By Julia Ermi

"Grammy" the boy yawned out. "Could you maybe tell me a story? You know, just to help me fall asleep." The old woman chuckled at this untruth, but obliged his request. Creaking across the ancient floorboards of the boys' room, she began to hum softly to herself. "There once was a boy who could touch the stars." She spoke in a whisper almost as if sharing a secret. "Every night he climbed a ladder of ink into a sky of swirling black and danced through the heavens..."


He leapt across galaxies, burned out Suns and slept among the meteors. His smile shook the universe, his voice could manipulate gravity.


One day, as the boy reached for the last rung of his ladder to the sky, he slipped. And then he was falling, arms outstretched towards his sky of stars, fear crackling in his eyes, desperation red on his lips. He hurtled through time and space and color, painting streaks of gold across the heavens behind him. It seemed as though he would never land... And then he did. The impact shook the stars from the sky and the dust from the earth. His body landed, broken, atop an ocean wave, surrounded by the glittering of his fallen stars, drifting, sinking with the seafoam. Until the full moon tugged the wave, and his body, to shore.


That is how she came across this boy with the stars in his eyes and constellations tattooed across his skin.  She found him, broken, painted by the inks of his sky, upon her beach. She knelt beside his head, worry etched across her brow.

"I felt you." She whispered into the ocean breeze. "I felt the sun fade and the stars weep as you fell. I heard the misery in the wind and I saw their pain blossoming blue and gold across the clouds. I..." Her voice was swept away with the wind. She choked back a sob for the broken body of the boy who made the universe weep.


But then somewhat of a miracle occurred. The boy breathed in, and then out, and then in again. The girl cried out in wonder and joy, leaping to her feet. His eyes fluttered open, and the girl studied his face. His irises were explosions of silver and blue, melting and swirling together. His dark, shaggy hair dripped the ink of dusk onto his translucent white skin, shimmering with the light of the moon. He was a boy crafted from dying starsand black holes, forth from the desperate tears of Artemis, and the raging of Zeus' fair storm. And he was beautiful.


The boy blinked, his eyes growing even brighter as he sat up. He examined the tendrils of flame leaping from about her head, crackling and glowing in the ocean breeze as embers landed around her feet. He stared at the intensity in her emerald eyes, shining, shifting, like moonlight on water. And yet the girl was neither moonlight nor water. She burned like the sun, but she was not the sun. She was simply her.


Slowly, over the next months, the two became best friends, the days blurring together like the colors of chalk in a rainstorm. But what they didn't realize then, was that their bond was more than that. The universe had forced them to collide, and because of that, had sent them both reeling. They were in love. Ferociously, desperately, miserably, in love.


So in love, in fact, that the girl didn't notice the change in the boy's silver eyes, or the weight atop his shoulders that sagged more with each passing day. She hadn't noticed the darkness that seeped into his skin or the fading of his vibrant colors. And he almost didn't either. But he did. You see, when the boy slipped from his ladder, the ladder did not fall to earth with him, and he had no way to return to the sky from which he was born. Please do not misunderstand, he loved the girl. So much so, that he ignored the darkness creeping into the edges of his vision, and the fading light of his skin, for as long as he could.


Then, one night, he could no longer ignore it. He felt deep within his bones that if he could not reunite with his mother, his mistress, the sky upon that instant, the darkness would rob him of his light. So he did what he must, and he kissed his love softly on her cherry lips as she slept, fire igniting in his blood, before slipping from the sheets they shared to the beach, their beach. He stood on the rocks of the bluffs upon which the girl had found him, his tears tearing golden streaks across his shining cheeks, hisdark hair whipping with the wind.

"I love you" he whispered to his beloved. His words carried with the ocean breeze, away... and then he jumped. His body a comet, hurtling into the night as the universe sighed, welcoming him home.


Naturally, the girl sobbed as she did on the day she found him, lying in an explosion of color, on her beach. She wept through her eyes her love for him, the fire in her veins, and the passion in her heart. But, when she had no more tears left to cry, she tilted her head to the sky. The stars winked at her from the heavens above, and her beloved's form emerged beside the moon, becoming now one of the constellations once tattooed on his glowing skin. Not knowing if she ever could once more, the girl smiled.


Every night following, for the rest of her life, the girl, then woman, then mother, then grandmother, visited the bluff where her beloved had jumped, and smiled at his winking form above. He was still so incredibly beautiful.


When she was ready, her fire joined him in the sky, his inky arms encircling her in a loving embrace, and though aged, forever youthful in the stars.


When the woman's fragile voice ceased, she had tears in her eyes. She listened to her grandson's steady breathing, gazing upon his youthful face. She smiled, her eyes still full of tears, though brighter now, lighter somehow. She rose carefully from her place by his side, pulling the covers close to his chin. Hesitating only a moment more, she walked through his bedroom door, closing it behind her with some eerie sense of finality. Clothed in only a gaudy white nightgown, the old woman stepped out into the night, and loosed the weight from atop her shoulders.


Her grandson never saw her again, though sometimes when he gazed up at the night sky, he thought he could just make out her fiery figure, eternally smiling down upon him from her tomb amongst the stars.