Star Crossed (A Wing-Feather Fable)

star in the window

Ain’t nothing easy ’bout keepin’ a star — I can tell you that much, at least. They’re vicious beasts, the lot of them, all harrowed points and edges. Teeth like butcher’s knives. This one’s worst than most. Gifted me a jagged scar, a devil’s throb each time it rains.

I caught her down on Halpern, back in the warrens, that spider’s maze of merchant booths. Anything’s for sale down there: blood oranges from the tropics, saffron and juniper berries, and pearls the size of a fist. There’s jeweled stilettos, alchemist scales and scimitars, children and tigers and whores. You can buy anything, down on Halpern.

I wasn’t shoppin’ that day. I was on the hunt. Stars are easier to catch when they’re weighed down with sorrow, and there’s plenty to cry about on Halpern. Saw her right away, I did. She’d tried to cover up her splendor, hide the sheen of light. She’d draped herself in dusty rags, smeared with offal from the slaughter streets.

‘Twas her tears that gave her away. She must be young, not knowing any better. Tears of stars, they fall like diamonds, hard and sharp and glinting, with a clink upon the pavement. There was a jumbled pile beneath her, all tiny shards of glitterin’ light. A lesser thief would’ve been distracted, but I was aiming for the bigger prize.

Don’t know why she took the chance. Wasn’t but a child-slave stall, huddled limbs in dirty rags. Stalls like that? They’re everywhere. I came from one myself. Hardly make you blink.

And there she was, weeping over some nothing-slip of a girl with matted hair, half-naked and curled up in a corner. A star cryin’ at her feet.

I nabbed her, quick, just as the child was reaching for a diamond. Snapped a burlap over that star’s head and twined her up in mercury cords. Just before I tied the fifth and final knot, she raked me with a single claw. When the blood welled up, it glowed.

Now, I keep her in a shed out back, in among the brambles. Her tears, no longer diamonds, are rusting out the metal. Corrosive, she is, and wearing.

Sends me off, she does, day by day. Don’t know how she does it. I wake up every mornin’ with the will to tell her no, a slip of rage within me. By noon, I’m fair defeated, dragging myself back down onto Halpern, a sack of silver in my hands.

I haven’t found the girl yet, the one I stole her from, the one that holds her grief. Still, she makes me buy a child a day, to clothe and feed and then release. She’s eating out my wicked heart. Soon there’ll be nothing left but flakes of rust and wounded bolts.

So, don’t go messing with an astral will. Vicious beasts, I tell you. There’s nothing that can tame them. Look at me, thief turned savior. And stay away from weepin’ stars.

~ Photo by Brenda Gottsabend; Story by Lisa Ahn

Learn more about Wing-Feather Fables here.

9 thoughts on “Star Crossed (A Wing-Feather Fable)

  1. Pingback: Wing-Feather Fable: Star Crossed | How to Feather an Empty Nest

  2. I saw him as I read this. He was wearing a dirty, tattered shirt with a boat neck and red stripes. His hobnail boots echoed on the cobblestones and splashed through murky puddles as he clomped down Halpern. You two are amazing! Thanks for another amazing bit of short fiction.

  3. I love reading your fables! They always transport me to a different place each time in my mind’s eye through your beautiful words and Brenda’s amazing photographs! I love the idea of the “thief turned savior”–gives us all hope of turning a new leaf (with a little nudge in the right direction”!

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