“Listen, children, to the story of dust and light.”
Crue watched the storyteller from across the flickering fire. The light between them dug harsh lines into his craggly face and made shadow flames dance across the desert sand at his feet. She felt his voice sink into her bones with the heat of the smothering coals, chasing away the desert’s chill.
The drums began, a distant sound that grew to match the cadence of his song. Digging her fingers into still-hot sand, she listened to the history of her tribe, feeling the glow of the galaxies play across her skin.
Above the desert dunes, past mountains cutting clouds and twin moons dancing ‘cross the sky, starlight fills the corners of the night.
You can feel it, dancing through the air and burning in your core, the storyteller held up a finger, if you listen for it.
The drum slowed to the rhythm of her heart. Crue held her breath, listening.
It fuels life, he said, planets and plants, asteroids and apples, the camels we ride and the rocks that we walk, everything is stardust, formed in the heart of a distant star and sent through the sky on wings of light.
The storyteller lifted a handful of sand, watching as the grains streamed down.
Within the stars that burn and the galaxies that spin, the dust becomes light in an endless dance. We are all made of stardust, with starlight at our Core and the power of creation at our fingertips.
He stopped and looked from face to face, the bone chips in his hair glinting red coals. But it wasn’t always so, was it? There was a time when we were blind to the light that filled our world, eyes to the ground and fingers stiff with blood.
Then they came.
Crue held her breath now.
The gods who walk through starlight from another world.
They fell from the sky in a vessel that burned to rubble and ash, scorching the land and cratering the earth. We sit in that crater now.
Crue was tempted to look away, to squint past the fire into the desert beyond to the lips of the crater’s edge, worn smooth by the harsh winds and sands of time. But the voice called her back to the story.
They survived though, for these were no normal men. They left to walk the earth abroad — The Walking Gods, we name them now — save one who stayed within the sands, who taught our people what he knew, the secrets of the dust and stars. The Sleeping God. You know him, yes?
The other children nodded. But Crue frowned, a question on her mind. The song continued.
He showed us where we came from. Reminded us who we are. From our broken past, he formed our tribe, and gave us magic. The power to shape our world --
Crue took in a breath for the first time in ages and blurted, “Did he make us with starlight?”
The other children glared but the storyteller simply shook his head. “No. Our people were on the planet long before he fell. He simply showed us the light.”
Encouraged by his knowing smile, Crue asked another, “Then who did make us?”
He spread his hands, firelight in his eye. “Not even the gods know, little one.” Leaning forward, his voice lowered to a hush. “But one day we will learn. When our time is done and our body is sent through sparks and ash to join the dust out there among the stars, then, perhaps, we will know something that the gods do not.”
The drums rose faster, then, like the wind that heralds a storm and the storyteller’s voice wove through the gaps between the beats. “For he is here still. The One Who Sleeps. Out there, somewhere among the dunes. Waiting. Like the dust that hangs between the worlds.” The storyteller pointed a crooked finger to the sky and Crue followed it up up up until galaxies filled her sight.
“And one day the Sleeping One will wake.” The wind stopped and the fire stilled and the drums faded into silence. The storyteller looked her in the eyes then, his pupils lost in the crags of his wrinkled brow. “And it will be up to you to send him home.”
Crue looked down at her hand, at the glowing freckles that reflected the starlit sky,
and made a fist.