Once upon a time there was a glass tree house city hidden within the dark brown trees. It was filled with white lights, wooden bridges, slides, ladders, and zip lines. And lots of ropes and pails to haul and unload things. Dad and you walked hand in hand from the wooden boat shop to the market. It was a cloudy day, but you didn’t mind because of all the fall decorations. White and orange pumpkins and gourds lined the wooden walkways. There were autumn leaves with berries and pinecones spiraling around the light poles. Above you and over the route, canopies hung to celebrate tonight’s festival. You could smell the crisp air. Your hand tightly grasped the carved ship with its red leaf sails. As you neared the stands, you whiffed the cuts of grilled fish, the sweets of apple cider, and scented oils. You could hear the noises of the bustling, the whirr of the ziplines, and the chatter amongst the adults.
“Dad, will it be this year I get to launch the stars?” You gazed in awe at the constellations dotting some of the coverings.
“Are you old enough?” He asked, teasing.
“Yes. I’m old enough.”
“I think so too. Come on.”
“Why wasn’t mom able to join us?”
“She’s getting ready for tonight.”
“Tonight’s a big deal, huh.”
“Yes, it is. Your mom and I will be taking pictures.”
“I can’t wait. Can I bring my friends along too?”
“Yes, but not for the actual casting, you know.”
“Dad, what school do stars study?”
“Universe-sity,” you laughed.
You looked forward to the event tonight. Every year, at the festival, the city was responsible to brighten the skies until all of space was illuminated. At night, the skies used to be empty and blank. But now, with the stars decorating space, it was better. And everyone from their tree houses would watch as the complex pattern of stars would float, rise, and reach the celestial sphere. It was a beautiful moment. Especially this time of year when the trees were sparse. It made it a great time to watch the display. Everyone came and wouldn't miss this yearly event.
Dad and you walked around the shops. People were sliding down to the ground, while others ziplined to other places. You saw a nearby wooden bridge with a banner of a bear. It was Ursa Major, the Great Bear --- tonight’s star launch. You were excited, especially for manning one of the star points. You took in as much as you could of the scenery. Husks sat in the corners, lanterns filled with red and green apples, glowing jars filled with leaves and lights, candles lit next to antique vases full of sunflower and hay. You saw pails lifting and falling with assortments from tree houses to various levels of the city. It was a sight. A lot was happening all around you.
“Hi Luke. This is.”
“I knw who you are. How art you two today? It’s a mighty fine time. Yes, it is.”
“Hi again,” you replied, eyeing the fresh fish.
“Came here for the swimmers, yes. What it’ll be?”
“I would like three tilipia, please.” Dad brought out his and your mom's carved boats and also took yours.
“Ahhh. There’s nothing like it.” Luke dropped them into each deck of the boat. “I hear you and your kid will be setting the light shines.”
“Yes. I’m so proud. I remember mine when I was young.”
“Aye. The same.”
Later, that night, at the launch,
“Are you nervous?”
“Don’t worry. We’re here for you, kiddo.”
“I know, mom.”
“Got another joke?” Mom asked to relieve your jitters.
“Um, what did the big dipper say to the little dipper?”
“What?” Both Dad and Mom went.
“I saw you. I saw you double dipping,” you chuckled.
You were standing at the center of the pattern. You star was Merak. You’re so excited. To the north of you is a person manning the star Dubhe. And to the west of you is star Phad. There are others making up the Great Bear. You felt butterflies in your stomach as your Dad handed you the visor, the gloves, and the shell containing your star.
(A brief history, a long time ago, a man and a woman went on an expedition inside a dark cave. They had made a discovery of these heat holders -later called shells- and took some with them. They were astonished at how much heat these gave off. Then, by accident, one from the city, cracked the outer hardness. A white light poked through and shined. This became the first star ever. It flew up and made residence in the empty sky. People called them light shines. Now, the city has made it it's duty to quilt the heavens with stars.)
Dad - “We have to go now. It’s all up to you.”
Mom - “We’re so proud of this moment.”
Dad - “Quick. How did Orion catch the Bear?”
Mom – “I know this one.”
You – “I do too.”
All three – “Because he had a better guise (Betelgeuse).”
(Orion the Hunter’s made up of close to 30 stars. Betelgeuse’s one of them. Your dad told you he was amazed how beautifully red it was like a glowing orangey red. Your mom and him had viewed it from separate glass tree houses back in the day.)
You felt the heat from the star inside. The shell was warm to the touch. While your team was on the grounds, you witnessed your parents leaving and climbing up the ladder to join the rest of the crowd on the walkways and bridges. The night air was chilly. Many glass tree houses were brightly lit. From the torches and candles, you could see faces and shadows dancing alike. Everyone was waiting.
Announcer – “Good Evening. Welcome to tonight’s Star Festival. (everyone shouts) This night, we’ll be adding another piece to the outer space puzzle. With THE GREAT BEAR!!!” (the audience hoots and hollers)
You feel all in knots inside, like you’re about to explode. You can’t wait to crack your shell and release the star. Your teammate signals you with a thumbs up, so you wear your visor and gloves.
Announcer – “Casters, let the launching begin…”
You crack the shell.
“Omg. It’s so white and blue.” You’ve never seen one this color.
Immediately, the brightness of the star hits you. You feel the heat all around. You’re glowing. Your teammate’s melding rods reach you. One from the north, star Dubhe, and one from the east, star Phad. Quickly, you connect them with yours.
Announcer – “Yes. Yes. It’s all connected. LET IT GOOOOOO!!”
You release. You tempted to take off your visor but don’t. You smile from ear to ear. You jump for joy.
The stars float, then rise for all to see. Their heat is felt on everyone. You can see your parents faces. The Great Bear climbs up and up into the sky becoming brighter and brighter. Fitting nicely into its slot. Unbelievable. You keep staring and looking. The melding rods melt away from the star’s heat. You feel like you were a part of the something greater as you covered the empty space with your constellation. What a great display. You couldn’t help but feel the future would appreciate everything your city has done. You loved it. It was so exhilarating to release a star from your own hands. And watch it shoot up in the sky. What an experience. You won't ever forget it.
Starry, this is the last joke. Hehe.