A Stellar Flare of Young Adult Writing and Visual Art
BY CLAUDIA CASANOVA
[This work is excerpted from an ongoing story that takes place in a fully created alternate world. The inhabitants of this world are articulate, cat-like creatures operating within a sophisticated society. Jealousy and the biases that every social structure bears are explored in these scenes, which focus on a set of characters who work as entertainers.]
There may have been a time in our distant tall-tale-filled past when humans lived on our little island – the small drowned remains of land near Night & Gale. Well, they are long gone now and I am thankful for that. From what our history tells us, they were not the brightest of creatures. Then again, I feel some of the creatures I have met could have inherited their…ignorance. Whatever the case, the story of humans is for another day. Today we learn a legend, yet another tall tale, that explores ignorance, jealousy, and of course love.
Rose padded to the edge of the cliff. She only ever did this when the moon was its fullest. The valley glowed a beautiful silver and the breeze was calm. Yet it still made Rose shiver. Her earrings and necklaces jingled together. Her heart ached for a companion. Someone she could call her own. This pain magnified her cold tenfold.
“Oh sweet moon always here for me…can you grant my wishes as the stars do?” she moaned. “Give me a love, someone to hold me and love me back. For them, I will do the same.” The moon remained silent. Rose sighed. “Goodbye sweet moon. I very much appreciate your company,” she whispered, and padded back home.
“For I am lost and must be found by the fairest of chocolate creatures,” the auditioning performer sang.
“Does he sing of you?” Phoenix murmured to Rose.
“He sings for a lost lover perhaps,” Rose replied.
“Found a blinding light turn crimson, for I am lost again,” the performer concluded, bowing.
“Name please,” Phoenix said flatly. She would have asked him sooner but he wanted to prove himself first.
“So lonely yet so strong. I go by Ragnaroke but if it seems like a mouthful, Rag will suffice.”
Phoenix nodded and took notes. “Rag would suffice…” she muttered. “Ragnaroke feels better as a stage name.” Rose smiled. Rag flicked his tail and smiled as well. Phoenix growled, “You will be informed on the ‘morrow if you are hired. Come, Rose. The day is dying and we must rest.”
“Rose, so sweet in your beauty, your name is no cliche,” said Rag, and Phoenix bristled.
“Leave,” Phoenix growled. “For you are trespassing if you stay any longer!” Rag smiled, bowed and left.
“Jealousy is a sin my friend.” Rose murmured and stroked her back with her fluffy tail. When Rose was not performing her brown fur became very dull. But even when Phoenix was offstage, fire radiated from her body. More so when she was angry. “Lucky are your clothes for they are fire proof…” Rose continued speaking softly to calm her friend. Phoenix growled but softly. Jealous of a newcomer or not, she could not stay angry at her dear friend. “Trust is not your strong suit, Phoenix, but if The Master chooses Rag, he shall stay and his company we shall tolerate,” Rose said gently, soothing Phoenix’s bright fur with her tail, and led her friend back to their tents.
“For they smile, cry, and lull you to sleep. For when you sleep thine doors are open,” The Master called out. Cheering followed. “Phoenix! Shower us with thine incredible light!” As The Master left, Phoenix appeared and took center stage. The lights and chatter faded to darkness. Phoenix hummed then her tail burst into flames. She opened her eyes and they glowed bright white. Fiery wings sprouted from her back. She opened her mouth and sound flowed forth. Not a raspy bird cry, but a melodious call full of sadness yet much beauty.
No matter how many times Rose witnessed this spectacle it never cease to bring tears to her eyes. “She is a candle waiting to be blown out by a sweet wind,” a hoarse voice spoke into her right ear.
Rag, who The Master had indeed chosen, stood with Rose watching Phoenix perform. “Rag, cease your ridiculous riddles. For they are nothing but your raddled mind trying to speak poems that end up as trash,” Rose muttered.
Rag flicked his tail on her flank. “For I speak your native tongue…wait! What in the name of all things normal is that?”
Commotion disrupted the audience. Someone screamed. Soon enough the entire circus erupted in chaos. The noise broke Phoenix’ concentration she screeched and sparks of flame flew from her body.
“There! Right There! Look at those long floppy ears look at that short puffy tail. It is a rabbit?! Who in the name of all that is holy brought this creature here?” The Master roared at the small creature under his claws. “Don’t you know you are not welcome here?” he growled menacingly.
Everyone else there was either cowering or growling along with him. The pathetic creature squeaked but spoke no words.
Rose fled to The Master. “It is but a child!” she cried. She took the rabbit gently from The Master’s claws. “See? No harm will come to us.”
“Child it may be…but many a time children not destroyed at their source grow to be monsters. It will grow and mark my words, it will be evil!” The Master growled.
Silence. His ominous words frightened everyone. For they all knew of Tiger Star or Hadolf: the great evils who could have easily been destroyed early on but were not.
“No it shall not!” screamed Rose. Rag raised an eyebrow. “Yes. For the child shall be mine. I will care for it,” she murmured and licked the rabbit to calm its shivering.
“Rose…you will regret those very words. All the eyes upon you here have heard you speak them,” The Master said. “It will stay,” he said to the audience. “Rose! If I see it apart from your side for one second, so help me, it shall perish!”
Once again on the cliff Rose murmured, “Oh bright moon. Thine gift is beautiful and your kindness is great…but why hand me such a trial?” She wrapped her tail around the rabbit and it snuggled to her. In the moonlight the grey creature glowed softly. Its blue eyes turned silver. “If thy were a least another color my friends might fear you less…For as you may not know being so young, your kind…is not at all welcome here,” she whispered, nuzzling its tiny face. “I will triumph within your challenge, sweet moon, and maybe I shall receive my ultimate dream of loving and being loved by someone.” She bent down and picked up the rabbit gently by its scruff and padded back to her tent.
“One wing. Two wings. Let me borrow your wings to love,” Rag sang, and the show ended. He exited center stage with no bow and The Master returned.
“Another day grows night,” he said, concluding the show.
“His voice is sandpaper scraping our hearts down to the core,” Rose sighed.
“Your heart, darling. For he is removing your layers and revealing your secrets,” Phoenix muttered as they turned towards home.
“Perhaps,” Rose countered, quickening her pace. She wanted to get back to her tent and sleep forever with the little one as quickly as she could.
“Rag is different. He sings from his heart, and his heart sings to yours,” Phoenix muttered.
“Be that as it may,” Rose admitted, “I must go. The child comes first.”
Phoenix could never conceal her feelings. She stepped in front of Rose and glared at her. Rose could see hurt in her eyes hidden behind the glare but she did not understand it. Was it the child, or Rag that made her so angry? “You are nothing but nurturing a demon,” she spit. “For I believe The Masters foreboding words.”
“What?” Rose gasped. “I… don’t believe what you’re saying…”
“Never in all my years…” The voice did not sound like Phoenix and Rose could not understand her.
“You don’t sound like yourself, friend, speak clearly,” Rose said, increasingly worried.
“After all that thing did and you care for that creature as if it was your own?” Phoenix snarled. Rose did not recognize her friend, her face contorted, her voice twisted. Then just as she turned the call The Master, Phoenix fainted.
Rose knelt and nudged her friends face. “What is wrong, what caused your speech to become so odd?” she whispered, near tears.
Phoenix staggered upright and shook herself. “Whatever do you mean?” she asked in her normal voice.
Rose shook her head “My dear Phoenix, I believe you need to see The Master. You behaved so strangely.” But Phoenix would not listen to her and only leaned on her as they walked back to their tents. Slower than she would have liked, thinking of the child left alone, but she cared for her friend and was worried about her sudden strange behavior. So she kept her pace slow.
“Even though my closest friend does not see the good I am doing, I will keep fighting. For myself. For the child. For us all,” she murmured.
“Many a time I see you speak to an invisible creature…or to yourself perhaps?” Rag said.
Rose flinched and wrapped her tail tighter around the rabbit. It squeaked in protest but she would not let Rag or anyone else hurt it. “Nothing of mine is your business. Leave,” she growled and looked back up at the moon.
Rag shrugged and took his place near her. “It shines so brightly. Yet it is as far as one can get. Why do you insist on the most ridiculous practices? Like caring for this child,” he asked Rose. Rose held the growl in her throat to not scare the rabbit.
“They are not as ridiculous as your songs. Leave.”
“You only find my songs atrocious because they are about you, darling…yet you are taken. Caught up with this vhild and with Phoenix. How bothersome. So I am heartbroken.” He sighed.
Rose squeezed the rabbit tightly and he squeaked. “Good,” she muttered and licked its fur.
“You care so much for a child without name. Care to explain?” Rag muttered flicking his tail.
Rose looked at him in the moonlight and thought he look very strange. His colors paled turning him a lighter brown. Strange were the streaks of sparkling black fur. Strange were his star-like eyes. Strange was everything about this tomcat. Strange, yet at the back of her mind Rose detected something familiar, though she did not know what it was.
“Child without Name is the tiny one’s name. Names bring attachment. Many are intent on destroying it,” she sighed and lowered her head.
“Demons are what they are called. For Child without Name even bears the same colors as the one who caused such destruction,” Rag growled. The rabbit squeaked and buried itself in Rose’s puffy tail.
“But he is gone! Long gone!” Rose cried. “The child may have inherited his looks but he is sweet and scared. And you speak of destruction – you, who wants to rid an innocent child of his life!” Rose picked up the rabbit and began padding away.
Rag sighed and sang “The one who caused destruction. A wondrous creature. Turned to demon. Destroyed the predicators. Thus rabbits were banned. Evil, the rabbits, all. For when they awaken. Again all will fall…Rose, look out!!”
A commotion. Then darkness.
Rose awoke from a nightmare she could not recall, shivering. Her eyes blurred and she didn’t know where she was, but then her wind chimes twinkled remembrance. She was in her tent. She was curled on her pillow. The pink and orange blurs comforted her. She groped for the child’s sweet curled body…but could not find it.
“Do not move sweet one.” It was Rag. “I fear that my medicine skills are not the best.”
“Rag…I am supposed to believe you. When clearly I have never allowed you in my tent. Why are you here? Let alone my resting pillow.” Rose growled. She heard shifting and something warm pressed up to her side. The child? No, Rag again.
“Darling. It attacked. I feared for your life. As cliché as this all sounds my words speak nothing but the truth,” he murmured pressing his face to hers.
Rose froze. “It…? The child? My sweet….hurt me?” She moaned.
“Yes, she did, darling,” Rag soothed.
“What did you do…” Rose whimpered.
He licked her cheek. “The child is no more. But your eyesight shall return.”
Rose sobbed for what seemed like an eternity. Rag muttered words of comfort.
“Your lies…are astounding,” she spit, disgusted. “The way you craft them with such delicate detail annoys me.”
Rag flinched, hurt by her words.
“Repeat to me of my sweets passing,” Rose moaned and buried her face in the pillow.
“As I recollect,” Rag said. “You were leaving our sweet meeting in the silver hills. For my words seemed to have annoyed you. My song of mourning was interrupted by a screech as Child without Name took its true form and attacked you.” Rose began crying again but he continued. She could feel two piercing marks on her neck. But she could not believe what Rag was saying. “The demon latched itself upon your neck. In retaliation, I tore it away. Not before its claws swiped your emerald eyes.” Rose moaned and he still continued. She knew these were lies, as she had removed Child without Name’s claws for the sole reason that the troop feared them. Rose lifted her head. Rag expected to see rage in her eyes but saw only pure sadness.
“My child is gone. Your expectation is that I will still love you?” Suddenly, the odd feeling that she knew him from somewhere before increased tenfold and something sparked deep within her heart. Fear.
“Still?” Rag asked, shocked. “But I thought you hated me.”
Rose hid her face again and sighed, “Yes…” Rag nuzzled her, and she allowed it.
“Love. For the child is gone. Now our love can be made anew,” he muttered softly.
Rose thought of the moon. “A trial was given to me and I failed,” she said. “Your heart is something I deserve not.” Or maybe even want not, she thought.
“Your beauty is deeper than the surface. Rose is the only name that suits you. Your thorns are to protect the real you,” Rag sighed and wrapped his tail around her.
“Oh sweet moon. If you can hear my words. My heart is free. No doubt I still mourn for my child but it is in a better place. In your light. Safe,” Rose prayed. Her eyesight had returned, luckily on the day of the full moon. “I thank thee for my happiness.” She bowed and returned to her tent, to Rag, to Phoenix blazing with emotions, to her life as it was.
Claudia Casanova is a freshly graduated senior at Thomas Jefferson High School in Dallas, TX. She writes to express the beauty she sees in the world.