There was something wrong with the sky. Out on his nightly walk, Homer had paused to admire the stars, making their first appearance after a week of cloudy skies, and found the view had somehow changed. He pointed up and tried to trace the constellations with his finger. Something was missing. Wasn’t Orion supposed to extend farther down? He ticked off each star in the constellation and came up two short. Rigel and Saiph were not there. Maybe a cloud was blocking his view, or maybe he just got it wrong. It had been quite a few years since he had studied the stars through his father’s telescope, dreaming of someday being an astronaut. By the time he reached the end of the block, his thoughts were back on the ground, focused on the shiny new Camaro in his neighbor’s driveway.

The next night, preoccupied with the puzzle of his finances, Homer didn’t think to check on his celestial conundrum until he had made the lap around the neighborhood and arrived back at his front door. Walking back out into the yard, he gazed up, prepared to inventory Orion’s stars. There were none. The entire constellation was gone. He concluded something in the sky was blocking his view, but what were the chances a cloud would be of the exact shape, and in the exact location in relation to him, to blot out one specific constellation?

“Has there been anything on the news about freak atmospheric conditions?” he asked his wife as he tossed his jacket across the back of the couch.

“That doesn’t go there,” she stated, looking up from her computer just long enough to issue the reprimand.

Homer knew it was pointless to try to pull her out of whatever game or online quarrel in which she was immersed. He headed off to bed, leaving the jacket on the couch. Switching on the news just in time to catch the weather report, he was disappointed to hear nothing that helped him solve the riddle. Troubled without really understanding why, his sleep was fitful, his dreams populated with portents of doom.

“You seem kind of out of it today,” said Neil, the sales supervisor as Homer approached his desk with a contract needing approval. “The old lady keep you up late last night?”

“No. Everything’s fine,” Homer replied laconically, dropping the contract on the desk.

“Well, it doesn’t seem like it,” Neil responded. “You look like shit.”

Ignoring the comment, Homer tapped his finger on the papers he had just placed on the desk and had started to leave the room when he paused and turned back to Neil.

“You see anything in the news about something weird going on with the sky?”

“What the hell are you talking about? What’s wrong with the sky?” Neil asked, turning around in his seat to peer out the window.

“It’s probably nothing,” Homer responded, fidgeting with his glasses. “It just hasn’t looked right.” He paused to wait for a response, but, getting only a blank stare, he blurted out: “Orion is gone.”

“I don’t know anything about any Orion,” Neil said, getting up to deliver a patronizing pat on Homer’s shoulder as he ushered him out the door. “I’m sure it will work itself out. Now go get some sales and stop worrying about it.”

Nobody else seemed concerned, or to have even noticed anything unusual. Homer decided he was worrying over nothing. For the rest of the day, he concentrated on the usual sales figures, interspersed with daydreams about life in a world where there were no sales figures, or overbearing ignorant men.

On Wednesday, Homer spent the evening trying to appease his apoplectic wife, who insisted the virus on her computer was somehow his fault, and missed his nightly walk. Again he gained no useful information from the news, and again his sleep was plagued by nightmares.

He set out on Thursday, humming Beatles’ tunes, determined to erase the echo of demanding voices bouncing around in his head, but cut the concert short when he realized he was humming “Nowhere Man.” Stuck in an unfulfilling job at the car dealership, and unable to even communicate with his wife, he was all too aware his life had gone nowhere.

Unable to dispel the funk into which he had descended, he turned to the vast expanse above for confirmation there was still something beyond the muck and mire of daily existence. He was relieved to see the light of the bright full moon blotting out the stars. He didn’t want to grapple with the problem of missing constellations and the unaccountable feeling of dread it stirred up within him. Men had walked on that distant orb, traversing the boundless void with ingenuity and bravery. Someday mankind would venture out farther, exploring a universe of endless possibility, far removed from the world of petty obsessions and fruitless labor. For a moment he was a little boy again, eager to greet the future.

“Damn!” someone shouted, jolting Homer from his reverie. A few houses down, a stout, balding man pointed a flashlight at the bumper of a car. It was the Camaro Homer had been admiring several nights before. As Homer approached, he saw a woman, her head down, cowering on the other side of the car.

“I knew I shouldn’t have let you drive!” the man bellowed, wilting the woman. ”Look what you did!”

Homer thought he saw a white scratch as he passed, but wasn’t sure. If it was there, it couldn’t have been more than an inch in length.

He could still hear the man shouting at the woman as he rounded the corner and hit a wall of darkness. There were no streetlights, and the light from the houses barely illuminated the road, but there were few trees tall enough to shield the darkness from the moonlight. It should have been brighter. Expecting to see a cloud passing before the moon, Homer looked up, but saw neither cloud nor moon. The sky was empty! Surely, if there was a cloud, even though there had been none earlier, a moon that bright would have shined through, exposing it. There was nothing. The sky was a black void. Homer tried to shrug off his apprehensions, but couldn’t bring himself to venture down that street. There was something abhorrent about the darkness. He turned and headed home, rushing past the house with the Camaro where the man was still berating his wife. His gaze never left the pavement.

The next morning, Homer stopped by the coffee shop, as he had nearly every day for the past seven years, but rushed out, leaving his cup full and his doughnut uneaten. He needed to put some distance between himself and the conversations taking place around him. Everyone had something to gripe about, carrying on about the stocks in their portfoliosall– down, the nails on their hands—broken, and even the color of the walls surrounding them—ugly. All expressed indignation at having to endure such hardships, convinced their lives had been irreparably damaged.

In his car, Homer switched on the radio and was told there was a storm coming, but the view through the dirty windshield presented a view of the sun unencumbered by clouds. He pulled down the visor to block the glare, and then quickly pushed it back up. What if the sun, like the moon, vanished while he wasn’t paying attention? What if a disgusted God had decided to clean house? He had provided us with wonders, and we had ignored them, choosing instead to bicker amongst ourselves over trivialities. Now, like a parent tired of tripping over unused toys, He was packing them all up, perhaps to send to more appreciative children.

“Crazy!” he shouted at the dashboard. Somebody else would have noticed. If celestial bodies, and even clouds, had really started to vanish it would be all over the news. There would be mass panics. He told himself the problem was all in his head. The visor, however, stayed up.

He found Neil staring into a hand mirror, studying the thin strands of hair still clinging to his sunburned pate.

“You wanted to see me?” Homer asked meekly, wishing he had knocked before walking into Neil’s office. Neil shoved the mirror into a desk drawer, and ran his hand over his head, pushing the strands back into place.

“You’ve been slacking, Homer,” he stated flatly. “Your sales were flat again this quarter.”

“But my sales have been steady,” Homer stammered. “There’s been no drop.”

“In this business you always have to reach for more. You know that. Everybody else sold more. You didn’t.”

“But I’ve seen the figures. They didn’t sell any more than I did.” Homer stated, trying to remain calm despite the thumping in his chest.

“They sold more than they did last year. You didn’t. I don’t know what kind of problems you’re dealing with at home, but you’re going to have to get back in the game and make us some money, or I’m going to have to replace you.”

The room started to spin. Homer stumbled back; grabbing ahold of the back of the chair he had never been invited to sit in, trying to steady himself. This was too much.

“Maybe if you didn’t give all the leads to that girl you’ve been banging, the rest of us could catch up!” he shouted, his fingers digging into the fabric of the chair. Neil jumped up from his seat and shouted something, but Homer couldn’t hear him over the blood pumping in his ears. He staggered back, flinging the chair to the floor. “I quit!” he shouted as he careened out of the room, banging his shoulder against the wall opposite the door. He repeated it all the way down the hall and out into the parking lot, screaming it into the shocked faces of the customers milling about. “I quit! I quit! I quit!”

His wife found him sprawled out on his back in the front yard, staring up at the sun.

“Homer! What the hell is going on? Your boss called and said you had some kind of break down at work!” she said, leaning over to look down on him, her expression more curious than concerned.

“You’re blocking my view,” he responded coolly.

“View of what?” she said, turning to look at the sky. “There’s nothing there. What the hell is wrong with you?”

“That’s just it,” he responded. “Soon there will be nothing there. If someone doesn’t keep their eye on it, it will disappear.”

“I’m calling the police. You need help,” she announced, digging in her pocket for her phone. Before she could get it to her ear, Homer was up off the ground. He slapped it out of her hand and grabbed her by the shoulders, slamming her against the car in the driveway behind her.

“You don’t understand!” he screamed, shaking her. “It is all going to go away if I don’t keep my eye on it! Somebody has to remember what is important, really important!” Then, realizing he had abandoned his mission for too long, his arms dropped to his sides and his gaze shifted back to the sky. His wife stared at him in bewilderment for a moment, then gave him a shove. As he toppled onto his back, she raced toward the house. She reached for the doorknob, but Homer grabbed a handful of her hair and jerked her back. She landed with a thump on the walkway, and tried to gather up enough breath to scream as Homer fell on her.

“You don’t understand!” he shouted, pounding her head over and over against the pavement. “I can’t let you ruin it all!”

He hardly noticed the wet splashing sound as his wife’s head dissolved in his grip, and continued to state his case long after she had ceased to hear. Then he became aware the light had dimmed. He looked at the sun, and saw it was shrinking, as though retreating off into the distance. Almost absentmindedly, he disentangled bloody fingers from his wife’s hair and stood, his gaze fixed on the darkening sky. He had let her distract him too long. He had failed. He stood there staring up, whimpering until he could no longer see at all.