by Alastair Preston
It started when I was thirteen. People began to disappear. At first, just one or two, then whole families at a time. They didn't die, or explode or anything; they simply weren't there. No-one knew what happened to them.
It was a sunny Friday morning and my best friend Astor and I were on our way to school. The disappearances hadn't really affected us. Astor's dad had disappeared a few years ago, but not like these people did. He just got in a car one day and didn't come back. We were walking along the old lane overhung by blackthorn when Astor looked at me. And then he was gone, just like that. I ran to the school as quickly as I could.
"Astor has disappeared," I panted to the woman in the office.
"Oh, another one? If I could ask you to fill out this form..."
"This isn't just another disappearance - it's Astor!" I shouted.
"Literally everyone has lost someone, now fill out the forms."
I stormed out of the office and out of the school. I was going to have to find Astor by myself. I went home and searched the web for information about the disappearances. I was reading the long catalogue of lost names when a message popped up in the corner of my screen:
> Sarah. It's me, Astor.
> Where are you?
> It's hard to explain. I haven't got long. I'm in another dimension and it was darkness that brought me here.
> Whenever a planet has more evil than good, it allows dark matter in. That's what has happened to Earth.
> What can I do?
I came out into the summer evening and saw a couple arguing, a boy hitting another boy with a skateboard, a man stealing a lady's wallet. I picked up a newspaper and I read about bombings and wars, children starving and rich people building golden towers.
I got home and mum welcomed me with a smile. I told them about Astor and dad came over and gave me a hug. I realised that if everyone was like this in the world, maybe Astor would come back, that we needed love and goodness to outweigh evil. I sat down and began to write a book called Empty Space, and in it, I wrote about Astor and dark matter and how the world had to make itself better.
I put the book on the Internet and it was downloaded millions of times. People started being kinder to each other. The boy with the skateboard said sorry to the other boy, the thief gave back the wallet, the couple made up. Wars stopped.
Terrorists gave up bombing and hugged each other. Rich men sold their golden towers and gave the money to starving children.
One morning at the end of the summer, there was a knock on the door. Astor was there.