Medina gazed out the open window into their new starlit world, Lillian at her side, waiting impatiently. Sighing, Medina closed the window and attended to Lillian’s cluttered papers strewn all over their shared room.
“I never asked you to pick up my papers,” Lillian murmured, still tapping her toe impatiently. “I asked you to take me on the main deck!” Lillian spoke a little louder, arms crossed in defiance. Medina placed the messy papers on her desk and slipped on her shoes as slowly as she could muster. Then, she took Lillian’s hand and guided her up two landings, past the maintenance workers and onto the main deck.
Eagerly, Lillian broke free of Medina’s grasp and pressed her binoculars to the thin layer of glass separating them from the void.
“There aren’t any birds in space Lillian.” Medina tried to chide her younger sister into submission, but Lillian kept her eyes on the empty sky, not moving from her spot on deck.
“I can see them, but you can’t!” Lillian fingered an oval-shaped rock strung around her neck longingly, from the adventures they’d been on into the void before. Annoyed, Medina left her sister and walked along the main deck until she was at the opposite side, where there was a small door leading to the emptiness for small repairs to their pod. Medina stood close to the glass, her breath fogging up the clear substance. Bored, she drew a small smiley face on the edges, attempting to keep herself busy until Lillian was done with her bird-watching session.
One day, the moon will sink below the stars to greet you around the world...we’ll dance and sing and explore the world from end to end… Medina hummed herself a song that Dante used to sing on the pod’s radio. He used to sing of the moon and the stars, exploring mountains, but Medina couldn’t ask him about the void anymore. There were new rules, new customs, and places she wasn't allowed to go near.
“Lady Esmeralda! E sectors aren’t allowed to be here. They’re on a shift change at the dressing hall today.”
Medina jumped in shock upon hearing her real name, remembering Lillian all alone on the main deck where she wasn’t supposed to be. She sped past the guard, hoping her and her sister would be at the dressing hall before their parents noticed, but it was Lillian who found Medina, tugging on her sleeve.
“Medina look! I found them! The birds!” She clapped her hands with glee as Medina led her down to their shift change location, but the smile instantly vanished as Lillian checked her pockets.
“Oh no Medina! We have to go back!” Medina ignored her sister’s pleas until Lillian yanked her arm angrily. “My binoculars are up there; we have to go back for them!” Lillian pouted miserably and slumped against the stairs, rooted to the spot. Medina couldn’t care less about Lillian. She had to get to the e-sector before their parents found out they’d been venturing out on the main deck. Then, the minute when Medina looked away, Lillian started to run towards the main deck.
“Wait; Lillian!” Medina shouted, but Lillian didn’t stop running. Medina tore through the door to find Lillian peeking out of the glass with her binoculars, a sheepish grin on her face.
“Lady Esmeralda, you must go down-” Medina shoved the guardsman against the glass, running for her sister.
“Look Medina! I told you there were birds!” Lillian removed her binoculars to reveal a flaming red bird with golden wings drifting by their pod like it was perfectly natural for it to fly near the void. Medina gasped, struggling to control her excitement. They both pressed their palms against the glass, wanting to stay there forever, entranced by the gold blur, gliding gracefully from side to side, but the guardsman was still lying, sprawled on the floor. He rose from the ground slowly, keeling over, using his hands to stand up as he slipped. The guard fell, pushing the door into the void open. Immediately, helmets and protective gear latched itself onto Medina and Lillian, launching them into the empty void.
“Medina?” Lillian shook Medina awake, staring into her eyes curiously. The red, golden-winged bird was still flying, hovering in mid-air. Medina opened her own eyes to look into Lillian’s, then closed them again. When she finally realized what had happened, Medina sat upright, looking at her partners for a while before the golden-winged bird flew deep into the void.
Lillian turned to look at Medina for instructions as Medina watched the pod stay right where it was for a long time. Thoughtfully, Medina watched the bird vanish slowly from sight, and decided to follow it, right as it neared a corner.
Chuso came back a little earlier than usual from his trips out to the Border, landing right on Nellie’s shoulder at half moon. The market had been open for some time, but something was off and Nellie knew it. Without excusing herself, she pushed away from her crew meeting and breathed in the sweet smells of the void’s open-air marketplace. Nellie hummed a tune to her favorite chantey, giving chuso an affectionate pat on his head. A dry feeling hung about the morning that Nellie didn’t particularly enjoy, sending her to relive memories she felt nauseous about. A town filled with abandoned hopes tarnished lives that the Cove has taken from our void market. They heed to understand; pirates of the living sea, stealing they shall breathe.
Nellie sat on a patch of grass, fingering a picture of her brother longingly, remembering the days they would spend playing, nights exploring the cove together until he got taken away. Nellie gathered Chuso in her lap, watching the sky change colors over the marketplace like it was a sign from him himself. Chuso squawked and Nellie smiled.
“My little golden-winged angel.”
The colors above the market spiraled into an everlasting blend of patterns, while a photograph lay underneath, a young man’s face surrounded by lit candles. Nellie sat in front of the picture solemnly, salty tears mixing in with a small smile etched on her face. Chuso pecked at the dirt beside her as Nellie gazed upward into the array of bright stars. She stood up, brushing off the dirt from her skirt and picking up a straw basket.
“Come now Chuso. We have to get bread from the market.” Wistfully, Nellie began her walk into the marketplace, silently whispering a happy birthday to her departed brother.
Marcus groaned under his breath, leaping across the low-placed fence. His head hammered as loudly as his heart, but he kept running, easily slipping into the jostling crowd of Void marketplace. The girl who had been following him broke out into a sprint, shouting at the top of her lungs.
“I can’t let you steal our money!”
Marcus stumbled over a tree root and clutched his box firmly to his chest, struggling to make it to the opposite side.
“You stole something, you really did!”
Marcus didn’t bother trying to get up from where he attempted to crawl out of the crowd. He coughed, clutching his foot in pain as the girl demanded for what he had stolen, hands crossed over her hips. Suddenly, with a jab of his good leg, Marcus swept the ground out from under the girl, limping to his tiny cottage by the sound. The girl lay sprawled on the soft grass, dazed, but not ready to give up. Just as Marcus was nearing the bridge to his cottage, the girl pushed him from behind, sending both of them into the rushing water of the sound.
Marcus was engulfed by water. Water seeped through his clothes, matted his hair, and tried its best to wrench the box from his hands. All of his efforts were going to be for nothing if he drowned, but he couldn’t manage to free his legs enough to kick to the surface. Slowly, Marcus sank deeper into the murky waters, choking until he felt something grab the back of his shirt and toss him onto the boardwalk.
Miraculously, after throwing up water for a few minutes, the box was still safely in his arms, unharmed.
“Why did you try to push me?” Marcus demanded, wiping the salt off his lips.
“What did you steal from me?”
Sighing, Marcus placed his leg on a loose piece of wood, prying the box open to reveal a tiny flower wrapped inside.
“My gramma loves these flowers, and she’s sick so I wanted to get her something nice.” The girl’s expression softened as she saw the flower resting in the oblong box, clutching Marcus’s hand.
“I’m sorry I gave you such a hard time. Next time; you know you can just ask me.” Marcus felt his cheeks turn pink, but nodded in agreement as the girl spoke again. “Here. Let me make it up to you. Follow me.” The girl helped Marcus up and together, they embraced nightfall and climbed up the fire escape. On a rooftop, stars twinkled above their heads, Marcus and the girl sharing a moment, no words needed, only the comfort of the marketplace’s dazzling lights.
“Do you want to meet here tomorrow boy?” The girl asked Marcus.
“Um, sure, and my name’s Marcus.” He mumbled, watching the girl’s smiling eyes. Marcus tried to match them with his own and watched the girl expectantly.
“Oh, and my name’s Dina.” Dina. Marcus felt a spark of happiness even as he began his descent down the fire escape. He was met with a sparkling golden-feathered bird at the bottom, staring at Marcus for a while, then taking to the skies to reunite with its owner, a day full of birdwatching completed.
One day the moon will sink below the stars to greet you around the world...we’ll dance and we’ll sing and explore the world from end to end.