The Curse of the Gold Rose
It was there in the meadow that the stars would fall right out of the sky like they were long lost souls searching for home, and he, would always be there to pick them up and dust the dirt off of them so that they could begin to remember how to shine. This was something that they would often forget as they forged their way across the asteroids and plummeted towards Mavericks small hut. He never forgot though, and no matter how worthless they would seem to themselves, to him they were always a star.
They looked much like a small black rock once they’ve fallen. Almost like a lump of coal, but heat radiated off their bodies and once you picked them up you realize that they move in your hand like water and only the heavens prevented their circular existence from imploding in on themselves and turning into a rain that would feed the grass. Maverick would carefully walk them over to his hut and place them into a liquid that would feel like home to them for the first few weeks. They wouldn’t want fire yet, they didn’t know what they were at this point.
Slowly these beings had to be moved into other bodies, until they found the one that matched. Maverick liked to start out with putting them in fish. Fish were already so spiritual anyway that inhabiting another spirit within their body nearly felt natural. Some fish did die, it was apart of the process, sometimes their power couldn’t be contained. Maverick didn’t want the fish to die, but the alternative would leave universe without a star and that really just wasn’t an option.
Stars held the powers of the universe. They harnessed the energy of the raging river to the beating of the human heart. They were spirits. So when they fell, bad things happened.
Sometimes the river would dry up, sometimes, the bird couldn’t fly, the wolf-pup wouldn’t cry, sometimes the heart would stop.
Why do they fall? Some say that they forget who they are, but not even Maverick knew why that was.
So today was much like any other. Maverick was out for a walk in the meadow. His sandals brushing the soft grass as it tickled the tops of his feet. He looked around at his world. He had lived here for some thousand years, and he hadn’t left its confines for the last five hundred and twenty. Time stood still here. He didn’t age, though he had left so many times before that he feared that if he left again he may never come back. The creaks and the aches in his back and knees told him so.
He peered out far towards the dark forest that was at the eastern end of his paradice and saw something sitting in the grass. At first from afar he thought it might have been a very small bear the way that it was slumped over in a heap, but as he grew closer to the being he saw that it had no hair on it and looked much like a tiny ball of flesh. He was now only a few feet away from the thing and he could see that it was a small human, and it was crying. It had little pig tails on top of its head tied together with red string. Its knees were on the ground shot out at weird angles that made Maverick cringe. It was so tiny, and so frail looking. He wondered how on earth it was that humans ruled over animals when he felt that a meer breeze might tip over this small girl. He was wishing now that it would have been a bear cub.
The girl suddenly looked up at Maverick her eyes puffy and her face beat red. She looked very young, but Maverick couldn’t remember what it was like to age like a human. He couldn’t remember how smart he was at that age. What he could comprehend? Could he even speak at that size?
“W-where a-a-am I-I?” she stuttered and Maverick frowned. Guess so, he thought. Tears streamed down her cheeks in great wells. It had been hundreds of years since a human had stepped foot in his world. Maverick looked around gazing at the wide open pastures and saw no other humans within eyesight.
“How did you get here?” Maverick boomed. He hadn’t used his voice in awhile and it came out loud and scratchy. He didn’t like humans in his realm. Humans were messy, and they only brought pain. He had hid the part of him that was human centuries ago and promised never to bring it out again. The little girl looked around.
“I…” she began and trailed off while gazing up at the sky. “I don’t remember.” Maverick looked at the sky as well. It was becoming dark out. You could only just make out the stars, which would normally put a smile on his face.
“What’s the last thing you remember?” he asked her and she looked down at her hands momentarily.
“I don’t know… nothing,” she said breathlessly. Maverick rolled his eyes.
He told her to pick herself up and follow him home. She began asking him questions through soft tears, what was his name? Why was he so old? Did he have any children? Where were they? He only answered the first question and ignored the rest of hers. She sunk into a pit of sadness once he stopped talking. They arrived at his hut after walking only a mile and a half. It was small and wooden and the front porch creaked when he stepped onto it. He’d lived in this hut for nearly 1000 years, and while the wood was the strongest there was, it was showing ware. Maverick suspected the stars were wearing it down so fast, because he knew nothing else would be. The stars were wearing him down as well.
He’d let her spend the night and they would figure out what to do in the morning. He dreaded having company in his house. Humans were loud. They constantly needed things, and for some reason always wanted to talk. It seemed that no matter how much one would say in one moment that there would always be more to say in the next. The little girl cried all the while sulking behind Maverick. He didn’t turn back to ensure she was following. What reason was there to cry if there was nothing to remember?
They got into the hut and he told her where her room would be. She looked inside and her face fell. Her sniffles began to subside.
“It’s so small,” she said.
“Yes, well you’re a small person,” he said and exited the room. “The blankets are in the cabinet and the restroom is to your left.”
The little girl sat on the bed momentarily, and then walked out of the room in confusion. She twisted her hair and nearly got it stuck in her fingers. Maverick was tending to the star that had just fallen a few days ago. It had infused with water nicely only yesterday and he could see it beginning to gain confidence with itself. Tomorrow would be fish he thought and swished his hand around in the water gently. Most stars took weeks to fully integrate, but this one could possibly be done tomorrow. He whispered sweet chants to it. He wasn’t sure if it actually helped, but he hoped it did. He longed for them to get home, for them to remember who they are.
“I’m not tired,” the little girl said quietly. Maverick turned around. He had almost forgotten she was there.
“Then don’t sleep,” he said he said simply and went to make himself a pot of tea. The little girl looked around his hut. Now that she wasn’t crying she was free to examine her surroundings. She noticed that it was small.
“Where am I?” she asked again. Maverick sighed realizing that he would have to talk to her.
“You are in the time temple. You should not be here though. Tomorrow you will have to leave,” he said without turning to look at her. Then there was only the sound of water beginning to boil.
“Where will I go?” she asked. This time he turned to look at her. She had large brown eyes that were beginning to look normal now that the swelling from all the crying had gone down. He decided that she was a pretty girl, now that her eyes were no longer puffy.
“I don’t know,” he said. “Somewhere that’s not here.”
It was quiet for a long while. The little girl sat in wooden chair and shifted uncomfortably in the silence. Maverick wasn’t uncomfortable though. He enjoyed the silence. In fact he wasn’t very used to hearing his own voice so often, it was not long ago that he had almost forgotten what it sounded like.
The little girl yawned greatly and moved her feet back in forth while sitting on the chair. Her feet didn’t yet touch the floor. Maverick added milk to his tea and came and sat down next to the little girl. He sat in silence and focused on the aroma of his tea. It had varying flavors depending upon where he had plucked the leaves or roots that morning, how long he steeped it in the water for and what mood he was in when he made it. Tonight it was a rich, deep ginger flavor with undertones of apple, caramel and something that he couldn’t quite place.
“What are you drinking?” the little girl asked stirring him from his trance. He was slightly annoyed at having been interrupted, but he did love tea.
“Tea my dear,” he said making eye contact with her. She gazed into his eyes back and saw the universe reflected in them. She wondered how she recognized it.
“What is tea?” she asked tilting her head to the side. Her mouth was dry and longed for some moisture. Maverick could see this in her eyes, went over to the stove without a word and poured some of the golden liquid into a dark violet mug. He decided to put a little more milk in hers than he had put in his own. She looked down at the golden swirls reflected in the water and brought the mug to her lips. The water seeped down her throat and brought a warmth her bones that made her realize how cold she was. Before she could get in another word about the tea she had consumed the whole mug. Maverick smirked.
“That is tea,” he said and the little girl smiled, a golden rim around her lips. “It is time for bed.”
That night Maverick didn’t fall right to sleep like he normally did. He gazed out the skylight and matched the constellation map that was ingrained in his head with what was above him. He knew something in them was missing on this night, but with the thousands of stars that he memorized he fell asleep before he counted them all.
The little girl didn’t sleep much at all. She was staring out her window at the lights in the sky. They were beautiful and they felt like home she thought. A distant home, one she couldn’t remember.
The next morning was bright and the little girl had woken up awhile before Maverick. She was hastily pouring over her memories in search of something that useful. That might allow her to stay. She remembered darkness, and small glimmers set off in the distance. She remembered falling.
She walked over to the stove because she was thirsty again and desperately wanted more of this so called, “tea.” She remembered Maverick putting a metal pot on the stove and turning the handle to the right. She grabbed the pot from the sink and did was she recalled Maverick doing. It was only a few moments before the stove started to make strange noises and exhibit smoke.
“What in the hell?” Maverick said and she could hear shifting from his room. His bed creaked noisily and the little girl began to panic. She went over and grabbed the pot with both hands before yelling out in pain and sending the pot flying towards the window and crashing into it with a loud noise that spooked the birds outside. The little girl cried and she looked down at her hands. Maverick came stumbling out of bed in golden pajamas and a golden hat. He instantly understood what happened and brought the little girl’s hands over do the sink and turned on cold water. She cried and he mumbled.
“Stupid little, good-for-nothing…” he trailed off. “Have you never used a stove before?” he demanded. His voice cracking. He wondered why on earth humans were so incompetent. This was why he never had humans in his temple. They ruined everything. The bears and the wolves could fend for themselves and didn’t need his help surviving. They knew how to get their own food from the forest and would drink from the stream. Humans needed constant care and they left nothing in return except for pain. Why in the world were there so many of them?
The little girl shook her head and continued to silently sob.
“No of course not. All you really know how to do is cry isn’t it?” She said nothing. He dried her hands and cursed some more under his breath. He looked at his window and saw that there was a small crack in it. He knew that meant that there would probably always be a crack in it. He wasn’t going to the outside world again, and he didn’t know how to fix it on his own. He got out some frozen blueberries that he was storing and put them in a thin rag and then told the girl to hold it in her hands until they felt better. “I’m going out. I don’t know when I’ll be back.”
He left her like that. Sitting on the ground sobbing. More from the yelling than the pain at this point, and he went to go look for stars. He wouldn’t let this little girl’s stupidity slow him down. He knew that a star had fallen. He just didn’t know where it was. He had been doing this work a long time, and he always knew long before a star fell that it was going to. He could feel a shift in the universe and could see this shift in the way that nature acted. Sometimes the trees would hold their breath. Or the grass was stop growing. Sometimes the animals would do strange things. Before the last star fell he had seen a mother bear devoured its young and then itself. Nature never behaved like this where he lived.
He lived in the time temple. It was a place where time stopped once you entered onto its soil and resumed as soon as you left. Nature behaves differently when time isn’t a factor. It becomes more at peace with itself.
He searched the yellow meadow, the dark forest, the red lake, the blue meadow and rocky hills. He found nothing. He decided to check in the white forest to see if one had landed there, they rarely ever did, but there was nothing. He had spent most of the day searching and but found nothing. He stopped and took a break near the creek in the dark forest. He looked up at the trees and could see them letting out a long held breath. The star had fallen, that he knew for sure. He just didn’t know where yet. There was still a few more places to check, places that he hadn’t been in a long time. It was getting dark though and the stars that fell to his hut didn’t know how to shine anymore, so there was no way he would find them in the dark. He came back with empty hands, feeling like a failure.
He gruffed as he heaved his way onto his porch and could smell a sweet aroma coming out the kitchen window. It smelled like cinnamon. Once he was inside he saw the little girl sitting criss-cross on the chair reading his book about tea. There was a pot of it boiling on the stove and he could see an empty mug set out next to her. She looked up and he could see that her hands were red and puffy and something churned in his stomach.
“I figured the oven out,” she said. “There is tea on the stove.”
Maverick was suspicious. He walked over to the stove and saw that the water the pot was half full with water. She didn’t fill it all the way up, but it was boiling. He tipped the spout into an empty burgundy mug and brought the liquid to his lips. He tasted cinnamon and chocolate, a strange combination but he didn’t hate it. The little girl looked up at him with anticipation. He shrugged and sat down next to her, focusing on the aruoma and different layers of taste. It really only had two layers, but they went well together. He drank in deeply. He had always gone for more complex flavors, but was somewhat comforted in the tea’s simplicity.
“What do you think?” she asked in a small voice. Her hands outstretched towards him. Pink flesh mocking him.
“It isn’t bad,” he said quietly. A small smile fluttered around the creases of her lips. She flips open a book and points at a small recipe at the bottom of the front of the book. Maverick never looked at the front anymore. He realized now that he had forgotten to take her to the portal that left his temple. But he supposed that one more night wouldn’t hurt anything.
“I found it here. It says that it represents… ” she trailed off. “It represents love.”
She looked down at her hands and Maverick shifted uncomfortably for a moment before going over to the table where the star was. His grimace turned into a wide smile. It was now fully integrated. He had some fish stored in the tank in his room, and he wanted to give the first attempt today so that there would be room for the next star in his tub of water, whenever he found it. It was strange having two stars fall at such similar times. Normally they were at least weeks a part. Sometimes months.
He went over to the kitchen counter and picked up his goldenrod. The little girl’s eyes were intently upon him as he slowly moved the rod around in the water and a smooth blue liquid ingrained itself in the rod. After a few long minutes of his slow monotonous stirring he picked up the rod and looked at it with pleasure.
“What is that?” the little girl asked. Maverick smiled.
“Follow me,” he said and walked into his room. The little girl noticed that the room was not much larger than her own and had no decorations or indications that anyone had lived in it. There was a small wool blanket that was neatly made on the bed, coupled with a slightly yellowed pillow. Then on the right side of his room was a large tank with two orange and white fish swimming around. Their lips were large and had small bits of orange flesh hanging from the sides of them. He dipped the rod into the water and slowly the dark blue liquid sprouted off the rod and surrounded one of the fish. The liquid seeped into the skin of the fish, and for what the little girl could see, the fish didn’t even react. Once it was over Maverick pulled the rod out of the water and looked in at the fish with a softness in his eyes.
“Why did that liquid go into the fish?” the little girl asked and Maverick smiled.
“Because the universe intended it to,” he said and the little girl frowned.
The next few days were spent much in the same way. The little girl would make tea and Maverick would go off in search for a star. The little girl learned to be quiet and spent most of her days reading the books in Mavericks hut while soaking outside in the sun. It was the middle of the Sol season now and so that put the weather at approximately 70 degrees from morning until night. The little girl learned much about the world that she lived in through the books. Books about the constellations were common, but there were also books about history, science, magic, mathematics, literature and her favorite of all: tea. The little girl was becoming an expert tea maker after the first two weeks. She had not much else to occupy her time. At night she was never bored because she would match the stars with what she saw in her books, but during the day, Maverick didn’t like her to leave the house. He said it wasn’t safe for her out there. The animals didn’t know her like they knew him. So she read and she brewed, and as she read more she began to wonder what life must be like outside the temple. People wrote these books so that meant that there must be more people out there than Maverick right? Perhaps they were kind people. Or people who could explain to her who she was. She looked out at the white hills set off in the distance and wondered what was beyond them.
Maverick came home one day in a particularly bad mood, after hours of searching the white mountains. He shook his head. He rarely spoke she noticed, and she soon adopted his policy on silence. She made him calming tea that night, and Maverick was quietly grateful.
It had been three weeks now, and there was still no luck with the star. Maverick decided that it was now time to integrate the current star into something else. He would examine its characteristics and personality tonight.
He went into his room and stared at the fish for a long while before the little girl came in and joined him. She had experimented tonight with the tea and was curious about what he would think it. He sipped on it slowly while gazing in at the fish, and after a few moments of it he set the tea on the side table and looked over at the little girl.
“What is this?” he asked her and she looked down at the ground with a smile. She knew that it was a good tea. “It is a mix between the calming tea and the productive tea. I liked to think of it as… clarity.”
“Clarity,” he said and gazed in at the fish again. She took a sip of the tea as well.
“Yes,” she said and waited for him to comment on it. He didn’t though. Instead he said something different.
“What do you think of this fish?” he asked her. At first she was shocked to be asked such a question. She looked at him gazing trying to assess if this was some sort of trick. After a moment or so she looked in at the fish as well. It was swimming slowly she noticed. Maverick swirled his finger in the water and the fish didn’t even notice the movement, or it noticed and it didn’t care.
“It seems, lazy,” she said and Maverick frowned. He swirled his finger around again and the fish looked up at it and then back down. It moved towards a small patch of grass and sank into it. “Or maybe it seems… peaceful?”
“Tomorrow we will try a dove,” he said and looked at the little girl with an expression that meant she was to go to sleep. She walked to the doorway and wondered if she should ask Maverick what she had been thinking about earlier today. About the outside world. His eyes were now shut though and she decided to save it for another day.
The next morning the little girl woke up to the sound of feathers flapping. She groggily made her way into the kitchen to see Maverick sitting next to a white bird. Her eyes widened. The bird sat there silently looking up at Maverick as if with anticipation. She said nothing and instead came and sat down quietly. The bird looked at her momentarily and then back at Maverick. She wondered how it stayed so motionless. It did not wander or move much more than its head.
“Would you like to gather the star?” he asked with a smile. His face didn’t turn towards her though. He still stared intently at the bird. She was surprised that he was asking her to do such a thing. He seemed so protective over his stars.
“Of-of c-course,” she stammered and went over to the drawer to fetch the goldenrod. She hesitated.
“And do I just swirl it in the water?” she asked and he didn’t look up from the bird.
“No, no it’s not that simple. You must call to the star. Remember the energy you channeled last night and you should be fine,” he said. She was unsure if she even had felt a different energy last night. She was unsure what it meant to call to a star. She wasn’t about to ask though. Maverick became irritated when she asked too many questions.
She walked into the room and gazed at the fish again. It was still very slow. Not slow she reminded herself, peaceful. In the back of her mind she still thought slow, and kind of lazy. She took in a deep breath and placed the rod in the water and tried to remember how she felt last night. But she didn’t really remember, because who can remember what they didn’t know in the first place? She swirled it around like Maverick had before, but no liquid emerged from the fish. She did this for several minutes and nothing happened. She didn’t want to ask Maverick but she pictured him staring at that bird in silence and figured he needed to know.
“It umm,” she began, unsure of herself. “It isn’t working.” It was quiet for a few terrible moments. Then she heard a long sigh and the sound of wings flapping. After a few moments he arrived in the room, and watched her as she continued to stir the water.
“You think it’s slow don’t you?” he said and she bit her lip and looked down at the fish.
“I don’t want to,” she said and a small smile spread across his lips and he went left the room. He came back after only a few seconds with a long metal looking rod that had a point at the end of it. She was afraid for a moment.
“W-w-what are you doing?” she asked as Maverick walked closer. He put the spear up above his head and before she could even react he thrusted it into the water and towards the slow fish. She gasped out in shock, but it quickly moved out of the way. He tried it again with a speed that she didn’t realize he could muster. The fish swam out of the way with an instant. It was fast.
“The fish is not slow. It is content. This characteristic will help us to determine what kind of star it is,” he said sternly and it was the longest sentence she had heard him utter. He looked at her expectantly and she nodded solemnly and stirred the water. She remembered how quickly the fish moved before and watched now as it slowly scraped the bottom of the tank. A few minutes went by and the dark blue liquid began to emerge from the fish. She was dumbfounded that she had actually done it. Excitement pulsed through her body and her feet shook with glee. Her arms tensed up and the liquid retreated back into the fish. Her smile faded. Maverick’s didn’t though.
“Progress,” he said.
After this he grabbed the rod from her and the liquid quickly exited the fish and went into the rod. He moved with precision into the kitch and the bird was in a cage. It made her sad and she didn’t know why. The bird’s feathers were wet and he swirled the rod around the bird’s head. The bird didn’t seem to notice, and after minutes of this the liquid left the rod and went into the bird. The girl had never seen Maverick so happy.
“You witnessed one of the best behaved stars that I have transformed. You’re lucky, most times the third transformation goes terribly awry,” he said.
The bird became slow now. Maverick took it out of the cage and it didn’t move. It merely curled up into itself and sat at the table.
“Stars want to transform. It’s just sometimes they aren’t ready to. They always want to leave. I think somewhere deep within themselves they know that they are not a bird, or a fish or water. They know that they belong elsewhere. Up in the constellations,” he said. He didn’t mention how painful it was when they left. How much he missed every single one that he put back in its place. How long he would stare at the sky in agony. He knew that they didn’t belong on earth though. That they belonged amongst their brothers and sisters of the universe.
The girl looked up at the sky. It was still morning out but she knew that the stars were still there. Waiting for the sun to leave so that they could show their magnificence to the world.