This story is by Princeton Hart and was part of our 2023 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
If there was ever a time when I knew anything but this shattered prison I couldn’t remember. For years, visitors came that appeared in swirls of mist that left the air tasting of ash and dirt. Each one came for different reasons, reverence, power, curiosity, but all of them sought to satisfy their pitiful wishes with a myth, ‘starlight’.
Each one who entered my chamber-my prison-became enraged when they realized I didn’t have this myth of theirs. And each time they pulled their shards of steel or iron, they were met with what power I could summon, a vicious void of emptiness.
A callous dark wind that took their breath first, then their heat, and finally their life until it devoured their very bones and left not even dust behind.
I grew to resent the ‘humans’ and their vicious whining for what I did not possess. So here I remained, with only myself and the emptiness of silence to keep me company.
“He-hello?” A voice echoed through the blissful silence of my prison. Its song is cut short by this voice like steel against crystal—harsh, loud, human.
I’d almost let myself believe they had finally given up and left me alone, but no, the air once more shifted and that rancid stench of human power, their magic, fouled the air.
I sat up in the glimmering broken throne this prison had provided me atop of shining, shattered, dais and raised my palm upward. A wisp of hungry black void took form atop my twinkling skin.
I looked down upon him, “Ah, another one.” I seethed, “Tell me, mortal, why shouldn’t I kill you?” The void in my palm seemed to yawn wider, as if silently begging to consume this wretched creature like it had the last hundred? Thousand? I’d lost count.
The human approached, tall, lean-bodied, clothed in plain brown with ribbons of sparking gold in its stitching. Long brown tangles of hair hung to his ears and his eyes gleamed the colour green.
Green, a warped and vile colour, one like the acid that had dripped from a scraggly human, long ago, who sought to take the “starlight” for themself.
“You could kill me,” The human said, that voice of steel softer now, cautious, perhaps even afraid. Good, he should be. “But I only wish to undo what my ancestor did to you a thousand years ago, Lord Mizar.” he said, and he said it with such…reverence. I…I think others had said that word to me once before, but why? What was it? What did it mean?
“Mizar,” the human repeated, “That was your name before my ancestor took you and trapped you here.” He said, halting at the top of the dais now. I stared at the human, my twinkling gaze narrowing upon him.
What game was this? What plot had this one concocted that the others had not already?
The word-no-my name pulsed in my head like the echoing heartbeats of these humans over and over again.
I closed my hand, the void vanishing in a hiss of air, and I rested my palm back on the shattered arm-rest of my throne, “You claim to be…” what was the word, “…descended from my…keeper?” I asked, silently cursing myself for the clumsiness of this human language.
“Yes…I-“ the human stopped abruptly and knelt down on one knee, bowing his head and said, “Forgive me, Lord Mizar, I am Alcor.” Alcor paused a moment to see if I would speak, and when I did not he continued on, “You were something very important once, something so precious that my ancestor took you away and trapped you here. You must remember, if you remember then I believe you could leave, you could escape and return home.”
Home…a human word I knew meant belonging, peace, safety. Home…I had no home. Not anymore.
“I am nothing,” I said, raising my hand once more to display a flicker of the hungry void that snapped and reached for Alcor with blackened wisps.
Alcor did not flinch, instead, he rose and from the corner of my glittering gaze, I saw him pull something from his belt. But there was no quick glint of steel or iron, but instead something wooden. It was a series of tubes, each one tied to the other with a series of holes in them. Was it broken?
Alcor put his mouth to the instrument and blew and a sound came from the wooden thing. Then Alcor played another and another until the series of sounds came together to make something I had forgotten. Music…music! That’s what it was, I had been drawn somewhere by music. There had been a melody, a human, and then…I was here.
Alcor gave a small smile, and with a wave of his hand, the instrument flew from his grasp and began playing on its own. Alcor extended his hand and bowed slightly, “Lord Mizar, would you care to dance with me?”
“If you seek to make a fool of me-“
“I don’t, I want you to remember, and I think this will help.”
I hesitated, “I…I don’t know how.” I slowly admitted.
Alcor smiled sweetly, “I can teach you, I promise I will not let you trip.” He chuckled lightly, a sound that I had forgotten existed.
I reached out and took his hand, his grip was soft and somehow I knew as he took his first step and I followed, that he would not let me fall.
The instrument played as Alcor led me, through a series of steps he called a waltz. Clumsy footfalls soon became graceful strides and Alcor chuckled saying, “You’re a natural,” and I felt myself begin to smile.
Alcor waved his hand again, and the music began to change, notes that were slow and grand became fast but wistful and this song…I remembered it had lured me here.
“Do you remember this?” Alcor asked me, and all I could do was nod. The void within me seemed to roar, as memories of betrayal and wrath swirled.
“He lured me from my home with this song. I…I only wished to listen, but then he used his power and…I was young, too young to fight him off, and he locked me away…” I said, the gleaming light from my being dimmed and became overshadowed by the void that seemed to cloud my soul.
Alcor didn’t flinch as the shadows closed in, “But you weren’t always this,” he said, his hand daring to reach up and trace the lines of my face, “You were once powerful and…beautiful.” He whispered the last word as if it contained so many more within it, like a geode full of glittering lights.
“You can be that again.”
“How?” I asked softly, buttery light flitting within my being now, a light I had not allowed to flicker in an age.
“Shine once more,” he said, as if it were so simple, so clear.
“What if I can’t?” I asked, fear bubbling within me.
“You are Lord Mizar, Ruler of the Constellation of Ursa Major. You were once our brightest, our most divine star. Our God. Please remember.”
Lord of Ursa Major. I remembered then an endless twinkling dark, not like the void, this darkness was light, warm, serene.
Twinkling iridescent light began to glow from me and grew brighter and brighter. I felt myself slowly ascend from the crystal prison. The invisible confides of this place now so close, but-
I looked back down, Alcor’s grip still in mine, his eyes glittering with a soft happiness as tears like diamonds slowly poured from his face. He had done it. He had found the light where no one else had, he had found the starlight where even I dare not look. He had made his myth real.
“I…I don’t want to go…” I found myself saying, for that was why I was so drawn by the music in the first place, wasn’t it? Because what good had been a gleaming god if I had no one else to share in its light?
“I’ll come with you,” Alcor said wistfully and smiled.
And then power, bright and shining, poured within and through me. It showered my being, returning my strength, and slowly leaked into Alcor, shedding away his mortality into something more.
The shattered hall of endless reflections, this broken prison, exploded into a million shards as we soared back high into the quiet dark of my realm, my home.
Ethereal cheers erupted as the familiar warmth of infinite distant lights cheered my return and the birth of a new star. My Alcor. My companion. My love. And thus we both burned bright despite the lingering void within, for that is what we all must do when enraptured by shadow. Find a way to burn, despite it all.