A fallen star lit up the sky.
An array of lights spiraled across the heavens, brilliant hues of pink and violet and silver. In the darkness, the children paused their game to watch as the lights swirled and danced through the sky. At the heart, a solid piece glowed like a newborn sun.
The moon was miniscule to this new beauty. The other children agreed. One young child watched, eyes wide and alight as the star continued on its course. Larger and larger, the fallen star sang. There was a sharp hiss, the sound of air streaming past his ears, but his gaze was glued to the oncoming orb.
‘Wish upon a fallen star,’ his mother’s voice echoed in the back of his head. ‘Wish before it is too late, for when the star is gone, so is its magic.’ He eyed the oncoming star, its size twice what it was when they first saw it. Then he knew. This star was coming to them, closer and closer so their wish could be made. So they would not have to fear it would pass before they decided on what they wanted.
He pushed through the other children, fell to his knees and clasped his hands before him. He had seen his mother do this, when wishing to God for a blessing. His father often scoffed at her for it, his words echoing in the child’s head: ‘We can’t rely on some invisible god or star or magic to make things happen. If you want something, you have to get it yourself.’
The boy felt a hand on his shoulder. A little girl, with large eyes and a larger smile. They stole away in the middle of the night together, alongside so many others, to play. Out here, in the darkness, they were free. For a small time, they were free to do as they pleased. Free to play, free to laugh, free to be happy.
After a moment, she, too, knelt beside him. The others followed suit, their small frames basked in the light of a celestial star descending upon them. His mind raced; what does one wish for, when the star will answer only one wish? Then he looked around himself, to the fields of limp, dying grass and hunkering trees. To the sky, a haze always covering it.
He knew what he wanted, then. The little girl took his hand.
“Make the wish,” she said, smiling. The others nodded, expressions alight.
So the little boy bowed his head. ‘I wish the world was whole, that it was well and healthy.’
As the star collided with the ground, encasing a small group of children, the fallen star pulsed. Waves of energy washed outward, flooding the clearing and spilling across the ground. Where the light touched, dying life breathed in the celestial power. Trees rose, bent backs rising to stand tall and proud. Dried lakes rumbled, water gushing from the cracked lakebeds. And the grass grew, limp brown turning lush green.
Shouts and exclaims filled the world, but it was where the star fell that a tragedy came to be. A group of children slept within the crater, skin glistening as if they had fallen from the heavens. They were smiling, hands interlocked, but move they would not. As the people of the town came, mothers wailing, they could only stare. A father fell to his knees, tears in his eyes as his wife laid her hands on his shoulders.
“A fallen star is an act of the universe,” she whispered to him.
He looked up at her. She smiled, “Should the universe, and God, deem a wish acceptable, it will be granted. But every miracle demands a payment, some greater than others.”
His gaze shifted to the crater. Some payments greater than others: he knew what she meant, then. As he rose and stumbled to the lip of the impression, his gaze moved from the ring of children to the glowing, crystalline rock resting in the heart of their sphere. It glowed, light sweeping out and brushing over the children.
It stood, a silent guardian. Within it, images of dancing, laughing children spun.