Pi in the Sky Read online

  Begin Reading

  Table of Contents

  Copyright Page

  In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher is unlawful piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. If you would like to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), prior written permission must be obtained by contacting the publisher at [email protected] Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.

  For my son Griffin, who loves to ask questions about the universe. May the stars continue to shine through you, all the days of your life.

  And in memory of the great astronomer Carl Sagan, who taught a generation not only to wonder at the universe, but to seek to understand it. He inspired the scientific leaders of today to carry on that task, many of whose words shape this story.

  “Penetrating so many secrets, we cease to believe in the unknowable. But there it sits nevertheless, calmly licking its chops.”

  —H. L. Mencken, journalist

  “If the atoms that make up the world around us could tell their stories, each and every one of them would sing a tale to dwarf the greatest epics of literature.”

  —Marcus Chown, physicist


  Okay, first off, the quotes that start each chapter are from real people who know a lot of really cool things. You’ll probably recognize some of their names. Second, you should know that this story takes place completely in The Realms (pronounced like relms, not reelms, which would just be weird). What are The Realms, you ask? Where are The Realms? Well, those are tricky questions. I have a theory, but it’s a guess, at best, and I hope you won’t hold me to it. Come closer and I’ll tell you.

  The Realms aren’t so much somewhere as they are everywhere. And to explain that, I’ll need to start by explaining the discovery of a mysterious substance called dark matter.

  Hang in there now. This won’t hurt a bit.

  Basically, a lot of supersmart scientists who have spent a REALLY LONG TIME in school tell us that most of the “stuff” in our universe (96 percent) is invisible. Even though dark matter is all around us, we can’t see it. Not even with the help of those enormous telescopes that see so far out into space that they are really seeing back in time.

  And why can’t we see dark matter? Well, those same smart scientists will tell you it’s because dark matter doesn’t give off, or reflect, or absorb any light that we can see or measure. But we know it’s there because it attracts regular matter, the stuff we CAN see. Dark matter allows gravity to spin gas and dust into stars and planets and galaxies. It gives structure to the cosmos, like the scaffolding of a building.

  Yes, that’s what your science teacher would tell you. But that’s hardly the whole story. The real reason we can’t see dark matter is because that’s where The Realms are located and they have EXCELLENT cloaking devices. Truly, the universe is a much stranger place than most people give it credit for, teeming with life and full of secrets.

  Now you might be wondering what goes on in The Realms. And what this has to do with us, tucked away on our comfortable little planet, a safe twenty-seven thousand light-years away from the massive black hole asleep at the center of our Milky Way Galaxy. Well, who better to answer those questions than someone who has lived in The Realms his whole life? Someone around your age, with the same kinds of dreams, desires, and hopes for the future. Someone who thinks that nothing very exciting happens in his life. He doesn’t know it yet, but that’s about to change. So sit back, relax, and enjoy. Because in about seven pages, the gravity that keeps your feet glued to the ground will be gone.

  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

  If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.

  —Carl Sagan, astronomer

  If you think it’s tough being the Supreme Overlord of the Universe, try being his son.

  Or, more precisely, his seventh son. That whole thing about the seventh son being special in some way? Just a rumor spread by a few disgruntled seventh sons trying to make a name for themselves. In my experience, being the seventh son only means that by the time I got here, my brothers had taken all the cool gigs. They spend their days creating new species, choreographing sunrises and sunsets, composing the music of the spheres by keeping planets in their orbits, inspiring great artists, over-seeing the Afterlives, and testing new, state-of-the-art video games on the planets whose inhabitants haven’t yet discovered how to access most of their brain cells. Me? I deliver pies.

  That’s right. I. Deliver. Pies.

  Cherry pies. Apple pies. Strawberry-rhubarb pies. True, my pies happen to be the glue that holds the very fabric of the universe together, but have no illusion—they are still pies. I guess you could say they’re pretty big pies, but size—like time—is relative. To a creature living on one of the millions of inhabited planets that it is our job to oversee, the pies might be as big as a moon or as small as, well, a pie. Hard to say for sure, since I’ve never been out of The Realms. But that’s a whole other gripe.

  The point is, a long time ago, the Powers That Be (known simply as the PTB) decided it was getting messy trying to control the forces that keep the stars and planets and galaxies from crashing into each other. So they decided to combine the fundamental forces of nature and somehow shape them into a nice, sweet-smelling pie. Why a pie? Why not a pie! Who doesn’t like pie?

  It’s my job to pick up the pies fresh from the oven, box them up, and deliver them to the correct department at the Powers That Be headquarters, which currently looks like a giant boot but can change regularly.

  Anyway, when I pick up the empty pie tins at the end of my shift, only crumbs are left. Somehow the Powers That Be distribute the pies to the far reaches of the universe, wherever new star systems are forming. Since the universe is constantly expanding, this means my job is never done. I don’t actually know the nitty-gritty of what happens to the pies once they reach their destinations, which is unfortunate because I have this big report due for school next week on what my job entails, and that’s the kind of detail teachers eat right up.

  Yes, even immortal sons of Supreme Overlords have to go to school, which doesn’t really seem fair. I mean, I might have only begun my teen years, but years here last forever, so really, I’ve been in school since before the Sombrero Galaxy took its first siesta billions of years ago. It’s enough already.

  Anyway, right now I’m heading to my last pickup of the day and then I have to go home and write the annoying report. At least the pickup is at my best friend Kal’s house. Kal’s parents are OnWorlders, which means they live most of the time on different terrestrial planets, doing research and writing reports. As a rule, we never interfere with the planets’ natural evolution. That said, I’ve heard rumors. After all, there’s only so much one can take of watching dinosaurs stomp around aimlessly for a few hundred million years before you need to send an asteroid their way.

  No matter how many times I walk this same path, I never get bored of it. The central Realms—home to most of the residents and buildings—are set up like a grid, with walking paths crisscrossing each other at even intervals. On either side of the paths trees loom high and streams weave their way between them. When I was younger, before I started delivering the pies, I could usually be found in one of the distant fields with Kal or Bren, watching the clouds change color. The sky here is without color, but the clouds more than make up for it. I learned in school that on the planets, clouds and trees and water are solid objects, providing some sort of purpose in nature. In The Realms, they are more like suggestions of such things, until someone wants to use them. A lake becomes a lake when someone wants to go fishing. A