Monday, August 21, 2017

Eclipse

In celebration of today's eclipse (which was super cool, by the way--so much fun to go out with my family to see about 80% of the sun covered), I thought I'd share an old short story of mine, literally titled Eclipse. What better timing than now to post it? It's about the sun and moon falling in love. The story won a Scholastic silver key last year in the science fiction & fantasy category. Enjoy! :)


Eclipse

          Once there was a painter. An artist so whimsical and filled to the brim with raw talent, she could spread her arms wide to welcome the world and paint stars across the universe. The night was her canvas, a silky black that unfolded from the dying light of the brilliant orb that shone as she slept.
          But as the lazy summer faded into crisp cold and the painter grew restless, something caught her eye. It was the same blaze that burned on day after day, sinking deep into the array of twinkling lights the painter had displayed that night. Puzzled, she took a closer look as the golden rays slipped into slumber.
          Hello? The painter called out, reaching with swirls of silver, sweeping the brush across the miles for the dazzling orb to see.
          Is someone there? Came the response, and the painter gasped at the voice, so beautiful, harmonious, that it sent chills through her. A song worthy of a siren, she enchanted the artist.
          Who are you? The painter inquired, her words twisting in confusion.
          Even with the vast distance between them, she could see the singer's smile. It lit up her every feature, flaring for the briefest of seconds before fading again.
          I am the bringer of light, the one who sings of days and wonder.
          The painter stared for a good long time, watching as the singer continued to dim and slip away. She couldn't tell if the growing gap was due to the singer's fall or her own rise.
          But what shall I call you? The painter finally spoke, stretching even further now for her words to carry to a place where the singer can see.
          The beings below call me 'sun,' but out here in the quiet you may use the name Clara.
          Clara, the painter tested the word, watching as the letters flowed and curled together, and feeling her own lips tug into a smile. She liked the way the sun's name looked before her.
          And what may I call you, queen of the night?
          This surprised the painter. Never before had she even considered the concept of a name for herself. I don't know, she replied. The beings below are fast asleep by the time I stretch my limbs. I'm not even sure what they name me.
          They speak of 'moon,'  Clara hummed, her words soft and sleepy, a lullaby. But you are not confined to the choices of others. You are allowed to forge your own path.
          So the painter pondered, hesitantly brushed the wide range of silvers and blues and the other colors of sleep on her canvas until she found a collection of whimsical letters she liked.
          Lunette, the painter said. That is my name.
          Well, Lunette, I will bid you goodnight for now. Clara's voice broke on a yawn, the once seamlessly connected notes shattering as the night stole her from Lunette, before she could even lift her brush for just one more word.
          Lunette was restless as the night stretched on. Clara spoke about the beings as if they were lively creatures, which they were, the painter supposed, once the singer rose high into the sky for another day. But now in the quiet of the black and silver, the canvas acted as a warm blanket, a protection against the cold. No one stirred. The painter brought wild, mesmerizing dreams to all she could reach in the hours she surveyed the earth below. But once the first sliver of light was visible, Lunette caught the eye of her fellow artist, so similar yet so far away.
          Clara! She shouted into the early morning, desperately trying to cling to the sky, to share it with her newfound friend. But the universe was already dragging her down, her tight grip slipping as only her fingertips hung from the blood red of dawn. Clara, wait!
          The singer looked down at the painter, features brightening even more when she saw her, the red of the sky softening to a delicate pink. Good morning, Lunette.
          Lunette's eyes were slipping closed, blinking blearily at the sun. Her shimmer on the verge of blinding now. But artists are a determined bunch, and she was no different. She managed to muster up the energy for a few more lazy scribbles, barely legible enough for Clara to read. Why must you wake when I'm so tired?
          It is the way of the world, night bringer. It is how it's always been.
          But I don't like it! Lunette protested, her words worthy of a petulant five-year-old's angry crayon drawing. She fought sleep like it was her attacker rather than her savior giving her a gift. I want to hear you sing. I only catch snatches. And the nights are so long and lonely now. Why is that? They used to be short.
          Clara's smile was small, the words of her song stretched out in long, haunting notes. It made Lunette sad even before the meaning of the lyrics registered in her foggy mind. Just the sound of it, so clear and bittersweet, made her want to cry. I'm dying, sweet painter. Soon my song must end, and quiet will fall again as winter's white blanket settles around the earth.
          It took Lunette an age to trace what she was aching to say, feeling heavier than ever, and pained. You can't die. It's not right.
          I can, and I will. But summer will come again and I will stretch and unfurl and fill the sky with joyous sounds.
          Exactly! Your singing is so beautiful. How will the world survive without it?
          Not all art will be lost, Clara insisted, her voice like a comforting hug, wrapping around Lunette to keep her warm and safe. They will have you.
          Me? Lunette scoffed, the bitter edge to her words stretching out in smoky tendrils. You bring warmth and happiness. With me comes the dark and cold. The beings below don't even open their eyes to look upon the paintings I so carefully create. Few each moonrise glance up. What do I bring?
           Rest. Clara's lyrics were both an answer and a command, her voice still in that lullaby-like quality. Peace and comfort. The beings below can't truly appreciate either of our masterpieces without the sleep you bring.
          Our masterpieces? Lunette wasn't sure if she'd heard the singer right. I'm not sure anyone looks at mine.
          Do you not see the ones peeking from behind their curtains? They're quiet, but they are there. The stargazers, the dreamers, they all look with wide-eyed wonder as you unfold your inky canvas dotted with light. Then, after a beat's hesitation, Clara flickered. The painter recognized it as a bashful action, voice even quieter now. I look.
          The heaviness became more manageable now, lighter and easier for Lunette to widen her eyes in surprise. You do?
          Yes. Each sunset, each sunrise. Glimpses of it, but all the same, they leave me in awe. So delicate, so beautiful. They are truly amazing, Lunette. You should be proud to possess such a noble ability.
          And Lunette fell into the deep blue, calmer than ever before, her dreams sweet and crystalline.
          Each day and night, dawn and dusk, the painter and the singer exchanged brief words before one of them lost their hold on the waking world. And inevitably, once the painter had put the finishing touches on her work of art, she was left alone again. But it was worth the loneliness just to make Clara smile when she woke.
          Do you ever find that you have no more ideas? Nothing more to create? Clara asked one crisp morning.
          Lunette smirked. Once in a blue moon.
          Her laugh tinkled like wind chimes, filling Lunette with more warmth and life than she'd ever felt before. But the singer's voice was tired, hoarse from use.
          How much time do you have left? Lunette whispered into the sunrise.
          Days. The solstice is upon us.
          And what will happen when it comes?
          I will burn one last time, for the final song, before stepping out of the spotlight. And then you, my glowing angel, will bring the world an unsung harmony.
          But you will return?
          Yes.
          When?
          In the morning, like any other day.
          Lunette was perplexed by this. But if you will return like any other day, how come you say that you're dying?
          Clara smiled again, but Lunette found that she did not like the way this smile looked upon her golden face. It did not light up her features, but rather make them look grayer, sadder. This smile was used to mask pain. There is a reason they call it morning, Lunette.
          And why is that?
          The song I sing the following dawn is one sung at a funeral. I will return a different person, a different sun. Clara will die, and from the ashes, like a phoenix, another will rise.
          No! Lunette shouted, striking her paintbrush through the canvas as she slipped away from the singer. I won't allow it! You have to fight!
          I will not fight. It is inevitable.
          Then what of me? Why is it that I must live to watch you die?
          Lunette, Clara whispered, reaching out with her warm touch, though her gentle fingers never reached Lunette's face. The moon and sun, painter and singer, were just close enough to see and speak but too far away to touch. It made Lunette feel as if she were a palette only of gray. There is more than one solstice.
          What do you mean?
          Summer is the time when I shine brightest.
          I don't understand.
          The moon was shocked and saddened to see a tear drip down the singer's cheeks, glowing like embers now, a fire long gone. I watched you rise that night. I saw the first painting you ever created, the most wondrous display of stars the world has ever seen.
          Why didn't we speak then? How come we only know each other now?
          Sometimes you just need to see someone in the right light, Clara explained, brushing her hand against a stray star fighting its hardest not to be washed away. The painting you brushed onto the canvas that night for whatever reason caused you to notice my song.
          Lunette hadn't realized she was crying until now, when she felt an unfamiliar heat drip onto her hand still clutching the brush. There were tears all down her face. With a shaking grip, she delicately dipped into the most brilliant silver she had to paint the only thing she felt mattered. All of her work, all of the stars, every constellation that ever was and ever would be, would never compare to what she had to say now.
          I love you.
          The last thing Lunette saw was another tear slide from Clara's eye onto the canvas, the star melting away into nothingness.
          The singer's songs were always sad now, muffled by the clouds that accompanied her, barely a soul glancing up to see why the world had gone so quiet.
          Even Lunette's paintings looked more like haphazard doodles now, hurriedly drawn as if on a deadline she'd forgotten about. The zest she'd once had for it, the inspiration, was gone, lying in shattered remains along with her heart.
          You can't leave me, Lunette sobbed with trembling, jagged lines the night before the winter solstice.
          I have to. Clara's voice cracked on the last word, shaking almost as much as Lunette's hands were in an effort to keep herself together. You will find a way to carry on. You are so strong, Lunette.
          Not strong enough.
          You will be.
          I love you.
          I know.
          I thought love was supposed to be enough to get us through anything. All the songs you sing speak of it.
          Sometimes songs lie, Clara murmured, and her glow was so faded now, she was able to pluck one of the stars from the sky as easily as one might pull a berry from a bush, and cradle it in her arms like a newborn baby. And sometimes endings are not happily ever after.
          But how am I supposed to go on without you when you were my once upon a time?
          As you always do. You will paint.
          And so the sun slept for one more night. Lunette cried. Her tears were cold in the hush of winter's dusk, and she watched them float down into the earth, turned into snow. Something so beautiful should not be allowed when someone is so sad, Lunette thought. But that was the way it was, and so snow it did.
          Clara could not seem to bring herself to sing louder than a whisper on the dawn of the solstice. Her voice itself was sweet, but the words tragic, if anyone else bothered to listen. Lunette listened for as long as she could. If these were to be the sun's last moments, the moon would be her companion.
          But even the painter was not strong enough to resist sleep itself, and she rested for just a few hours before opening her eyes to the cold, cruel world. Clara was already beginning to slip.
          Don't go, Lunette begged her as she reached as close as she could, even though she knew it was pointless.
          I must. Clara's voice, once so gorgeous, was barely audible now.
          Lunette pushed, the ache in her broken heart propelling her nearer, wanting, needing to hold the one she loved before she was gone forever.
          Kind moon, Clara said, eyes only half open, her fire all but extinguished. Do not waste your energy on what you can't change. Channel those emotions into the most amazing painting the world will ever see. Do it for me.
          Though Lunette's tears still fell into snow, and her hands still trembled like earthquakes, and her paint was mostly untouched, she did not stop reaching. She would not stop reaching. And with a final shout of determination, an emphatic swish of silver against the navy blue canvas, Lunette surged forward. And she was in the arms of the one she loved most of all.
          The painter was too stunned to say anything. But the singer, always the crafter of words, smiled, sharing the warmth she had left with her beloved.
          You made it, she hummed.
          I had to, Lunette said. But how--
          They call it an eclipse. Clara gazed upon the earth, the beings below, bathed in pure white snow and shadow. It only happens when the sun and moon share a connection so strong, the laws of the universe itself can't keep the two apart.
          An eclipse, Lunette echoed, and she strung the words high above their heads for all to see, a silvery strand of loving cursive.
          Yes.
          And when the painter found herself using all of her strength to support the singer in her arms, trying to hold her, keep her in the sky for just a bit longer, she knew what she had to do.
          Rest, Clara, Lunette brushed the words with care across the sun's closed eyelids, snow falling harder than ever. I will paint you the most beautiful bed of stars anyone has ever seen.
          I do not doubt it. Clara pressed her cooling lips to Lunette's, holding her in one last embrace. Goodnight, Lunette. I love you.
          May the stars welcome you home.
          And Lunette let her go.
          That night, Lunette unfolded a fresh canvas, one of the deepest blues so dark, it appeared almost black. But with her set of paints at her side, the moon created a world of light from the darkness, one that caused all the beings below to gaze up and gasp in awe. It was by far her best masterpiece yet, one the suns who followed Clara's footsteps would sing about for ages.
          And just as promised, beauty rose from the ashes. Sleep beckoned Lunette closer, but she resisted. Not in the bursts of indignant energy she often used to avoid the rest, but a soft, pleading, Just a few minutes more.
          The new sun rose, bright and bold and beautiful, a different kind of glorious blaze than Clara's, but a dazzling one all the same.
          Hello? She called out, in a voice high-pitched and scared, but one filled with music just like the previous singer's. Is anyone there? Where am I?
          Hello, Lunette softly brushed in front of the new sun, rapidly rising into the dawn.
          There was a long pause, then she sang, Sun. Yes, the beings below call me sun. But who are you?
          I am the bringer of rest. I paint peace and harmony across the night sky. The beings below call me moon. Lunette hesitated for a moment, trying to recall what Clara had told her one night, that piece of wisdom the painter thought this new singer would need more than ever now. But you are not confined to the choices of others. You are allowed to forge your own path. My name is Lunette.
          You mean I'm allowed to pick my own name?
          You are allowed to do whatever you please.
          Just when Lunette thought that sleep would claim her at last, she heard a soft, tinkling voice chime, Aurora. My name is Aurora.

Did you watch the eclipse? How much of it did you see? Leave a comment!

7 comments:

Jimmy said...

Great writing. I loved this story. Thank you.

The Magic Violinist said...

@Jimmy

Thank you! :)

Boquinha said...

Beautiful! Just beautiful. I hadn't read this before. I loved it. Wow. Gorgeous!

abigail lennah said...

EEEP this is so good!!! Are you entering Art and Writing again this year? I really hope to win at the National Level! I've been trying for two years, going three. xD

xoxo Abigail Lennah | ups & downs

The Magic Violinist said...

@Boquinha

Thanks! :) I couldn't remember if you had or not, so I'm glad you got to read it now.

@Abigail

Thank you! :) I am! It's my last year to enter, so I'm submitting as much as I can, which includes two senior portfolios. This'll be my third time entering, and the second time went better than the first, so hopefully it improves even more for both of our third years!

Lara Liz said...

*staggers because Kate has knocked me down with her amazing writing YET AGAIN*

Seriously girl, you're going to have to stop doing that. Between this and Beneath the Moon and Stars, I'm pretty sure my jaw dropped you much you've done permanent damage. ;-)

The Magic Violinist said...

@Lara

Aww, Lara, this made my day! I'm so glad you liked it (and Beneath the Moon and Stars!). I'll pay for your hospital bills so your poor jaw doesn't suffer. xD