By Human Breath Untouched by Freja Birke

This story is one of the November Writing Challenge entries chosen to be a featured story.

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The light of the crimson sky numbs as it stretches out to cool upon the snow. In its place, a silver hue gradually settles over, heralding the time of the moon. Already now the smoke of familiar fireplaces is smothered by layers of the thin winter air I walk through. Behind, the path that leads back to them twists into the shadow of trees. Further I go, the trees stretching densely over my being, their silhouettes as smooth as ivory and horn.

On such winter nights, we would have been lying under those heavy checked blankets. My mother would tell of a boy. With the candle’s light in her eyes, she would summon the silver pale boy on the moon, who is bound to eternal isolation in the dark ocean above.

However, one day a star appears in the afar sky, glistening and arresting. He is bewitched by her and tries to call out to her. She too, noticing his attempts, tries to call out to him. But their words are lost in the expanse of the universe. Though he can only watch from afar, he wants to somehow convey his feelings. And so, he spends cycles growing delicate and detailed flowers. Flowers the universe hasn’t seen before. When they cover the fields of the moon, he calls out to her over the large dark expanse. There is no reply. He calls again, but the expanse remains void.

In the corner of his eye he sees a sudden dash, a streak of light. He recognises the girl, plummeting beyond his reach. In that moment he finally hears her voice, its melody as soft as he imagined. She falls to Earth, the planet’s flowers concealing her from the boy’s sight. He waits through the seasons for their death so he might hear her voice again. In waiting, he tends to his fields. And when the Earth is as bare as his own heart, he plucks the fields of flowers and strews them to Earth.

Mother said the girl will be waiting, her arms stretched out to receive the flowers. My sibling’s gaze would try to catch a glimpse of her down in the woods, to where my mother would’ve pointed. I, on the other hand, would look up towards the moon.

I pull my hand out of the warmth of the glove to let a single one of his flowers land on my hand. The snowflake melts to a trickle of water that flows down off my palm. So fragile and transient — killed by human touch. They are not for us; our flowers flourish under the sun and under warmth. They are not of this world. They will keep my unspoken thoughts. The glisten of water upon my skin stings in the cold.

The skin of the hand is now shaded in the hue of the sunset. Beyond the crimson, in the blur of the background, squats a figure as pale as the breath from my lungs. Their own hand stretched out and eyes focused on the snowflakes that fall into them. As I come nearer, the head turns. Its characteristics aren’t soft and curved as I expect, not those of a girl. The eyes muster me. I know those wide eyes that are as round as the full moon above.

But as the moon does not shine for me, those eyes aren’t locked to mine, and they slide back to the white. The snowflake’s delicate, intricate pattern so much like the structures under your microscope. The golden light from it always pools into your already lit up eyes. You can’t see me watching you then.

He turns and walks away from me, letting off a familiar whistle that spirals through the trees. As his figure fades, the song mutates to the harsh blow of the wind. Only my thoughts can chase after him now. My body remains planted in the maze of dark trees, a foot sunk into the deep snow. The material of the shoe soaked wet and cold.

Maybe a shout, though. A shout to attempt to bring the melody back. I hope the sound tangles on the air and carries it up and beyond. But it does not. Imprisoned by the path of human tread, it spirals and decays in the cold of winter. The forest doesn’t listen. The trees remain silhouettes.

I take out the crimson keychain he gave me. It flutters and pulsates against the layer of cold — a familiar tune that’s too painful to listen to in anything but this weather. Under the fields of snowflakes, I bury its warmth, and there I leave it, where human breath won’t touch it. Finally, I turn and walk away from the moon, to where the path should lead me back.

 

 

Freja Birke
19
Germany
Germ Magazine guest author
… is a contributing guest author for Germ, which means the following criteria (and then some) have been met: possessor of a fresh, original voice; creator of fresh, original content; genius storyteller; superlative speller; fantastic dancer; expert joke teller; handy with a toolbox; brilliant at parties; loves us as much as we love them.

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