Outliving the Constellations

Submitted into Contest #67 in response to: Write about a pirate captain obsessed with finding a mythical treasure.... view prompt

51 comments

Fiction Adventure Drama

New Moon

Taran taught me to interpret the stars when I was only five. He tickled my elbows and matched my fingers to the loose stitches of the sky like puzzle pieces. I laughed when he traced Ursa Major, the wingless creature following his hand in circles. 

He even let me swing from his limbs like a twisting vine and dig my heels into his angled shoulder blades. I got the best view and covered his cratered eyes, pretending we weren’t parentless. He is not my brother—we are not related—but he holds my hand until I fall asleep. 

It’s not all breathless with Taran and the rest of the crew. We imagine the waves kissing our ankles once in a while. But there’s something about seeing sails pointing in the wrong direction that I’ll never forget. We are not pirates by the mind but pirates by the soul. We are nomads with pockets full of items that never travel northwards from our grasp. 


Waxing Crescent 

Taran gifted me this journal for my birthday. We have birthdays but they are not scheduled on thick lines with melted candles. Last New Moon, Taran decided it was time for me to have another birthday so I got the journal and hadn’t had a chance to use it until now. 

This journal has a soft leather cover that sweeps under my fingertips and many fresh pages that flutter like wings. On the cover there is Orion, my favorite constellation. He is brave and strong with his arrow. I am not a writer but this looks like the kind of expensive notebook that poets carry around. My friend Heath is a poet but he doesn’t waste time scribbling his art on pages. He blurts it aloud and I can see the block-lettered words in the air for just a moment until the wind whips them away and the sparkle retreats from his eye. 


First Quarter

New items are rare in my crew. We are pirates, we steal. Taran has individually trained each of us to gather the materials we need to survive. And then once that’s done we leave the town with a trail of rusted springs and bouquets of deep violet forget-me-nots. Taran says someday we’ll be rich enough to buy a house where all of us can live. For now, we’re still on the run. 

Today we arrived at a new town. It is quaint and inland with kiwis and grapes as a borderline. My crew and I do not fly on magic carpets but rather in a dented van. It’s blind from the sun but still functions and so that’s what we ride in as we pull up to the town. 

Taran warns us about the muscled men and how far they’ll go just to stop some petty pickpockets. He frowns and decides to wait until morning. 


Waxing Gibbous 

Tonight the moon tricks Taran. He says it is a Full Moon but that’s not true. When I told him it was only a Waxing Gibbous with my hands touching the sky, he cried and laughed at the same time. Under my hand, I could feel the sky with its milky, cloud-like consistency and the moon where my fingertips get caught in the holes. 

The stars are swelling tonight. They blur because we focus on the horizon and not on their beauty. Taran sits next to me with his tears and I use his big hand to track down Polaris, the star that faces the North. He says we’ll be escaping to the South in three days, and I look in the opposite direction. It seems dark and cold but whatever he says goes. 


Full Moon

I don’t think the stars should hide in the daytime. The sky is a tattered blanket protecting them like a mother figure. We don’t have mothers in our crew. The stars are our mothers and the horizon is our direction. 

Today we’re going into town. Taran tells us to spread out but pinches my wrist when I try to walk away. He leads me onto a bustling street that’s decorated with cobwebs and plastic bottles. A woman glides towards us with a red, frizzy purse at her side. Taran shoves me at her and apologises, peering deep into her muddy eyes. Once she scurries away, I twiddle my thumbs and Taran whispers a haiku about the clouds. Then he laughs when I produce the woman’s wallet and her sunglasses. 

“You did good,” he tells me, but I’m not sure. 


Waning Gibbous

Taran gathers us in the grass. It’s slick and wet like the Earth’s tongue but we don’t mind. It grows in between our fingers and I notice everyone is faceless and silent. He demands we show him the items. 

I produce the wallet and the sunglasses. Taran reveals a gold ring from his pocket. The rest of the crew has trinkets like bracelets and marbles. Heath doesn’t have anything in his hands but Taran doesn’t yell because he is gentle today. 

The stolen goods glint in the night and I can feel the stars burning a frown onto my back. They are my guardians and I’ve disappointed them. Taran can sense my cheeks shading red so he takes the items. We shouldn’t get attached to shiny trinkets that’ll be gone the next day. 


Third Quarter

“Boy! What do you think you’re doing?” 

Nails run along my arms and they bleed rivers. The seams of my shirt snap and suddenly my filthy twig-like body is exposed. The man swings his fist and it collides with my nose. More blood. My fingers are peeled away like stickers from the candy bar and my heart rattles in my chest. 

Taran rushes in at that moment. His face is collected but his eyes are darting around in their sockets. He grabs at the man’s shorts and is only slightly startled when the man breathes heavily in his face. 

Taran’s voice is an octave higher as he explains it was all just a dare. I’m his brother and he’d give the man his father’s contact to discuss punishments. I’m wondering how believable our false father’s phone number is going to be but the man nods and we leave. There are bells on the door and they chime. 


Waning Crescent

Taran’s face is carved in stone. There are tear-stains and red tracks on my face but nobody talks about it. We all sit in the van, thinking about the cracked windows and flat tires. 

I leave and crawl onto the hood of the van. Diagonal lines criss cross along my forearms. I trace them. I trace the stars. 

Tomorrow we are leaving and traveling South. Away from Polaris and Ursa Major. The stars wink in my direction and so I draw triangles onto the sky. Some are permanent and others aren’t. My eyelids are heavy. When we arrive at the next town it won’t be a New Moon, that’s for sure. 

I hate how life repeats itself. The sky hovers above me with all its eyes. The stars are watching. They always are, and I've known that since I was five.

November 11, 2020 01:15

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51 comments

Zilla Babbitt
21:06 Nov 11, 2020

There is so much I love about this story. The telling time by moon cycles, the pirates, the poets, the old van. My only critique is to play up the pirate-van-poet thing, really highlight that they're wanderers in a creaky van who write poetry and draw constellations. Be sure the reader knows the connection of pirates and poets. Great job. I can't believe you haven't been at least shortlisted yet. Keep it up!

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Scout Tahoe
21:16 Nov 11, 2020

Thank you so much, really. I'm so glad you liked it because I definitely do not. I'll fix the story and make it clearer, yes they aren't actually pirates but they think of themselves as them. Haha, perhaps someday someone will adore my work like you do. :) By the way, I am sending prayers. I hope you test negative! Reedsy is nothing without you. <3

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Zilla Babbitt
21:20 Nov 11, 2020

You're welcome! It's always refreshing when someone finds a new way to break up stories, whether with letters, emojis, or the cycles of the moon. And thanks so much! I hope so too :)

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Scout Tahoe
21:34 Nov 11, 2020

Thanks. ;)

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Phoebe Barr
03:30 Nov 15, 2020

This is wonderful! You have a real way with words, the phrasing here flows like water. It's the kind of story that feels really nice to read aloud. Plus, the flowing nature of it contributes to your themes of repetition and cycle. Thanks for writing this and sharing with us!

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Scout Tahoe
04:23 Nov 15, 2020

Thank you so much for reading! I’m glad you liked it. Hopefully you’ll be more active?

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Scout Tahoe
01:17 Nov 11, 2020

Look, I know this is plotless and incomplete and whatever you want to call it. I don’t like it either. Please, please leave feedback. Thank you for stopping by. This is for Skip and he knows it. May he forever rest in the stars.

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Roger Meachem
14:17 Nov 12, 2020

A story like this works so well, I think, because there's a minimum of explanation and the reader can begin to piece together all the clues. (Of course, it has to have interesting clues to pull the reader forward- which you do provide). It also works for me, because of your language: 'And then once that’s done we leave the town with a trail of rusted springs and bouquets of deep violet forget-me-nots.' Now here, we only understand 'rusted springs' once we know they're travelling in a rusty old van - which is why it's the interest you provoke...

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Scout Tahoe
14:31 Nov 12, 2020

Thank you so much for the lengthy comment because it made me look at this story in ways I hadn't before. I'm glad you like my style and language and descriptions. Hm, that book you mentioned, M Bank's "Feersum Endjijn" sounds intriguing. I'll have to look it up and give it a try. I wasn't thinking of turning this into a novel, just keeping it short and wandering. Yes, the stars are always disappointed but I wasn't sure if it was clear so I added that. Should I change it? Taran wasn't supposed to be an important character in my mind, but ...

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Roger Meachem
16:00 Nov 12, 2020

Sounds as if you write in a similar fashion to many of us - begin with a seed idea and watch it germinate. Yes, characters do grow in ways you least expect and if this was to turn into a series, I expect Taran would be a really interesting character. Your story is visual imo and could make a good short film. (I've no experience here - it just seems to be good material.) Re the stars. That's hard. It would be so easy to make this mawkish - you avoid that so far, but hiding stars is steering close. (Again - all this in my humble (Uriah Heepish...

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Scout Tahoe
16:37 Nov 12, 2020

Haha, I've no experience or plans to make this something bigger than it already is. :) Sci-Fi is not usually my genre but I'll add his book to the list. Thanks again!

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Jeffrey Pope
08:59 Nov 12, 2020

You know how I love my reads? Slow, steady, and descriptive. And this piece has everything I look out for in a story. Great work Scout.

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Scout Tahoe
12:50 Nov 12, 2020

Thank you, Jeffrey.

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Jeffrey Pope
17:38 Nov 12, 2020

Please do check my writing under this week's prompt. I'd appreciate a feedback, or a positive criticism.

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Scout Tahoe
18:05 Nov 12, 2020

I’ll try but I’m quite busy nowadays... I’d love to read your work.

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Mia S
21:09 Nov 11, 2020

Wow, this is amazing. I know all my comments for your stories probably sound similar, but that's just cause they're all so freakin great. You've improved a lot as a writer even in the short amount of time I've been on this website, and for that I applaud you. I loved how you broke this one up into the phases of the moon. It is not the lowest of the low, it is very poetic :) It doesn't feel incomplete, and incompleteness is good anyway. That's just how life works - things are never over. Everything will always be incomplete. Sorry for goi...

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Scout Tahoe
21:22 Nov 11, 2020

Thank you, Mia. Not philosophical, just realistic, haha. Now, please post your story that I know is sitting there in your Google Doc, lonely and waiting for something more. :)

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Mia S
21:49 Nov 11, 2020

haha, working on it ;D

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Rachel Macmorran
20:22 Nov 15, 2020

hot damn. that's some writing. So very much to love about this. It's wild and child-like and true. My favorite: "My friend Heath is a poet but he doesn’t waste time scribbling his art on pages. He blurts it aloud and I can see the block-lettered words in the air for just a moment until the wind whips them away and the sparkle retreats from his eye." Daggers. The only critique I have is the last bit, "I hate how life repeats itself." It's the first time the boy offers an opinion, and I suspect you did that on purpose. But I feel like it may ...

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Scout Tahoe
20:29 Nov 15, 2020

Thank you so much, Rachel. I'm flattered. I'm also sorry because my story just got approved this morning but I'll make sure to include your suggestions in upcoming stories. I do like how you rephrased the sentence. Thanks again!

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Rachel Macmorran
20:36 Nov 15, 2020

I'd appreciate a critique from you if you have the time. Um. My latest story is VERY different from your style, but perhaps that's just what I need? Thanks.

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Scout Tahoe
20:39 Nov 15, 2020

Sure! I'll be over as soon as possible.

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12:17 Nov 15, 2020

I think what made this so special was the subtle way you pulled the readers in. Pirates of the soul? Beautiful. I liked this a lot. Perhaps someday, I'd like to hear you explain why Taran didn't shout when a member of the crew brought nothing. You say he was gentle. Is he not always gentle? You know how much I love Taran.

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Scout Tahoe
14:29 Nov 15, 2020

Thank you, Abigail. You’re so kind. Some questions will remain unanswered. ;)

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Lina Oz
23:50 Nov 11, 2020

I definitely don't think this is plotless/incomplete as you note in your comment! Honestly, this story is awesome. I feel like it's both simple but really intricate at the same time and I'm amazed that you've achieved that. I love the structure of the piece with the cycles of the moon; super cool, and a really unique way to engage with this prompt. Plus, it's just so lyrical and beautiful. The tiniest of edits: The sky is a tattered blanket and is protecting them like a mother figure. --Maybe: The sky is a tattered blanket protecti...

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Scout Tahoe
01:11 Nov 12, 2020

Thank you so much. I'll fix the two edits as best I can. Your critique is so valuable and I'm glad you caught me before the contest ended so I can actually edit the story. I'm glad you love it!

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Genevieve Taylor
21:12 Nov 11, 2020

SCOUTTT I love this story so much I don't think you understand. Your mastery of the English language is completely foreign to me. How do you write like this?!?? It's incredible. Everytime I read something by you, it blows me away, but this story especially. The sentences worked together perfectly, and I could not find a fault with the writing in this. I always love stories about pickpockets, and I think this was a fantastic take on this prompt. Great work!!! -Genevieve

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Scout Tahoe
21:20 Nov 11, 2020

Vieve―is that you? Are you back? Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh! Thank you so much. I hope you're posting soon...?

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Genevieve Taylor
21:23 Nov 11, 2020

Yes! It's me lol. And yes, I should be posting later today!

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☆ Ariadne ☆
05:28 Nov 11, 2020

Ack!!! Scout!!! Why must you do this to my fragile heart? This is by far my favorite story of yours I have read to date. Seriously. The sky and the sea are my weakness. Something about them being beautiful for everyone, without judgment, just because that's how they're meant to be resonates with me. It gives me hope, strength, and tells me to keep going. To shine and sparkle like the stars, to be strong and gentle like the ocean. I'll stop now because I won't be able to stop, but you get the idea. It's no surprise that my fingers m...

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Scout Tahoe
15:17 Nov 12, 2020

I'm so sorry--I didn't see this until I was actually looking at my story's comments. Forgive me, long-lost queen! Thank you so much for reading. Everyone likes this story so much more than I do and it's crazy. Also, doesn't everyone have some special connection to nature in one way or another? About the title: I understand you like it but I came up with another idea. What about "To the Moon and Back." I haven't asked anyone else and if you say it's better than the current one, there's like a 50% chance I'll change it. What do you think? ...

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☆ Ariadne ☆
20:18 Nov 12, 2020

Not a problem! I've had the same issue too many times to count. Too many notifications=missed comments. All the time. It gets tiring to get through them all haha Honestly, you should have replied, like, a week later. Just like I did on our little scheming board -- I'm so sorry about that! I have replied, though. It's quite long. :) Too true. And no, this story deserves all the likes in the world. I personally like "Outliving the Constellations" more, but do whichever you like.

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Scout Tahoe
21:28 Nov 12, 2020

Hey Ria! Come on the doc. ;) I won't change the title and thank you for your opinion.

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☆ Ariadne ☆
00:09 Nov 13, 2020

No problem! You can change the title if you want, I don't mean to force you into keeping it. It's your story, your rules.

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R. K.
01:20 Nov 11, 2020

No words. None that you'd understand anyway, unless you understand the hidden language of the stars? You. did. it. again. Gosh, now I'm looking for listings on the moon. This is now my all time favourite since, ATTTCF. I have soulmates, spirit animals, kindred spirits, souls sisters. But now I have a soul story, so thanks. Stars are literally my obsession, that and the sea. I'm not going to bother saying it deserves to a shortlist because anyone with any amount of passion can see that for themselves.

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Scout Tahoe
01:29 Nov 11, 2020

Wow, thank you so much, Ru. You are so kind and your comments make my eyes water. I'm glad it's your new favorite, really.

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Zinnia Hansen
01:13 Nov 20, 2020

This story reads like poetry, full exquisite, slightly non sequitur imagery. (I mean that in the best possible way) I got a whooshing sensation in both my heart and my gut when I read this. Simply beautiful.

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Scout Tahoe
02:46 Nov 20, 2020

Thank you so much. This comment made my day.

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Zinnia Hansen
03:43 Nov 20, 2020

Your story made mine:)

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Scout Tahoe
03:56 Nov 20, 2020

Aw, so glad to hear.

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K. Antonio
14:36 Nov 15, 2020

I think breaking up the story using the lunar cycle is actually really nice and interesting, not something commonly scene, so KUDOS to you. I liked the poetic language (and I have said this before on previous works of writing), that it doesn't always work all the time. I think Claire pointed out some sentences that could be reworded. I like the characters, this lingering line between poetry and the pirates (that aren't really pirates), but I still do think that the story could be longer, because it is a bit short and could have a lot...

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Scout Tahoe
14:43 Nov 15, 2020

Haha, I’m so sorry. I’m not laughing at you just the irony of this situation. My story got approved like five minutes ago. But of course I’ll try my best next time. Thank you so much. I agree, while I was writing it I thought about dialog and the way I sneak it in now is awkward. Thanks again.

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10:22 Nov 13, 2020

It's a beautiful story. Sorry I didn't come sooner. You know how much I like Taran and the effortless way he makes the protag feel at home. I like the simple lines you've woven in here, makes it beautiful and powerful and right. I love this so much.

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Scout Tahoe
14:19 Nov 13, 2020

Thank you so much, Abi. And please get well soon.

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Claire Lindsey
05:09 Nov 13, 2020

I absolutely love this story! You have a real talent for prose; the imagery is so rich and your tone is well-curated and poetic. The way you tie everything together with the theme of the stars and the lunar cycle works really well. I love that your characters are all little urchin-poets, it’s such a fun and magical idea that reminds me a bit of a Peter Pan trope, but better! I have a couple suggestions, feel free to take or leave them: “The sky is a tattered blanket protecting them like a mother figure.” I’d change the wording a b...

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Scout Tahoe
14:18 Nov 13, 2020

Thank you so much, Claire, you're so kind. I'll try my best to find and replace those clunky sentences in my story. I appreciate you spotting those. ;)

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B. W.
05:00 Nov 11, 2020

Hm, i think that this was a really great story and that you did a really great job with it as well ^^ I don't have much to say to be honest but this does get a 10/10 from me :)

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Scout Tahoe
05:02 Nov 11, 2020

Aw, thanks!

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B. W.
05:03 Nov 11, 2020

No problem ^^ if its alright with you, I also just got a new story out and I was wondering if ya could check out "Sweet revenge" and leave some critique/feedback on it?

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Scout Tahoe
05:36 Nov 11, 2020

Sure! I'm busy but I'll be over as soon as possible.

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B. W.
05:41 Nov 11, 2020

alright thanks ^^

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