I.

Which is about how an old lady saves a lost child



PAMELA had lived one-hundred and seventy-eight years so far, but only once had she bore witness to a Creshan birth. This was to be the second time.

There aren’t many experiences it can be likened to in Earth terms, because first zoners aren’t prone to seeing shooting stars mere feet away from them, not even during the most lively of meteor showers. The birth of a Cresha child is a hallowed event that beings from the most isolated corners of the Fluorescent Zone will gather to watch, for it only happens once a century.

On Kayr, one of two moons orbiting Eltrya, starfall and moondrops are being heated over a sheet of rock, radiating beams of colored light in azure and flamingo pink, shimmery gold and turquoise, to shower a parade of glistening stars in disparate shapes and sizes to the planet below. The process does not unfold on its own, as it takes another Cresha to forge the rock with a large and simmering mallet, clanging it against the stone with a truly mighty force, until a child is sculpted before them.

It was lucky for Pamela to have lived in a place such as Meicoe Harbor, where the event’s luminous reflections on the water below only served to amplify its otherworldly majesty. A throng of Manyas, Odols, Keloweks, and too many more to mention were crowding around the harbor, clambering for a better spot from which to view things, with some preferring to sit at the pier and watch its wobbly mirror image on the waves.

Though you may have noted that I described the starfall as being mere feet away, these were stars that had shrunk small enough by time they came close to land that you could hold them in the palm of your hand, and they felt much like small flickers of heat rather than something solid and tangible should they collide with you. As such, some invested viewers make a point of bringing fisherman’s nets, woven baskets and the like in which to collect the stars as if they were flower petals, but by morning they will always have burnt out.

The first time she had seen it, Pamela observed that the starfall was larger, denser, and feeling it strike you was more akin to having a ball of wadded paper thrown at you than the almost imperceptible warm brush they now made against her fur. She pondered this a while, wondering if something had changed in the planet’s surrounding atmosphere to cause its celestial bodies to become thinned (or perhaps she was simply more sensitive when she was younger), when suddenly a chunk of star the size of a pillow came hurtling, as if from nowhere, toward a small Manya child who had been wandering along one of the piers by herself.




Now, Pamela may have been an older Manya, but her senses were sharply tuned, and being the headmaster of an orphanage filled with excitable children of the same age, this was nothing she couldn’t attend to in time. Never one for the spotlight, she felt the eyes of the entire crowd on her as she dove over a section of the water and onto the pier to scoop the child up into her arms, tight and snug, and rolled them both out of the path of the wayward star. It had snagged on the bottom of her dress, not quite tearing it, but pinning her there all the same, as she stopped in her tracks to get a proper look at the child. She came up to Pamela’s knees, had dirtied grey fur with a lavender mane, floppy ears, and wild yellow eyes that painted a personality nothing short of mischievous.

Before she could think to speak any words of calm to the unlucky little girl, Pamela extended a paw behind her to dislodge the star, which had been dazzlingly shifting hues from purple-pink to red-orange, only to find it was searing hot to the touch, causing her to jolt with a yelp. The Manya child reacted to this with glee and amusement, at which Pamela nearly reprimanded her as if she were one of the orphan children she looked after on a day to day basis; but the child then surprised not only Pamela, but all observing creatures, as she thrusted her bare feet in front of her, bucking the molten star into the water. The heavenly body sank dully beneath the waves, its faint glow to remain visible for the rest of the night.

By this point, many had stopped observing the starfall as it came from the sky and had instead shifted their attention toward the oversized piece that fell this way, as it was a hard sight to miss, and seemed to glow with an almost haughty effulgence. Some were taking photographs, while others sketched what they had seen through the windows of their homes. Pamela flushed pink from the rush of attention she had drawn, deciding it best that she leave the scene before things escalated further. However—the child, whose life could very well have been in danger had she not leapt into action, needed to first be returned to her parents, or whomever may have been looking after her. Pamela took her hand, and—

Perhaps it was just a trick of the light, but all at once, the child’s fur appeared to shift from silver to white, her mane from lavender to salmon-pink, and her eyes from a catlike yellow to sky blue, not far from matching Pamela’s own coloration. She blinked twice, and removed her eyeglasses to clean them on her dress, only to find that she had indeed changed color. But it was the very same Manya, smiling expectantly at her.