Somebody’s Nightmare

The world is full of daylight places that remain the same irrespective of what time or state you visit them in. However, there are also places that thrive in the shadows and on the edges of reason, and that you can only ever find in the darkest corners of night. The Bazaar is one of those places.

“Nightmare Outlet”, the sign read. Its rusty relief letters provided less information than they raised questions, and he wasn’t really sure what had even lead him to this lonely storage building in the middle of the night. He only knew that he was here now, and that he had come to the right place. This was the night when his life-long nocturnal torments would finally end.

The guard at the entrance eyed the newcomer suspiciously before letting him through, and once he was inside he understood the precaution. The vast space between the tall walls was cluttered with tables, stands and small tents. It looked like one of those places where people came together to sell old stuff they’d dug forth from the darkest corner of their garages, and this impression was not entirely wrong. Only this garage sale had a more sinister alignment.

This was a dark market, but not your everyday such. No, this was the darkest market, because the currency of the Bazaar was fears and night terrors.

It was hard to see very far into the hall, both because of the dense crowd but also because it was very dark. Still, many of the traders had decorated their stands with small lanterns in a wide variety of colours, lighting the darkness afire with dim sparks of eerie red, spectral blue and ghostly purple. The murmuring backdrop of the mysterious scene suggested that the newcomer was far from the only visitor tonight, but the gloom prevented him from seeing more than three or four yards in front of him.

The stand closest to the entrance was occupied by a small, grey man who eyed him up and down before shooting him a sinister smile.

“Are yah sellin’ or buyin’?”, he croaked.

“I’m… just looking around”, he replied nervously.

The little relic of a man nodded and raised his wrinkled hand to wave the newcomer along, but then seemed to change his mind.

“Say, lad, are ye havin’ nightmares ye can’t get rid of?” His mouth stretched into a grin that did not make him look any more friendly at all.

“Well… Yeah, I guess”, he answered after a moment of hesitation. “I guess I have”.

The man nodded knowingly. “A pain they are, those little buggers. Indeed…”

He chewed his worn pipe and seemed to consult with himself for a moment. Then he continued, in the manner of the experienced haggler: “Would ye be interested in ridding yourself of those, for a small price?” His smile widened and seemed suddenly to cover more space than his face should possibly be able to allow for.

The newcomer didn’t like the look of this smile, and excused himself as politely but hastily as he could. As he fled deeper into the building the little man shrank back into his shadows, shaking his head sullenly.

Having left the salesman by the entrance behind, unsettled by him in ways he could not explain, the newcomer strolled along one of the paths between the stands and witnessed wonders he had never imagined in his waking state. Salesmen whispered or yelled from the darkness beyond the light of their colorful lanterns, trying to draw attention to their unusual wares. The things up for sale were contained in jars, bottles or other transparent containers, and varied in color as much as the various lanterns that illuminated them.

He stopped at a stand where many people seemed to have gathered. He could not see what had drawn everyone’s attention; to him these particular flasks and cans looked no more or less mysterious than all the others had done that he had seen so far. Nevertheless, the path that led past this particular stand was clogged almost completely – to the obvious irritation of the salesmen on either side, who vainly tried to catch the attention of the curious congregation.

A radio played a steady but quiet rhythm of drums and sleepy flutes. As the newcomer stretched to see what was so special about this stand, he saw its serious looking owner holding forth a large, corked bottle containing dark, rippling smoke.

“…and this is a night spook springing directly from the mind of the man who brought us the tales about the sleeping Old God himself”, the salesman exclaimed gravely as he held the bottle up for all to see. “You will not get this one cheaply, but it is well worth every single one of the cars you’d have to sell. And better yet, it is one of the inexhaustible ones. You can dream it every night for years, and still it will not dry out. Of course you’d have to be incredibly lucky not to walk gibberingly mad away from such a repeated use of it, but” – the last word was a loud cry that made the first row of people jump – “you should not let that deter you from the deal of your lifetime, ladies and gentlemen! Do I have an offer on this fabulous nightmare? The bidding starts at…”

The newcomer was no longer listening, but had begun pushing through the crowd to reach the less cluttered space beyond this seemingly very popular stand. Once he had broken free he jogged a couple of steps to avoid getting sucked or pushed back into the assembly again.

“Not interested in archaic, eldritch horrors, are we?”, a voice laughed right next to him.

He jumped and turned. To his right, not two steps away, there loomed a narrow but tall stand, occupied by a hunched, robed figure whose face could only be glimpsed beneath the hem of a deep hood. The stranger had a low, rasping voice that managed to be ominous and humorous at the same time. On the table in front of him stood several empty decanters and a few curved bottles filled with a pale pink liquid that bubbled like soda.

The newcomer eyed the figure and decided that he was harmless. “No, sir. I’m tired of such things. Quite to the opposite, I’m actually looking for a way to rid myself of a few.” He put his hands in his pockets and regarded the man tryingly, anxiously waiting for the answer.

The figure chuckled and raised his head so that two piercing, white eyes met the ones of his customer. “First timer, eh?” He showed off some too-sharp teeth in a wide smile and rubbed his hands together. “Very well then. Let’s cut to the chase then, shall we?”

He then produced several bottles from beneath his table, all of them filled with dark liquids moving around like smoke inside their containers. His customer regarded the collection nervously, secretly preparing to run away at the very first sign of this being some kind of sinister trick.

The salesman noted this. “Be not afraid, lad. The corks are in and the contents are sleeping safely right now.” His customer flinched slightly as a bottle of swirling dark liquid was pressed into his hands. “Now look at it closely!”

And the newcomer did. The darkness inside was swimming around sluggishly, forming and reforming in cloudy shapes that sometimes seemed to resemble terrible things just outside the reach of his imagination. Suddenly a small, red eye blinked sleepily open and regarded him menacingly from the other side of the glass, only to then slowly close again and disappear into the smoke. He hastily returned the bottle to the salesman, deep horror stirring at the back of his mind. “Very… very nice”, he stammered unconvincingly.

The salesman regarded him with an amused expression. “Do you know what it is?”, he asked as he put the bottle back on the table. The customer shook his head and the salesman nodded knowingly. “I didn’t think so. These, lad”, he said and made a gesture comprising both the dark bottles and the pink ones, “are dreams. The darker they are, the more horrible.” He grabbed one of the light bottles and held it up so that the glow from his yellow lantern shone through it, revealing the soft shapes moving around inside. No evil eyes in this one.

“The light ones are good, nice dreams. The kind that your average sane person would want to have at night. The best ones are white, or even silver. I once heard of a one that was golden, but that kind is very rare.”

As he spoke he grabbed one of the empty bottles and shook it, revealing it not to be empty at all but filled with what seemed to be plain water. “This is not water, you know”, he continued in a low voice, as if having just read his customer’s mind.

“No?”, the other managed to squeeze out. “What is it then?” But he suspected he already knew the answer.

“It is a no-dream, that’s what it is. Ever had one of those nights when you don’t seem to have had any dream at all? Well, this is one of those nights, all bottled up and ready. Of course, the no-dreams are one use only, since there is nothing to save about them. They just are. Some dreams are more durable, and others still are inexhaustible – even though that is a very rare quality in a dream. People and minds change, you know.”

The newcomer nodded, even though he was far from sure he had understood half of what had been said. “So… Are you saying I could get one of those good-dreamy-thingies, and not have to have nightmares anymore?” He stopped, suddenly realising how childish he had just sounded. “I mean, not that nightmares bother me, you know. I am not afraid of the dark or anything… It’s just that–”

He was interrupted by a burst of amused laughter that stopped as abruptly as it had sprung up. The salesman eyed him smilingly. “Son, there are nightmares, and then there are nightmares. Anyone with their sanity in the right place would go jumping and screaming from one night with yonder cosmic vistas of uttermost horror.” He laughed and nodded towards the crowded stand a few paces away, where the other salesman was still yelling his lungs out about his dark and inexhaustible dream. “I don’t judge anyone, I just trade.”

The other did not answer, but only looked longingly at the lighter bottles on the table. The salesman saw this, and continued without waiting for an answer.

“I see that you are in need of a change of environment, as far as dreaming goes. Very well. I do not buy and I do not sell, money and earthly favours interest me little. So you’ll have to trade with me, son. What do you have to offer? The darker the dream, the higher the value of it. The black ones are the best, of course”, he added with a sarcastic laugh.

The newcomer answered with nothing but a confused look.

“Ah, you really are a first-timer”, the salesman mused. “See, this is how it is done: you describe your dreams to me, and I try to evaluate them as far as trade value goes. Then I make an offer based on that evaluation, and you chose whether to accept or to continue bargaining. It’s as simple as that. How the… transaction is done, well, that part is simple, which you’ll see for yourself when or if it comes to that.”

He eyed the customer curiously and made a beckoning gesture. “Well, what’re you waiting for? Describe your dreams to me!”

The newcomer hesitated. Then he said, with nothing but pure defeated honesty in his voice: “I don’t think I can… When I wake up the dreams are always clear in my memory, but then they fade. The only thing I know is that they scare me out of my wits and that I wake up screaming more often than not.” He looked again at the light bottles on the table, but his hope of ever owning any of them was fading by the second. “I’m sorry, but this kind of trade is probably not for me”, he said and prepared to leave.

But the salesman just chuckled. “Boy, you don’t have to leave empty-handed. Some people just can’t remember dreams, that’s natural. We have certain other methods for tackling that. Come here!”

He produced a thin tube from somewhere beneath the table, and held it out toward his customer. The latter, in turn, eyed it wonderingly. It was attached to a hand-held mirror with small levers and regulators fitted all along its metallic handle and frame.

“This is a hypno-gauge – an instrument that measures dreams. It works best when the subject is asleep, of course, but will do the trick in situations such as these as well.”

The customer accepted the end of the tube and looked at it in confusion. “So how does it work? What do I do?”

“You just breathe into your end of it, and my end will show me what I need to know. And don’t worry, I change mouth pieces between every use so it’s perfectly hygienic.”

The newcomer hesitated only for a moment before following the salesman’s instructions. Then, as soon as he started blowing air into the tube, the entire instrument started hissing and buzzing mechanically.

“Just keep it up, son, I’m getting a picture here”, the salesman muttered. Then his eyes grew wide. “What the… No, no don’t stop!” He waved his free hand frantically as he stared at the mirror’s surface.

His customer was starting to become really freaked out, however, and let go of the tube. “What is it? What did you see?”

The salesman kept staring at the now dark glass pane for a couple of seconds before putting the instrument down on the table. When he looked up again there was something new in his eyes. Fear? Reverence?

“Boy”, he said slowly, “it’s been a long time since I saw something that dark in the mind of someone alive and breathing. Bottled up, sure, but never directly from the mind that dreamt it up. If I were a lesser man, I would probably scam you for those dreams, but I’m not. I’ll tell it as it is, son. You’re sitting on a treasure trove with those nightmares of yours.”

“A… treasure trove?” He eyed the little man sceptically. “I’m sorry, but I’m finding it really difficult to believe that anyone would be prepared to pay anything for the terrors I endure every night. I for myself would give anything to get rid of them.”

But the salesman only shook his head. “No, you don’t understand. You see, ordinary nightmares are cheap, anyone can have those. But real darkness such as this, well, that’s a poison reserved for truly open, sharp and poetic minds. Many of them go mad, of course, but on the road to that fate they more often than not produce wonderful art, thoughts and poetry. Incredibly dark such, of course, but wonderful nonetheless. That’s why some people would pay dearly to acquire such nightmares; to make themselves better artists.”

“So you’re saying…?”

“I’m saying that many of the people in this building, customers and traders alike, would definitely be prepared to sacrifice their left and right hands both to secure the dream you have just shown me. Hell, I would sacrifice my hands for it, and my left ear. Selling it forward would make me rich beyond compare.”

“So… Why don’t you just take it? I don’t want it, so I guess you’d be doing us both a favour by relieving me of it.”

The salesman looked tempted, but still only shook his head again. “No, that would not be fair. Not to anyone. You see, taking on someone else’s nightmare, especially one as potently dark as yours, is a dangerous thing to do. The mind that originally dreamt it up has often developed an immunity of sorts to its more maddening effects, but another mind has never had a chance to do that. So selling it on to someone else would do them more harm than good. And I’m not that kind of vendor that puts my customers in danger for my own gain”, he said and continued:

“Besides, I also suspect that it would not help you overly much even if I took this one dream from you. A mind capable of summoning up something like this once would most likely not have the least bit of a problem doing it again. The dark dreams would probably only grow right back. On the other hand, I’d like to think that you’d be able to make great use of your dreams yourself, if you so wished.”

“What do you mean?”

“What I mean is this: That stand you passed earlier, where the dreams of that famous author were up for sale? Well, this nightmare you have here is definitely in league with his. And though that man went crazy in the end, he created fabulous worlds and stories that inspire awe and jealousy in readers and writers even today. If you just let them, your dreams could well lead you to create art just as great as his – art that would in turn inspire awe and jealousy in readers and writers during your own lifetime, and long after you yourself are dead and gone. You could become immortal, in a way. You have a gift in these dreams, and I would hate to see you throw it away due to something as childish as a fear of the dark. I will not be accessory to that, in any case.”

“So you will not help me?”

The salesman sighed. “I will not take the nightmare from you, but I can offer you a good night’s sleep free from it. One night.”

He grabbed one of the lighter bottles and held it forth. “This is a good dream, a happy and positive one. Just as so many of its kind, however, it is also nondescript and weak – and as such, it will deplete after one use. Take it, dream it, and get some rest from your darkness. But then I would advise you to dare that same darkness and let it guide you. Write. Paint. Make music. Do whatever it tells you to do, but for gods’ sake don’t remain silent – you have a rare gift, son, but it will kill you from inside if you don’t find a vent for it.”

The customer accepted the light bottle and turned it in his grip. “But I’m not a writer, a painter or a musician”, he said. “I’m just a guy with bad dreams. I don’t know how to do any of those things.”

“Then learn”, the salesman said. “It’s either that, or you’ll go mad well before your time. Your choice. But now, I’m afraid, the morrow approaches. If you want to have any calm rest tonight, I suggest you drink that light dream right away.”

“Drink it, just like that?”

“Yes, open the bottle and drink. Don’t spill any of it, or you will have very confused and incoherent dreams.”

“But, shouldn’t I pay you?”

“As I said, I don’t buy or sell. I’m a trader, and what I want from you in this trade is remembrance. If you actually decide to create something, weave a piece of me into it. A mention or a quote. Creatures such as I cannot die unless forgotten, and being remembered in great art could well grant us immortality. Do this small thing for me, and we’re even.”

The darkness of the room, the sweet incense on the air and the salesman’s low, melodic voice created a surreal atmosphere that made it hard to think straight. The newcomer was confused. I came here to get rid of my nightmares, and now this man is telling me to use them. Is it possible that he is right – could I really create great art? He found himself nodding slowly to the other man’s words, and before he knew it he had made a decision.

“I will”, he said, and uncorked the bottle with the light liquid inside. He made sure not to spill the smallest drop as he downed its contents in a single, long draught.

The salesman nodded approvingly and rubbed his hands together. “Good”, he said. “And if you’re ever in lack of inspiration, don’t hesitate to come back here. I’ll gladly provide you with whatever kind of dreams you could possibly find yourself in need of.”

He might have said something more, but in that case his customer didn’t hear him. Because the edges of the scene had begun to blur, its colours to fade and its noises to warp into a single drone without any sense or rhyme. And then the bazaar and all its traders and customers were suddenly gone, replaced instead by good, happy and very, very nondescript dreams.

***

He didn’t wake up screaming the next morning. In fact, he awoke feeling more rested and awake than he had done for longer than he could remember. The memories from his happy, light dream faded as soon as he opened his eyes, but the feeling from it lingered with him the entire morning.

Still he knew deep down that what he was feeling was only a loan; this was somebody else’s happy dream, and however calm and restful, dreams such as this were not for him. He did not know how he knew this, or why he associated the knowledge with some half-forgotten memory of a bazaar he was sure he’d never actually visited. Maybe this was a memory from another dream.

This one peaceful night, however, had given him a respite from his prevailing sleep deprived despair, and suddenly he knew exactly what he had to do.

He made himself a cup of tea and booted up his computer. He was not a writer, a painter or a musician, just a guy with bad dreams that were slowly driving him insane. He hadn’t created a meaningful thing in his life, but somehow he now felt that this was a good day to start. It was almost as if someone had told him so in a dream, but that was of course impossible.

“The world is full of daylight places that remain the same irrespective of what time or state you visit them in”, he wrote.

It just felt like a good beginning.

Chris Smedbakken, 2018-03-17

This story was written in response to a title writing prompt, 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Star Child

Yet another old text, this one written in September 2007. I´m still in Budapest, so you´ll have to wait until Tuesday for a new text (and a proper grammar/spell check) 😉


It gave her no consolation whatsoever to think of her life’s adventure as just a dream; nor did it soothe her when all those around her stubbornly continued to tell her to do so. Reason battled emotion inside of her head when she thought about it – and believe me: this she did almost all the time.

Some nights had passed since her recovery to reality, as all the others saw it. Some nights of unendurable, bodyless pain that no one could see in her face and which she refused always to admit even to herself. Always, but for the lonely hours just before dawn, that is. For in those small hours of twilight illumination, as all infused with the smallest inkling of craving for dream adventure would know, all your hidden thoughts are brought up before the merciless court that is your own half sleeping consciousness for hard interrogation. No shady corner of your mind is left unsearched when the restless soul seeks to ponder every fault ever done to or by you, in an attempt to please the unseen and half imagined watchers in the dark – those everyone tries to convince of their undisputable innocence when in reality all they want is to convince themselves.

And she, she was no exception. The only thing that separated her from all the others over the world, lying in the same way, praying to the rising sun to grant them a few merciful hours of sleep again before the beginning of the new day, was that she had a choice and did not know it. She could at any given time rise from her bed and leave the gloomy room behind; yes, literally fly out the window to reunite with the subjects of her endless pondering. This, though, she did not know in the same way that she could not truly accept that all she had witnessed and experienced in the past nights was as truthful a reality as the bed in which she lay at night, or the ceiling at which she had now been gazing unceasingly for how long she could not tell. And this ignorance, involuntary though it may have been, was close to costing her her life.

She was ill and she knew it. Nothing done by the others to keep from her the truth could prevent her from sensing it in her whole being. The fever that ate her constantly, tearing away her sanity at the same pace as it consumed her physical being, burned her from within like the fire of a raging star. And that star was visible every morning at her waking, to all those who loved her and cared for her, in her newly opened eyes before the agony of the newborn day burst forth to drag her away from her peaceful dreams once more.

This way her life had become not a year ago, but signs of this condition had been creeping up on her all of her life. In her early childhood she had often been forced to stay home from school due to her ever coming and going fever which always left her frail and weakened, knowing the span of several weeks was to expect before she would be fully recovered. Or almost fully. Each time the fever got a little more of her, and in the last few years she had been forced into a kind of exile from reality, mostly staying indoors, locked up in her own room with the computer as the only window to the outside world.

But even then her condition had been endurable. She had never given much for society anyway, thinking its every day intrigues all too prosaic and meaningless. Not that she did not see the wonders in the world of men and women; to the contrary she saw it very well, eyes wide open. Her problem was that she did not feel part of it and in that lay her great salvation since she was robbed cruelly from it at an relatively early age.

Her loved ones had all through her wasting away provided her with books plentifully, knowing her to be helplessly in love with the outside world though neither capable nor willing to be part of it. She read all kinds of literature, both fact and fiction, devouring the written word as though were it nourishment for her dying form, and she also wrote her own. At the computer or using the more old fashioned means of pen and paper she tended to lose herself for hours writing fantastic tales of creatures of the sky or of the forest, pressing her imagination to the extent and with the conviction that all but her loving family would have questioned the degree of her sanity. This, though, they never did.

And now, sadly, the moment they had all been dreading but oh, so fearfully waited for, had at last come. The girl with the silver hair and the star-filled eyes, she that would have been just about to enter the complex but wonderful world of early womanhood had she been allowed to live, was dying before their eyes. Long had it been since she last had had the strength to lift her delicate fingers to the keys to write her fantastic stories of other worlds. Long since she last had the voice to reassure them that she was just fine and would be totally alright after a quick rest. Long since she communicated at all, except through unconscious ravings in her twisting sleep or through low, repressed moans of obvious pain in her few waking hours.

All they knew now was that she was in pain, that she had been unreachable for several days and had awakened only a couple of nights ago, laying staring quietly at the ceiling ever since. At one point after her waking up she had related in a fast flow of words the substance of her long night’s dream, still not taking her eyes of the wooden boundary above. It had been the most fantastic imagination of all the stars being individuals gazing down upon the world, of the forest being full of strange beings with their own tales, of seeming human beings passing us by every day but really, perhaps without knowing it themselves, being the stuff of legend down to the core.

She told them in swift words that she had been floating with the stars – her sisters and brothers – singing to the moon and the sun that are forever the mother and the father of them all. She told them that she had seen the world from above, in obscured vision due to her still earthbound form; that she had seen a wolf in agony because of his love for a mortal woman, and a man brought into the human world after a full life among the very small people of the woods.

I am sure she would have told them many more things about all the faithfully kept secrets unknown to mankind had it not been for their interrupting her, their attempts to assure her that it had all been naught but fever stained nightmares not to bother thinking about ever again.

At those words she grew quiet. At those words her spirit sank and the pain filled once again the gap that had for some merciful moments been occupied by dreams and wonders that she had almost believed in. At those words she was once and for all totally convinced that death was standing beside her bed, distancing and alienating her from the loved ones that surely meant nothing but to comfort her but who only succeeded in doing the very opposite.

For one day and a night, finally, she had neither eaten nor slept – only stared out in the space above her, waiting for the ender of all life finally to make his claim on her. She dared not look out her window, that was always open to the night sky due to her eager wish, lest she be reminded of her impossible dream of stars and skies and succumb to crying or to fear of death. She could afford no such thing.

She wanted so badly to be able either to fully believe in her fevery dream or totally to dismiss it as imagination; in the first of these cases she would not have to be afraid of anything, and in the latter she could muster her last strength in life to write the dream down for those she left behind to wonder about it when she was finally and irrevocably gone. She could, as it now was, do neither of these things and this was her great sorrow.

And as she lay there, listening to the others roaming about the house, occupied by their every day tasks thinking her asleep, she fell to pondering what death would be like. Would there be anything left of her spirit after it had fled her body? Would she feel the pain of drawing the last, totally unuseful breaths right after her heart had failed and would aid her lifespan no more? Or would her soul by then be already halfway on the “other side”, and by that preventing her from knowing fully the horrors of final, hopeless mortality?

She tried not to be afraid. She tried not to feel the pull of deadly, primal fear that always precede the utter unknown. She had promised herself that she would be strong, that she would not upset her family more by showing her pain and anxiety in front of her approaching end.

Night fell slowly outside. She heard the others talking quietly in the kitchen about whether or not it would be wise to disturb her in her sleep to check how she was. She knew that in the end they would settle for glimpsing in at her through the half open door to see that she was still breathing, and then let her be. She did not mind. She never did anymore.

The gentle creak of the door followed by soft footfalls withdrawing confirmed her thoughts, and soon she knew that she was alone awake in the house.

She was not to look at the stars, she knew it. She was not to think of the dream or to feel false hope building inside of her. Hope was for all but her now. All was for all but her. But still something drew her gaze to the sky outside. A faint noise – a voice? It could not be. But there it was again; soft, safe, reassuring. She knew that voice. She had known it all her life, but had only heard it once before in a distant past. Maybe in another world.

Breeze in the light white curtains, filling the room with a flowing light that came from nowhere and everywhere still. Was this death? Surely not. And still she was sure that she was not dreaming, that this was really happening and that she was to understand it in some way. And it made sense, this ghostly light and this loving voice from the starry sky. Deep inside of her it did.

She could hardly believe it when she felt her own feet upon the cold tiles of the floor and the soft swirl of her nightgown around her ankles as she moved towards the window. Her fever burnt skin was soothed somewhat by the soft night breeze from outside and she felt weak but alive in those last moments. With hands upon the window frame and silver hair glittering in the light of the full moon, which she had not beheld for months, she lifted her head and gazed up at the forbidden stars. They sang to her now, in her head and in her ears. It was a song she knew all too well but had never sung. It was the song of her fever dream.

She knew that she must be hallucinating, that what she saw and heard must be her dying mind’s final salute to the world, but she stubbornly refused to be robbed of this her last moment in life – be it real or not. I guess that is why she wasn’t scared when the light of the sky – the moon herself – spoke to her in a melodic singing voice, calling her from afar. And in the moment she looked up onto the utter brightness of the otherworldly source of evening light she thought for a split second she saw the face of a goddess smiling down at her from between scattered stars.

Had it been not for her dreamy amazement and sense of eerie victory, she would in this moment have felt the horror of death she had so dreaded in her last few nights. Her heart was beating its last struggling beats now, and the breaths of night air that passed her lips now in waves that were uneven but refreshing did little good for her any more, as her body was at last too weak to bring them to proper use for her survival. This, though, she would not acknowledge anymore than she could bring herself to think of her family that would surely despair in the morning at finding her lifeless at the floor by the open window, and without doubt blame themselves for their recklessness in leaving it open for the cold wind to hurt her.

In those last seconds of her life she could not, and would not, tear her eyes from the faces of the sky that so fondly gazed down at her and beckoned for her to join them. Wind in her face, wind in her billowing linen gown, and she climbed the windowsill smiling.

Standing there at the edge of the known universe, at the end of her world, she was not afraid of death or falling. She had been falling and dying for as long as she could remember, and this would be the last time. This would be her flight for freedom and adventure. And then she took the step, and all the stars drew in their precious breaths but never quit their singing, and the moon that was the mother of them all reached forth down to earth to break the fall.

Have you ever experienced, on a particularly starry night, perhaps in the middle of biting winter when the northern lights are dancing across the sky whispering secrets to all those with sense to listen, a moment in reality when the space and the world grow so quiet you could hear a snowflake hit the roof of a car? Often following those rare and precious moments you can se a star shooting across the night towards some fantastic destination far away. But sometimes that quiet is followed by the birth of a new star into the sky, so bright and clear that all take for granted that is has been there always, since nothing so self evident could ever have not existed. Well, if you have, and if that happened recently, maybe not more than a few years ago, it might well have been the very same occasion that is related in this story. Because when she took the fatal jump from safety and knowledge, and the stars were stunned and the moon calmly reached for her, she did not fall. The night took her in and she flew, ever ascending, never looking back, towards the stars that twinkled welcomingly and the moon that ever smiled towards her homecoming daughter.

Happily she understood that her dreams had been not fantasy but wonderful reality, and in her flight to her carefully guarded place on the nightly velvet curtain she was told everything by her brothers and sisters – everything about the world and everything about their own omniscient ever presence. And in the millennia to come she guarded safely always from her haven in the sky, ever able to look down upon the world she so loved from, a vantage point where she could see and know all without having to participate in commonplace human life. Not until now could she truly comprehend the beauty of life or the wonderful mystery of the world. Not until now did she understand that reality is so much more than what the human people want to think in their ignorance. And not until now could she possibly grasp the true meaning of the word happiness. This and much more came to her as she took her place close to her mother, who lovingly embraced her and said that she was so, so very much awaited and longed for. She was home at last.

Grief struck her mortal beloved ones in the morning at her absence. Her bed was empty, the window wide open and not a trace was to be found of their beloved girl who had been dying for so long they could not accept the thought that she was gone but not dead. The police was called in, the neighbours searched everywhere, but nowhere was the girl with the silver hair and the starry eyes. Nowhere could word of her be heard and nowhere was consolation for those who loved her. Weeks passed and the sorrow was so great that not even when the night called them with soothing song of tidings and consolation did they take their time to look out at the sky of stars.

Thus it was not until a long time afterwards that they found their answers, even though not all of them were willing to believe in such tales that others took for facts in their desperation after an end to this agonizing not knowing. The answer was in the girls computer, that had stood vacant since her disappearance and was at the time of their discovery covered with a fine layer of dust. What they found was one of her stories of old, this one being one of the last ever written by her before her illness took hold of her for good.

It told a rich tale of the love affair between the sun and the moon, who could meet once a month only when their paths crossed and who at all other times missed and searched for each other unceasingly. Their meetings sometimes resulted in the birth of a new star, and sometimes, even more rarely, the star child was placed into the world as an earthbound being to learn and wonder before ascending to her predestined place in the sky. These children could not live as mortal creatures for very long, since the star fire inside of them always burned at their earthly form and eventually caused it to die painfully. But before this happened the child was given the choice to join her kind on the outmost border of the world to see all and know all forever, and most often the child choose to do so. That resulted in the child’s disappearance from the mortal world without a trace, but her reuniting with her true family above.

This sole evidence would have convinced alone the most desperate of truth seekers since it was in the eyes of the human world a child’s tale and nothing more. Things were settled only some days later, when a knock on the door announced a stranger on the doorstep. He was finely dressed in clothes not very appropriate for this time and era, but which would surely have been very suitable some hundred years ago. He kept looking down at a beautiful watch he kept in his inner pocket, as if he was in a hurry to get somewhere else, and, after introducing himself as one Mister Wolf, quickly presented to the family of the disappeared girl a letter written in an all to familiar hand on a beautifully textured piece of paper.

Then he excused himself and withdrew as suddenly as he had come, down the narrow trail of concrete tiles that lined the sidawalk. Many attempts by the police to find the mysterious stranger were later made, but with no success. During a short period his description was posted every day in the local paper, in the hope that he could lead the authorities on the right track in finding the missing girl, but with no result whatsoever. It was as if he had never existed.

The family of the girl, though, was not any longer as eager to look for their missing love. The letter they never showed to the police, since they knew they would not believe a word of it. But they themselves did. Its contents shall not be related here since it was neither addressed to us nor relevant for the ending of this story, but I will stretch as far as to confirm what you should have already guessed. It was written by the star child, as a last consolation and explanation to those she still loved but would never talk to again. It was written in loving words and in a style which brutally ended all doubts as to its genuineness. It calmed the distressed family and made them feel at ease at last, after all this time.

They collected all the stories ever written by her of her beloved and amazing fantasies into a book that could and would be read by many mystery thirsting souls, and they knew that she was at peace wherever she was. And every winter night when the moon was full and the northern lights danced across the starry sky, they always stopped by the window, taking their time to gaze up at the shining stars, knowing that somewhere up there, south east of Orion, she was lovingly gazing back at them.