Every night, just before she went to bed, the little girl opened the secret drawer. Inside, the creature stirred: things were about to change…
Echoes | Hoshiko
Hoshiko’s mother finished reading the story. She leaned to extinguish the bedside lamp. The distant sounds of an owl arced around the roof of the little cabin nested high in the woods.
“Night, night sweetheart. Sleep tight.”
“Ok.” The little girl smiled. She drew in the gentle fragrance of her mother’s skin, and recalled all the happy memories of her few short years. It made her feel safe. Even after her father had died, and her mother had spent so many months in tears Hoshiko now felt calm in the protection of their home, and the hounds in the yard, and the wolves in the wood.
Sometimes she would say quietly to herself, muttering disconsolately, that she felt her father had left them in body, but not in spirit. She wished it was so. At night, when she looked out of her window, to the valley below, she connected the pinpoint stars in the sky, with the blinking lights of the hamlet, each one flickering to a close as the candles were blown into silence, and the night drew in. In her mind she tried to draw the smiling face of her father.
This night though, she yawned more readily than usual, and didn’t ask for another page to be read.
‘Are you––?” her mother stroked her head, a slight hesitation teasing at her breath.
“Yes Mumma. Just tired.” She yawned again, and opened half an eye, surprised that her mother was so easily deceived.
“Alright then, I’ll tuck you in.” Hoshiko turned her head on the pillow, and curled up, seeking the warmth of her own body amongst the cold patches of the bed.
“Love you too.” She felt her mother’s eyes sweeping across the room, her pause for reflection, then the soft footsteps to the door, the wheeze of the door handle closing and the erratic creak of the wooden stairs receding gently to the living room below.
Hoshiko felt her breathing slow, and fought her body’s desire for sleep: her mind was too excited, as she remembered what she had found on the window just two days before, in the crook of the night, as the house and the forest all around lain deep and fast with sleep.
It had started with a tiny thump, then what sounded like a bag of sugar bursting, and scattering into silence.
Hoshiko had been terrified, but curious. The quiet night had stretched across her mind, but determined, she whisked back the sheets, and reached for the chair, moving it over to the high window.
She had rubbed her eyes, and dragged wisps of hair from her face. She sighed quietly, placed her hands on the inner ledge, and pulled herself onto her toes. Timidly she lifted up her eyes, and she saw a tiny object nestling in the corner of the outside ledge. It was a creature, curled against the windowframe.
“Oh!” Hoshiko caught her breath, and nearly fell from the chair. Her eyes dropped down, and for a moment, she wondered if she had willed this as a dream. She paused, and gathered her courage to look again.
Her eyes flicked open.
It was still there. Nestled against the side of the window, looking a little forlorn.
“Aww.” Hoshiko reached out, overwhelmed by this curious, slumbering little being.
Carefully she arched her arms upwards and placed her hands underneath the prone form, gently scooping up the warm body, and brought it to her chest. Still standing on the chair she cradled the little figure and smiled, feeling a slight shiver beneath its shimmering skin. She stepped down carefully and looked around her dark room, wondering what to do with her new charge.
“Come on now.” She spoke soothingly, trying to resist the temptation to stroke the creature.
“How about here then?” She remembered that her top drawer was only half full of socks and leggings.
“You’ll be safe here.”
“Yes.” A voice dropped into her head, the sound of an echo without an origin, a shadow without a body.
“Oh! Did you––?” Hoshiko’s eyes leapt wide.
“Yes.” A low, gentle whisper, almost a chuckle, surged into her ears as the little girl stared at her cupped hands.
“I can’t see your lips move.” She tried to stop herself blinking.
“Of course, my sweetheart.”
“Oh,” she hesitated, unsure what to do.
“I am tired.” The voice dropped into Hoshiko’s head again.
“Shall I call my Mom?”
“No. She’s the very last person you should call.”
“But I don’t have secrets from my mother!”
“Then you must decide whether you should trust me or not.”
“But I don’t know you.” Hoshiko chewed her bottom lip, and looked hard at the little creature in her hand. “I––” She paused, a frown pricking at her forehead, then decided to place the creature in the drawer. She returned to her bed, eventually to fall asleep, both excited and troubled.
The next few days were full of anxieties and wonder. She checked on the creature, moving it from drawer to drawer each night, trying to avoid her mother’s artful eyes.
After five days, when her mother had finished reading her story that night, and the candle was smothered, her mother closed the door and left the room in darkness as usual. This night though the familiar voice rose once more in Hoshiko’s head.
“Now, I am rested. Come, there is much to do.”
Hoshiko threw open her eyes and flung off her bedclothes and headed for the chest of drawers. She could see a glow trickling from the edges between the wood, and when she looked inside, she could barely see the little figure within a burst of tiny lights.
“All is not what it seems.” The voice in her head spoke softly again.
The little girl put a hand to her mouth. She seemed unable to blink. She held her breath. She was not sure what to think about this creature of light.
“Bring me to the middle of the room.” The voice commanded Hoshiko. “Don’t worry. You won’t have to do anything, as long as your mother does not come in.”
“Place me at the centre of the room.” Hoshiko raised her hands, the figure cradled within. “That’s right. In the air, in the very centre.”
The little girl lifted the tiny figure on the flat of her palm and slowly let go. The creature stayed suspended in the air, its eerie light pulsing.
“Now, you must listen carefully.” the voice in the Hoshiko’s head continued, “you are being held as prisoner. Your mother is not who you think she is. You have not lived here all your life. Your father did not die.” The words, terrifying, shocking, were spoken kindly. The little girl began to cry.
As the creature finished, the room began to shiver into life, calling deep surges of shadow, swirling the dust from the corners of the room into a quiet storm.
“Do you know your name?”
The little girl looked through her tears, and stammered, “Hoshiko?” The shadows quivered around her legs.
“Yes, but do you know what it means?”
“I––” The little girl grimaced, her eyes fought the tears, as she tried to think.
“Have you never been told? Think hard, think back.”
Hoshiko struggled, “I’m not sure,” remembering something before, words spoken that she had not heard. Or were tidied away. She rattled around in her memories, and found filaments of light, buried deep.
And then, she found it, the voice, the stories, endless rainbows of stars, and she looked up at the blistering ball of light in the centre of her room, and heard the voice of her father call her softly from her eternal past.
“Hoshiko: Little star!”
The room burst. A thousand shards of light wriggled free from the walls, the floor and the timbers of the ceiling splintered into fragments. The darkness inside the room, and the entire forest beyond shattered wide, unravelling years of deceit, and imprisonment.
And in the centre of the ever widening ball of light, now massive, the little girl spoke without lips.
“Father, you came for me!”
“Of course. Always.”
And the little star, with her father, shot into the heavens, two comets flaming through the dark skies, hurtling towards the meadows of light beyond; and below, an angry figure, a mis-shapen, hideous beast, shook its fists and raged at the dying light of the disappearing stars.[end]
Text, image, audio © 2015 Jake Jackson, thesefantasticworlds.com. Thanks to Elise Wells for her terrific vocal performances), Logic Pro, the Twisted Wave Recorder App, Apogee Condenser microphone, Letraset and Micron pigment ink pens, Rotring pens and inks, Daler Rowney acrylic ink, and Alfons Schmidt’s fantastic Notebook app.
More next week…
There are 20 other stories in this series, including:
- Ophelia A.I.
- A Gift
- Snake Pit
Here’s a related post, 5 Steps to the SF and Fantasy Podcasts