January 31st, 2022/tales in the winter night

Today’s Prompt: How do you feel when you look at the stars?
red sunset
Photo by Edoardo Tommasini on Pexels.com

Remember when Aukai told you stories of his people, how they had ancient star charts, how they used the length between thumb and finger to measure the horizon? He said the stars were really distant suns, some of them other colors. You just gazed at him with eyebrows furrowed.

“How’d they figure that out?” you asked.

He shrugged, but under the heavy quilt it moved more like a faint rustling. “You can tell they’re different colors, if you look close enough.”

You stopped peering at his eyes and studied the stars outlining his hair. The lights twinkled, faintly. “I guess the one by your ear looks more white. But how’d they figure out the stars are distant suns? Do they think there are worlds around them?”

Aukai rolled over, dragging most of the quilt with him. You tugged it back, because the hill above the cave was cold–winter cold; the sun hadn’t risen for two days. Technically, it was supposed to be daytime.

“I guess by sailing around the world,” Aukai said, back to you. “There are different stars, depending on where you go. Even in the same place at different times of the year. I guess somebody figured out the math to measure where a star really is by how much it moved.”

“Oh,” you said. “But how did they remember later where the star was before?”

“I don’t know!” he exclaimed, rolling to face you again. His eyes danced. “I put skeletons together, not figure out complicated star math.”

“Well what about the stories?” you asked. “You said your parents told you stories about the tuktuit running through a flower meadow.”

Aukai closed his eyes. “Mostly what I remember about that is the tuktuit ate all the shrubs in their field, so they ran until they found a new field, and ate all the shrubs there too, and then kept running and eating until the only place left to run was the sky.”

“Okay,” you curled closer. “Why haven’t they come down yet?”

Aukai pointed, “those two red stars? Those are the eyes of the archer, Anuenu. Her bow is that curve to the side. If a sunset is a brighter red, you’ll know she will shoot a tuktu that night. Sometimes you can see Anuenu’s bow glowing brighter when she does. Then the day after the tuktu dies, the sky weeps for them.”

You tried to piece together the picture of this archer out of mere dots. “So the tuktuit haven’t come down because of Anuenu? Why don’t they leave the sky and run away from her?”

“They have more space to run in the sky. If those tuktuit came back down, they would be as easy to hunt as a flutter bug.”

“Sounds like a nice story, I guess. Even if that’s clearly not why it rains.”

“Oh? Why does it rain then?” but as you opened your mouth to answer he planted a kiss there.

“That’s not fair,” you muttered. “It rains the same reason ice melts.”

“And that’s plain boring. What did your people’s stories say about why it rained?”

You thought for a while. Mostly what you remembered about your people was the village you spent the first eight years of your life in–the shouting in the market, a mountain river with some screaming children, the taste of torn bread in a forest. Nothing about stories explaining why it rained.

“I don’t know.”

“Then make something up,” his teeth flashed in the near darkness.

“Fine.” You thought some more. “It rains because the stars come awake when the sun leaves, and they see all the things that died while they slept. But they only cry when one of their favorites dies.”

Aukai nodded. You felt ridiculous. “Am I one of their favorites?” he asked.

You punched his ribs through the folds of quilt. “How am I supposed to know? Besides, it’s not like the stars actually wake up.”

“I guess we’ll find out when we’re super old, won’t we?”


(this scene is an excerpt from Graveyard of Lullabies, about star myths)

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