Abstract Drama Fantasy
Exactly a year ago on that day, Adeylle Crossbay lost her siblings to a forest fire.
Stars were dusted across the vast, dark night sky, waiting to fall on the tranquil countryside. Grass rustled under the restless wind; the faint trickle of the nearby stream was audible; wings fluttered and beat overhead as owls and nightjars shifted on their wooden, rough-hewn perches. It seemed that they too, were watching the vaulting sky overhead in anticipation.
Adeylle’s jet-black hair, loosely tied back in a braid that fell over her shoulder, tickled her ear and jaw as she craned her neck, keeping her eyes trained on the stars. She absent-mindedly ran a hand over her mare’s silver mane, slipping her feet out of the stirrups as Isabelle lowered her head to graze.
Even the birds seemed to freeze as the first star fell. Adeylle sucked in a breath as she watched its fiery arc, and made a silent wish. The second star fell; then another, and another.
Silently, she mouthed their names. As much as she’d bickered with them, she’d relied on them for conversation, for honesty, for inspiration.
There were so many things to wish for.
She hadn’t been this satisfied in a long time. Something had always ached within her, and she’d never been entirely happy with what she had—she’d always compared herself to her companions, strangers, and really anyone who seemed better off than her. They were so much better than she was.
Along with that need for perfection came bright, burning ambition. She’d kindled it over the years; learnt to use its flame as a tool.
The stars made her happy. She wanted to capture them, keep them as her own and share them with no one else. She wished to be like them. She wished to be different.
Suddenly, there were too many silver streaks in the sky to count—Adeylle was reminded of rain against a window—and the previously silver-dappled night exploded. She had never seen anything so stunning before, and wished she could somehow document the sight, but no painting or photograph or journal entry could ever do justice to the beauty of the stars as they tumbled around her head. She settled for remembering, keeping that moment safely tucked away in her memory.
Isabelle shook her head; playing with the bit, lifting a grey hoof and setting it back down with a small puff of dust. Pulling her mare in the other direction, Adeylle lightly kicked her into a walk, then a slow trot, rising in easy time with her mare’s lilting gait, her gaze still fixed on the barrage of shining arrows that rained harmlessly from the sky.
Her family had always been able to bond over this one activity. Every year, on that specific date, she would ride out to the old paddocks by the stream, and just watch the stars fall.
Preoccupied by her own train of thought, she was too late to get Isabelle back under control as she threw her head in fear at something she couldn’t see, until she broke into a flat-out gallop and slow, rhythmic hoofbeats turned into panicked, irregular music. Adeylle startled; having been thrown off balance, she clutched at the saddle-horn, Isabelle’s silky mane, the reins—anything to prevent her fall.
The ground rose to meet her before she could save herself.
Bracing herself for the harsh impact, she found herself falling into a large puddle of water with a rather undignified splash. However, the water caressed her skin; stroked her eyelids; tasted like warmth and the promise of happiness.
It was not ordinary water.
Upon climbing out, Adeylle noticed two things: one, that the water was silver. It caught the faint light of the moon and glimmered with a thousand shades of colour—the remains of a fallen star. She’d heard of other such stories, of people seeing miraculous changes in their lives, and the like. Yet, she was scared.
That was, until she realized the second detail: her reflection. She had been changed. She now had the grace, the soft delicateness of a wood thawing out for spring. Her eyes were brighter, her skin smoother; she seemed to have a youthful energy about her. Her features were still hers, but not entirely. They were perfect.
She was perfect.
It was exactly what she had wished for. Had they heard her? Smiling proudly, she stood and walked over to where Isabelle stood, nervously cropping the grass. She stroked her dapple-grey neck and shoulders, calming her down, before taking the reins dangling near the ground and lifting them back over to the saddle. Her movements somehow felt different—graceful, flowing, agile—and she marvelled at the difference the stars had wrought in her. She lightly sprang into the worn saddle and continued on the road back home, mind abuzz with the praise she was certain she’d receive.
The next day, the entire village was casting odd looks in her direction—it was all wrong! Where was the praise, where were the compliments? Why such odd looks? Was she not perfect? She had received several jeers, heard people hissing her name. And so, she took aside one of her most trusted friends.
“Cecily, what’s wrong? Why do people cast me such odd looks?” She whispered to her, in a secluded corner of the barn.
Cecily opened her mouth to speak, then closed it and shook her head, her auburn braids swinging. “Your face.”
Now, Adeylle couldn’t help but be mildly offended. “Pardon me?”
“Such beauty—they think it’s unnatural, they don’t think it’s… you. I’m sorry. They say that a demon has replaced you.”
Adeylle did not reply.
Instead, she simply walked out of the barn, Cecily staring after her sadly. Anger, stubborn and unyielding, rose up within her, like harsh talons grating against her mind. A plan began to form, and she was forced to swallow the truth, ugly as it was.
She could never be perfect. She looked beautiful, but what was she really?
She unleashed the tether on her anger. The Town Hall burnt first, reduced to rubble and ashes. Followed by it was the local market, and by then, no one could do anything to stop it. Adeylle pushed the flames higher, kindled them to burn brighter, spread faster. She could not stop even if she wished to; she was trembling; she was uncontrollable—destined to spark an inferno.
She did not care, not anymore.
It was only several, terrible hours later that she realized what she had done. Nothing remained of the town, including her own cottage. Smoke coiled above the rubble, writhing, wrestling with the fluffy, pale clouds. Here and there, tongues of crimson and gold flickered, only just dying down. She noted with relief that the people of the village had survived, and in the distance, she could see specks of black moving over the grey rock that was to the north. There was a chance of the grass lighting as well, turning into waving stalks of flame, and none of the villagers wanted to be amongst them if they did.
She had caused this. Distraught, she picked her way through the ruins, looking for anything, anything at all that she could scavenge. As she walked by what looked like a charred table, she noticed a mirror atop it. It was unharmed, in perfect condition, not even the slightest nick on its flawless surface. She picked it up and found it cool to the touch—how odd. And then, as the rays of the dying sun illuminated the glass, she realized its significance.
The village was reflected back at her, intact. She looked as she always had: she recognized her slightly crooked nose, the scar cutting through her left eyebrow that she’d gained from a bad fall off of Isabelle, the uneven patches of skin over her cheeks. She missed herself.
It wasn’t the truth; not anymore. She’d desperately wished it away. She could’ve been so much more. The villagers had been right. A demon had replaced her.
Now she was changed, only physically beautiful, as ash settled over what had once been her home.
Perhaps, in the flame, she’d lost herself too.