Aster

rating: +34+x

"Are you afraid of it?"

Tongues of plasma lap at the vacuous darkness surrounding the cluster's heart.

"It's ok if it scares you — it's quite the sight to behold."

I do not utter a syllable. Even with enough air to sustain me, it felt as if the view alone was sucking the shallow breaths from my chest.

"…It scares me too, but in a fun way, y'know? It's like staring down the drop of a rollercoaster, gripping onto the bars as you anxiously anticipate the fall."

My eyes twitch at the sheer luminosity blaring into them, fuzzing my vision. There is nothing left for me to say anymore.

"You don't have to talk, it's fine."

She's getting closer now; stroking the corona, kissing the cosmos.

"Y'know, Nadir, this isn't how I thought it would go. My ma always said I'd be dancing with the stars someday, although I doubt she meant it this literally."

Aster, oh Aster, whatever has compelled such vitality in you?

"So… catch you on the flip side, yeah?"


SURVIVAL DIFFICULTY:

Class: Astral/Pending

  • Cosmic Anomaly
  • Limited Habitability
  • Presence of Entities Undetermined

Level 599 is the 600th level of the Backrooms.

Description

Level 599 is a globular star cluster similar to those found in the Frontrooms. The most common are class M main-sequence stars (red dwarfs), which make up around 60% of the cluster, but several other classes of main-sequence stars are also present. These stars exert no gravitational forces and give off very little heat compared to stars found in space1, but still come in a variety of different types. Other celestial objects, such as asteroids or other stellar debris, can also be found within Level 599.

Despite Level 599 resembling an area of interstellar space, it's possible for humans to survive without the need for specialized equipment. However, due to the complete lack of other resources, long-term sustainability is deemed impossible.

At the center of the cluster lies a blue hypergiant star. This star, nicknamed "Nadir"2, is the only star in the level observed to emit the expected amount of gravitational pull. However, it does not emit any more heat than the surrounding stars.

Because Nadir is the only significant source of gravitational attraction, all bodies within Level 599 either orbit or fall towards it. Larger objects, such as stars, all remain in stable — although sometimes highly elliptical — orbits around Nadir. Smaller objects, like asteroids, will instead follow paths that lead directly towards the star. Entering the level will automatically put individuals in an orbit around the star, but it's possible for someone to alter their momentum and fall directly towards Nadir.

Although none of the stars emit heat, it's presumed that getting too close to any of them could still be fatal due to the concentrations of non-breathable gasses. Currently, no deaths have been reported in Level 599.

Entrances and Exits

Entrances

Level 78's porthole will occasionally display a much greater density of stars than usual. Opening the airlock will then lead directly to Level 599.

Exits

No exits have been documented; level exploration is ongoing.


I watch her plummet into the cacophony of flame, spilling her soul onto the ionized gas. She cannot turn to face me, but I just know she's felt the purest form of ecstasy one can grasp.

The heavens erupt into a radioactive choir, serenading her descent into the infernal chasm. Violet arms of the nuclear furnace reach out for a final embrace.

The blaze of light plunges me into darkness.

Aster, oh Aster, whatever has instilled such sensitivity in you?

They wait at the viewpoint, watching the nova scatter across the fleck-speckled canvas of the stellar void and saturate it with heavensent luminescence. And in the center of it all is her, dancing with the stars.


To: moc.liamkcab|adias#moc.liamkcab|adias
From: moc.liamkcab|dnumhcirl#moc.liamkcab|dnumhcirl
Subject: Level 599


To be perfectly honest, I don't have the time nor the energy to be formal with you, so I'll just say what I need to. What happened in 599 was nothing short of fucked up. Aster's dead, Orion's barely hanging on, and the entire team is in shambles. I'm only gonna tell you this once, Aida, you need to stop fucking with 78. I'm putting in a resignation from Wanderlust until further notice.

To: moc.liamkcab|dnumhcirl#moc.liamkcab|dnumhcirl
From: moc.liamkcab|adias#moc.liamkcab|adias
Subject: Re: Level 599


I appreciate your concerns, but we are far from done. We all shall miss you, however, and I hope you come to reconsider.


SURVIVAL DIFFICULTY:

Class deadzone

  • Environmental Hazards
  • Strictly Uninhabitable
  • Devoid of Entities
Aster%20porthole.png

View of Level 599 from Level 78's porthole.

Level 599 is the 600th level of the Backrooms.

Description

Level 599 resembles the interior of a star; a super hot sea of plasma continuously undergoing nuclear fusion. Because of this, the level cannot be safely entered, and can only be observed externally through Level 78's porthole.

While the view through the porthole is extremely bright, the heat and radiation do not get through unless the airlock is opened, making it safe to stand close to it. Spectral analysis is impossible due to limited equipment sensitivity, but the temperature of the level is believed to reach that of a stellar core: several million kelvin.

Attempting to open the airlock while Level 599 is visible will flood Level 78 with massive amounts of heat and radiation, almost immediately killing anybody within its vicinity. Because of the inability to attempt entry, all observations of Level 599 can only be done externally. The size of the level is unknown, although it's assumed that no significant geographical deviations within the level exist.

Level 599's most surprising characteristic is the persistent radio signal emanating from it. When a radio transceiver is placed close to the porthole it will pick up a continuous stream of noise, although the radio frequency deviates wildly. Occasionally the radio signal will shift into something with more clarity and has even been observed to resemble music and even human speech. Whether or not the level is sentient has yet to be concluded.

Begin Log

13/01/22 11:47

The following is an attempted interview between Aida Sangstrom and Simmons Creel (of B.C.A.'s "Wanderlust" exploration group) and the anomaly within Level 599. A radio transceiver is placed near the porthole.


Aida: -to hold the fucking thing. [She clears her throat.] This is Aida Sangstrom of the B.C.A. exploration group "Wanderlust". If there is indeed some form of consciousness within this level, now would be a good time to show yourself.

[The transceiver continues to pick up static noise.]

Aida: Let's try this again. My name is-

[The signal abruptly shifts, playing a low-quality version of "Golden Brown" by The Stranglers. Aida seems to visibly react to this.]

Aida: I said my name is Aida Sangstrom from-

[The radio signal immediately returns to static. Simmons attempts to tune the transceiver to get a clearer signal.]

Simmons: The frequency of the radio waves are changing at random intervals, so I'm not sure if we-

Aida: Trust me, we need to establish contact.

[Simmons continues to tune the transceiver until it picks up coherent sound. Now, the sounds more closely resemble speech.]

599: Alas, the [?] falling across nebulaeic synapses.

Aida: Can you hear me? [She gets closer to the porthole.]

599: Soft machines churning with celestial synthesis. We fight photons with vigor.

Simmons: I can try sending a radio signal, maybe that's how we can communicate?

Aida: You mean you weren't already doing that?

Simmons: Sorry, madame, I'll get right to that.

[A frequency of roughly 300MHz is broadcasted into the level as a test.]

Simmons: Alright, now we just-

End Log


The log abruptly ends before the interview is called off. Aida accounted that the recording equipment shut off at the same moment Level 11 became visible from the porthole. Another attempt at an interview is planned, however Level 599 has not been observed since.


The air is nauseously still. I stumble across the station until I can feel my face being bathed in her celestial blaze.

I smile, if for but a moment, and then I feel a tidal wave of guilt crashing onto me.

"No, I'm not here to forgive you," I sigh.

She didn't mean for any of this to happen, I tell myself, yet there's this itch inside my skull that keeps reminding me of the way she acted during that fateful duet with Nadir.

Aster, oh Aster, whatever has unlocked such ferocity in you?

The radio flickers to life, "I don't expect you to. Truthfully, I'm not sure if you can."

I feel out a flat spot to sit, facing the heat. I can't see her anymore, but at least I can feel her.

"How long did they give you?" Aster queries, regret saturating her voice.

My chest fill with a warm hug of humid air before I exhale, letting go, "Few weeks, they reckon. Can't imagine many people would care — Aida can't even stand to look at me." The room is silent for a moment. "Although, if I'm being honest, I don't think I'd be able to either."

"Don't say that," she sympathetically retorts, "you're just… different now."

"It's like I stood next to a fucking nuke, Aster. I've been throwing up my insides every morning, followed by a lovely bout of seizures. So, fuck it, yeah, I'm different."

Neither of us says a word for what feels like hours; I just let my skin soak up even more radiation — not like it matters now.

The silence is broken by an announcement being broadcasted across the level — something about a blip, or whatever. I pay no mind to it.

"You can't stay here," she tells me, a noticeable rumble quaking the station, "you'll die."

"I'm dying already, Aster, the least I can do is hope it ends swiftly."

I have nothing left to lose, after all.

Despite the complete radio silence, I can sense her hesitation. "Well… I can at least try and make things right."

I paused, the might of suppressed anger spreading throughout my system.

"Even after everything you've done," I began, my voice quivering with a swell of pity, "you're still trying to right your wrongs."

The radio static becomes louder — it's getting closer now.

"We don't have time to debate, there's a solution waiting right before you and you know it's the right-"

"The right thing to do," I interrupt. "Maybe it was, but now it's just… there’s not even the relief of giving up, you know? It's stooping to the lowest of lows that even the greatest failures of life would find repugnant."

Her voice trembles, "I know you hate what I've become, and in a way, I must agree with you. In the eyes of Man, I have committed an unforgivable sin, but in the eyes of God, I am amongst him."

I lunge for the radio, throwing it against the walls of the station. "You're not a God, Aster!” I shout, the burned skin of my jawline splitting, "I don't even know if you're 'Aster' anymore, either."

"I like to think I'm the best version of myself, Orion," her voice aches through the radio, "something forged from the heart of the cosmos."

I lower my head, reaching out for the transceiver. My arms trap it against my chest as I sob in anguish. "Aster, please… I can't. We're not the same, we never were."

"That may be true," she whispers, "but if there's any hope for you, won't you take it? If you stay here, you'll die, and then you'll never see me again."

"And if it comes to that," I pause, my eyes watering, "I suppose there's comfort in knowing my final moments will also be yours."

"They don't have to be final… they can just be moments."

I say nothing, now — the radio still tucked under my arms and muffling into my chest. My legs find the energy to lift me back onto my feet, lugging myself to the airlock.

The station's shaking plateaus. My lungs take a parting swig of oxygen, and my eyelids drift shut one final time.

"Ok."


Our dearly beloved Aster was the 600th level of the backrooms — may her light continue burning as she returns Nadir's embrace. Vale, saltator stella.

Aster Reeves

1999–2022

''My ma always said I'd be dancing with the stars someday.''

rating: +34+x
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