I couldn’t run forever. I knew that, though my mind kept insisting I could, I really could. If things don’t go your way, what else are you supposed to do? Abandon ship, move on, try something new, right?
The eviction notice on my door that morning was a bit of reality punching me in the face. I mean, I understand it. I’d evict me, too, if it had been a full three months since I’d seen a rent check. Making and breaking the same promise ninety days in a row has its consequences. I didn’t mean to, but the world seemed to be conspiring against me, and I was drowning in a flood of misfortune and unexpected, expensive events.
I sat by the lake, my toes just skimming the top of the water as I dangled my legs over the edge of the dock. It was the last beautiful place in my world, and since it seemed I would be moving on soon, I wanted to visit it one more time. Besides, I was tired of lying in my bed, staring at the ceiling, wondering where I would go next and if my 1982 Nissan Stanza, fondly named Stan, would even make it there. The world felt like a cruel, bleak place.
The lake wasn’t huge. It sat in a small basin, just a little ways outside of town. There were trees all the way around it, and large boulders punctuating the shoreline here and there. There was a large choir of frogs filling the air with their lovely raspy, monotone song. The night was a clear one, and the stars were blazing overhead. I’d never seen them quite so bright, not this close to town. I scoured the sky for shooting stars. Ever since I was little, I had a knack for spotting them. People started to accuse me of making it up, since they never saw them, too. Whatever.
After a while, I could see light brimming over the black silhouette of the largest hill. At first I thought it must be the moonrise, but as it grew, I had a hard time accepting that the moon could produce so much light, even if it was full.
Eventually, I began to make out what was rising. It looked like an entire galaxy, an immense, swirling cluster of stars. I stared, open-mouthed and frozen to the spot where I sat, as it grew out of the dark hillside and made its way over the horizon. Then, after a few minutes, it just stopped. Now, I’m not the most educated person in the world, but from what I remember learning about the world and space and whatnot, things, natural, normal things, don’t just stop moving in the sky. Orbits, and all that, you know. But this galaxy-thing did just that–just stopped.
Still rooted to the spot, my eyes widened as I noticed one of the stars in the mass starting to grow. I realized it wasn’t actually getting bigger, not physically, it was just getting closer. I expected my heart rate to quadruple, but as it approached me, I felt calm, even…happy. The star zoomed down towards me and the lake. It landed, skipping like a rock, on the far side of the water. It bounced over to me, playing on the water as it came, splashing, twirling.
The glowing orb, about the size of a large pumpkin, came to a stop inches from my toes, still dipped in the water. It started to spin, slowly at first, then faster and faster and faster! As it spun it changed shape. The orb elongated and grew tall and slender. In a couple of moments, standing on the water in front of me was a small, gently glowing person. He had a neck longer than most people I’d seen, and eyes much larger. His ears jutted out from his head, and his feet were enormous relative to the rest of him. He had a bit of a potbelly, on which his many-fingered hands were folded. He wore a pleasant smile as he patted the water beneath him. His smile grew at the sight of the splashes he made.
“Oh, yes,” he said in a gentle voice, perhaps remembering why he had come. He gave the water one last pat. “So nice to see you, Stella.”
“Nice…to see you too,” I said, surprised to hear my own voice. If you asked me, I would have thought I was speechless.
“Just wanted to pop in and tell you what a wonderful job you are doing.”
“Yes, wonderful indeed. We’d take you home now if we could, we do miss you so, but no, seems we must wait.”
A million questions washed over me, but what stuck out in my mind was one word–escape.
“No, you can just take me now, things really aren’t going that well,” I told the little person. I realize it wasn’t the most rational thing to say, but in my mind, at that moment, I didn’t really want to spend more time in the reality I was living. Something new would be nice. Slavery in outer space didn’t even sound so bad.
My visitor smiled.
“Stella, good doesn’t always translate to fun or easy. If we took you home now, your training would not be complete, and what kind of a queen would you make then? No, no. You must stay here.”
Again, a few tiny questions popped up in my brain. For some reason, I didn’t feel compelled to ask them.
“I don’t want to stay here. It’s hard here.”
“Indeed it is. But we’re always watching you, Stella dear, always rooting for you. Perhaps it will be hard all the way through. And the better and stronger you will be for it. Well, better run, or I’ll be left behind!”
Sure enough, the galaxy-thing had started to sink below the horizon again. My visitor started to spin.
He paused, looking at me inquiringly.
“Why haven’t you visited me before?”
“Silly child. We visit you all the time.”
Just then, what seemed like a thousand shooting stars streaked across the sky. The little person grinned.
“They’ll get in trouble for that. They were all jealous when I was picked to come down, couldn’t help but wave, I suppose.”
Looking up into the sky, I waved back in a daze. When I looked back down, the person had become the spinning orb again, and then, in a flash, it flew back up into the sky to join the tail end of the mass of stars just before it disappeared behind the hill.