This is a re-post of the story I wrote for one of Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge. Written in October 2012. I’m sure if you search my blog, you could find the original post.
Bright stars gone to black.
‘Ma, come quick,’ I’d call, ‘the stars are out, the stars!’
She would glance up from her bed, the simple movement taxing her frail body heavily, and look at me with sullen contempt, as if I were a prancing imp taunting her lack of mobility. Of course, I could not begin to understand the complexities of life. I were only a young boy, wanting nothing more than to share the night’s stars whilst embraced by my own bright star, I knew nothing of illnesses. The contemptuous gaze would swiftly extinguish my hope, like a candle’s flame reduced to nothing more than a wisp of black, dissipating smoke. My mother would then lay her head upon her pillow and the smoking candle would be soon forgotten.
For hours I would lie alone, staring at the bright night’s sky. I would lose myself in the stars, the countless shining beacons of hope, of life. When lost in the stars, the rules binding us to this Earth are forgotten, anything is possible. It is under those stars, lost in their beauty and deception, that I witnessed the destruction of the most beautiful of all the great beacons. I witnessed the brightest star fade into blackness.
The grass was cool upon my back, the air was crisp and the stars were bright. The constellation of the princess, Andromeda, was visible that night. I stared longingly at the stars, wishing that they would call to me and allow me to escape the unfair world that I inhabited. I traced the stars with my eyes.
‘Charlie,’ whispered the wind, ‘Charlie, come to me.’
I sat up and looked for the source of the voice. The yard was empty, the house was dark, my mother asleep and the stars bright.
‘Charlie,’ the voice said, ‘you know where I am, come to me.’
I slowly raised my head to gaze again at the princess of the stars. I had hoped with all my heart that I was right, even though my hope was far-fetched. Hope became joy, as the princess extended a celestial hand from the night’s sky. As the hand made contact with my body, my vision blurred and turned to white.
I awoke to the cackling of an old lady. ‘Oh, I fooled you, boy,’ she laughed, ‘I fooled you. The same as all of your predecessors. You are the same.’
My vision swam as I tried to sit up. ‘Where… Where am I?’ I asked.
‘You are in the celestial tower of the Crone, boy, you do not get to ask me questions.’
‘Where is the princess?’ I asked.
‘I said no questions,’ she snapped, ‘silly little boy.’ The Crone continued her cackling, it appeared as though she was preparing something in the corner of the room. I glanced around, taking in the great hall and its starry interior. Suspended in cages above me were skeletons of small humans. I suppressed a shiver and instead looked to the single shining star in an alcove. The star flickered, as if it were a lamp with a faulty globe.
On, off, on, off, on.
‘Oh, so you’ve noticed it have you?’ The Crone laughed, ‘That there is the most precious of all stars. Well, to you at least.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Are you hard of hearing, boy?’ She asked, ‘Or slow of mind? I said no questions, everything shall become clear soon enough.’ The Crone began to sing a tune, whilst continuing her fiddling in her corner.
I had to get out of there. The crazy celestial hag looked as though she planned to eat me, I was trapped in her house, my only company skeletons, and I had a strange feeling about the star, the way it flickered from shining gold to the blackest of blacks.
On, off, on, off, on.
‘Oh, I fooled the boy. Oh, yes I did. Oh, I fooled the boy. Oh, he will do as I bid. Oh, I fooled the boy,’ the Crone sang.
All I could do was sit, listening to the old hag sing her twisted, unsettling song and watch the star.
On, off, on, off.
It stopped. The star didn’t return to golden light, an ominous sign.
‘Oh, I beat the boy. Beat, beat, beat. Oh, I fooled the boy. Time to eat,’ she let her voice trail off. The Crone turned to me, knife in hand, malicious grin painted upon her wrinkled, old face.
‘Are you ready, boy?’ She asked, ‘are you ready to serve? The same as those who have come before you, you are,’ she licked her lips.
‘You can’t eat me,’ I stated defiantly. Unfortunately my voice cracked, betraying my false sense of confidence. This evoked a hearty cackle from the old Crone, a sound that sent shivers down my spine.
‘Oh, but I beat you fair and square,’ she said, ‘and the only way I could let you go is if that star turns to black.’ She pointed to the star in the alcove.
‘No, how can this be? This has never happened before!’
The Crone’s scream tore the very fabric of my supposed existence, it cut through the starry surroundings of the hall. My vision went white.
I awoke once again upon my back. Above me was the night’s sky, only this time it was different. The whole sky was filled with stars, creating a sheet of golden light. That is, except for the one point directly above me. There was one black spot, as if a star were missing.
Ma, come quick,’ I called, ‘the stars are out, the stars!’
I ran back into the house. But I was not met with the usual look of contempt. Rather, I was met with a stillness so thick and so silent that I was afraid to move.
‘Ma? Ma, what’s wrong?’
That was the night my brightest star turned to black.