By the Stars

By Xรกvier G.S. Ferguson

Atla sat staring at the vast abyss of the star-filled sky. Her father was telling her a story, but there were other things on her mind. The voice seemed to echo in the wells of her mind. Thoughts even were silenced. Seeing the stars always casted her mind into a state of awe.ย 

Her father stopped talking. Atla brought her mind away from the sky, and instantly felt bad for not listening. She had to put together the bits that she had heard of her fatherโ€™s story.

โ€œWow!โ€ she said so that he wouldnโ€™t be hurt, โ€œThat was a really scary story!โ€ย 

โ€œThat was amazing,โ€ Kfir added, โ€œbut Iโ€™ve heard better.โ€

The childrenโ€™s mother, Talora, returned from the thicket, darkened with the new fallen night, armed only with her basket full of Deunei fruits, and a dim lantern. She arrived in the clearing just in time to hear the clamor of the end of another of her husband's stories. Absurd, she thought them; all this talk of diabolical monsters consuming livestock, and tormenting civilians.

โ€œTelling stories again?โ€ She asked her husband, almost cross.ย 

โ€œOnly a couple.โ€ He replied abruptly.

โ€œThatโ€™s what I thought,โ€ sitting her basket down, she said almost sarcastically โ€œHelp yourselves.โ€

Kfir took two, but everyone else only took one.

In the quiet of this moment, Atla began to ponder deeply on the words her father had spoken.ย 

โ€œIso,โ€ she said, โ€œare the Haimu real?โ€

Talora looked furiously at her husband, with a fiery intensity. He knew that he had gotten into quite a bit of trouble. He had never suspected that it would turn into a dilemma such as this. His only option was to answer his daughterโ€™s question before it was too late.

โ€œThey are not anymore.โ€ He lied, โ€œWe took care of them and there are no more.โ€

Talora stood and walked over to the children. โ€œTime for bed.โ€ she ordered. The children raced for their dwellings; they knew better than to argue. Their parents were very strict.ย 

Once she was sure that both of her children were out of earshot, she whispered to her husband:

โ€œSeeil, the children are not ready to hear this.โ€

โ€œIt is the truth.โ€

โ€œYes, but--โ€ she could not find a response.

โ€œThey deserve to know the truth.โ€

She still could not find an adequate response. โ€œWeโ€™ll talk about it later.โ€ and with these words, she left.

That night, Seeil spent hours awake, deeply regretting telling his children the story. Nightmares haunted his few sleeping hours. He thought it would be good for his mind to recall events of past wars. It did not. He wanted to be able to undo how he relived the wars of old. He had forced himself to stop thinking about it since the events had occurred. Since he was a child, he had always loved being funny. He loved telling stories that evoke emotion. He thought that this one would easily do the trick. Many times before, he had told scary stories, but to purposely recall stories of his day was brutal torture to his mind. The story itself was not even that scary. Nowhere close to worth it. His children just nodded and shrugged it off. The only thing he hoped to get out of it was to give his children a better appreciation of him. As the thoughts clamored, they gently became dreams. His dreams were still calamities, almost as wretched as his waking thoughts. But he could do nothing to control them. Everything he saw seemed ominous. Whether it was a flower or a killing machine. He was once a great warrior, and now he was full of only malevolent scars.ย No more than a farmer full of scars. Scars that could never be healed.


Seeil awoke in a cold sweat to nothing but silence.ย 

Silence and more silence.

This was extremely unusual; he always heard a midnight owl or crickets at night. He instantly knew something was wrong.


He had just had a nightmare about her. She was impaled by a Haimuโ€™s claw. Frantically, he began to search.ย 

โ€œAtla!โ€ he shouted, but his answer was almost instantly:

โ€œIโ€™m here, Iso.โ€

Seeil found her sitting on the ground, staring at the sky. She was crying.

โ€œWhatโ€™s wrong? Are you scared of the story I told you?โ€

โ€œNo.โ€ she was truthful.

Her father was disbelieving at first, but then he realized that she was in fact sitting in an open plot without protection.

โ€œWhatโ€™s wrong?โ€ he repeated,

โ€œI am sad.โ€


โ€œI donโ€™t really want to talk about it.โ€

Seeil wanted to help, but he realized that she had to let him.

โ€œOkay.โ€ he said, and began to walk away.

โ€œIso, wait!โ€


โ€œIโ€™m scared because I donโ€™t want the stars to be scared of us.โ€

This left him perplexed.

โ€œI love the starsโ€ she said in an odd, sort of dreamy voice. She broke down into harder tears, โ€œI donโ€™t want them to go!โ€

โ€œHey! Hey!โ€ he comforted her, โ€œThe stars always come back!โ€ย 

โ€œBut what if they donโ€™t? What if they get scared of us; theyโ€™re so tiny.โ€

At first, he thought this question naive, but then he realized that she had a valid point. He felt childish thinking about it, but what if the stars were alive?

โ€œThey will come back; they always do.โ€

โ€œBut what ifโ€ฆโ€

โ€œThey will! They always do! You just have to be patient. Howโ€™s this: I will wait with you until the clouds blow away.โ€

Atla smiled through her tears and nodded. Hours, they sat there and waited; there was no way to precipitate their arrival. Finally, the clouds cleared, and the stars came out again. Atla did not so much as smile, but she fell back into her state of wonder. After a period of silence, she spoke:

โ€œIso, what are stars?โ€

He wanted to answer, but he did not know.

โ€œI donโ€™t knoโ€ฆโ€ he broke off. He realized that he had the perfect answer.

โ€œIt doesnโ€™t matter what they are.โ€ he continued to stare at the sky, โ€œStars are a gift to us. One day we might figure out just what they are, but we can know only as much as we know. When the clouds cover the stars, they will come back out.โ€

Atla continued her fixed stare on the sky. โ€œThey always do.โ€

April 27, 2020 19:41

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