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Shine

By Alexander Hewitt



I was alone in the desert when I saw the star fall.


It tore through the dark skies, over the mountain, and the canyon. It turned, writhing in a searing white flame towards me, and crashed into the dirt. Burnt clay sprayed high above my head, and I covered my eyes as it rained down around me in a rush of warm air.


I crept up to the edge of the crater as the dust settled, gazing down in search of the fallen star. But what I found was not a lump of rock, or diamond, or even ice lying in the dirt.


It was a person.


He was small, about a foot or so high, with hair made of fire and eyes made of light. His skin was translucent, shining like a beacon from his core.


I asked if he was injured.


“Just my legs,” he replied. “Bad landing.”


I carried him from the crater, and he thanked me for the help.


I didn't mind at all.


I set him down on the desert floor. The land was wide in every direction, open and empty, with a hundred million stars shining above.


He turned his shimmering head to the sky. There were no tears, no noise of regret, but he seemed overcome by sadness. His inner light appeared to lessen, dimming with every moment.


"Are you okay?" I asked, sitting down beside him.


"No, my home," he said, pointing to the sky. "I didn't mean to fall, I just tripped, and now… now there's no way back. I'm lost. Stuck… Alone."


I realised then, he was just like me.


"Can I help?" I asked. "What if we found some way to fly you up there?"


He shook his head. "If you fly, you could go for centuries, and you may one day reach a star, but it will just be a ball of gas. The only way back is if my people find me, and send me down a rope to climb."


"And will they?" I asked. "Would they be looking for you?"


He grew dimmer yet. "They would be looking in every corner of the galaxy, just as scared as I am. But the galaxy is a very big place. They couldn't know where I fell."


"We'll just have to get their attention then!" I said, leaping up to my feet and yelling at the sky.


"Hey!" I called, jumping up and down, waving my arms and roaring as loud as I could manage. "Down here! He's down here!"


The star chuckled as he watched, and his inner light grew just a bit stronger.


"Do you think they heard?" I asked.


He shook his head. "It's too far, we'd need to be much higher for them to have any chance of hearing us."


I smiled at him. "Well if it’s just height we need, then it's height we'll get!"


I didn't want him to leave. I didn't want to be alone again, but he needed my help.


So I picked him up, and we started to walk.


#


There was a mountain nearby, the tallest peak in the land. If we needed height, it's as high as we could be.


I carried him on my shoulder as we walked, and he thanked me for the help.


I didn't mind at all.


He told me of his family, how they dodged comets for fun, and sailed on the galactic breeze; how he had tripped on the wrong asteroid, and fell to the nearest planet, Earth.


We climbed, my fingers clutching at stones, my shoes treading the paths as the cold winds brushed by, until we reached the summit.


The desert stretched below us, and the stars crowded above.


We stopped a few minutes to rest.


We'd made it.


"Is this high enough, you think?" I asked.


He smiled, his light growing stronger. "It might be," he said. "It just might be."


We both chuckled and stood at the peak of the mountain.


Then we called out, screaming with all the power we had, trying to get the stars to see us. Our voices spread across the empty desert, but even with our height there was no response from the sky.


And his light began to dim once more.


"Sorry," I said, sitting beside him. "I hoped that would work."


"It's okay," he replied. "We're just not loud enough. Even with the height, our voices need more strength to carry so far."


I smiled at him. "Well if it’s just volume we need, then it's volume we'll get!"


I didn't want him to leave. I didn't want to be alone again, but he needed my help.


So I picked him up, and we started to walk.


#


There was a canyon nearby. It was deep, and conical, with the large end pointed towards the sky. When you walked through the canyon, you heard echoes bouncing around you, your voice, your footsteps, your heartbeat. I thought if we called out between the cliff sides it could amplify the message, propelling it further.


If we needed to be louder, it was a loud as we could be.


I carried him on my shoulder, though his legs were healing fast.


He thanked me for the help.


I didn't mind at all.


As we walked he told me more of his life; how he had once been similar to a human, before shedding his body, and finding a new home.


"Can anyone do that?" I asked, gazing up at the night sky.


"Of course," he said. "You just need someone to show you."


I smiled, and kept on walking. My footsteps grew louder, and thunderous as we delved down between the stones. Like a gathering tide of rock, the walls grew around us, until every breath crashed in our ears.


We stopped a few minutes to rest.


We'd made it.


"Is this loud enough, you think?" I asked.


He smiled, his light growing stronger. "It might be," he said. "It just might be."


We both chuckled, and stood at the narrow end. Then we called out, with all the power we had, up to the stars.


Our voices bounced around the canyon, collecting into an enormous roar of noise as it leapt towards the sky.


But even with our added volume, we saw no response above.


And his light began to dim once more.


"Sorry," I said, sitting beside him. "I hoped that would work."


"It's okay," he replied. "We can't get high enough, and we can't get loud enough. I guess I'm stuck here."


I watched his inner light growing faint, his burning hair starting to wither, like a flame sputtering its last embers in the dark.


It gave me an idea.


"If we can't be high," I said, "and we can't be loud, perhaps we could be bright?"


He turned to me, uncertain. "What do you mean?"


I didn't want him to leave. I didn't want to be alone again, but he needed my help.


So I just smiled at him, picked him up, and started to walk.


#


We left the canyon for the desert, gathering every stick and twig, leaf and scrap of discarded paper as we went. Anything that could burn, we collected, and formed a pile in the vast, empty nothing.


Then we searched again, gathering more.


And again.


And again, as the pile grew.


The star was no longer on my shoulder, instead walking beside me, his legs fully healed, carrying as much as his small frame could hold.


Even still, he thanked me for helping him.


I didn't mind at all.


Together we built the pile higher, and higher, until it formed a small mountain.

"How can this help?" he asked.


I grinned, and started pulling it apart. "Just watch."


I shaped, and pulled, I carried, and twisted, until the pile was no longer a pile.


The pile was an arrow, pointing to us.


"Now, we just need a light," I said, turning to my friend. "Can you help with that?"


His inner shine was stronger, his hair burning bright, and he smiled at me.


He stepped towards the point of the arrow and tensed himself, concentrating, screaming, his hair growing brighter, and brighter, and hotter, and burning, until I had to avert my eyes.


Then the arrow caught flame, blazing a signal towards the sky.


If we needed to shine bright, it was as bright as we could be.


We stopped a few minutes to rest.


We'd made it.


"Do you think it's enough?" I asked, as the flame caught across our signal.


He smiled, his light unwavering. "It might be," he said. "It just might be."


We turned from our bonfire, the warmth hitting my skin, and watched the sky. This time the stars began to move, floating together and turning in an elaborate dance.


They'd seen us.


We both started laughing, it had worked!


Then I stopped and turned to my friend, his inner light stronger than ever.


I didn't want him to leave. I didn't want to be alone again, but he had needed my help.


A silken thread floated down from the sky, barely visible but for the shine it carried inside; the same starlight burning inside of him.


He grabbed the line, and tested it with his weight. It held firm.


He turned to me, laughing until he saw my face, and his light grew dim once more.


"Thank you," he said, hugging me. “Thank you for everything.”


I held him tight in my arms. “I didn't mind at all.”


"You could come with me?" he asked. "Climb up, join us in the sky?"


I smiled, and wiped away a tear. That sounded wonderful.


My hand grasped the fine tether and pulled to test my weight. It stretched, and I released before it broke.


I was too heavy.


"No, silly," the star said. "Your body can't come, just you."


He pressed a hand to my chest and pushed inside, through my ribs, deep within, where it found a part of me I hadn't known.


He grabbed tight, and pulled me out of my body.


I looked down and saw myself shining just like him. Then I turned back.


My body was lying on the desert floor. It was empty, like it's inner light was missing.


"You can get back in, if you want," the star said. "Or, you can climb with me? It's your choice."


I smiled at my old self, then turned to my friend, and grabbed the line.


It held my weight.


We climbed up into the sky for an eternity. My arms grew tired, but we never stopped rising.


Until finally, we reached the top.


And then we rested.


We'd made it.


He was home, with all his friends and family. They rushed up to him, hugging, and crying crystal tears for their returned child. Then they turned to me, and embraced me with just as much love, like a long lost relative. I'd never seen such affection before.


I thanked him, and all of them.


My friend just smiled.


He didn't mind at all.


"Do you think it's enough?" he asked, after I'd met everyone.


I laughed, my light like a bonfire in my chest.


“It might be," I replied. "It just might be."


My body grew cold on the desert floor, while a new star shined above.


And at last, I wasn't alone.



 


Alexander Hewitt is a writer, voice actor, traveller of places, and creator of things. From his current lair in Edinburgh, UK, his adventures take him wherever they like; to strange places, and faces, and with never enough sleep to warrant whatever that thing was he just dreamt up.


He has an occasionally updated blog, and you can follow him more regularly on Twitter, Youtube and TikTok.


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