Once upon a time…

This is a story I wrote for a friend. It was written in short installments, on my phone. I didn’t know what was going to happen at any point until I wrote each bit, and really enjoyed the discovery. I haven’t rewritten or edited anything, except for typos.

For Wombat.

***

Once upon a time in a land far far away – a strange land where the moon went backwards and the stars occasionally moved around unexpectedly – it was a dark night, soon before dawn.

A particularly large star started to move in a whole new way, dancing around the sky. It twirled and spun and pirouetted about, sending streamers and sparks behind it as it went.

A pair of nervous and exited eyes watched from the ground as the star appeared to get nearer and nearer, still dancing and pirouetting.

The eyes were attached to an odd-looking creature. It was much like a hedgehog, but instead of sharp spines it had ferns growing from its back.

The creature emerged from the cover of the flowering shrub it was nestled under, snuffled around on the ground for a moment with it’s long furry nose, returned to watching the dancing star, and waited…

***

By now the sparks and streamers issuing from the the star were lighting up the land. The first glimmers of silvery dawn light were appearing in the horizon, but still the star and its fireworks shone brightly.

So, as the moon finished its backwards journey across the sky and set behind the soupy mountains, and before the sun had emerged from its corner of the horizon, the ferny-spined creature was able to see vividly the land around it. 

“I thought something like this might happen”, it said to itself. Quite why it thought it, it didn’t know, but nonetheless the thought was there in its mind.

The star was so close now that the watcher could feel the warmth from it. It continued dancing all the way down, finally performing a skilful loop the loop in the air, before coming to rest with gentle poise on the ground.

Close up, the star resembled a classic drawing of a star, with five sparkly points. It still shone brightly, though the Sparks and streamers mostly stopped and the light dimmed enough to enable the creature to look at it without sunglasses. Occasional streams of sparks still burst out of it’s points, startling the ferny-spined creature.

Tentatively, the creature approached the star.

***

Perhaps it’s time to introduce this creature further. Who is this snuffly watcher with ferns growing from its back? Does it have a name?

Well, in fact it is very hard to answer these questions. The creature is very old, and its origins are lost in the mists of time. It has always done without a name, being a solitary – though inquisitive – creature. It is not known whether it is male or female, or whether such terms even apply to it. Some things have no need for names or labels, and so it is with the creature.

The creature just is.

It has no special status, though those who meet it always think highly of it, feeling comfortable and at ease in its presence.

And what of those ferns that spring from its back where a hedgehog may have spines? They are not really ferns, at least not as we know them. They exist only on the back of the creature, and of the very few others like it. They blow in the wind like freshly-grown ferns do, and they do grow like ferns, but so very imperceptibly slowly. 

The ferns afford the creature some mysterious protection from harm, or at least always have done on its world. This star was not quite of the world, so it was with some trepidation that the creature approached it. Not too slowly, but carefully, gently, and in quiet fascination.

***

The star had touched down in a large clearing atop a hill. Surrounding the clearing and covering the rest of the hill were some very tall thin trees, reaching and stretching skywards. The dawn light now glimmered gently through their delicate leaves, high above the ground

The creature approached the star. Its mind was fully focused on it. Not with questions, or seeking answers – just full of the star and the moment and being there.

Wanting to remember the moment in all its detail, the creature looked around. It took in the silhouettes of the tall trees and the last few fading stars in the dawn sky, visible in the circle of sky above the clearing. It smelled the crisp clear air and felt the ground beneath its paws.

It did not think of possible futures or alternative pasts, nor where it may go or what path it may take. It just walked forward – with care, but open to the world.

***

The sun was just sliding boldly up over the distant horizon, its light shimmering brighter through the trees and their delicate leaves. The star was not as dazzling as it had been in the full dark of night but it still shone brightly, and streamers of light and spark still burst from it at unexpected intervals.

The creature walked towards the star. As it drew near it felt a sudden familiarity with the star, as if it had always known it. The star did not threaten the creature but welcomed it as a kindred spirit. Somehow the creature understood this.

The creature reached the star.

It was bathed in the star’s powerful yet gentle light. All at once it saw the star with complete focus and all its surroundings, from the tall stretching trees with their delicate leaves, to the grass and the flowers of the clearing floor, to the brightening lightening sky and the rising sun, to all the other creatures and beings living around.

Stepping forward, the creature walked straight on into the star, seeming to enter it, to be absorbed by its light.

***

For a while – seen from the outside – nothing seemed to be happening. The star still shone. The sky continued to brighten as the sun rose. The tall trees still stretched silently upwards. The creature was nowhere to be seen.

But for the creature, everything seemed to be happening at once. It suddenly saw its place in the world, in the universe, in life. Not as sudden sense of a purpose for existence or anything so grand – just a wonderful sense of how everything fitted together, and how it fitted into it.

It sensed the hugeness of space, the physical smallness of its own existence, and the grand diversity of worlds and stars and suns.

It was full of wonder, and awe, and a beautiful sense of peace.

***

In a burst of sparks and light, vivid even in the growing sunlight, the creature emerged from the star.

The star delicately lifted off the ground and began once more to dance and pirouette. It performed its loop the loop perfectly in reverse and danced off into the sky, glowing brightly for a moment in time before disappearing from view in the clear blue sky.

And what became of the creature after all this? It carried on its life, snuffling around happily much as before, it’s fern-like spines seeming to dance gently in any breeze. But it went it’s way with such a sense of happy, calm contentment that it spread that feeling amongst all creatures that chanced to cross its path.

The End.

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