I am supposed to write about this year. Supposedly, putting things into words will help my mind wrap around them better. I cannot bring myself to do it, not yet. The words will not come.
Right now, the room is dark and demands a reckoning of all it has seen. Weeks of productivity, months of creative distractions, a year of trying to reconcile what I knew with what I have learned.
I know I should write about the year. Put it into words—blood and ink and truth on the page—and hope the process heals me.
Instead, I’ll write a story.
There once was a woman who hated the stars.
She knew they whispered when she passed by. They remembered everything, and kept a ledger of her misdeeds somewhere in the constellations, or the spaces between. She knew they despised her as much as she did them.
She hid from their taunts for a very long time, hiding in the shelter of the ignorant day. She lingered in the margins of fading sunlight, holding fast to the dusk. But she could not avoid the stars forever. When night came, inevitable as death, she covered her ears to blot out their shimmering voices.
She watched as they danced around the moon and she prayed for the sunrise.
One night, she grew tired of the stars and decided take matters into her own hands. She found a crystal glass, strode into the inky sky, and captured the moon. The woman should have left right then and spirited the moon away to some distant galaxy. But she lingered in the darkness where the moon had been, marveling at the way its light refracted inside the glass.
The stars did not take her thievery well. They convened at once and passed judgement from their heavens while she stood unaware, her face full of light.
The stars sentenced her to a year imprisoned on a comet, in a dark room with a single open window. They took the moon from the glass and set it once more in the sky, a bit dimmer than before. For some of its light was lost, caught in the crystal glass.
In an act of distant mercy, the stars allowed the woman to keep the glass when they placed her in the lightless cell.
For the first two months on the comet, the woman raged at the stars. She flung stardust and shards of ice into space. She screamed into the void to fill it with something. She clung to the crystal glass and its thin remnants of moonlight, the beams shining red through her fingers like stained glass.
The next three months passed in a blur. She wept. She slept. In the distance, the stars watched and waited.
The sixth and seventh month came and went almost unmarked. The room felt small and too large all at once. She worried she would lose her mind.
Starting in the eighth month, she began to trace stories in the stardust. Fantastical tales, somber memoirs, horror stories, exquisite poems she thought would be best read aloud, but she had no one to tell them to.
The stars read every story. They laughed. They cried. They fell in and out of love. They let the stories tug at them, weaving into their very existence, and they smiled at being made more whole.
By the eleventh month, the woman was out of stardust to write in and the moonlight in the crystal glass was nearly spent. She welcomed the darkness, when it came, with songs.
In final month of her imprisonment, the woman grew tired of darkness and singing. She thought of the moon with bitter tears and wondered why she had stolen it in the first place. She longed for light, any light. Even starlight.
When her year was up and the stars released her, they filled her crystal glass with more light than she could ever hope to use. They told her that, so long as she continued to tell them stories, she could traverse the entirety of space in peace.
She still does not trust the stars. Not completely. But she tells them stories and they give her light in return, which she stores in her glass for a dark day.
One day soon, she will outshine them all.
Here, at the end of a story and at heart of it all, are four walls and a door. More familiar by far than they were to me twelve months ago.
I still have not come to terms with the state of things.
A year. It is everything and it is nothing but really it’s something in between. I do not know yet if I have found more than I have lost, created more than I have destroyed.
I cannot reckon with an entire year.
I find a poem tucked away on a stardust page instead.
Tell the story
Pulled close from across the ages
Give us Knowing
In a silver cup
So we can sate our thirst
And I try
But I can write between the lines
No better than you can read them out of order
Every word in its place
Stars in their heavens
And empty spaces between
It is dark there, in those spaces
I have not been afraid of the dark for many years,
But I am afraid of yours—
Of what lurks in the deepness
Of your soul—
And that is why I try
Tell the story
I have said goodbye to friends without saying goodbye. I have closed a chapter of life without marking my page. I have lost things: light, sanity, breath. I have found them again, though not quite the same as before.
All in a single room. A wall with chipped paint by the light switch. A desk in varying states of chaos and order. An unmade bed. Silvery curtains that remind me of moonlight. My home, my fortress, my prison.
Day passing into day like waves. The world spinning on between the stars and me stuck in one place somewhere within it all. Time twisting on itself, stretching and contorting like light in a crystal glass.
A year has come and gone, and changed everything with its coming and going. I could not say if the change is for the better.
I do not want to decide, to weigh things in my balances and pass judgment on an entire year. I possess neither the wisdom nor the authority.
I can only hope to collect light enough to see.
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I really enjoyed the beginning of the tale. It's very lyrical and poetic, something personal. I enjoyed the details, the fact that the entire story is almost like a monologue or a diary entry, but laced with these little hints of wonder. It's beautiful, and I enjoyed this style and the pacing of the piece!
This piece reads like music. Seriously. Right now I'm too tired to list my interpretations, but trust me, I have a lot. Your style is simply gorgeous, and I love the way you lace in all the space-y metaphors. It's just really, really pretty.
Thank you, Ellie!
Wow, this is beautiful. You have a lovely way with words and I like the ambiguity and space you leave for personal interpretation. Really great submission!
Simply beautiful, Claire! This entire story--not just the poem--was poetic, rhythmic, creative, timeless. It's these types of stories that stick with you. I loved each section individually, too. Just a fantastic read that showcases your many talents!
What a wonderful submission. A potent concept that won't stop glittering. I can see the inside of that comet and I'll never forget it. I have a million interpretations or something like that: just floating in my own head for awhile. I love stories like that. Lot's of great lines I'm still marinating over. You definitely hit my special spot this time, Claire :)
Thank you Frances, your comment made my day!
Ah, Claire, your stories are always such incredible pieces of prose. I totally love this concept, especially the bit about storing light away in a glass. I'm not sure if you intended this, but it seems to me that the whole tale explains the glass-half-full situation of a writer: he/she may not trust the world, or the society, completely even if it's a wonderful one, but the person continues to whip out creativity and showcase it to their readers, the stars. The stars, so to speak, give the writer satisfaction, and mirth, as emblems for his...
I tried to leave this one wide open for interpretation because I like to see where people’s minds go if given enough room. I absolutely love your idea that the story is allegory about writers. Your comment is a brilliant beam of light in my little glass 😊
Really good. Beautiful language. To me the most interesting part is the point of view -- the character (you? sort of? not to psychoanalyze) seems much more comfortable expressing what they're feeling with an added layer of separation. She also understands that what she DOESN'T write can tell us just as much as what she DOES. Look at the crescent moon you used for breaks (maybe the symbol was intentional, maybe I'm reaching): there's the showy, sparkly sliver that's more palatable for both the author and the reader. Then there's the part hidd...
Me but not me, yes, coping as indirectly as possible. You can exit my brain at any time I hadn’t thought quite that deeply into the crescent moon breaks but now that you’ve said it I’m absolutely claiming the metaphor as intentional because that’s just brilliant. I can’t wait for the ink story!!!! (There are not enough exclamation marks in existence to convey how excited I am)
This is beautiful. It feels like an allegory, but a really open ended one. It says a lot without revealing much (sort of like the dim light of the room). It has so much mood and atmosphere. The last line is perfect.
Your comment absolutely made my day, thank you!
Wow! I really loved that, it felt almost like a Greek/Roman myth type of thing and I feel like there's a lot of ways to analyze this because of all the depth (which is obviously an amazing thing). The story was really unique and yet you wrote it in a way that made it almost familiar- I guess this kind of goes into the whole mythological aspect of how it kind of reminded me of those ancient myths. To be honest, until the ending, I didn't even realize that the beginning was part of the story, I thought it was you talking about COVID or someth...
Thanks Janey! The little author interjections are meant to be ambiguous and mildly autobiographical. It’s fun to read different interpretations of who the person is, but I like yours the most 😊
This is amazing and beautiful. The poetry section is just breathtaking, and it blew me away. Great job with this; I absolutely loved reading.
Wow, this was so beautiful. I feel like I've been swept away for a moment amongst the stars and I want to go back! An inspiring writing style. Well done.
Thank you Rachel, you’re too kind!
Wow, this seems like a different kind of story to ones you've written before. And I like it. Some really beautiful phrases: "She lingered in the margins of fading sunlight, holding fast to the dusk. " and "she began to trace stories in the stardust." and "I do not know yet if I have found more than I have lost, created more than I have destroyed." and that last line, so moving, "I can only hope to collect light enough to see." One minor thing, the last phrase ("decided to do something about them") of this sentence: "One night, she grew tir...
As always, your comments bring me so much joy! Thanks for catching that, I’ll tweak it now 😊
I sometimes struggle reading heavily poetic and ambiguous prose but this was so beautiful! This especially struck me: "I have said goodbye to friends without saying goodbye. I have closed a chapter of life without marking my page." I agree with Thom that the opening felt slightly rushed and could be massaged a bit to fit the rest of the story better, but it's really just a small thing :) Wonderful work, Claire!
Thanks Christina, I’m so glad it was still appealing even though it’s not really your style. I was aiming for that 😊 I’m contemplating how to approach the beginning, thanks for the critique!
I feel a little like an outsider when I read something so deep and sweet. The words move me. They make me sad. They make me hopeful. They are beautifully written. It is poetry at its best. I’ve been able to read you this last week or so and of all your stories this one is the one that touches my soul inadvertently. It really is wonderful. One bit of advice. The introduction felt rushed. I may be wrong and you may want to ignore me but I would meditate on it and make it right for the rest of the story. Other than that in my eyes, it’s perfect...
I’ll meditate on that introduction, I agree it feels a bit forward. Thanks for the read and comment as always! Looking forward to yours 😊
Be careful taking my advice. It’s highly possible I’m wrong. 😀
Okay, with a title like that, there is no way I'm not going to rabidly devour the story all at once. We write about such similar things — poems and stars. I love bedtime fantasy stories. I'm just inferring: the story has either repeated down history or the person at the start/end wrote it based on the poem? The air of mystery adds charm and the depth makes it seem like there's real life embedded within. In all, a marvellous read.
I think that my favorite stories of all are the ones that even the authors don’t really understand. The person at the beginning and end started out as me but morphed into someone else. I’m just as mystified as you. I’m reading (more like devouring) a book at the moment that I think you’d love, which inspired the piecemeal structure and some of the imagery in this story. It’s called The Starless Sea. If you haven’t read it, please do! I need someone to process with.
It's been on my TBR forever. Laura recommended it as well. I guess I should stop putting it off (just downloaded the eBook). But. Claire. The 'piecemeal' structure and style of this piece reminds me of a book too, called 'Into the Heartless Wood'. When you have time, read it!! — you would love it. Look at us, little writers swapping books. The universe is chuckling.
I’m glad Laura has picked up on that, too! It’s excellent. I’m going to need to read it at least two or three times to feel like I’ve really appreciated it. Nothing makes me happier than little writers swapping books. I’m looking up your suggestion now. Maybe one of these days we could start a little informal reedsy book club and make the universe’s day.
Half poetry, half prose, all memoir(?). This was a beautiful story. I love your beginning, about writing in blood and ink and truth, and that start was a great lead in for the rest of your piece. The way you've dissociated and distilled the past year into this space driven allegory is a lovely escape from everything going wrong in the world. Great work!
Thank you, Courtney!