The Stars Who Looked Back

Submitted into Contest #39 in response to: Write a story that begins and ends with someone looking up at the stars.... view prompt

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General

Stars like the scattered embers of a burnt out fire wink down at the girl, lighting up the atramentous blanket of sky. Although it wasn’t a blanket, for it did nothing to protect Lyra from the snow and cold. And it did nothing to comfort Lyra like her Kambala did years back. Years back, when Lyra was still a child. She wasn’t a child anymore. Not after what she’d done. The sky could attest for that. And the stars, because they had witnessed the moment Lyra was a child no longer. Her Kambala couldn’t protect her now. Perhaps from the cold, but not from what really mattered. A different sort of cold no blanket could ward off. 

The wind blew, transforming the snowflakes into daggers. Wind is a curious entity, one that could weaponize what it chose to, one that carried weather from one place to another. One that could carry cultures, and peoples from one land to another. One that had so many meanings, different meanings for each that it touched. Lyra has been carried by the wind. She had brought her own culture and people with her, in her heart. She had brought other things too. 

“You can stop staring.” Lyra tells the stars that continue watching her. Her voice cracks. “I know what I did. Am doing. You don’t have to remind me.” She yells up at the sky. The stars answer only with silence, with their unrelenting gaze. 

Lyra looks down from the sky and glances down the snowy hill she stand upon. There are lights twinkling at the bottom, coming from a small cottage, though the lights aren’t brighter than the moonless sky. Home. No, not home, the cottage she is staying at is not home. For it won’t be long before Lyra follows the wind once again. Searching for a home, because as of now Lyra’s home was but a fantasy. Not that she was without a living-quarters, a house. But a home is much different. 

Lyra takes a last look at the stars and walks down the hill. The stars still call her. Yell at her. Tormenting her for what she had once done. Continues to do. Even though Lyra has looked away, the only witness to her crimes, the blanket of night, suffocates her. Like she had been hiding too long under the covers in a game of hide and seek, and needed to take a breath. But should she take a breath, her brother would find her. 

She would always take a breath. Every time. Light would flood the room as she pushed the blankets away. And her brother would always be there. By that time, Lyra would have forgotten why she had hidden in the first place. Because they never played hide and seek, though she always hid. But Lyra would giggle and hug her brother like she had been waiting for him. Maybe she was. Despite everything, she always waited for him. Until now, of course. Now the wind was free to bring her where it wished.

Lyra wondered where her brother was now, what he was thinking. If he also felt the weight of the sky pushing down, reminding them of the unforgivable act they had commited. She hoped not. She hoped that he could live free of the feeling that ate away her heart, along with the culture and people that belonged there. 

The door swung open with a push and Lyra switched the lights off. No point in wasting energy when the stars were more than enough. When the light the stars cast seemed to chase Lyra everywhere. 

A crash echoed through the cottage. Lyra jumped at the noise, and edged into her bedroom, her imagination getting the better of her. Something was in there. A daemon, sent to claim her. An spirit, sent to condemn her. A phantom, sent to haunt her. No, the rational part of her mind insisted. Lyra’s fear grew with each step, anyway. She  jumped into the room, brandishing a broom at the empty room. A book on the floor, knocked off her night stand. A sigh of relief from Lyra. She bent down to pick up the book. As she turned around, a dagger touches her throat from behind. Lyra gulps, suddenly aware of every breath she takes. A daemon, perhaps, come to claim her as the feared. Her imagination not so far-fetched as she had led herself to belief. Or maybe her imagination was exactly what summoned this creature. Lyra felt a warm breath on her neck, one that was all too familiar.

“What are you doing here? You have no right, not after---” She exclaims before the creature cuts her off.

“Shut up. I’ve allowed you a voice too long. It is time to take back what is mine.” The daemon snarled. Daemon of sorts, at least.

“Brother, I have never been yours. Never.” Lyra snarled right back. The daemon, her brother, laughed.

“I have never been your brother. Never.” He threw the word back at Lyra. “And you have always been mine. You kid yourself thinking otherwise.”

Lyra twisted around to look her brother in the eyes. He pressed the knife harder to her throat. A speck of red blooms underneath the point. Lyra searched the eyes of this creature she had called brother. Nothing revealed itself. Lyra spits into the eye inches away from her own.  The daemon laughs again.

“Such fire. Fit even for a daemon,” The creature says. Lyra narrowed her eyes at the word choice.

“What do you know of daemons?” She asks. Her brother hesitates a moment before answering.

“It is what you believe me to be, is it not?” Lyra doesn’t answer as she ponders the dagger pressed to her throat, but doesn’t push it away. The daemon looks at her heavily, a smile half formed on his lips. Lyra couldn’t tell whether it was fading or growing. 

“Goodbye, sister.” And he slits her throat. Lyra falls to the ground, and in the moment she has left, she looks not at the daemon, but up to the stars once more. They are still watching her. Unyielding, unrelenting. Still calling her. But they are no longer yelling at her. They whisper to her, recounting the tales of her past.

Under the gaze of the stars, Lyra’s fears crumbled to dust. She could leave behind the history that followed her everywhere. The stars were no longer a reminder of the history, but of what would come. The history that was to be made. That Lyra would have no part in.

That last moment was the longest moment of her life, surpassing even those of regret, because this feeling, whatever it was, was more powerful than regret. Lyra stares at the stars, and they seem to twinkle even brighter as her life fades away. The whispers get quieter, but Lyra doesn’t want them to stop. She strains to listen.

“Stay with me.” She whispers back to them. And they do. Lyra realizes that the stars aren’t a burnt out fire. No, the stars will continue burning for as long as life does. Before Lyra closes her eyes, she could have sworn one of the stars twinkled out of existence.


April 27, 2020 16:03

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5 comments

Simone T
16:43 Aug 26, 2020

Okay I just realized I used the same name and spelling of daemon from His Dark Materials. I haven't read that book, but it was unintentional if anyone was wondering.

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Sarah Kerr
05:11 May 13, 2020

Awesome writing style and great vocabulary! :)

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Simone T
18:22 May 13, 2020

Thanks, Sarah!

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X Y
21:10 May 06, 2020

Hello Simone, I want to start out by saying that this is excellently written. Your characters are well-thought-out and your plot is gripping. However, there is one small issue I wanted to point out. You switch between present and past tense sometimes. Nonetheless, your descriptions are enchanting.

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Simone T
22:11 May 06, 2020

Thank you! Yes, I've noticed this problem in my writing too and it persists so I have to work on that. Thank you for the feedback!

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