Lucky Stars - by Nathan Fryer-Woods
It was a dark, cold night. Which was kind of fitting for the beginning of any story. But in south east Asia, when you start feeling the cold, you know you've been there too long.
And as a ginger kid from the north of England, he should have been in his element.
He was so far from the place he had once called home.
And it had been years since he'd felt the long, scalding hug of the hallway radiator, on his return home from whatever trouble he'd been causing, beyond the icy front door.
He had never really, truly missed home, that was until now. He longed for that familiar smell of the old underlay carpet in the council flat he once had.
The flat he received after he was crippled by a speeding police car, whilst trying to cross the road years before. There was no compensation.
But, as a result, he became the king of his own castle. A place for him to lick his wounds.
It was dark and dingy, and located in the back of beyond where the undesirables of town were kept, but he didn't care. He was happy, and it was his.
The only place he's ever really been able to call his own. But now, those days, seemed like a lifetime away.
Today, he's found himself trapped in a different kind of paradise, one he thought he'd never want to leave.
He had always believed humans to be of a semi-nomadic nature, but he had found happiness here, and at one time, for the first time since childhood, he had felt settled.
That was until, that 'thing' happened. He didn't like talking about it, and when he did, would get so frustrated. No one understood it like he did, not many people at least.
It had been 3 months since he last saw another foreigner, 3 months since he had seen anything of the world outside of their village. And he was an explorer at heart.
Though he never strayed too far off the beaten track, and he'd never discovered anything new, he was always looking, it was just a matter of time... it was in his blood.
His itch for exploration, grew stronger by the day.
His wife was the only one in their village who could speak any English, (although he sometimes felt he got a better conversation from their eight and a half month old son),
she was the only one who had even half a chance of vaguely understanding him at a deeper level. They had met 3 years previous in the capital city.
A place with a pace he was used to, and found comfort in.
But now, thanks to certain 'things', and the changing world around them, he found himself in the place his wife found the most comforting, her parents cashew nut farm.
Up a hill, in the middle of nowhere. He felt like an elephant, with sore thumbs, in a pond, full of fish. Sticking out... misunderstood.
It was the 21st of December, not only the day of the winter solstice, but in the year of the 'Great Conjunction', between Saturn and Jupiter.
Tonight the world would see these astral giants, seemingly merge into one, forming what is known as the 'Christmas Star'.
It had been 397 years since this alignment last took place, just 13 years before Galileo built his first telescope to marvel at the heavens above.
This event had to signify something, he knew it would, but he was far too apprehensive to look so deeply into it.
He convinced himself it was a positive, auspicious event, but at the same time made a mental note to his brain's list of 'things to do', to see what the ancients made of it.
After all, when the God of Thunder and his mighty Son do a high-five in the night sky, one should be prepared, or so he believed.
But, that list in his head seemed to never end, it would only ever get longer. He knew, and readily admitted to himself, he would probably never get round to it.
And in time, as soon as it was far too late, that entry like many before it would drop off the list, as just another faded memory.
The day before, he had tried to explain to his wife, the solstice, the tilt of the Earth, and the reason for it being so cold this time of year.
But soon realising that the battle for her attention against her best friend - the phone, was a battle he always lost, he promptly gave up.
The previous week, her two youngest siblings (the brothers, aged 11 and 14), had asked him if they had shooting stars back in England.
After 7 years of practice,
his level of the local language was good enough to articulate most of the things he wanted to say (although this particular part of the country was the last of the true tribal areas,
with 13 different clans each with their own dialect, making understanding them more of a challenge).
He explained to the brothers, in as simple of terms as possible, the physics of the phenomenon.
How more often than not, a shooting star was nothing more than a small pebble from outer space, travelling at unimaginable speed towards the Earth.
And how it's magnificent trail was made as it burnt up in the atmosphere before it was able to reach us.
Seeing the mystery and magic in their faces fade before his very eyes, he quickly moved on to let them know how it was customary back home, after seeing a shooting star,
to make a little wish to yourself. And that this, was not to be wasted. He imagined, how even the most hardened criminals themselves probably couldn't resist this, and even they would make one.
Maybe it's quite likely that wish would be for guns, drugs or money.
But you never know, the inner child in all of us, where that belief is instilled, only wants one of two things; love and happiness. And with that, comes security.
The magic we're raised with as children, if at all, dies hard. And even with years of learning from science, logic and reason, some magic we just can't let go of.
No matter how many times it's failed us.
After seeing at least some of the mystery return to their faces, he moved back - with faith, to cold, hard, facts.
He explained how if these space pebbles were any bigger, and hadn't completely burnt up on their descent to Earth, even a rock the size of a toy car (available to hand at the time),
could devastate the planet. At the very least, make a real mess around the site of impact. He used the 3000 year old crater lake, situated down the road as an example.
This, would be the last thing he'd say on the matter. The brothers went on to let him know, how their hole in the Earth was different.
Through the unique use of their local, hillbilly twang, they managed to get the point across that in fact, their crater was made by a great, angry, pig-like God from the skies...
obviously, and he should have seen it coming.
The shattered pain that was once on the boy's faces, had transferred onto his own. He retreated back into his own mind, to his own thoughts. A place he understood, and needed no explanations.
With no brick walls that he could waste his time with, by banging his head against.
Chapters 1-14 available for free by copying & pasting the link below!
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