I opened my eyes to the vast wasteland that expanded before me. I gazed to my left and then my right, and I saw nothing but stars glittering with a magnificent brilliance that never died. Over time, I had grown tired of staring at these lights that illuminated my world. They did nothing but provide a faint light to a life that had otherwise given me darkness. These lights gave warmth to worlds beyond my eyes and life to those who hadn’t even earned the privilege.
Admittedly, I wasn’t the only one who dwelled in this darkness. No one can live completely alone, and I was no exception. There was a single tree that fed upon these lights that surrounded me but denied me their warmth – a lone ash tree.
This one ash tree was the only thing that lived with me in my otherwise empty world. Countless branches spanned in almost an infinite amount of directions. I had long given up on trying to count the branches or the worlds that they touched. Its trunk dived endlessly into the void, and the roots were left completely exposed. The roots had somehow planted this tree where there was no soil, yet it lived, growing by the second. The tree was the only thing I could call my friend. The tree had been here when I’d first opened my eyes, and the tree would still be here when they closed.
However, on this particular day, I decided that I needed to leave my friend. The tree had many branches that spanned to the far outreaches of the universe, yet I had stayed near its base for my entire existence. I’d grown lonely over time, and I yearned for something other than the darkness and a friend that had never once spoken to me.
I placed my hand on the trunk of the tree with a firm resolution and said, “I’m sorry, my friend. I may be leaving this day, but I’ll return someday.”
I lifted my hand, and I heard a slight rustling above me. For the first time, I saw a branch rustling gently, though they normally stood silent. There was no wind here in my world to move the branches.
I thought I imagined their movement. I chuckled and then smiled at my old friend. “Are you telling me I should go in that direction?”
The branch moved once again, and I nodded. “I’ll trust you then.”
I followed the path the tree had laid out before me. The journey was long, and I didn’t know how far I had walked or how much farther I had to go, but for the first time in my life, I desired. I felt my soul being tugged forward as if it yearned to arrive at its new home.
I became nervous at the thought of what waited for me when I arrived. The only thing I had ever known was the tree, and although I knew other worlds existed, I’d always feared venturing into the unknown. I walked until my feet went numb and blisters began to form on them, but I wouldn’t yield, not this time.
My mind went blank. I’d grown accustomed to the silence, but I was no longer covered by the vast ash tree. My body felt bare, and my mind was exposed. As I continued into the sea of stars, the emptiness of the universe swallowed me. The size of it all made me feel insignificant. I had no shine of my own, and if I were to disappear, no one would ever notice.
A sharp and shrill voice came from behind me to knock me back into reality. I turned my head to see a star hovering next to me. I looked into the light, expecting to see a face, but I saw nothing but a warm, gentle glow.
The star hovered around me some more, dashing from side to side and to different angles. My eyes had trouble keeping up with my unknown intruder until it stopped in front of my face once again. I heard the light sigh, and it said, “Can you not speak? Will you just continue to stand there with your mouth agape? Hello!?”
“Elijah,” I muttered under my breath. I had never spoken to another being, let alone a star. I didn’t know what the proper courtesies were, and I grew nervous at the sight of my newfound stranger.
“Elijah, eh?” The light moved in slightly closer, as if it were staring directly at me. The stare was fleeting, as the light began to swarm around me without a care. “Sadly, you don’t seem like you’re all there, but I guess you’ll do just fine. Loki is the name.”
I felt it odd for a star to have a name, but at the same time, I had a name, and I was the only one of my kind. I didn’t know who had given me the name, but I did know it was mine.
I said to the odd little star, “Strange, I didn’t think that your kind moved about.”
The little light scoffed, “Haven’t you’ve ever heard of a shooting star before? I admit that we are rare, but I assure you if you look hard enough, you’ll see us moving about.”
I began to look around, trying to find another of Loki’s kind, only to be interrupted when he started to laugh. “If it was that easy, you’d know what I was to begin with. Give it a little more time, keep one eye on the horizon, and you’ll see my brethren.” Loki inched forward as if he were dancing along the branch, darting quickly above it and then beneath until he sat neatly on the top of one. “Where could you be heading to, I wonder?” he asked.
I had no reason to hide my destination. I pointed forward, toward the end of the branch. “I’m heading in that direction. The tree told me to go there.”
The light chuckled lightly. “The tree told you to go there? That’s a new one. Well, I admit that you’re near the end, but I don’t know what you’d expect to find.”
“Life,” I muttered flatly.
The light dipped down in front of me again and jested, “Well, good news, you’ve found a lively one right in front of you.”
I didn’t say anything to those words, but simply continued forward to my destination. I grew excited at the news that my journey was almost over.
I heard Loki fluttering behind me. “How cold of you to walk off like that without a proper farewell.” Loki found his way to my shoulder. His warm light enveloped my body. “It was just too painful to say goodbye, wasn’t it? Well, don’t worry, my friend, I’ll light your way.”
I had to admit I enjoyed having Loki with me on my journey. The light enjoyed a good conversation, and even though most of the things he said were nonsensical, the sound of a voice in this silent and lifeless wasteland raised my spirits. Besides, it was the first time I’d had light in my life, and the warmth was everything that I had wished for.
We continued forward, and only minutes afterward, Loki’s words became true, and we reached the end of the branch. At the end was a large pond that floated mysteriously about. The pond was dreadfully out of place, just like the tree, yet it existed.
I stared down into the pond, and I saw a sight I hadn’t seen in my entire life. I saw the sight of a blue sky and green grass. The grass was blowing slightly along with the breeze, as if the blades were dancing. I saw cars driving along the street and numerous people crossing without any hesitation. The people didn’t know of my existence, but I knew of theirs. I knew the names of objects I had never seen before, as if I had known them my entire life.
I wanted to join them in their world.
I wanted to live with them.
However, my heart grew hesitant at the sight of the unknown, and I sat next to the pond, wondering what I should do. I looked back, and I could still see the great ash tree in its entire splendor stretching out amongst the entire universe.
My friend Loki inched over to my ear and whispered, “Will you look at that, an entire world filled with people.” His light grew brighter, and he added, “A world filled with dreams and aspirations, some greedy, some needy, and some fleeting.”
Loki paused for a second. “So, now that you’re here, what do you plan to do?”
I felt my legs quake at the thought of moving the last step forward and felt them inching backward to a place that I knew was safe – the darkness. That was when I heard a small voice erupt from the pond. The words were muffled, but I knew I heard them. I saw a small ripple in the water of the pond. That was when I saw her, a girl running along the grass with a smile that shined brighter than any star.
She looked as if she were staring through the pond directly toward me, inviting me to join her. The girl had long, dark brown hair that mimicked the great ash tree and light blue eyes that rivaled the sky above her. I heard someone yell at her from across the street, “Elly! Come on, you’re late!”
My heart skipped a beat as they called her name once again. “Elly! Hurry!”
I smiled as her name repeated in my head.
Her name was Elly.
Was there ever a more beautiful name?
She started to walk across the street away from me, and I reached my arm out instinctively. As my hand touched the water, I felt its icy touch. My heart sank. I didn’t know what I expected to happen when I arrived at the end of my journey.
I wanted to do anything to fill this void I felt in my heart. I felt that Elly could do that for me.
“Is that your wish, then?” I heard Loki whisper behind me. “Consider it granted, my friend.”
The water erupted toward me. It reached out as if it had an arm of its own, and then it gripped my arm firmly. I felt a sharp tug from the water. I tried to pull my arm back, but I couldn’t, and without any proper resistance, the water pulled me in.
I heard Loki say something to me as I was dragged into the depths, but I couldn’t make sense of the words. I just saw him hovering over me and staring at me as I sank deeper into the abyss. I watched as his light began to fade, and I saw a small shadow in the shape of a face appear, but before I could make it out, the darkness ate at me.
I readied myself for the cold water to envelop my body, to steal what little warmth I held, but instead, I felt a slight tickle along my skin. I traced my fingers along with it as it continued, and I opened my eyes. I squinted as the bright light of the sun hit my face, and I marveled as I stood in a world that wasn’t my own. The touch that I felt was the fleeting tickle of the wind. I peered at my feet to see the grass waving at me as I stood on top of the ground for the first time.
My heart raced. I started to look in every direction with untold excitement as I tried to absorb everything around me. I watched and listened to the humming of cars passing by and the yammering of countless people who were simply walking and living their lives.
I stretched out my arms, trying to embrace my new surroundings, but only her face flashed in my mind – Elly’s face.
I turned and looked around in every direction to try to find the woman who had captivated me. I didn’t know why I felt the need to talk with her or be with her, but I knew that at that moment, I simply needed her.
That was when I saw Elly again as she crossed the street, and my feet instinctively walked forward.
I wanted to introduce myself to her.
I wanted to talk to her.
Heck, I simply wanted her to know I existed.
Elly was only a few steps in front of me when I heard a blaring horn coming from my right. A car dodged a child who was chasing after a ball, lost control, and was now spiraling in Elly’s direction. I sprinted forward without hesitation and jumped forward. I wrapped my arms around Elly and twisted us so I would land on the concrete. I clenched my teeth, expecting to land hard, but as we fell, I felt another strong pull, and we landed without noise.
I stared around to see that I was once again in the darkness with countless stars around me, but this time, something was different. This time, I was here with Elly cradled in my arms.
I felt her rustle for a second in my grasp, and after a few seconds, she looked up at me. She took a moment, smiled, and said, “Hey there. Thanks for–”
Her words cut off when she caught a glimpse of her surroundings. She displayed a wide array of emotions that changed after every passing moment. The first emotion was the look of bewilderment of standing in space. She gazed at the ocean of stars and worlds that surrounded her. The second emotion was fear, fear of the unknown horizon that she had been forced into. And strangely her last emotion was when she looked at me. I couldn’t quite place it, but it seemed like she was glad that she wasn’t the only one in this new world, and then it quickly shifted to panic.
Her eyes trailed to my arm, and her voice rang out, thundering about the deep space. “Oh my gosh! Are you okay?”
I turned to my elbow, which was bleeding quite a bit, most likely from the fall. I took one look at my wound curiously. I felt the small prickling of pain along my arm, but instead of worry, I felt happiness at being able to feel this new sensation that most other people would disdain. I had only known emptiness, and in just these last few moments, I’d experienced more than I had in my entire life.
I muttered, “Yes, I seem to be okay.”
I twisted my arm slightly to survey the wound, and it didn’t seem serious. After I had come to that conclusion, I found it odd, as I didn’t remember ever seeing myself bleed before, and yet I knew it was my blood. It was a dark red color, and it felt cold as it trailed along my arm. It painted a new tint to the universe that had only known light and darkness.
I heard an aggressive ripping sound, and I watched Elly as, without hesitation, she ripped off the sleeve of her shirt and wrapped it around my arm. She smiled and said, “I can’t have my savior bleeding out on me, can I?”
I opened my mouth to speak, but she quickly interrupted me.
“Man, will you look at this. Do you think we died or something?” She began looking at her surroundings, trying to get the lay of the land. She twirled around in circles, trying to notice a recognizable landmark, but of course, she couldn’t.
I shook my head. “No, we didn’t die. This is the World Tree, Yggdrasil.”
I pointed off into the distance at the great ash tree.
Elly cocked her head to the side. “Yggdrasil? What’s that?” she asked.
I answered without a tinge of doubt within my words, “It’s the tree that connects all the worlds together, the tree that breathes life to all worlds.”
I looked at Elly’s face, and she seemed confused. She looked like she was thinking hard about her current situation, but eventually, she shrugged and turned to me. “Well, I’m not dead, and that’s the most important thing. I’m Elly, by the way, and you are?”
She stuck her hand out and waited for my reply.
I reached out my hand curiously; she quickly grabbed it and began to shake it. I responded with a voice that barely escaped my lips, “I’m Elijah.”
She smiled. “Eli, huh?”
“Well, Eli,” she said, interrupting me, “I know it might be me assuming things, but since you know where we are, do you know how to get back?”
She looked at me, expecting an answer, and without saying a word, I pointed to the pond behind her. Elly gazed into the pond and saw that her friends on the other side were currently scrambling to find her. A look of guilt washed over her face, and she said, “Hey, can we get back? I don’t want my friends to worry about me.”
I shook my head. “I don’t know.”
It was the truth. I didn’t know how I’d entered Elly’s world, but I knew it wasn’t by my own power. However, I saw the weight of my words begin to eat at Elly, the fact that she might not be able to see her friends again and that she would be stuck in this place – this place without the warmth of her sun or the comfort of her home.
That was when I thought of his name again, and it escaped my lips without my own will. “Loki.”
The small ball of light known as Loki appeared right in the middle of Elly and me as if I’d summoned him into existence. His light had dimmed since I’d last seen him. I managed to see a small body within his light, and I saw the slight twitch of his mouth as he said, “Why, my dear Elijah! Are you back already? I didn’t expect to see you again.”
Loki turned to see Elly, and in turn, Elly inched closer to the ball of light. She held up her hand and began to move her index finger toward the foreign object. I saw Loki’s hand smack the finger away from him violently, and he yelled, “Hey, sister, hands off the merchandise!”
Elly looked shocked but muttered, “I’m sorry.”
Loki fluttered around the two of us. “Hmm, I guess I can forgive you, but you have to know your boundaries. Didn’t your parents teach you anything?” He turned his attention back to me. “Now, my friend, you called?”
“Loki, can we return to Elly’s home?” I asked.
Loki fluttered over the pond. That’s when I noticed that the reflection of Elly’s world had disappeared. The way to her world was no more.
Loki turned to me once more and said, “Is that what you wish for, Elly?”
I looked at Loki for a moment, in shock. “You’re able to return us, then?”
I saw the shade of a man nod within the light. “If that’s what you wish for, my friend.”
Elly stepped closer to me, and she grabbed my arm. This woman that I simply wanted to stand next to was shivering. She was afraid and wanted to go back home – return home to a place that I’d stolen her from.
A firm resolution swept over me, and I replied, “Yes, that’s what I wish for, Loki.”
I heard the man chuckle, and then, without warning, his light grew tenfold. I shut my eyes to protect them, and I felt Elly grab me tighter. The light lasted for only a handful of seconds, and it was eventually replaced by the darkness of my empty world once again.
I opened my eyes. I saw Elly open hers, and her gaze focused on me. She stared at me as if she had never truly looked at me before and smiled.
She said, “Well, that was crazy, wasn’t it?”
I opened my mouth to answer, but that was when I saw a small wrinkle of light erupting from the pond behind me. The light was from the sun in Elly’s world. The portal to her world had opened once again.
I pointed behind her, and she smiled with an untold joy. She rushed over to the lake and shouted, “Look, we can go back home now, Eli!”
She asked, “So, how do we go back, exactly?”
“I think you just need to jump in,” I said.
Elly looked at me with disbelief, and I responded with all the confidence I could muster, “Don’t worry, I wouldn’t lie to you.”
Those few simple words were enough to convince her. She took one small step into the water, and I heard her scream as the water grabbed onto her and forced her home.
I walked over to the water to join her. Now that I had her in my life, there was no way I was willing to lose her. I had found light, and I wasn’t ever going to return to the darkness again. I began to take a step forward, but I fell still when I heard a slight whisper behind me. “I hope your wish will bring you happiness, my friend.”
It was Loki’s voice, and I turned around to thank him for everything that he’d done for me. I had only known Loki for a short time, but he’d brought more light to my life than all these other stars combined.
He was my first true friend.
That was when I truly saw Loki for the first time. The small man within the light had long blonde hair that was swaying slightly and covered most of his face. He had emerald wings that were fluttering brilliantly and gave off sparkles of gallant light.
The light was growing dimmer by the moment.
“Loki, are you okay?” I felt another new emotion wash over me. I now know it was fear – fear that could only come from losing a loved one. It was a feeling of emptiness that my world had never prepared me for, and a feeling of helplessness that I didn’t think was possible.
Loki nodded. “How can I not be okay? I’ve granted a wish to my friend, one that he had yearned for with all his being. How could a friend not be okay with that?”
I shook my head. “No, that isn’t–”
“I told you, didn’t I?” he said, interrupting me. “I’m a shooting star. Once a wish has been made, then I’ve served my purpose. You’ve made a wish, Eli.” He let loose a weak chuckle. “Two wishes, actually.”
I reached out to Loki. I felt my heart twist. This was not what I wanted. I would never wish for my happiness over his life.
Loki’s light ceased, and his body began to fade. “Elijah, someone would have wished for something eventually. But I have granted a wish to my first and only friend. But if I may be so bold, can I wish something for you, my friend?”
I nodded without a second thought. I couldn’t deny my friend his last wish. I’d grant it with all my power.
Loki grinned. “Be happy.”
After those last two words, he disappeared. I felt my heart break, and I screamed. I lost the strength in my legs, and I fell to my knees. I had never felt this emotion before; it was one that I’d never want to give a name, but it felt as if my soul had been torn apart and thrown into the wind.
My first and only friend was now gone.
I felt powerless, and a pair of arms wrapped around me. They clenched me tightly, and I began to feel warmth. I opened my eyes to see Elly holding onto me. The sun peered directly above us, and we were once again in her world.
I saw her crying with me.
I asked, “Why…why are you crying?”
She answered, “Because you’re crying.”
I wrapped my arms around her, dug my fingers into her back, and I began to weep again. We stayed like that for what seemed like hours. Elly stayed with me the entire time. She held me close and comforted me without question.
That wouldn’t be the first time Elly comforted me. I was thrown into a world that I had no knowledge of. The world had so many faces and different personalities that it was hard to fit in. Everything was strange to me, but I was never alone.
Elly never left my side from that day onward. It was strange how people who hardly knew each other could feel so connected.
Elly was there to giggle at me as I tried to learn how to use a cell phone for the first time.
Elly stood by me as I got my first job.
She made my soul ecstatic when she agreed to marry me.
She showed more strength than me when she gave birth to our first child.
She grew old with me as we lived our lives.
And she comforted me once again when she was on her deathbed.
That night when Elly died…I felt alone for the first time since I’d entered this world. I stood on the balcony of our house that we lived in for forty years. My heart was heavy from all the memories we’d shared. I could see the shadows of Elly’s smile through all the good times and her frown through all the bad. I couldn’t stand to look at the simplest of items without remembering the slightest detail of her existence.
My eyes drifted to the stars, and in the corner, as if it were trying to escape, I saw a shooting star pass by my gaze.
I looked up to the voice above me, and a brilliant ball of light appeared before me. I smiled and waved to the shooting star.
The star giggled lightly and said, “I never thought I’d meet someone who’d greet me so lackadaisically.”
“Well, I can’t say that I haven’t met one of your kind before,” I responded.
I heard clapping coming from the light. “Then you know how this works. Do you have a wish? Something that you wouldn’t be able to obtain in your entire life? I can do anything your heart desires.”
My mind flashed to Elly. I’d give anything to see her smiling face once again. There were so many things I would change.
I’d always say, “I love you,” when I’d leave for work, to both Elly and my children.
I’d stop betting on the Mets.
I’d share the covers of the bed more.
I’d make breakfast for her every morning and give her everything that her heart desired.
However, I knew that I had already done everything that had been wished of me, and it was now time for me to pass off that wish.
I stared at the shooting star and grinned. “Be happy.”
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