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SWC15 - Starlight

Arisia'15 Student Writing Contest - 2nd Place Winner


By Mackenzie Stratton

I am obsessed with pretty things. Bright colors, sparkles, gems–you name it; I love it. If something shiny or colorful catches my eye, I will investigate. That's how I found my star.

It didn't look like a star. It only looked like a piece of common quartz crystal when I first found it. As I was playing in my newly bloomed spring garden, I saw a glint of light in the dirt. I had to find out what the shiny thing was, so I bent down in the flowerbed to pick it up. Although it looked like quartz, it definitely wasn't, since unpolished quartz doesn't shine like this crystal did. I didn't give much thought to the gem after pocketing it, though. It would become just another part of the huge array of stones and gems on my desk, a part less pretty
than the highlights of the collection: my piece of pyrite, my snowflake obsidian, and my amethyst geode.

That night, I awoke to a bright light, far brighter than the moon. The light was pure, glittering white like the sun’s reflection after a snowstorm. It radiated from the crystal on my desk, the one I’d found earlier in the garden. I barely had time to process my wonder since the light didn't last long. Once I was awake, it dimmed a bit, and the crystal started to shake. Suddenly, it flew into the air and started orbiting around my head. My eyes tried to follow it as it finished its orbit and zoomed across the room, searching for its final destination: a small watering can filled with sunny marigolds on my bookshelf.

It rattled against the lavender tin, making a noise like a snare drum, before settling down and tucking itself within the flowers. It gently burrowed into the soil and started to glow again, softly this time.

I knew what I had to do. I grabbed a flashlight and trowel, put on my slippers, and crept out to the garden with the crystal in hand. Except by then I knew it wasn't a crystal–it was a star. It simply couldn’t be anything else. By the same logic, I knew I had to plant it, so I chose a place right in the middle of the garden surrounded by little beds of marigolds. I didn't know what would grow or what I needed to do to care for my star, but I planted it two inches deep and watered it. As soon as the water touched the ground above the star, it turned into what looked like liquid silver dissolving into the soil, glimmering in the moonlight. As I stared dumbstruck at the spot, a sparkle in the corner of my eye demanded my attention. I looked up. Brilliant, white, shimmering stardust had started falling to the garden ground like rain. The dust was cool and light on my skin, making me sparkle, making every freckle on my body glitter like a sequin. Despite the coolness, I felt the warmth of my
excitement mixed with something I could not place. I stuck out my tongue like I do during snowstorms to taste the stardust. It tasted exactly like magic.

The next morning, my parents found me asleep in the garden, covered in the silvery white stardust. I'm sure they made up whatever excuses grownups do to explain what had happened because they didn't ask any questions. They just told me to clean up. I didn’t mind how the shower’s hot water carried the dust easily from the surface of my body, making it pool almost like dirt as it waited to drain. Even when the dust was gone, I felt it in my skin, making me shine, making me pretty like a star. As soon as I reached my room, I threw out my favorite fairy princess shimmer powder. I didn’t need it. I was watered by the stars.

My star grew and grew. After only two weeks, it was taller than I was, standing like a Christmas tree literally made out of lights or snow or diamonds. Its glimmering surfaces of crystal branches and tinsel-like white needles reflected light and scattered rainbows across the garden, intensifying every color. My star was the most beautiful anything I’d ever seen.

I spent my childhood playing in the garden, specifically around the star. It was the glistening fountain in the courtyard of my palace. Its branches became my wands and sceptres when I ascended to my throne as queen of the garden fairies or queen of whatever needed my leadership. Its needles intertwined with my hair, making it sparkle in the sunlight. Its cones became jewels, my very own treasures that I would protect from danger. Its silver sap always covered me by the end of the day, making me feel as the stardust did. The year I planted the star was the
year I stopped wearing my pretty costumes to play.

But in six years’ time I was wearing pretty clothes again–by that point, it wasn’t like I had to worry about them getting worn and dirty from playing in the garden. Every morning, I passed a dull grey tree without thought on my way to school. The ordinary tree didn’t glitter white with sparkling magic as my child self loved to believe. It was just a tree with droopy branches that made it look pear-shaped, ugly. So I traded in my outgrown overalls and jeans for leggings and skirts, my hair ties for hair product. The girls at school congratulated me for “finally catching up with the times,” and their compliments meant the world to me. I really looked up to them–they seemed so sure of themselves. Sure, confident, pretty. Perfect. They taught me tricks to improve myself, to cover up my flaws. With every technique I learned, I started to like my reflection more and more. I always liked pretty things, and the girls taught me how to make myself a pretty thing I could like.

Other people started to like me, too. I had always been the weird girl who always played in her garden, but once I changed, more people started to notice me. I was accepted into a large group of friends, and we were the group who owned the long rectangular table in the middle of the cafeteria where everyone could see us. We had a group text where we would talk for hours about nothing at all, and the simultaneous ring of our phones reminded others of who we were. We were unstoppable as we strutted through the mall, loudly talked through movies, and stayed at the diner for hours eating only side dishes. When I was with my friends, I felt like I did when I played with my star. Their approval made the stupid tree unnecessary.

By the time I was 16, the hideous tree-thing I’d once called a star looked like death. It was so dull it looked closer to black than grey, and it drooped so low it looked half its height. I couldn’t say much else about it, since looking at it for too long made me sick. Often, I thought of cutting it down altogether, removing it from my life completely. Its extraordinary ugliness ruined the beautiful garden. But I never found the time to get around to it. I was always too busy texting my friends, going out with my friends, or preparing my face to go out with my friends. When I would return home late at night, it would be dark enough for me to forget the disgusting thing existed.

However, one early spring night the moon was too bright for me to forget. As I trudged up the walkway to the house, I noticed the miserable tree and felt a strange mixture of pity and nostalgia, which I immediately shook off as I walked through the front door. I was too tired to care–my friends and I had spent the night surrounded by the bright neon lights of the sparkling city nearby. As I washed the makeup from my face, I
noticed something glimmering out of the corner of my eye by the window. I told myself it was probably some shimmer powder reflecting the moonlight–I wear so much I tend to shed it all over the place.

The light shining through the open window kept me awake for hours, and just as I was finally drifting to sleep, an even brighter light pulled me into consciousness once more. “No way,” I whispered, shocked, as a star seed started whizzing around my head. It didn’t fly around the room like the one eleven years before; it just stayed in its orbit around my head, even as I tried to slap it away. I leapt out of bed and tried to run away from the nuisance, but it chased me as I ran down the stairs and out of the house. “Ooh, you’re good,” I muttered as I realized it had forced me into the garden. With its mission accomplished, the seed settled down at the base of the tree–no–at the base of the star.

The moment the seed touched the soil, the same silver liquid I had seen that first night coursed through the tree like blood through veins. It shimmered as it filled the branches with light and life, raising them from their droopy state. New, thin, hairlike needles emerged from the branches, reflecting the moonlight with the most beautiful shade of silver. The needles grew in bunches so thick they completely hid the branches, filling in what had looked empty for so long. The star took a full shape, a shape different than before.

It was definitely the same star, though–it had the same skeleton beneath, the same roots, the same veins. It looked completely different, but it was just as beautiful as the star I loved as a child. Perhaps it was even more beautiful. In awe, I approached the star. I wanted to touch it, to see if its beauty could possibly be real. It was. It was new. Instead of glittering snow, the star looked like ice, like a frozen
waterfall. It shone blue and silver, its thickly bunched needles creating textured mirrors that reflected the moonlight, the stars above, the deep night sky, and the colors of the newly-bloomed garden. It reflected my face, my naked face. It captured my entire body from my raggedy pajamas to my frizzy pillow-hair. I didn’t turn away from the reflection, though, as I had grown used to doing. I looked at the girl in front of me with the bare face I barely recognized, and I saw someone stunning. She smiled at me, and her smile didn’t look forced at all. It didn’t feel forced.