Our writing group has a challenge on at the moment where we have to write a story for each of the photos one member of the group is sending from New York.
You can write any genre, etc. as long as the photo inspires it somehow and it’s 500 word or shorter. This is the first photo and my first story.
I remember the world before magic was cast aside. When the sun and the moon were young, when the trees had only blossomed once before and everything was still new. When we walked in thornless gardens drinking dew from clean green leaves and trailed our fingertips along the soft feathers of the peacocks that showed off their bright plumage and sang for the sun. I remember still a song sung by the young silver stars before their light started twinkling and fading.
A series of electronic beeps draws me back from my reverie and I open my tired eyes. The memory of the gardens and their hidden paths are replaced by the sticky face of the child who had been trying my patience for the past 10 hours of the flight.
“You look funny,” he says, barely taking his eyes from the screen in front of him.
“So do you,” I say. And I mean it. The bright spark of magic that I would have expected to see behind his eyes, that flicker of memory all children had of the world before, wasn’t there. His eyes were just dead.
He snorts, opens his mouth for a retort, but I stop him.
“Do you believe in magic?” I ask. He laughs an adult’s laugh.
“Of course not.”
“Look at me,” I say. “Really look at me, and tell me I still look funny.” The child’s mother glares at me, her eyes briefly lifting from her own screen, but the child pauses whatever he’s busy with on the screen and looks at me.
“You just look,” he searches for a word that’s no longer in the vocabularies of the world. That is no longer remembered in the dictionaries unless you turn to the old archives or those printed on paper.
I hold my breath, waiting for the word to come to life once more and fill the world with magic.
He shrugs. “You just look off. Like you don’t belong here.”
I close my eyes, lean my head back and feel the tears burn my eyes.
“You’re right.” My voice is harsh, hoarse from years of tears I’ve not spilled. “I don’t belong here.”
“Where are you from?” the mother asks. She doesn’t look up this time.
“East of the sun, west of the moon,” I say.
The mother mutters something to her child about mental illness and how he should leave me the hell alone.
The song of the stars stirs in the depths of my memories. I start to sing it softly, my tongue soon remembering the strange lilting, lingering sounds of their language.
On the screen in front of me the picture of the plane is still over the waters of the Atlantic, tracing our route as we go. Above the din of the engines, I hear the stars answer.
I remember the world when the sun and the moon were young, when we walked hand in hand, following the gardens’ hidden paths. And I wondered if you remembered.