This is from a writing prompt at a writer’s group: : “One of the constellations has gone missing…”
“And where,” demanded Canis Major in a loud and howly voice, “is Monoceros?”
“How should I know?” honked Cygnus. “I’m hardly the one required to keep track of some faint mythological beast. I’ve got my beak full, surrounded as I am by wolves and foxes and dragons!”
Orion, greatest of hunters, waved his club. “If you’re worried about the animals, you aren’t paying attention, Cygnus.”
“You’re the one not paying attention!” snapped Canis Major. “Monoceros was here just a moment ago, standing right next to you — cowering a bit, I might even say — and now she’s gone altogether!”
Orion peered at the blank spot in the sky where the unicorn had been. “It’s not actually all that easy to pay attention to Monoceros. She’s a bit of a pale wisp of a girl, if you must know. Nothing brighter than 3.6.” He straightened his shoulders and stretched his leg, coincidentally showing off Betelgeuse and Rigel.
“Arrogant human!” honked Cygnus, bristling her tail until Deneb shone and twinkled. “You’re not the only one with brilliant stars around here!”
Orion snorted, a gust of hydrogen and dust freezing in his chin. “Oh, look at the swan and her silly little 1.25-magnitude star.”
“And we mustn’t be arrogant. Not every constellation can have a star above first magnitude,” said Lyra, her strings resonating a New Age non-melody delicately to the cosmic background radiation.
Orion glanced at Lyra. His eyes would have been green with jealousy if green stars could exist. “Well, even your Vega isn’t bright enough to find where Monoceros has gone, you obnoxious bitch!”
Canis Major yelped at Orion. “I do not appreciate your choice of insults!” She snapped at Orion’s foot. Sirius’ actinic brilliance outshone Rigel’s, and Orion hopped backwards. This inevitably caused him to slide into Eridanus’ headwaters, muddy with nebulae and brown dwarves.
“I beg your pardon, Orion,” said the nymph of that ancient celestial river. “I did not invite you in for a swim.”
“Constellations, constellations! Please, be at peace!” sang Lyra.
Orion rolled his eyes, and reached for Taurus’ horn to pull himself out. The ancient bull grunted and braced himself. The hunter clambered free, and ostentatiously polished Rigel back to its full 0.12 magnitude.
Canis Major sniffed around the spot where Monoceros had been. “I think there’s a trail…”
“That dim-witted dim-starred newcomer of a Monoceros! Let her vanish and good riddance!” snapped Orion. Canis Major glared at him. “She is a newcomer. Just been here a moment! She only dates back to a globe by Petrus Plancius from 1613!”
“Not so new as that, really. She’s been found on ancient Persian celestial globes,” sang Lyra.
“Enough of your New-Age blithering,” snapped Orion. “Ancient Persians, indeed. She’s no more ancient than Telescopium or Reticulum, with their impossibly modern names!”
“Is a constellation less of a constellation for being modern?” asked Lyra. “And Telescopium and Reticulum are completely dignified subjects, being the tools of astronomers. One might be given to wonder what a hunter were doing in the sky, especially a hunter born from a god pissing into a bull’s hide, and whose main feats in life are a drunken date rape, getting blinded, and getting killed by a scorpion.”
“Better a man and a demigod than the pack of animals and Fisher Scientific overstock — and Fisher-Price overstock — that crowds up most of the sky!” shouted Orion.
Canis Major, nose to the sky, was ignoring the argument. She pushed past the crab, sniffed at the sextant, gave the lion a very wide berth indeed, and crept past the great bear, and pushed her way through the tangle of hair.
“Monoceros! There you are!”, she yapped, wagging her tail. “I was worried about you!”
“I was simply visiting with Virgo,” said Monoceros. “You can’t expect a unicorn to stand still while there’s an appealing virgin around, can you? One must act quickly! She might go out or put out at any moment!”