The City of Stars
Everyone called the city the City of Stars. In fact, it was so commonly referred to this that nobody could remember the old name, or perhaps nobody cared. The city glowed, quite literally--when people first visit they would gasp and murmur about how it didn’t look like the pictures, how it was much more beautiful than anything ever shown in pictures. The buildings rose so high that the tops seemingly brushed the sun, the stars, the planets. The roads were painted in all the colors of the night sky, from deep, dark blues to soft purples. And in the middle of the city, in the heart, was a lake.
The lake had no name. People didn’t dare go near it. Locals told stories of how shadowy monsters that fed on human souls would rise out of the depths in the middle of the night, when nobody was awake, and strike. Don’t go near the lake, they said, if you value your life. Those who ignored the warnings, who so much as dipped their feet into the cold, icy grasp of the lake weren’t seen again. But the lake, nonetheless, was almost as beautiful as the city itself, but in a cold, ghastly sort of way, that made you shiver when you laid eyes on it. The air around it smelled sort of sour, and some said they could hear the faint wails of victims when they passed the lake. Some said they even saw figures rising out of the water, only to disappear once you blinked or looked away.
But mostly, people were enraptured by the city and all its beauty, its glory, so most people didn’t give much thought about the lake. They just stayed away from it.
Beauty can do things to people. It can make you forget, it can make you swept up in it, too swept up.
So people didn’t notice when the children started going missing.
Nova was a young boy with hair the color of stardust and eyes that shone with a certain coldness that made you not want to look straight into them for long. He has ran away from the orphanage that he used to inhabit long ago, when it was having guests over and had locked him in the attic to stop any “embarrassing moments.” By that they meant Nova acting troublesome and scaring off potential adoptive parents. He smashed the only window with a hammer and jumped, landing in a bush below and therefore avoiding any major injuries.
Nova sighed and shivered against the cold air, leaning against a brick wall. He hadn’t had much to eat that day, only a slice or two of bread that he stole from the marketplace. He closed his eyes and sunk down onto the ground, sleep starting to take over.
But only moments after, a voice cut through the darkness. “Greetings.”
Nova jolted and opened his eyes to see a man standing before him. He wore a long overcoat and had a large beard. He was wearing a smile, but it made Nova feel the opposite of happy, instead it made him feel sick. He caught his breath as he slowly raised his gaze up to the man’s eyes. Pure darkness enveloped them.
The man bent down to look Nova in the eyes, and held out a gloved hand. “Go on, don’t be shy. I don’t bite.” His smile widened and folded into a smirk, and Nova shrunk back into the shadows, his heart beating wildly in his chest.
Nova’s mind raced for something to say. “Who are you?” He meant to say it with spite, with force, but instead he sounded weak and fearful. He winced and scolded himself silently.
The man tilted his head to one side, still smiling that sick, twisted smile. “Captain Tory, of course. I’m the captain of...” He pondered this for a moment. “Well. It doesn’t have a name yet. But, my dear Nova, I’m the captain of a very fine ship.”
Nova narrowed his cold eyes. “You know my name,” he said.
“Indeed.” Captain Tory didn’t take his oily eyes off Nova. “I’ve been watching you. I’ve developed a particular interest in you, in fact. I have an offer to make.”
Nova shook his head wildly, rapidly pushing himself backwards. “No. Whatever it is, no.”
“But you haven’t even heard it yet.” Captain Tory let out a long sigh, and continued. “My boat, dear Nova, it contains... Many young children. Children around your age, fourteen years old.” Nova opened his mouth to speak, but Tory interrupted him. “Now, they all came to me willingly... Well, most of them. Do you want to know why they came?” Tory leaned down to Nova’s height and whispered, “They came because they’re unwanted. They have no one. Just like you.”
Nova shuddered, and swallowed back tears. “Get away from me.”
Captain Tory placed a gloved hand on Nova’s shoulder. “If you come with me, you’ll have anything you ever wanted. Safety. Warmth. Friends. You’ll have a home, Nova.”
Nova drew in a shaky breath. “But? I don’t trust you.”
“As you should.” Captain Tory’s eyes swam with something Nova couldn’t detect. “You just met me.” He looked away, dropped his hand. “The catch is... Well...” He hesitated. “You won’t be able to leave.”
Nova, a boy who always had a reckless heart, a soul full of wanderlust, gazed at Captain Tory with shining eyes, yet he couldn’t go with him, not yet. Not when he made Nova feel like a blanket of darkness was thrown over him every time Tory came close to him. “I still don’t trust you,” he said.
“Don’t you?” Captain Tory looked amused, but in a sickly sort of way that made Nova’s stomach churn. “Well, if you always trusted yourself every time you made a decision, if every time you looked before you flew, life wouldn’t be that fun, now, would it? Do you understand what I mean?”
Nova nodded, mesmerized, because of course he knew, every day he spent trapped in that orphanage he knew he had to fly, fly away from that horrible place, when he did fly away he landed in the middle of the city and nothing was better, he was still trapped in a cage of masked beauty.
Captain Tory held out a hand. “Join me, Nova. Come with me.”
And Nova did.
The boat rose out of the water on the third swing of Captain Tory’s lantern. The still icy depths shuddered and frothed as it burst out, water streaming down its sails. All the lights were on, and the boat had a strange glow to it that made Nova shiver underneath his coat.
“Ah, yes, here we are,” Captain Tory said, lowering his lamp. “That’s it right there, Nova. That’s your new home.” Nova glanced up at Tory to beam, but his smile faded when he saw the expression on his face. Though his voice was warm, his gaze was cold and hard and... Empty.
“It looks nice,” Nova said quietly, his gaze wonderstruck. Mistake, his head hissed, but it couldn’t be heard against his pounding heart. “How do we get there?”
Captain Tory swung his lantern a fourth time, and small boat popped out of the water beneath them. “Jump,” he said.
Nova sucked in a breath and, after a moment’s hesitation, clumsily climbed over the fence and hopped down into the boat. It groaned and rocked from side to side, water splashing into it. Captain Tory jumped next, and the boat dipped dangerously, water spilling over the edges. Nova brought his knees to his chest and let out a long breath, the water splashing his toes.
“Off we go,” Captain Tory said, and the boat moved steadily towards the ship at a rapid pace. When they reached the ship, another shiver ran down Nova’s back. It was beautiful and chilling, the sight of the ship, almost ghastly. Captain Tory grabbed a ladder and pulled the small boat towards it until they bumped. When they did, he lifted Nova up onto the ladder and climbed up after him.
As soon as Nova reached the top, he noticed something he hadn’t before. There were no children above the decks, which made Nova ask, “Where is everyone?”
“Below decks,” Captain Tory answered, a smirk spreading across his face. “Come with me, Nova. I have to show you something.” He lead Nova over to a trapdoor, and jumped down into it, Nova following.
They landed in a hallway carpeted in velvet. Along the walls, lanterns flickered, creating eerie shadows in the corners. Something stained the walls and floor, something that looked like blood. In the distance, a quiet, echoey scream sounded, and Nova started. “What was that?”
“That was... You’ll see.” Captain Tory grabbed Nova’s arm, and jerked him forward, pulling him along the hallway until they got to a room with a metal door, which he shoved Nova inside, and slammed shut.
Nova, too shocked to speak, sank into the floor, his ears ringing. He rubbed his sore arms, tears running down his cheeks, and he let out a small choking sound.
A soft voice cut through the horrible silence. “Ah, we haven’t had a new one for weeks.” A boy about his age was standing in front of Nova. He had hair so dark it looked blue, and brown eyes that glowed in the unnatural lights.
Nova shook his head in confusion. “Who... who are you? M-my name is Nova.”
The boy smiled, and when he did his whole face lit up. “Nova’s a nice name. I don’t have one. I mean... I’ve been here so long that I’ve forgotten it.” His smile faded. “I was the first one. The first one that he took.”
Nova wiped the tears off his face. “I’m--I’m sorry I look like this, I just... I mean, I’m not usually like this, I just thought...” He choked on his words. “Why am I here?”
“Well,” the boy said slowly, thoughtfully. He sat down next to Nova, their arms brushing just slightly. “Captain Tory, he’s raising an army. An army of soulless children. Children that aren’t afraid to kill. He’s been plucking kids off the street, kids that won’t be missed. Or noticed.” He drew in a breath. “He usually sucks your soul slowly from your body, until all you have left is a shell of yourself. It’s worked for everyone else. He has around a hundred soulless beings that he’s been slowly gathering up for a couple years now. I’m the only one... The only one that it hasn’t worked on.”
Nova scooted closer to the boy, his heart fluttering. “Soulless children? He’s going to steal my... My soul?” He buried his face in his hands. “I’m such an idiot. I never should have trusted him! Why did I ever-”
“It’s not your fault,” the boy said quickly. He drew Nova’s hands from his face. “You weren’t in the right mind. Captain Tory, he has a way of manipulating the mind. Just enough to sway your actions, but not enough for you to notice.”
Nova shakily took his hands out of the boy’s grasp, feeling light headed. “Everyone here is soulless. Except me. And you. How did you even...? How long is it going to take until--”
“I don’t know how I did it,” the boy whispered. “Nobody knows. Not even Tory. He’s started giving up trying to take my soul, because he just can’t do it. I have no idea why. And you, for you... It’ll be probably a hour or two until your soul is gone.”
“An hour?” Nova felt tears well up in his eyes again, but he forced them back. “How does it even work? And... Why are you the only one here with me?”
“I snuck in here,” the boy said quietly. “Tory never lets me talk to anyone because he... Thinks that I’ll rub off on someone. Or something. And he won’t be able to take their soul.” He glanced at Nova, and drew in a shuddering breath. “The procedure is terrifying. It only lasts a few minutes, but it’s so horrible that it knocks your soul right out of you.” The boy stared at his shoes. “It never worked on me.”
“Can’t you at least describe it?” Nova asked.
The boy shook his head, and ran a hand through his hair nervously. “M... Maybe if I stay with you? When it happens? I might be able to save you.” He hesitated, and then said, “But it’s a dumb idea. Never mind. Of course you wouldn’t want me to... Anyway.” He got up. “I’m going to go before Tory finds me.”
“No!” Nova said forcefully. “No, please don’t leave, it’s a good idea, I don’t want to...” I don’t want to be alone.
The boy gazed at Nova. “I don’t even know you,” he said.
Nova smiled, his eyes blurring with tears. “You never will, not if I lose my soul.”
The boy slowly sat beside Nova again. “It’s probably going to start soon, so you just have to remember that whatever you see, hear, experience, it’s just Captain Tory--”
But his words were fading, and red was flashing in Nova’s vision. “Help,” he gasped, his words slurring. He could see the boy’s eyes widening, and he started to say something, but everything melted away into a pit of silent darkness.
Then, a ringing noise. It got louder and louder until it was screeching, searing. Nova let out a wail and clamped his hands over his ears. A pain started throbbing in his chest, and suddenly it seemed as though his whole body was getting torn apart, as though his chest was being pried open. Wracked with pain, he screamed. The ringing got louder, the pain got worse, and what happened after that was indescribable.
All that could be said is that it felt like someone was physically ripping your every bit of you right out of your chest, and all your bad memories and worse nightmares flooded out and entered your heart and mind and the space where your soul should be dwelling but... You’re empty. You. Are. Empty.
But when Nova opened his eyes what felt like hours later, he didn’t feel empty anymore. He had kept the last fragments of his soul, and he stared at the boy. “You weren’t there. You didn’t...” He drew in a heavy breath, and sobbed loudly.
The boy reached down. “I was there. You just couldn’t feel me through the pain.” He embraced Nova in a hug, a long hug that made Nova cry again. “Nova, Nova,” he murmured, crying softly on Nova’s shoulder, “I wish I could have known you.”
Nova nodded, a tear running down his cheek. “Me too,” he whispered, and slumped over in the boy’s arms as his soul fully slipped away.
And they reached
And their fingers brushed ever so slightly and
They grasped, gasped, eyes met
And the world exploded into a million stars and
They fell into a pit of darkness
Where not even the stars could reach
And they smiled; and they cried
They were lost
So they fell, crashed, and sucked in a last breath
But they glowed and they rose
Bodies and spirits.
My Soul is Blue
I glance at her, all sunshine hair and sparkling eyes. Why does she have to be so beautiful? I glance away, color flooding my cheeks. But of course she can't see my soul rising up my chest when I look at her, of course she can't hear my heart pounding against my ribcage like a captured bird. She's clueless. She doesn't know.
I sit down and and open my chest and let my small, hopeless soul crawl out. It's blue.
She turns toward me, and her mouth turns down. "Are you okay?" She asks.
No, never. I'll never be okay until I can press my lips to hers. "I'm fine," I rasp, and push my soul back inside my chest. My heart starts beating again.
She kneels down and looks me in the eyes. She's so close I could have grabbed her hand, or touch her cheek, but I don't. "Are you sure?" She whispers. Her breath flutters against my cheek.
"Yes," I croak. My heart stops again. She gets to her feet and hold her hand out. Does she want me to take it? I don't, just stare at it. I want to take it. But I can't.
"Come on," she says.
"I want to stay here," I say, gritting my teeth. Why can't I just take her hand? She takes mine. My heart explodes and shrivels in my chest. She pulls me up, and I gaze into her eyes, trying to memorize how beautiful they are.
"Hi," I say, my breath catching in my throat.
"Hi," she says. She drops my hand. "Tell me what's wrong."
I look away from her pleading eyes, her pursed lips. "I'll never tell you what's wrong," I say. My fingers twitch. I can still feel the ghost of her hand in mine, and I don't remember what it's like for my heart to beat. When I bundle up the courage to glance at her again, her eyes are wide with sadness. "You can trust me," she says softly. "I trust you."
"That's the problem," I say. "That is the problem." I wonder what kissing her would be like, and quickly push the thought away. 'No, no, no...'
"You've been acting strange," she says.
Yeah, well, does she know what it's like to fall in love with your best friend? To dream of taking her hands in yours, to press your lips--no. I must not think of that... "I've always been strange," I say, and flash her a quick, awkward smile that makes me cringe.
Her eyes crinkle up as she smiles. My heart dies for the third time that day. "I know that," she says lightly, her voice sounding of sunshine and rain and the ocean. My voice just sounds like me. "But stranger than usual."
She's so clueless, so her, that I want to cry, to... "I guess..." My voice trails off. I'm caught mid sentence by her flawless beauty. I need to stop staring at her! I hide inside myself, look at the ground.
"Hey," she says.
"Hello," I say quietly. My blue soul has turned a deep shade of magenta. She steps to stand beside me. Our arms brush. I stop breathing.
"You," she says, "are funny." She laughs.
"Okay," I say. There is nothing funny about this. She is standing way too close to me. Oh--she's closer. Our cheeks brush. My cheeks are on fire, and I pray she can't tell.
"Hi," I breathe.
"Hello," she says, and my soul bursts out of my heart and crawls through my body. I am warm all over. I love her so much, way too much, but I can never have her. My soul crawls back into my heart, and I sigh. It's blue again.
A long time in a galaxy far away, there lived a girl. She had chestnut hair and laughing eyes. She liked to gaze up at the stars, and on sunny days she would sing.
Not so long ago in a galaxy not so far away, there lived a young woman. She had ran away from home, and lived on the verge of nothing. She walked a line between good and wrong. But she still looked at the stars, and she still sang, her voice rising in the air and gathering in one man's heart. She fell in love.
Years ago in a galaxy that is neighboring to us, there lived a woman. She had a house, and she lived with her husband and two kids. Sometimes they would go outside in the nighttime and the woman would show them the constellations. On sunny days, she taught them to sing.
A month ago on the other side of the world, there lived an old woman. She had watched her children grow up and have children of their own. Her husband had died. She was still able to look up at the stars, but she couldn't sing anymore.
Yesterday in a the small town I live in, there was a dead woman in a coffin. It had been a small funeral; only family members and a few friends. She couldn't sing. And her eyes were closed. The night before had been the last time she had seen the old, ancient stars.
My breathing came in quick, rapid gulps. I clawed at the stone floor, at nothing, wanting everything, nothing... I flopped onto my back and stared at the ceiling, at the blinding lights, and I choked on loneliness... Bile rose in my throat, and I forced it back down. I ran my grimy fingers through my hair, and my breath hitched. I wanted warmth, I wanted comfort, I wanted... It didn't matter what I wanted. It was gone, all gone, and how long has it been? Three months? Six years? It didn't matter anymore. Nothing mattered, nothing... I turned over on my side and stroked the floor. It was stained in blood. How hard had I fought against it? I couldn't remember. I closed my eyes, and I sucked in a labored breath. I needed something. Anything. Something other than the cold gray floor and the same electric lights, the ones I woke up to every day. But really, did I sleep? Could I sleep? It didn't seem like it. I opened my eyes and gazed at the bloodstain. Whose was it? Could it be my mother's? My father's? Or maybe my sister's? Did it even matter? Maybe nothing mattered. Nothing at all... I sat up, every muscle in my body aching. Was my family dead? I stood up shakily, and leaned against the cold cement wall. I pressed my forehead against it and drew in a long breath. Everything... Was... Fine. I forced my gaze over to my left, and heaved. Bodies... Dead bodies. My family. I felt bile rise in my throat again, but this time I didn't force it down. I sunk to the ground. Why hadn't I noticed their rotting corpses? I crawled over to them. Human flesh... How long had it been since I had felt human flesh? I stroked my sister's hand. Cold. I threw up my head and wailed into the everlasting silence. No. No. I grabbed my mother's arm. Limp. I screamed, and, in desperation, grabbed my father. His blank eyes stared back at me. I threw him against the wall, and crumpled to the ground, pressing against my mother. I needed something living. Warm skin. Eyes that saw me. I clawed at my mother and sister, sobbing. "Come back! Get up!" They didn't. They lay there, unseeing, unfeeling. Dead.
Kisses, laughter, goofy grins
When you're in love everyone wins.
Sobbing, screaming, tearing at hair
When your heart is broken nobody's there.
Nobody's there to hold you tight
Nobody's there to kiss you good night.
But when gauze is plastered against the wound
And new love for someone has already bloomed
You haven't realized what you should have before
What you should have when you were loved no more
It's the subject that you have debated and debated
That, sadly, love is overrated.