Written by Mieka Stang
Illustrated by Sarah Lynn, IG @ sarahkath.art
Twelve stars suspended in the quiet black of the night. Dark skies pulled the farthest points of light, beyond the mountains, ever closer, and rocked the plane out across the sea. With darkness came the gift of lights: nameless cities mapped out in orange dots, football fields. It’s a strange and subtle, and yet not unpleasant, gift to be able to see how small the world is. It’s like watching time crawl on below you. City lights disappear under pale gray clouds, only appearing, like apparitions in the sea, to illuminate patches of clouds, which in turn soon become indistinguishable from the patches of clouds lit by the light of the moon.
Twelve stars. Twelve stars and a light, the farthest point on the horizon, facing the young girl in the plane window, unwavering, like a star fallen between earth and sky, resting between all that is, and all that will ever be known.
The girl can see the flesh of the night pressing in on the plane. Swirling, untameable matter. The plane is so loud it disturbs the spirits who dwell there. Beings made of darkness, some are as big as elephants, some as small as mosquitos. They are running out of the way, on two legs, on eight legs, with four eyes, with three mouths, with two hearts. Some have no bodies at all. They are resting here a while on their way to the edge of the world, coming with the night and leaving with the first child’s cry, at the first gray light of dawn. Made of all that is old in the world, they are what make children afraid of the dark, what makes us turn on the lights when we step into a room, why we build cities spread between the bay and the ocean that shine so bright we can’t see what creatures tumble through the sky above us.
The girl points to the light at the edge of the world and tugs on the sleeve of the woman sitting beside her, the woman who held her hand through the jet bridge and into their seats. Whispering, she told the woman of the creatures passing them on their way to the edge of the world. The woman knows that nothing is new, ever. She knows that stars that hang between the earth and sky are not stars at all, but other planes, with rows of other people, each coming and going form their own cities. Kind as she was, she made very few mistakes in her old age. And yet, this was one: she told the young girl what she knew of resting stars and planes.
With that, the creatures in the night let out such a cry that for the first time the girl could hear them over the rush of the plane. It was a cry just for her, and only she could hear it. With that, their bodies, outlined in dusk, broke apart like ash that had been blown by a soft breath from parted lips and returned to the night.
The light on the horizon blinked once, and then, ever so slowly, blinked again, like the time that moved the lights of cars through the cities on the ground was finally catching up with them. And at last she could see, that it really was, and had only ever been, an airplane.