In a quiet, dark corner of the universe, the old man gently kneads his latest creation and smiles. He can feel the stardust vibrating against his fingers, showing him glimpses of its potential — potential for brilliant beauty, but also for eyes that can see more than light, for a mind that can delve deep into the universe. Someday, this silvery dust could finally take the old man’s place.
The mass of dust glistens grey and purple before him, swirling and twisting like a ballroom dancer. With gnarled hands, the Starsmith nudges the last stray flecks into place. There. I’ve done it. The finished cloud quivers delicately.
“Ready to come alive, eh, m’little heir?” chuckles the old man to himself. “Well, I should best get you started.”
Like countless times before, he plucks a golden match from his pocket and sets it alight with a flick of his wrist. When the flame grows almost too bright to bear, he holds it carefully to the edge of the dust, where tiny particles are already fighting to escape. Slowly, starting from the heart of the fire, the cloud begins to glow. The bright wave swirls faster than anything the Starsmith has forged before, rippling with energy. He considers again the potential he saw in his creation’s future. What will that wisdom be like, paired with this much force?
When the whole cloud is illuminated, it pauses for a few seconds, as if gathering its thoughts. Then the glowing dust condenses itself into a wide face, delicate shoulders, graceful arms — until standing there before him is the shining figure of a child. Blinking, the star opens her eyes for the first time.
“Jerra, my child. Welcome to the universe.”
The starchild nods, understanding.
“Is this to be my place, Creator?” She gestures at the space around them.
The Starsmith contemplates this.
“Yes, I believe that this place is suitable for you.”
The child nods again.
“Jerra, you are one of the loveliest of my stars, perhaps the best.” Despite his anxiety, the Starsmith forces himself to speak slowly and formally, putting weight into each word. “As time passes, you shall grow great and bright. You shall blaze so hot that even I shall not be able to come near you. But even in your greatness, you must not forget that your life is limited. You may last hundreds of billions of years, yet I shall still be witness to your death.”
The starchild continues staring at him with huge grey eyes. She knows all this already — they always do. It will be her understanding of his next words that could set her apart.
He draws in a long breath.
“Unless, of course, I choose you as my successor.”
Her eyes widen in interest. “How will you choose your successor, Creator?”
“You know the life of a star, Jerra. A million children from a thousand planets shall gaze up at you and tell you their wishes, but remember this: you shall have the power to fulfill only one of them. One wish in your whole long life. Observe the universe closely. Choose wisely. Do you understand?”
The child nods once more.
“I shall be watching you. If you demonstrate enough insight, I shall make you immortal and take you as my apprentice for a thousand years.”
The Starsmith observes her and takes note of the eagerness behind the cool gaze of her eyes. A good sign. I was not half as willing.
“After a thousand years, apprentice shall become creator, and I shall be able to rest at last. Jerra, you must understand that I have already endured this post for twice as long as my own creator. I grow weary, but it takes great dedication to forge the stars the universe needs.”
She answers quickly. “You need not worry, Creator. I vow to relieve you of your post as soon as possible.”
These words soothe the old man, and he strokes the child’s cheek tenderly. As she takes in his approval, however, he can feel arrogance blooming rapidly in her soul, and then, suddenly, the strings of the universe are pulled taut, and her fate materializes in his mind’s eye, clear and terrible.
He sees a vision of the wish she will grant — a vision of one overambitious child fulfilling the senseless whims of another. A king murdered. Two armies waging needless war. Great fires engulfing infinite forests.
A fate now unavoidable because the Starsmith has failed once again.
No, he thinks, I can’t be wrong about her. But he can already feel that what he had hoped was eagerness is mere imprudence. He draws his hand back in disappointment, the helpless cries of thousands ringing in his ears. He can do nothing but wait for fate to run its course.
The child notices his frown. “Have I done wrong, Creator?”
The old man can read the foolishness in her face now. Damn the girl! How could I have been blind to it? He struggles to twist his face back into a loving smile.
“No, child, I was only thinking of the long years to come,” he answers gruffly. “Well, I must leave you now. Farewell, Jerra.”
“Farewell, Creator. I hope to see you again soon.” She turns away, her unearned confidence betrayed by a sly smile.
Sighing, the Starsmith pulls his black robe around himself and disappears into the night sky. It is time to start anew.
Tiffany M. Lee is a student at the University of Waterloo, where she spends her days watching bad TV and dreaming up fairy tales. She is a member of the writers’ group Table of Awesome, which can be found at tableofawesome.wordpress.com.