That's right. Finally, finally, I post it. It's a short story that I wrote for school, it's called Climbing Starlight, let's go. I have been told that it's kind of dark, but it shouldn't be bad. Here we go!
The room was empty, almost. Some people could have found beauty in its simplicity, but I had to live in it. The walls were white and the floors were gray tile. There were no furnishings, only a pile of blankets in one corner. That was where I slept, curled on the floor, every night. I had rearranged the space before, but it did little to change how the room felt.
The symmetry is what I hated most. It was the same on every side. I could completely lose my sense of direction just by closing my eyes. Everything was colorless, even my clothes. Almost everything I touched was some shade of white, gray, or black.
Not only that, I felt trapped. I wasn't claustrophobic. There was no way out. There were no doors, no windows. Some days it seemed as if the walls were closer together. Other days the space seemed to grow.
The only thing that stayed the same was the hole in the roof. That was the only way in and out of the room. It was like a skylight, but with no glass. On sunny days I felt the sun's warmth, brightening the room. The room felt full, free of the cold emptiness that usually occupied it. On cloudless nights, the moon brought shadows and chilled beauty. There was an eeriness about the moon that made me shiver with awe. When the sky was thick with clouds and a faint mist hung in the air, I grew tense with anticipation.
I lived for the days when the sky grew dark and the rain poured from the sky. I felt like I wasn't the only one here, like someone else was putting the rain there to make me happy. I would wait for the first drops to fall, no matter how many hours it took.
When the rain came, I stood underneath the skylight. I let it soak my clothes and my hair, pouring over my body, no matter how cold it was. Icy rain stole the breath from my lungs and left me gasping and shivering. I didn't care. The rain was perfect. The rain was what I lived for.
By the time I woke, the rain had stopped. The floor was wet, but my blankets were still dry. The moon and stars reflected tiny sparkles onto the puddle.
I waded into the puddle, my bare feet cringing in the chilly water. A shiver ran up my spine, but I ignored it. I looked up at the sky, almost fully clear of clouds now. The sky above me sparkled with stars.
I didn't remember much from my childhood. I didn't have any friends. The only people I ever saw were my parents. One of the few things I did remember was a nursery rhyme Mom had taught me. We used to recite it together on clear nights. I took a breath and began to recite it myself.
“Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might have the wish I wish tonight.”
I shut my eyes and made a wish. I wished for the same thing every night. Freedom. It was childish to make wishes, but I had nothing better to do. I had no one to talk to, nobody who would smile and wave as I passed. I didn't even know what I looked like.
At first, when I made wishes, I wished for a mirror. I wanted to see myself, to know if I still looked nice. After a while I just stopped caring. Sometimes I pretended I was beautiful, but I really didn't know. Inside, I was fairly sure that I didn't look very nice.
My hair was long, thick, and tangled. It fell down to my waist in bright red waves. Occasionally I would braid it to keep it out of the way, but it was hard. I hadn't brushed it in several years, and I certainly hadn't washed it. My skin was tanned from the sun. My shoulders, and probably my face too, were covered in freckles. Some days I still wanted a mirror to know how I had changed.
So far none of my wishes had come true. I doubted there were such things as miracles. I was going to be stuck in this room until I caught a deadly disease or died of old age. Neither was very likely to happen.
I noticed a tray of food on the floor beside the water fountain. It didn't excite me. I knew that there must be a door there, only activated from the outside. My food was the same as always. A tube filled with applesauce, a tube filled with yogurt, and a tube filled with oatmeal was all I would ever get to eat. I hadn't eaten any food that I could actually chew since I had been brought here. I guess they were worried that I would force my food down the wrong way and choke myself. They were right, I would have killed myself by now if I had the option. Unfortunately, I didn't.
I opened the oatmeal first. I used my fingers to scrape the oatmeal from the container into my mouth. It was a bit dry today. I pressed the button that activated the spout in the wall. This served as a water fountain, while still keeping the room symmetrical. The water splashed into the drain until I put the container underneath the flow. Just a bit of water made the oatmeal taste much better.
I left the rest of the food for later, when I would be hungry again. I walked slowly back over to the puddle, exactly in the center of the room. I sat down in the middle of the puddle. Water soaked through my already damp jeans. I stared back up at the sky. The moon had moved away from the skylight, so I couldn't see it anymore. Instead, the space was filled with many twinkling stars.
One star in particular stood out to me. Its shine was duller than the rest, but it was a deeper hue of gold. It seemed like it had something to say, but no words to use.
“A wishing star,” I whispered to the night sky. A wishing star, hiding behind the moon. Imagine that! I didn't know if it was really a wishing star, but I hoped it was. I hoped desperately that it was a wishing star that would make my dream of freedom come true.
I shivered, crawling out of the puddle and making my way back over to my blankets. I wrapped myself in them, burying my head underneath them. I drifted off, maybe for a few minutes, maybe a few hours. I could never be sure.
When I woke up, the bright light of dawn lit the whole room. I blinked and squinted, trying to let my eyes adjust. My clothes were still damp, and I was cold. I took them off and wrapped myself in a blanket instead. I stepped back into the puddle, being careful not to let the blanket drag in the water. Above me the sky was still dark.
“The wishing star?” I breathed. It had to be. The same dim star still twinkled in the center of the skylight.
“The wishing star,” I said again. “My wishing star.”
The next night I waited. Through the hours my impatience grew, but the wishing star did not return.
Where was it? It was real! It couldn't have been a coincidence, or a dream. Could it? All the hope I'd felt last night slowly drained away from me. The wishing star couldn't return. There was no such thing as miracles.
I felt my eyes start to water. I buried my head in my blanket and cried. I hadn't cried in many years. At first I had cried from loneliness, but after a while I grew used to it. Now it was like those first days all over again. I had a friend, or I thought I had a friend, in the wishing star. I cried harder, my gentle tears growing into hard, painful sobs. It was gone. My star was gone.
“I never left,” a voice said in my ear. “I would never leave you.”
I sat up, raising my eyes to look around the room. That wasn't a voice I knew, but it felt familiar. As my gaze moved toward the skylight, I noticed the beam of starlight. It was the star. The star had returned.
“You're back,” I coughed, my throat dry from crying.
“Of course,” the star said gently. “I would never leave you.”
I smiled, wiping the remnants of tears from my eyes. I turned my head, back to the beam of starlight. It didn't feel cold, the way the moonlight was. It warmed the room.
Evidently the star could see where I was looking. “Teach yourself to climb it,” the star whispered. “The dawn will wait.”
I stared into the wall of light before me. “You can't climb light,” I told the star. “It's impossible.”
“Teach yourself to climb the starlight,” the star repeated. “The dawn will wait until you finish.”
The star's voice and presence left the room, leaving it cold and empty feeling. The starlight remained, but it could never be a way out.
“There is no way out,” I told myself. “Not until whoever put me in here comes to bring me out.”
I walked back over to my blankets, not because I was tired, but because I had nothing better to do. I slept a lot, like a cat. I was rarely tired, hardly ever hungry, but always bored.
It seemed like I lay awake for hours before finally drifting off to sleep. When I awoke, my food had been delivered. The starlight was still there.
“Teach yourself to climb it, the dawn will wait.” The star's words echoed in my mind. The puddle was mostly gone now, after two nights. I stepped into the edges of what was left. The starlight was cold on my face. It felt like ice, and I was freezing along with it.
I stepped backward out of the beam, onto the dry floor. The edges of the puddle were crystallizing, growing inward to form a perfect star. I reached out to touch the starlight. It felt like water, falling through my fingers.
“I can,” I thought, my heart beating faster at the prospect. “I can climb the starlight.”
I took hold of the starlight, planting my feet in it and starting to climb. My heart fluttered with excitement, but my handhold slipped and I fell back to the floor. My foot hit the sheet of ice beneath the starlight, shattering it. I picked up a shard and slid it in my pocket. I wasn't sure why I needed ice, but it could help me remember.
My hands couldn't hold the starlight, not yet. Still, every time I fell I could feel myself getting stronger. I could feel the burn in my arms. Every time I fell I could feel myself slipping a little slower.
“I can,” I repeated. “I can climb the starlight.” I took hold again, trying to ignore the pain in my arms. I pulled myself up, planting my feet in. I let go with my right hand, reaching higher. I let go with my left hand, hanging and pulling myself up with my right. I grabbed with my left hand, moving my feet higher. I realized I was higher than I had ever climbed before.
“I've done it!” I whispered. Raising my voice to a shout, I called, “I'm climbing starlight!”
It was so amazing it made me want to laugh. Tears of joy came to my eyes as I climbed higher. I had done it. I had won. I was free.
I set my feet down on the roof. My arms and legs hurt, but the pain was overridden by joy. I sat down on the edge, dangling my feet off. The view of the city was beautiful, its tall buildings silhouetted against the sunrise. I wanted to shout, but I was afraid to break the silence. I couldn't bear to wake from this wonderful dream.
“Fae!” a voice shouted behind me. I turned to see a man and a woman running across the rooftop towards me.
The woman took me in her arms. “My baby,” she sobbed, pulling my head to her shoulder. “We saw the footage. We've come to take you home.”
Every night that week I woke up crying. My home was wonderful, but I still felt trapped. Through all the love and gifts my parents gave me, I felt homesick. I was an outcast, a stranger, and the starlight was gone.
I realized that I missed the starlight. I had lost a friend. Even surrounded by a world of people only a greeting away, I felt lonely. Empty. I had never thanked the star. The starlight was my savior, my protector. It brought me out of the sameness that would have been the rest of my life. I never did anything for the star. I even doubted its voice, but it saved me. It sent its light for me to climb. I didn't even thank it.
That night I ran away. Without hardly thinking, my feet carried me back to the lab, the place where I was imprisoned. Without realizing what I was doing, I put my hand on the door buzzer. It was there that I hesitated. It was freedom or the starlight, I couldn't have both. I took a deep breath and pushed the buzzer.
A grumpy woman answered the door, grudgingly letting me in. “Stupid people, visiting at all hours of the night,” she muttered under her breath. “Can't they see we're closed? I'm a secretary, not a doorman!”
“Thank you,” I said politely, and she looked down at my face. The woman gasped.
“Come with me, sweetheart,” she said, taking my hand. Louder, she said, “Aaron! It's Fourteen! She's back!”
We walked up several staircases, all while Aaron was asking me about my escape. He concluded that I must have been kidnapped and hallucinating.
“I really don't know how we could have missed that helicopter,” he said. Either way, they were very glad that I was back. They left me in my room with a resolve to fit a screen over the skylight.
As soon as the door shut, The starlight returned. I ran to it, standing underneath its beam.
“You came back,” the star whispered.
I smiled softly up at the stars. “Of course,” I whispered back. “I would never leave you.”