A young girl sat on a windowsill in her sleeping gown, reading a book. The thick air wrapped its arms around her, tucking her into its folds. She flipped another page. It was an ancient book about an ancient woman named Eleanor Roosevelt. She traced her index finger over the quote typed on the yellowed page.
“It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”
She looked outside. The darkness laid before her, palpable and ever-present. A man in a military uniform walked into the room slowly. He noticed she was deep in thought. He gave her a few more seconds of undisturbed peace before interjecting.
“It’s time for bed,” he said with a smile, opening his arms out toward her.
She spun around, sliding off the windowsill, facing him, book clutched protectively to her chest.
“Daddy…” she began to ask hesitantly, “why is it so dark?”
His smile faded, and his arms dropped to his sides in an instant. Her green eyes met his blue ones with curiosity. He sighed, walked to the windowsill, and sat, motioning for her to sit on his lap. When she did, he replaced the arms of the night with his own, wrapping them around her as if she were the most precious thing he’d ever had, and he was about to lose her. Though his armor was hard and cold against her, she could feel the gentleness with which he embraced her. He stared at the darkness silently. The girl leaned her head against his armored shoulder, clutching the book even closer to her.
“I don’t like that it’s always so dark…” the girl commented quietly.
He said nothing.
“I wish there were more light…”
He still said nothing.
“Daddy, will you help me light a candle?”
He pulled her away from him and looked at her. He saw a glistening in her eyes, a spark of determination.
“Sure sweetie. I’ll help you light a candle.”
He swiftly picked the girl up, sat her back down on the windowsill and left. A moment later he came back with a lantern. He placed it in her hands. The girl played with its delicate frame between her fingertips. He took out a lighter and sparked a flame. The girl stared as it flickered. He lit the candle in the lantern and tied it to the top frame of the window. The lantern softened the burning orange-yellow light. Painted the outside in black ink were strange symbols, a language unfamiliar to most.
“What does it say?” the girl asked.
But not a language unfamiliar to him.
“It’s your name.”
The girl gasped. It looked beautiful. The light swirled in her eyes and filled the room with a new kind of warmth. She suddenly felt drops on her cheeks. Tears. She wiped them off quickly, confused as to why she was crying. She stared hard at the floor, feeling a deep-rooted emotion she couldn’t describe rise within her.
“Does…does it mean something?” she asked.
He grabbed her hand gently.
“It means ‘rising sun’.”
They both stared at the lantern in silence.
“What is…a sun?” she finally asked.
He looked at her now.
“A bright lantern in the sky. It’s big. And warm. And beautiful.”
“Why can’t we see it?”
He pulled her into a strong embrace.
“Because it’s you,” he whispered.
He picked her up and carried her to her bed, laying her down gently. The child snuggled under the covers, never parting with her book.
“Good night Kaisra.”
And she was fast asleep. He walked over to the lantern and, with saddened eyes, blew the candle out.
His heart was hard, and set on forever cursing the darkness.
The horrid darkness.
They were drowning in it.
And he promised they would surface.
A little boy sat on a pair of marble steps staring up at the night sky. A man in an intricate sleeping robe stepped down quietly with bare feet to him.
“It’s time for bed, Andreas.”
The boy looked up at him for a second before resuming his attention to what was above. The man sat on the step next to him, flattening the skirt of the robe across his legs.
“How was training today?” the man asked, jerking his chin at the wooden sword that sat on the boy’s lap.
“It was good” the boy murmured, absent mindedly.
“Dad…why is it so dark?”
His father looked at him confused.
“Why do you say it’s ‘so dark’?”
The boy shrugged.
“I think,” his father said rubbing his trim beard thoughtfully, “you are focusing too much on those…never-ending purples and deep blues and blacks. You forget too easily, my dear boy, that the nighttime is filled with illumination.”
“The stars,” his father clarified.
The boy looked up once more. His green eyes widened as he noticed the beauty of the celestial bodies that glittered the sky.
“How many are there?”
“My let’s see,” his father chuckled, “billions upon billions. Maybe more. No one knows how many there are.”
The boy repeated his words quietly. His face beamed suddenly with a wide grin.
“Father, I shall be the first one to count them all!” the boy exclaimed, standing up and pointing his wooden sword towards the heavens with a puffed-up chest.
What was a father to do but smile? He refused to tell his son that he will never be able to count them all. That no one had ever gotten so high. Or so far. That there were too many. He would allow Andreas to hunt down every one he could find.
That would make his heart content: teaching his son not to fear the darkness.
The lovely darkness.
They were shooting for it.
And promising to land among the stars.
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