Tomorrow they’ll come for us and the world will end. Today I wanted to hear a story from papa.
“Will you?” I asked him.
I shivered. There was no wind blowing; only a stale chill.
I don’t think papa heard me. He was staring up at the sky which was a rusty green. His mouth was open and his face stained and smeared with dirt and sweat. We were both sitting on the naked earth. Its white grains were like talcum powder sticking to our clothes. I looked around me. There were so many people; all the people in the world. But they were all so quiet. They sat, huddled together in their stinking blankets and clothes, in clusters around sad fires. They were all waiting for the sacrifice. Looking at them I felt sad and I felt scared; for me and papa.
So I asked him again. I asked, “Papa, will you tell me a story?”
He heard me this time. He slowly brought his head down and looked at me; his eyes were the sky. Then slowly, his mouth not closing at all, he smiled and his eyes were our last fire today. And he said, “Of course.”
And I loved him for it.
Papa turned his face upwards but this time his eyes were closed. He began: A long time ago there was a world that mattered as much as our own has. It was a world of earth and water and light and black like our own was. But the main difference between our world and this one I’m talking about is that it did not have little Midala in it.
I giggled at this. Papa was always so silly.
He nodded, unsmiling.
No, it did not have Midala. But everybody knew about her. Everybody knew about the girl with the biggest heart in the world. They had statues of her in the city squares and in their houses and they prayed for her every day.
Do you know why?
I shook my head.
They had once had Midala, you see. And she was, as you know, a magical girl. She could accomplish the most astonishing feats. She was extremely strong and she could fly and walk on clouds and swim through deserts.
She had the biggest heart in the world and would help everybody in any way she could with her powers.
The monster came to eat their world from the belly of the sun. It soon grew to be larger than the sun itself and it latched on to the world and sucked on it like a jawbreaker. And when all the bullets and all the bombs and missiles and all the fire and sticks and stones failed, they had to ask Midala. She agreed to help them and rose up to fight the monster.
Midala struck the monster with everything she had. She punched and kicked and bit and then she hurled the very moon at it. But the monster did not budge.
Then she knew what she had to do. She flew up before the monster’s mouth and got sucked right in. And the monster choked. This monster that could digest the entire world choked on Midala’s heart; the biggest heart in the world.
I listened with my mouth wide open.
Then I asked him, “But what happened to Midala?”
“Look at the sky,” papa said. It was night now. And I looked up, first at his lone hand raised above the human horizon and then at the sky.
“Look at the stars. Look at her heart.”
I looked at the sky; black and weeping white stars and galaxies. And I didn’t need him to trace it. I saw the glowing stars that lined up to form her heart, all throbbing as one.
I smiled at papa.
“Tomorrow there will be no one to look at them.” he said. “But there is a heart there, and you and I can see it. So it’s there.”
He looked at me now and gripped my shoulders. “Tomorrow… I want you to remember that. Okay?”
I nodded my head.
Later, as I lay beside papa, I heard the screaming begin in the distance. I looked up at the stars, at Midala’s heart, at my heart, and I knew everything was going to be all right, even if it wasn’t.
Faisal Pakkali writes in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.