An auction house in Dubai has unveiled a 555.55 carat black diamond believed to have come from outer space (Irish Times 22/01/22)…
It was the last night of her trip. Zilia stood at the glass door of a jewellery shop in the Gold Souk in Dubai, and took a deep breath.
She had embarked on the trip in the aftermath of Uelov’s affair. After the shouting matches, after the break-up, after the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and a thunderous punch into Uelov’s face, she had decided to take a long holiday, to get away from it all.
And there was nowhere to get away from it all like Earth.
Earth was laughed at across the galaxy, a planet so blind to the economic possibilities of inter-galactic tourism that it had named itself after its soil. It was is if it didn’t want to people to turn up, so for aeons they hadn’t. Early visitors had arrived simply because they were lost, and their tales of the panic-stricken reaction to their appearance had deterred others. It was only in recent years, after a traveller from Krypton reported on Tripadvisor that humans won’t recognise that you’re an alien if you wear glasses, that a small market grew among those who took its marketing slogan, Lonely Planet, as a sign that this was where to go if you needed to reset.
Zilia had been here for six Earth months now, travelling from what the natives called ‘country’ to country. She had arrived cranky and been infuriated rather than charmed at the primitiveness of their supposedly strong wi-fi and their so-called express trains. In time, though, she had settled into the gentler pace, where weather is a topic of conversation rather than a fact. She tried the humans’ hobbies, and found skiing terrifying, sudoku baffling and yelling at the television surprisingly satisfying. She tried their food, gagging at porridge, binging on ginger-nut biscuits, and fascinated by broccoli, which tasted of nothing.
She had avoided sprouts, which looked too much like Uelov’s testicles.
She loved the outdoors – the extraordinary variety of tree shapes, the songs of the tiny birds, the glorious scent of flowers. She loved the sea, and stood for hours on shorelines, watching as water swelled and crashed onto the sand, then retreated in a hiss of softly popping bubbles.
And she loved the people. They talked to her in bars, on trains, in queues. They were good at heart, and cheerful. They laughed all the time, and in their company Zilia laughed too.
Now she had just one thing left to do.
She put on her glasses, pushed open the door, and stepped inside.
Asif looked up from behind his newspaper and from behind the counter of rings and watches. He gasped internally at the beauty of the woman walking towards him, at her heart-shaped face and her olive (almost green, he would later think to himself) skin.
“Marhaba,” he said. “How can I help you?”
Zilia put a hand on the counter. When she removed it, Asif saw that her surprisingly long fingers had been enclosing a large black lump. He looked up at her.
“Somebody gave you coal for Christmas?” he said.
The eyes behind the glasses flashed, and somehow Asif felt that this was not just a turn of phrase.
“This is my engagement ring,” said Zilia, icily.
“As if,” said Asif.
Zilia smiled. “Examine it,” she said.
Asif screwed his eye-piece into one eye and casually picked the object up. As he looked at it, it seemed to draw his gaze into its heart, a heart of infinite void. He felt as if he was looking into the vastness of space in all its its cold, black magnificence. He looked up in shock at Zilia.
“What is this?” he asked.
“It’s a diamond,” said Zilia. “Girl’s best friend, apparently.”
“Surely not,” said Asif. “It’s enormous. It’s – ” he placed it, reverently this time, on his calibrated scales. “It’s over five hundred carats.”
“Indeed,” said Zilia calmly. She walked back to the door and looked up at the night sky. There, hidden in plain sight, she could see her own planet, a rock of almost pure carbon whose tourism slogan, ‘like a diamond in the sky’, had become famous across the galaxy, even on worlds that had never heard of the planet itself.
Her ring was nothing special there, like her marriage as it turned out. But here, she knew, on this strange world that valued hardened lumps of mineral above the pebbles of the beaches that she loved so much, it would be a source of awe. It was her parting gift to her true best friend, the planet that had taught her to laugh again.
She opened the door and looked back at Asif.
“Keep it,” she said.