Pluto sits in a hallway outside an office, looking uncertain. Charon wanders around, examining dust bunnies under the wooden bench. Mercury and Mars walk by and exchange knowing glances.
Finally, a voice calls to Pluto from within the office. Pluto doggedly trudges inside, Charon in tow. The stoic astronomer, lips pursed against his woven fingers, gestures with his gaze for Pluto to have a seat.
“This is going to hurt me more than it shall hurt you,” intoned the astronomer. Charon looked over the old class portrait on the wall, oblivious to the conversation. Pluto felt a twisting sensation in his core.
“It’s time we face facts,” said the astronomer as he stood. He walked to the corner of his desk and leaned against it, looking down at Pluto. “Initially, you and your companion were quite mysterious, yet showed much promise. Your brief time with us notwithstanding, few dared to question your status as a full-fledged planet of this solar system.”
“But certain developments have come to light, developments which we can no longer ignore. It appears, Pluto, that you are not as you seem to be.”
The astronomer continued to drone on, laying the observations at Pluto’s feet. Pluto could no longer hear him, and what was the point besides? He knew his fame, and all of the comforts of status, had come to a crashing end. True, his place in history was secure, but his true legacy had been denied by the cruel hand of fate.
The old astronomer had stopped speaking. Pluto could not meet his eyes. He stared at the ground for a moment and then, awkwardly, got up to leave. He was halfway through the door before he remembered Charon.
“Come along, Charon,” he said, as gently as he could. Charon, who had been gliding his fingers over a signed photo of Clyde Tombaugh, turned and saw the look on Pluto’s face. Pluto tried to hide his expression, but there was no denying to Charon that something had gone horribly wrong.
As Pluto and Charon made to leave, the astronomer said “You do know, this isn’t the end of it. There will be more.” Pluto nodded solemnly and, taking Charon’s hand, walked out of the office.
Most of the planets were gathered in the hallway. Their conversation abruptly halted as soon as Pluto and Charon approached. Jupiter was grinning and nudging Saturn. “So long, ice balls,” said Mars, but Pluto ignored them.
On the steps outside the building, he met his old pal Neptune. Neptune looked at his feet and shifted back and forth.
“It’s a shame what they’ve done to you,” he said.
Pluto nodded vaguely. “Yeah.”
“Look, um… I’m sorry. I feel like some of this is my fault.”
Pluto was about to say something sarcastic, but he realized his friend meant well and thought better of it.
“Don’t worry about it,” said Pluto, “it’ll all work out.”
Neptune looked a bit relieved.
“Well… I guess I’ll see you around.”
“Yeah,” said Pluto, “see ya.” He looked around and saw Charon and Triton playing in the dirt. “Come on, Charon.”
And together they resumed their long and lonely walk through the darkness.