Book of Days: June 24, Starlight Walk

The sun set on All Souls’ Night, leaving the world to the darkness of the new moon. Jethe huddled against the base of the tree, left in the centre of the forest by his parents before the light fled, and waited.

Above his head, in the inky curtain of the night sky, pinpricks of light flickered into existence, the stars at last waking. He waited until they filled the sky with a shower of sparkles, their light the only thing to see by. Normally, with the competition from the glorious moon, starlight was too feeble to make itself known, the secrets it would have revealed hidden by their voluminous companion. The New Moon granted them a moment to show the world as it could be, and All Souls’ Night granted them additional strength.

Jethe used the tree to help himself stand, and then stepped out onto the path that would, if the fates were kind, see him home. On this night, of all nights, it was not a guarantee. In fact, on this night, he didn’t even know if the path still led where it did in the daytime, for the light of the stars showed alternates, took you to different places, if those places were where you were meant to be.

He wanted to be home. He hadn’t wanted to come to the forest in the first place, but it was tradition. His mother had said that, when he gave his last protest.

“It is tradition.” So solemn and serious, as though the words were a prayer, and maybe they were. The starlight walk had been a tradition for as long as the village had existed in the forest, perhaps even longer, though no records or stories survived from that time. He’d often wondered if it was because the village discovery had happened on a starlight walk, if the path to this place deep in the forest had been brightened by the audience of stars, and so their contributions were celebrated on All Souls’ Night.

Once, when he was very young, he’d asked if this were so, and the village elders had scolded him for wondering, as though wanting to know how the village came here and why was something no one should be thinking about. He thought it was only right they wonder where they came from. He thought it right they wonder why they were all to take this walk on All Soul’s Night in their fifteenth year of life.

It is tradition was not an answer. It explained nothing, gave nothing. It was, just as the walk was, and so you were no farther ahead for having heard it. His mother could give no other answer, and his father hadn’t bothered to hear the question. The elders, of course, wouldn’t entertain such a notion, and none of Jethe’s friends had an answer. A few had asked their parents, if only to get him to stop complaining about it, but they faced the same result.

So now here he was, in the middle of the dark forest, path lit only by the faint starlight, worried he would trip over a branch and scrape his palms, and the only reason for it was because it has always been done. He huddled in on himself, arms tucked tight against his sides where they’d be of no use if he did fall, and marked each step with care. It seemed as though the path were already different from the one he had taken to get here, but he couldn’t tell if that was because it had changed, or if it only looked different in the starlight, with the darkness and the shadows concealing so much.

But no, it had to be different. He hadn’t passed the climbing tree, which he certainly should have by now. He wasn’t that far out in the forest, after all, just far enough. He should have seen the climbing tree, or if not it, then the turn to the pond. Those he might have missed for the shadows, as he often missed it even in the bright light of the sun, but he would not have missed the crossroads, where one branch took him to the tree under which his parents had left him, and the other to the house in the centre of the forest where the old woman sold tonics and tinctures.

No, the path had changed and he was not going home. Jethe stopped walking. He turned to look back over his shoulder, but the trees behind him no longer looked like those he had passed, and he did not think it was a trick of the light.

It is tradition, his mother had said. She had mentioned, of course, that those who went missing every year at this time were traditionally forgotten. It was something everyone knew, but nobody said, and now Jethe found himself among them. At least, he thought as he began walking again, he would have one question answered.

He would finally find out what happened to those who did not return from their starlight walk.

Patreon Teaser

My Patreons voted for this snippet, from four options, to be turned into a full-length story.

If you’d like to vote for the monthly snippet and read the resulting stories, join my Patreon!

Categories

Archives

by | Jun 24, 2021

Discover more from BD Wilson

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading