Iris wandered towards home as the sun burned against the dense clouds. But the sun wasn’t bright enough to shine through, instead looking like the end of a cigarette. There was a heavy smell in the air, of smoke and ash… there had most likely been a bushfire nearby. Iris ignored the smell, used to the pollution of her city as well as the smog cast over the sky, making everything appear grainier the further away it was.

It was like this at night as well. Light pollution in the city obscured the view of the stars that once filled the sky. They became myths whispered to children as bedtime stories by mothers who still believed, while husbands questioned if their childhood memories were real or a figment of their imagination.

Iris sighed and continued walking along the edge of an abandoned train track. No one knew the back streets like she did, and the trains hadn’t operated for more than a hundred years after the Defining War, so she was relatively safe. She just had to watch out for lone predators or feral animals. Sometimes Iris wondered if they were the same thing. Oh well, she’d let her trusty taser do the talking if that happened.

She hoped she had passed her exam. Her rankings would be fine, especially in a class like hers. Iris swore some of her classmates were just so dumb. One girl remarked that the sun wasn’t a star in her Cosmic Studies class. Mrs Connally tried to explain to the girl why it was a star. Iris was about to pipe up and say the two reasons why she wouldn’t have seen a distant star before, the pollution and the space junk, but she stopped herself before she said anything. The teachers in class didn’t talk about the amount of space junk floating in orbit around Earth. No one did.

Iris wished life wasn’t so restricted, sometimes so seemingly meaningless. Then again, the only star Iris could wish upon was the one that always rose in the morning and died at dusk. But just because she couldn’t see the ones hidden by the haze of her city at night, didn’t mean they weren’t there.