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Fiction Speculative

The next star would come tomorrow night. She'd be glowing and blazing hot, leaving a streak of light as she raced towards Earth. I had spent my entire month calculating everything – where she would land, how fast she would go based off the previous one, what she would look like, and if she was going to be like the enormous dazzling one last month that barreled towards the planet with insane speed.


Celestia Meda was the one that would be showing up, according to my sleepless and food less hours of projections and data estimates. She was one of the largest shooting stars in history and for all I knew, nobody else was aware she was the one making her way here tomorrow. Except Phoebus.


My maps and hard month’s work were spread out on the rectangular glass table in my basement where Phoebus sat looking at them, head cocked and covered by shaggy brown hair. He was fifteen, angular, and almost passing me in height. My apprentice but also my son, even though not by blood.


“Mentor, according to the coordinates, Celestia Meda will land near Farago Ocean?” he asked, staring at me with eager steel-colored eyes.


I nodded my head and rested the half cup of coffee that had gone cold in my hands down on the table. “You’ve got it. If everything goes right, you should be there tomorrow night ready to catch her.”


He grinned and turned his attention back to the papers, bouncing his knees. “I don’t want to miss it again.”


I knew what the pain felt like, being this close to wrapping your hand around the fiery ball of light only for it to rush past you, grazing your skin and leaving you with the painful reminder that you could have been a star catcher but you weren’t skilled or prepared enough. When you saw somebody else grab it and receive the effects, it made your soul ache and was something you wouldn’t forget – a reason why we waited until potential star catchers were at least ten before they began.


I scooted next to him and sat down. “I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy. It isn’t, especially when you have several others that want the same…” I trailed off, not wanting to accept that I was one of those people.


I was only a little older than Phoebus when I began training for star catching. I missed it the first time at seventeen and went through a heartbreak so intense I couldn’t eat or sleep for days and when I had to relieve the hunger pains that were tearing my stomach apart, it was only a small bite of the leftover rolls my mother had baked the previous evening. I went through more, failing again and again, and growing weaker, until I gave up entirely.


I wasn’t sure what had piqued my interest all these years later but I gave in and researched like I was being held hostage and forced to. And it was a shame to admit that Phoebus had been on the back of my mind during the entire thing.


“But?” he asked.


“Oh." I remembered my unfinished sentence. "But nothing is impossible. I have a good feeling about this.” I patted his back and ruffled his hair, a feeble attempt at raising his hopes and convincing myself that I was still a decent person and a good mentor.


“Me too. I’ve practically memorized everything we’ve went over so far.”


“Everything?”


“Yes. From the global address to the best technique to use.” He could hardly sit still. He rapped his fingers against the floor and smiled so wide his eyes looked closed.


Since I became his mentor and when he was old enough to try catching a shooting star, I never did it along with him. It was the period of time where I had accepted that star catching wasn’t something I’d be able to do. I didn't want to take this from him and I could only hope he’d smile and applaud me for also seeking Celestia Meda, though I was aware it was like wanting to wake up and find yourself in a mansion surrounded by designer bags and stacks of money.


I glanced at him. He was laying on his back on the floor, his hair covering his eyes and a small smile still lingering on his lips. I looked at the way his fingers still tapped the floor while the rest of his body was still. Catching a shooting star was the kind of thing that you put your heart, mind, and soul into and once you got it, you knew you could die any second and it would be alright. This was enormous for him. I wanted to catch her but he was my apprentice and this was his training. I had to give him that much.


“Get up. We’ve mostly focused on strategy and data but not physical strength.”


He opened his eyes and rolled over, looking at me like I'd sprouted two horns. “Mentor, forgive me for doubting you, but it’s tomorrow night. There’s no time to build physical strength. I just have to put in everything else I learned.”


He was right but I shook my head. “No. If you want to sail the skies and grip that shooting star, you have got to be stronger than how you are now.”


He got up and vigorously scratched his head, a habit he’d built when he was stressed. It didn't happen often. “Why tell me now? Why tell me when I feel ready?”


I stood and went to reheat my coffee, ignoring the thin film that had developed on the top. “It hit me just now, Phoebus. I think that’s why I missed when I used to try catching the shooting stars. When my calculations were right, it was my weakness that caused it to bounce off my hand and fall into another’s.”


Phoebus slumped against the couch and covered his head with his arms. “So that's it? Mentor, I can’t bulk up in one day.”


“Celestia waits for no one. We’ll do what we can.”


****


Afternoon fell into evening which melted into the crisp inky night. Phoebus was holding a flame.


“Mentor, please.” He called out to me, but I only stared at him. A shooting star would hurt more than a flame dancing on a backyard stick.


“Keep going. There’s no way you’ll be ready for Celestia Meda if this hurts you that bad. You’ll drop her and she’ll fall into somebody else’s hands. Somebody else who can handle the heat.”


It was agonizing watching him suffer, seeing his teeth gnash together and his body quiver and writhe in pain. I'd had enough and was about to allow him to drop it, but he did it himself. He chucked it on the ground and dropped to his knees with a howl so powerful, I almost released one, too.


“Phoebus.” I lowered myself and laid a hand on him, hoping it would be at least the slightest comfort.


He broke apart his hands and flipped them over palm side facing upwards. The soft hands that held mine when they needed support and consolation were now scalded, red, and patches of skin were missing. “Mentor, it only takes a little bit of love to have let me drop the flame. I can’t hold Celestia Meda with messed up hands." He looked at me, mouth hanging open. "How could you even do that?”


I could only pour the pitcher of cold water that had been on the ground over his hands and try to cough up an answer that wouldn’t make me seem pathetic.


“Catching her is important to us but it clouded my vision. I’m sorry Phoebus, and I have more than a little love for you.”


“The question remains of whether or not I’ll soar and sail the skies to catch her. Did you think about that before you put me through this, mentor?”


His hands were dry and burnt but he didn’t look like he was in as much pain as he’d been in before. I got up and went inside the house to grab materials to patch him up. I didn’t answer him because I knew my answer was selfish. Burnt hands wouldn’t stop him from catching Celestia Meda. All that work wasn’t for nothing.


****


The only things audible in the 10 p.m. silence were our ragged breathing and uneven footsteps. Phoebus’s hair was tied back in a short bun and he never once stopped wiggling his fingers and opening and closing his fists. I did the same.


We didn’t sleep well last night and met each other in the kitchen, where the real need took over our conversation and told us what he needed to know and had to hear.


“It’s like I can feel it. This is going to be mine. I sense her.”


Tightlipped but proud, I said, “That’s right. Use that to your advantage.”


He was still angry at me and I knew that if he wasn’t going to catch Celestia Meda, I was going to take the full blame. But if he didn’t, I would. I wasn't the good guy either way.


We walked under the dark sky freckled with the small twinkling dots and I glanced at the compass every two minutes, stepping over the prickly bushes. The one minute I skipped was the one where Phoebus came to a sudden halt.


“We’re here.”


Farago Ocean was ten meters away from where we stood on the grassy area. It overlooked the dark sea that held the moon in its rippling waves. I doubled checked and the coordinates were right. I trusted my judgement and calculations, but in the cold night where the breeze tickled the back of my neck and bit at my ear, I began to sweat.


“This is really happening,” I heard Phoebus mumble.


Staring at the large expanse of navy blue, it chucked me back into the time where I was a boy with the hopes and the dreams of catching a shooting star and back to the time where I decided that I couldn’t do it anymore. Yet, here I was standing next to my apprentice and feeling the same thing I felt back when I was seventeen.


We stood there, gazing up at the sky, ignoring the few people we’d seen who had set up farther down the area. We kept standing as the sky darkened and the small stars shone brighter. And remained standing, necks craned and eyes hoping to catch any sight of her, even after the other people farther down had gotten their things and left. Optimism crumbled like a house of cards when we looked at our watches ticking towards one a.m.


Slowly, like feeling yourself losing consciousness, my heart began to sink. My calculations…they weren't right. I glanced at Phoebus who sat down on the grass with a frown so hopeless, I wanted to tear up everything and head back home. I pursed my lips and took a step toward him. “Phoebus-” But then that was when I saw it.


The one star that shone brighter than all the others. The one that was moving. The one that had a twitch so miniscule I thought I was making things up. But it sped up and I saw it was the one – the big ball of light rushing towards Earth.


Phoebus got up and he was already soaring. His feet lifted and his concentration was so intense, it looked like his face would break if he focused on anything else. He could be a star catcher. I knew that; he was my apprentice and my son. But so could I.


I felt myself lift. Looking down, I noticed how I flailed my feet – I was scared. It'd been too long. But Celestia Meda was calling me.


She came closer and she was ablaze and rapid. She whizzed past somebody who was trying to catch her. I held my trembling arm out, begging her to fall in. Phoebus’s determination didn’t go unnoticed. Brighter and faster she got, charging at us with a quickness so fierce, I was beginning to feel dizzy. The world spun and it felt like I was being aggressively rotated. "C'mon..." I whispered.


"Mentor, what are you-" Phoebus shouted. I knew that after, things would be stiff and awkward, and I forced myself to refrain from responding to him and trying to soften things now.


I glanced down and saw that we were above the sea. I gasped and looked back up. She was right there, barreling towards me like she wanted me to seize her scorching body. I reached my hand out despite feeling myself start to shut down.


I was suspended for a few seconds and then dropped, plummeting for the ocean. She shot past my falling body, an enormous raging shooting star breaking me once again. I let myself be thrown into the sea, but not before I saw Phoebus grit his teeth, stick out his hand, and grasp her.

December 05, 2020 03:54

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4 comments

Sundaran .
06:52 Dec 11, 2020

Wow...the whole concept of star-catching and riding the skies, how did you come up with that? The mentor's ego and obsession was well presented implicitly in his actions. Overall, great imagination and a good read. Well done

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Aveena Bordeaux
16:19 Dec 11, 2020

Thank you, thank you! I'm glad i did a good job showing the bad side of the mentor. Thanks for the feedback Sundaran!!

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Kathryn D
04:15 Dec 10, 2020

Oh my gosh!! I love the world you've created and the build-up to the ending was SOO GOOD. I especially loved the line, "Celestia waits for no one. We'll do what we can." Please write more stuff about star-catchers this was AMAZING and SO interesting to read.

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Aveena Bordeaux
16:38 Dec 10, 2020

Thank you so so much for the feedback, Kathryn!! You're too kind!

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