. Potential energy mushroomed and boomed. Tens of thousands of newly born stars amassed from a spectacular accretion. Helium born of hydrogen radiated energy out into the void. The galaxy grew thousands of times faster than its neighbors.

“What is life if not this?” the galaxy thought, rushing madly towards red.

The others swarmed, grew close, crashed together. New stars were born!

NGC 1277 outshone them all.

And soon died.

And the quiet became an ache so gnawing it reminded the galaxy of the ice-rimmed chasms between Saturn’s rings, their utter absence a kind of knowing whisper between rocky silicates. A galactic pressure eerie and oracular. Lonely and vast.

But also a wish. A wish in the endless night.


When the black hole arrives, it seems at first like any other bit of galactic debris. Won’t settle. Gone in a star’s blink.

But it stays.

“Hello?” the galaxy calls out, tentative. And then much more eager. “Hello!” For a galactic instant (hundreds of millions of terrestrial years gone by), their voice seems to wobble, to shatter and fray.

NGC 1277 marvels.

Once a star maker, once gaseous and bright, the galaxy takes the giant into the now red heart of itself. It isn’t a void, or even the absence of activity. It is spacetime’s gravity racing itself, absolutely. An endless arcing into endless mystery.

The galaxy whispers to the giant. Telling the story of their birth, of their fire. Of how they lived, so sudden and bright.

Time passes and is still.

“I think we might have met too late,” the galaxy says quietly, their voice arcing, bending with space and time. “I was living and am now dead.” The whisper lasts a very long time. “But here you are, a curve in the thrumming red of me.” The distortion halts for an eternity along the absolute boundary. “So I will hold you as long as I can.” And is gone.   

Nothing can escape the event horizon, that endless pulling in a race as inevitable as time. Not a light, and not a sound (how could these?). Not even a perspective or view. Not relative to the galaxy. Not relative to the universe. 

Until at last, all is truly quiet. And only spacetime looms.

This is the giant’s answer.

“Oh,” whispers NGC 1277.

At the edge of a region where nothing escapes is a view of the beginning of all energies. Of all galaxies. Of the very first stars. And of the star maker, whose own view is of the ravenous first gnashing of time. A relic galaxy. Caught in spacetime’s embrace.

And the galaxy folds, unwinds, collapses, and returns—multiplies—like an echo, like an infinite reverberation in an impossible hue, and for the briefest instant, from the depth of their own heart, they see the giant’s heart, too.

And then they’re gone. 

About the Author

Felicia Martínez is a writer and poet from Eastern New Mexico, though the San Francisco Bay Area is now home. She has been guest poetry editor at The Deadlands, a Pushcart nominee, and a Dream Foundry Contest for Emerging writers finalist. Find her work at Asimov’s, The Rising Phoenix Review, The Acentos Review, Star*Line, and others. Read more at

About the Reader

Rachel Wixom is a voice actor based in New York City. When she’s not recording, she spends her time practicing samurai sword–gleefully imagining vanquishing greedy dragons and other ne’er-do-wells–stitching up holes in the multiverse with her knitting needles, finding herself challenged to staring contests by stray cats who’ve managed to wriggle up to her lofty window, and immersing herself in all the stories that the internet has to offer. For more on her voiceover work visit:

About the Artist

Tim Farrell is a Georgia-based artist and illustrator. With a background in Biology, he left the laboratory to be a stay-at-home dad, and has a small farm with chickens and goats.