Garden of Stars



My mother always said stardust runs in our veins. Our family came from the sky and there would never be a day where our bodies wouldn’t yearn to join it again. Maybe that was why my mother was never happy. She could never quite figure out how to align her body into constellations. But children’s bones are malleable, bodies more flexible. So she taught me how to weave myself through the moonlight, cut and paste my body onto the black canvas of the night in all the ways she never could. 

Now I sit in a garden of stars. Red and brown dwarfs grow on silver vines wrapped around old sycamore trunks. They flower every winter, but it is summer so their light is dim today. Neutron stars dot the dirt, their light always blinding the zodiac mice scurrying on the ground. Destinies are stuck in their whiskers and cheese is stuck in their teeth. On the dirt lie gourds of shining giant stars in all different colors: blue, yellow, red, orange, white. Nebulae pool in the roots, feeding the plants with dust and ashes. I sit in the middle of it all, crumbles of unformed planets twisted around my fingers. 

A hero arrives today. He is tall with windswept hair and eyes that have been shielded from the world. He is nervous, but holds his shoulders back and spine straight because his mother taught him that posture was half the battle to confidence. 

What is your name, boy?” I ask, as if I was not a girl. Time ticks by differently in the garden, but there is a calendar somewhere, probably pinned onto an silver maple that has long died. I have not lived many years. 

Paris,” he says, eyes avoiding mine.

There’s no point in tilting your chin up to the sky. There’s nothing up there.”

S-sorry,” he stammers. “I-I’m here to ask for my fortune, my future.”

I walk to a pulsating gourd. It’s red, the color of kings. I pick up a moonlit knife from the ground, run my finger along the edge to make sure it’s sharp. I slice the gourd and take a bite, offering a slice to the boy. He eats it reluctantly.

Paris is the second son in a line of kings. He will not be king. He has not the aptitude anyways. His life will be spent in shepherd fields, wrangling farmers out of their coin for his older brother. 

He chews angrily before spitting the remains on the ground. This is not what he wants to know. He falls to his knees, clasps his hands together, and asks, “Please, can I have a quest to prove my worthiness? I am more than a measly tax collector.”

And I cannot change your destiny anymore than you can. But I take another bite and let the magic of the stars flow through my body, let their voice travel through my veins.

Find me a beating heart black with ink, a babe with golden skin, a voice as silver as the moon. You want to be king? Find me a tiara for your head.”

He leaves the garden, closing the iron gate behind him. 

* * *

I carve another tally mark into the sky. He is the 510th person, the 390th boy, and the 117th prince. I wonder if this is what my mother wanted when she said I would be happy among the stars. 

My mother kissed my knuckles before she snapped them when I was three. She whispered incantations into my hair, gripping my arms to keep me still because the magic burned. She promised it would be worth it. I would have the power of the stars in my hands. And I did. 

I grew this garden with the dreams of my mother. I wove her hope into pumpkin vines, her blood watered the stars. I watched her body decompose into nebulae, nurturing the constellations she so wanted to become. 

I eat another part of Paris’ gourd. He is like every other prince who comes to me for help. They never like the answers I give. His star is a little bitter, like him, but mostly it’s sweet. Almost everyone who comes is sweet in some way. Everyone loves someone, or something.

I wonder who I love.

It is not my mother, though I must have loved her once. She is long gone, her essence already dispersed. It is not the mice who steal futures and get fat with early death. It is not this garden nor this life. All I see are montages of people’s lives. All I speak are aimless prophecies no one will ever fulfill. 

I shrug my shoulders, wrap myself in a blanket of galaxies, and sleep. 

The next hero will awaken me.







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