Flash Fiction Contest Winner #25 – “A Special Star”

Please note: Flash fiction stories are submitted by members of our Discord server. Many contain adult themes and may be objectionable to some readers.

“A Special Star”

Because Bao held her breath, shooting stars streaked across the night-sky like lines drawn with a ruler. In the distance, past mountains larger than her thumb, they flew upwards from the horizon and vanished. Stars brighter than any flash-light she had seen before, tinted with a red hue and gone in the blink of an eye.
     Ever since water had swept the land and the world had been born anew, Bao had watched the night-sky. Hundreds of different constellations that lit up the sky like specks of sand on a black curtain.
     She watched, every night, through a hole in the tent’s fabric by her bedside. Snuggled into her sleeping bag, like a caterpillar in a cocoon, she’d smell her rubber boots warming on the heater and hear the sound of the sea outside. Dusk would blanket the sun and twilight would darken to a navy blue.
     “Are the stars shy?” Bao had once asked.
     “Why do you ask, treasure?”
     “They’re very still when I watch them.”
     “Then try being still like them, watch them carefully, and maybe you’ll see one fly across the sky.”
     Like promised, the moment she was still, stars dashed across the night-sky. An hour later, her mother entered the tent and Bao sprung from her sleeping-bag.
     “Bao. Sleep.”
     “Mom!” She pointed outside. “The stars!”
     Her mother’s eyes and nose were as red as a pepper and she rummaged through a rucksack. “Yes, they’re beautiful. Now please go to sleep.”
     “I saw them move up. They moved up so fast!”
     “Did they? You’re very lucky.” Her mother’s gaze was locked on the rucksack until she pulled a tablet out and wiped her face with her hand. “I haven’t seen a shooting star in forever.”
     “Maybe you looked too high up. These stars came from the ground.”
     Her mother frowned. “Maybe. Bao, I’m very busy, can you get back into bed, please?”
     “Okay… but will you watch with me tomorrow?”
     “Of course, treasure, but get lots of rest. Tomorrow’s a long day.”
     She was right. Unlike before, the five families trekked endlessly through rocky terrains and camped on mountainous slopes. The sea followed them, swallowing more land every morning. Arguments arose as everyone rushed each other.
     “Faster, faster. We don’t have forever.” Every patriarch and matriarch would say, as if it hadn’t been said minutes ago. Bao had asked her mother where they were going, but her mother had smiled and said: “To the stars.”
     Many nights later, as gushing water flowed past their tent, Bao sat on her mother’s lap instead of her backpack. Her mother’s arms wrapped around her, warmer than any blanket, and together they gazed at the night-sky.
     Heavy lids eased Bao to sleep while she pressed the back of her head against her mother until a fire reddened the night-sky. A crash sounded in the distance, like a big firework. Bao’s mouth dropped as she watched a huge light fly in the same arc, visible for minutes rather than seconds. Brighter than any star in her dreams as a tail formed, carving the night-sky like white-chalk on a blackboard.
     “Mom, those stars are brighter than last time.”
     Her mother’s breathing was ragged and she moved a hand to her mouth.
     Bao gazed upwards. “What’s wrong?”
     “Nothing. It’s only stars.” She lifted Bao up and placed her onto the bed. Tears ran down her mother’s cheeks and her hands were shaking. “Come on, it’s time to sleep.”
     “Why are you crying? Is it a special star?”
     Her mother took a deep breath and smiled, but it was a frightening smile, a smile that would only show when something was wrong.
     She ran a hand through Bao’s hair and spoke softly. “They were all special stars; but that was our star.”