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electric sparks, fireflies, and falling stars

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i.

I have found a reason to stay awake a bit longer.

As much as the fiend hated the metaphor (how she hated staying awake all night after all those centuries oh god), she knew it in her heart to be true. If this is, on the contrary, a dream, then hell, let her sleep. She wanted to be in this dream forever, the promise of newfound freedom and the smell of grass and wind and boy and life hung heavy in the air, cloying, lingering, everywhere. Overpowering. The night air is brimming with possibilities, so many possibilities, and briefly she remembered all those nights she spent dancing and huddling together with her friend (may god rest her soul, if he existed), under these stars, these very same stars (the constellations still remained the same, though minor differences existed, thank god).

If human beings can sense endings, then surely this is a beginning, a new beginning. She felt like a newborn again as she stumbled out from the mansion after all those wasted centuries, centuries piling high after another, centuries spent screaming at the deafened walls why why why. It’s never when, always why. Realising this, she smiled slightly, wryly, at the thought. She had been asking the wrong question all along.

Her legs felt new to her, felt shaky, but it felt right. Her body shook, too, from anticipation, and she shivered slightly from the sudden influx of night air. But this is all right, right, right. The boy smelled like herbs and horses and the outside world, and she hated it, hated it earlier when he arrived, and he was like nobody she could remember in her already long life, his soul unremarkable and pure as a newborn’s, but the last time she felt this right, she had to raze a town to the ground and erase it from the records afterwards.

Regardless, she felt giddy, foolish, drunk – like a newborn babe.

The night was dark and beautiful and the stars wild and yearless and endless (and ageless, she convinced herself, though they do fall and dim out every now and then), and she felt like dancing again under it all, felt like dancing until her knees go weak and she had to sit down and shimmer down beside a fire. (And she wanted to pull him with her, wanted to hear him laugh and see him smile like her friend used to.)

She never could understand human customs, nor legends and folklores, but the stars were raining down from the sky the night the boy freed her. They look up, together, and she knew: this is a miracle.

She’d made a wish long, long ago with her friend, and it didn’t even matter now, but it came true.

Sometimes, miracles happen. And sometimes, a completely ordinary boy with the glimmer of starlight in his eyes will free a demon from her imprisonment.

ii.

She took the boy home. His parents were also ordinary people, with their faults, and his mother scolded him for losing the horse, but otherwise he was home, she got him home safe and sound (except maybe for a few minor scratches from the journey), and that is all she ever wanted.

She stayed with him for a couple of weeks, watched him go about with his days, watched the world go about its course. Their meeting was otherwise nondescript in the eyes of the world, to the rise and fall of the heavenly bodies and the bustling of the city life, despite it being a life-changing event to both of them, her especially. She closed her eyes at that thought and opened it again, feeling the heavy weight of a long existence settling upon her. The world is cold, in more ways than just the winter cold, the world doesn’t care, and that part, at least, remained unchanged.

They took walks in the city together (the city, she had never seen anything like it), and, on particularly cold winter nights (and on every other night, for they could hardly bear to be apart in these days), she climbed into his bed, and they fell asleep with limbs tangled. Sometimes she couldn’t sleep, but somehow she doesn’t mind it all that much, not when she could watch his chest rise and fall as he slept, not when she watched his expressions shift as unseen dreams graced his unconscious mind. She felt oddly protective about him, in a way that is not completely unknown to her, but different from what she’d felt when she was with her friend, in that aeon long ago. She would kill for him, she knew, would die for him if he asked her to, and she had the strangest feeling that he’d do the same for her, but she doesn’t know if she would erase a town from the records again when push comes to shove, because she knew he wouldn’t want it to be that way.

She felt the winds of change blowing, and she felt compelled to follow it. The next day, she left for the next city, although there are still so much to see in Moor. She doesn’t tell him much, but she knew there was a silent understanding between them.

This is home. She would return. And she would follow him to the ends of the earth, if he asked.

She would return.

iii.

The next city turned into the next city, and the next, and the next, and the next. She wrote to him whenever she can, sending him postcards and local anecdotes and tiny drawings of her. He’s having a hard time writing back (he’s a worker, in upbringing if not in demeanor, and not much of a writer, she smiles ruefully), but he always tried to reply with something, and no matter how short or ugly or incomprehensible it is, she clutched it close to her chest when it arrives. She kept it all in a box where she kept all her valuables. Not money, not jewellery; just his replies and trinkets from people she’d met and touched and touched her in return during her journeys.

One day she felt a strange feeling wash over her, and she felt like drowning, like she was in a small boat and a huge wave washed over her, and she knew she was homesick. The next day she sent him a postcard with only two words:

I’m coming.

Then she leaves, fast as she can, fast as boats and trains would take her. Every distance she bridged left her heart thumping faster in her chest, for she knew that he was a little bit closer, a little bit nearer over the horizon.

She would be home. She must be.

iv.

Things have changed when she arrived. Moor grew bigger, it seemed to her, and meaner. She clutched what little things she had with her (especially her box, her precious box, she would rather die than lose it) and kept her hat pulled low over her head. The city is a living entity, she knew, and Moor had grown to be quite a monster. (Funny, coming from a monster, she humoured herself.)

Roads have changed, too, and she was deathly afraid at first, afraid that he’d moved, changed addresses, and she’d never find him again, and the feeling sinks over her, pales her, but she walked and walked and discovered that his humble abode is still there, still standing, rooted in the very same place when she left. She almost broke into a run when she’d seen it.

Instead, she walked up the road to his house slowly, slowly, like it was a dream, the feeling she felt when she first stepped feet into the changed world, his world, shook her up again, and she had to steady herself but she is still trembling. She is a demon, a monster, she had destroyed towns and murdered people yet here she was, walking down a boy’s driveway, and she feels like she’s going to keel over and die.

When she finally reached the door and knocked it, he opened it after the first knock, like he knew it was her and she knew he knew, and everything was a blur after that, a blur of tears and embraces and feelings.

She was pulled inside, and just like that, just like her magic, all the cities she’d traversed and seen felt like a fleeting dream – she was home again. It feels like she’d never left in the first place.

v.

It begins one silent autumn morning, much like this one. A boy rescued a fiend and they fell in love with each other.

She wished it was that easy, or simple. It might felt like she never had left for other cities, wanderlust in her veins, but things have changed, and it is not just Moor. He had changed, too. He was older, now – already, the aging process has started ever since he stumbled upon her that fated morning, had already started since he was born squealing into this world, and his death had been decreed – and she knew it, from the look in his eyes, she had changed, too, even if her appearance remained the same, least to the untrained eyes.

He made her some tea and they drank together in silence, unsure of what to say, have so many things to say to each other but not quite knowing how to say it, and silence reigns over them for a while, like an ephemeral, imperious ice queen. She let her eyes dart around the room here and there, finding the changes, both incremental and otherwise, and compared it with the room in her memory silently. Once she had went through all that, she stole a glance over at him, near yet so far, and done the same to him in her mind.

He was much taller now, had grown into his charms, not the slight boy she’d remembered him to be, but almost a man, if not already. He’d matured into a quiet one, this one, like a flower that bloomed slowly and silently in the night. His gaze was contemplative now, quietly observant, and she knew, by heart if not by sight, that whatever storms troubled him in his adolescence has passed. Peace and calm reigns.

She let a small smile breaks out at that.

“Something wrong?” He asked, lifting his gaze to meet her. She silently rejoiced that the glimmer of stars was still there in his green eyes, the promise of hope that makes her heart leapt and flew to the stars. Life hasn’t beat that out from him, at least. She suppressed a sigh, and instead opted for an enigmatic smile.

“Nothing, person. I see that you have grown to be quite a character.”

“Am I?” He raised an eyebrow in that way that is so familiar to her, she could have sworn she knew it a couple of seconds before he did. It was such a small and insignificant act, she herself was stunned to find out that it held such meaning to her. Suddenly she felt her feelings surfaced, her passions, as she called them, and she had to clutch the arm of the chair to steady herself.

“Still a fool, nevertheless. Only a fool would free a fiend, let her go, and then received her back in his home many years later.” She let her fangs show a little, as she always did when she was teasing him. All those years ago, he’d be riled and raised that small fist of his, but now he only shrugs slightly, unconcerned. She doesn’t know whether she should laugh or feel disturbed.

“Mm.” He responded quietly, flatly, sipping his tea. “But you’re here. How was your travel?”

“I’ll tell you about it later, boy.” She can’t quite keep the tone of affectionate amusement out of her voice. “But you are not so much a boy anymore, aren’t you? And yet, and yet.” She hums, sipping her tea too. She likes the taste, bitter and sweet at once in her tongue. “Why don’t you tell me a story, again? Tell this old fiend of yours a story, eh? A lot of things had changed, I see. A lot of things have happened. You’ll tell your story, I’ll tell you mine. That’s a fair deal, isn’t it?”

He looked at her carefully, as if weighing her offer (which he probably did, he seemed like the type now). She remembered the times when she finally managed to make him smile as a boy, over fireflies and shared secrets on cold winter nights. She wondered how his smile would have looked now, on this strange man who wears the boy’s eyes.

She wondered also, briefly, how it feels like to kiss him and get away with it. She decided she rather liked this idea.

“Deal.” He finally said, after all these thoughts and fantasies running around in her head, fantasies he’d had not the slightest idea about. It makes her feel rather mischievous. His voice was quiet, like the rest of him now, but still it reverberates with the same weight as it was that long time ago, in the dead ballroom.

She smiles fully this time, letting it reach and light up her eyes. “Good boy.” She said, wanting to reach out and ruffle his hair like she used to. She refrained from doing so, however, and instead patted his hand. She noticed, out from the corner of her eyes, that he blushed slightly, blushed like it was the first time they touched.

Like he’d forgotten her touch. Suddenly she felt very, very hungry.

vi.

She soon found out how it feels like to kiss him, this home-person that is not quite a stranger just yet (not quite, not quite, and now she dared hope: never). It doesn’t matter how it happened, just that it happened, and she could have sworn she felt electric sparks, fireflies, and maybe falling stars – in that particular order.

She discovered that she wasn’t the only one starving, either. It happened innocently, at first, which makes her want to laugh, and then she found out that it only takes so much to drive an already starving person to the brink. They kissed like two pilgrims finally finding the Promised Land, like two dying travelers who stumbled upon a buffet.

He still had that old smell of herbs and horses about him, still felt familiar and strong, a strength that goes beyond the appearances of the body, and she was more than satisfied.

vii.

She doesn’t quite know how to describe how she feels, when he told her that he fancied a girl and that she fancied him back. The girl was human, fair where the fiend was dark, sun-and-daylight where the fiend was moon-and-stars. She was a proper Miss, like the fiend’s friend from that forgotten aeon long ago, though she loathed to admit that, and the boy (who is no longer a boy) settles down beside her like he’d known her for a long time, like she was home.

She would grow to be a proper lady soon, the fiend knows, and they’d be happy together, with lots of tiny humans to complete their happiness. Something heavy has grown in her chest, something dark and mean, and though the lass had been nothing short but welcoming (which, in fact, made her hate this lass, this stranger who’d stole her boy away, more), the fiend knew that she no longer had a place here. Not in the middle of their happiness.

So she left the next day, like she’d done so many years before. This time without warning – no written note, no word, nothing. She took her things and left.

It was some time before she could bear to write to him again.

viii.

Despite her passions, despite despites, she returned to Moor in two years. Her heart was heavy but it no longer troubles her so, and she could walk with it, could force a smile and shove it down her throat. She could only imagine that they’d be married by now, and this time he’d probably moved away for real, with no chance of her of ever finding him ever again. She just wanted some closure, maybe, or perhaps she wanted to see him one last time, wanted to know how he’s doing before she bids him goodbye again, this time forever-

She shook her head. She was lying to herself. She willed the miracle, a miracle, to happen once again, only once again, and please please please oh god if you exist please don’t let him be married to the Miss. With her luck, she knew that she’s pushing it, but she walked anyway, walked and walked and walked like the last time she was here, trying not to remember how it feels like to kiss him, all the way to his driveway.

She hesitated when she reached his door, but she knocked.

She couldn’t quite describe, either, her feelings when he opened the door, and then it was another blur from there. He embraced her first, and she wasn’t sure if it was her tears or if it was his or if they were both crying, but they stood like that for what feels like another eternity to her, an eternity well-spent this time in his arms, before they finally gathered themselves and she was pulled in again.

Much to her astonishment, much of the house remained the same since she’d left, and that illusion of never leaving was in place again, stronger than before – but then again, it was only two years. Subconsciously, she looked for marks of the girl – things that marked the girl’s presence – but there was none. At least, none she could see.

“Come sit,” He broke her reverie, entering the room with a pot of tea and a pair of cups like before. “Long journey, is it?”

She felt like she was in a trance, again, like this is all just a dream, just a dream – but she nodded weakly and forced herself to sit.

“What’s the matter?” He asked, sooner than she expected, sooner than she wanted, if at all. She slowly reached out for the tea, but he gave it to her first, carefully placing it in her hands like it was everything. She was at a loss of what to do.

“Your girl, person. Where is she?” The words came tumbling out from her mouth like an apocalypse, inevitable and momentous, and though she hadn’t expected to be so calm when she asked it, he flinched at her question like she’d just punched him in the gut.

“That what you wanted to know?” He raised his eyebrow in that characteristic manner again. She truly wanted to kill him at that moment, truly regretted not rending him apart in that old ballroom a long time ago. She gritted her teeth and shouldered on.

“A fiend left, a fiend returned, what do you think she wanted to know, eh? Are you really that dense? Or is this some sort of a new joke?”

“Well, you told me I shouldn’t consort with other fiends, but you didn’t say anything about other humans.”

His frankness, that deadpan, those eyes - my god, she truly, really, deeply, tenderly and tragically hated him at that moment. She doesn’t even flinch when she threw her cup over to his feet, intentionally aiming for the maximum amount of pain. Or maybe, maybe, maybe, not really, since she missed it by a couple of inches. And it was more than a half empty, so there is no hot liquid to hurt him any longer. Still, still, he recoiled at that, but his gaze was still so calm, so collected, it took her more than her will to not punch his face, too, screaming and demanding to know where the boy she knew had gone off to and who is this stranger, who is this stranger, who is this stranger, sitting in his place, in his house, wearing his face.

“Why’d you do that?” He asked, after a heartbeat. No panic, no fists raised, no loud puzzlement over her strange (by human standards) behaviour. Just a look. She felt her stomach churned. (She either wanted to punch him or bend him over and fuck him, she’s not quite sure which, but maybe both.)

“You really are that dense, you tit. Should I cordially invite you to grow a working brain, too?” Her tone was cold, she knew, and she doesn’t even feel sorry about it. Her hand, the one she used to throw the cup with, balled into a fist.

“Well, what do you want me to do?” He started to pick up the pieces, one by one, deftly, as controlled and as poised as the rest of him. (His hands, though. His hands. Bit rough around the edges. So the world has gotten into him, too.) She gritted her teeth again. She wanted to get a reaction out of him, want to scare him like when he was boy. But he was no longer a boy, and that frustrated her. “Back then in the ballroom, you wanted me to save you, but you told me to leave…is this one of your mind tricks again?”

“Fuck off.” She blurted, with all the restraint she could still manage.

“That much hasn’t changed, at least.” He sighed. “Good to know that one of us hasn’t changed, then.” Another heartbeat, another second she was holding herself not to strike. “You wanted news? Alright. She-“ He winced when a piece of the shattered cup cut his finger, and she has to hold herself back from propelling herself over and fuss over the cut. “I left her.” He shrugs, with as much dignity as he can muster, with a bleeding finger.

She’s not quite certain whether it was his tone that surprised her, his cold, unconcerned tone (like it meant nothing at all to him), or the words, or the element of surprise. But she was taken aback, watching him nursing his finger all the while, all her words suddenly stuck in her throat, not wanting to get out.

“You…left her?” She felt red hot anger coursing through her, a different sort of anger than before. “Why did you do that, you fool? Once a fool, always a fool! I knew it!”

He was trying to stop the blood with a napkin now (at that time, it didn’t occur to her that he simply could have grabbed a bandage, but instead he chose to stay because their conversation is not over yet) and she felt the slightest bit of concern, but the look he gave her was troubled, the sort of look she’d often seen when he was a boy. The sort of look he gave her when he ran into her in that dilapidated old bathroom and realising that she’s a fiend. She knew it was not because of his bleeding finger.

“I think you know why.” He said this quietly, barely a whisper in the suddenly oppressive silence, and left the room.

She was left alone with her racing heart. She did know why, but she refused to believe it.

ix.

There was no merriment, no special day to mark in the calendar. It happened in such a mundane way, she’d have forgotten had he hadn’t reminded her every year. It was one silent autumn morning the next year after she returned, after she found out that he’d left the girl, after all the things that had happened.

One silent autumn morning, a boy and a fiend met, and years later, in another autumn morning much like that one, yet so different, they got married.

She thought that she’d finally gone bonkers, since he’s going to die and she’s going to outlive him for certain, and he’d gone beyond being a simple fool to an absolutely mad fool when he proposed the idea, but she found herself agreeing to it and going along with it. She hid her horns still, of course, though times have changed and people no longer believed in demons (what he called “technology” has made sure to stave away things like demons, he explained, though she said defiantly that she’s still here). Back in that strange age before this world, marrying a demon was strictly forbidden, and she was rather certain that one cannot be married with a hat on, but things go over smoothly, and she found herself married to the boy who is no longer a boy.

She could barely contain a smile.

That night, there was a meteor shower. They watched from the bedroom window and, satisfied, she climbed over him to taste him again one more time. She saw the stars, mirrored in his eyes, lived and die in his eyes, entire galaxies, she thought, and she bend down to kiss him.

“—go to sleep,” He murmured, sleepily, trying to scoop her in his arms and pull her down to his side.

“One more time.” She grinned, mischievously, not wanting him to surrender to the wiles of sleep just yet. “Are you really going to sleep so soon, person, on our first night together as husband and wife?”

“You mustn’t get so greedy,” He mumbled, bit grumpily, this time trying to swat her like she was a gigantic fly. If anything, it only serves to stoke her passions more.

“Tsk, tsk, don’t be so boring! I’ll just devour your soul right here and now if you’re going to be like that.” She faked a sigh. “I don’t want to eat a boring human’s soul, though.”

She saw the old spark that belonged to the boy she used to know, long ago (and still know, only in a different form), that stubborn spark she knew so well, light up his sleepy eyes. She gave him her best shit-eating grin.

“You really are good at persuading, aren’t you?” That was sarcasm, she knew, and yet, she let him pull her down just enough so he could kiss her. His tongue meeting hers made her shiver.

“Just go with it, eh?” She grinned at him again after the kiss, straddling him. “It’s going to be a long night ahead. Why don’t we strike another bargain?”

x.

Before she knew it, on one cold winter morning, there was a boy. A boy with his looks but her ears and eyes, and that is quite enough for her. A boy who lets her hold his hand like he was the most precious thing in the world (because he was) and hang on to her every word like it was sacred, goodnight kisses and impromptu embraces. On rainy nights, he came looking for her, and they watched the rain silently together, a cup of tea in their hands. Sometimes, her boy who is no longer a boy joined her and their little son, and all was right in the world.

She still felt electric sparks and fireflies and falling stars, every time she kissed him. She made a wish a long time ago, in a forgotten era, with a long dead friend, and it came true.

It began on a silent autumn morning, and it ended on a silent autumn morning, much like that one, a long, long time ago.

 

epilogue

Stars fall, sometimes, from the vast cerulean sky, but they were reborn, replaced with another star. The passage of time waits for no one, and the end comes soon enough, sure and swift as a horse, and she is not quite sure what happened to her, a fiend, but she fell from the sky, a star, and she was reborn.

In another world, in another time, in a strange, strange era, she was but a girl, and he was but a boy, and they didn’t know, but it felt like electric sparks and fireflies and falling stars and a promise kept, a wish came true, when they kissed, and deep down inside, they knew.

They met one silent autumn morning, when the sky is grey and the trees turned orange and brown.

A boy met a fiend, and this is how it ended.

FIN