The stars blinked kindly; the dusty luminescence swayed above his head. A small fire burned at his feet, blazing around and licking up the deadened logs of ash. The grass was sweet, puckered in the chilled night, and the distant hymns of nightbirds barely rang through the muddied air. A tent was pitched, its patchwork of colors bruised in the absence of sunlight.
He twiddled a stick between his fingers. The bark was coarse and uneven, cold. The humble firelight bumped up on his face and neck, which grew warm from the heat. He was bundled in a thick coat of dark feathers, hoping to defend against the coldness promised by the others. Though, surely, he thought, it would get much warmer.
He pitched himself upon a cliff, a rocking lake below, a forest behind him. The fire cursed, shouting gravely at him, but he paid no attention. The flames’ crusade was beneath him. He had other concerns.
Dew had lain itself upon the grass. The moon—blank, deserted, crumbling—quivered amongst the stars, fearful to be completely extinguished. The waves of willows’ leaves spun in the air and on the ground. The fire acted again, incorrigibly. It was becoming a nuisance.
A reserve of water sat at his feet and he killed the fire. Thick smoke rolled through his nose and eyes, staining his clothes and ears. A violent sizzle fizzled out. The stars grew brighter as another source of illumination vanished into night. The wind in the willows blew around the encampment, and he felt a sudden rush of something. He couldn’t think of it, this emotion.
The words flew about within his head; they were simple, but effective, easily remembered. They only had one destination, and tonight they would be used accordingly. The words possessed much more than he could imagine, and, yet, he was not frightened by this. Or, perhaps, he merely put it out of his mind. He simply hoped nothing would go awry, that no chime of guilt would echo in his bones or blood, make him long for what once was. He needed this.
“Sertaqa iza,” he spoke to the night. His feathers elongated, the wings on his back ascended; he flew up into the air to watch the stars die and fall to him.
He watched as, one by one, the kind lights jolted from their atmospheres, where they had so lovingly clung, and tumbled downward in mesmeric spirals. His pursuits succeeded, and he smiled. A wind bellowed. The stars stung the black sky with their array of colors, streaking it. The moon shied away, turning herself into an invisible nonexistence.
The first star bounded to him and he clutched it between his two hands, his fingertips gripping the molten, luminous sphere; it was heavier than he thought. Though seemingly afire, the star did not singe his skin or curl his feathers. He pressed his hands against the star and condensed it, molded it into a slighter, more perfect orb. It burst into color, rapidly transforming from white to a lustrous sapphire.
And with it, he placed the glowing sphere into his mouth. It crackled as it met his tongue, his saliva reacting to such a foreign object. The star tasted of ash, blood—almost putrid, but somehow satisfying. He savored the lingering flavor as the soft sphere coalesced with his body. It found its way through his esophagus and into his stomach. A blistering feeling erupted, and an immediate desire to vomit. Yet, he silenced the urge. As the star swirled, it relocated to his chest, through the lungs, and made residence in his heart. It stiffened and bled out, trickling down into his blood.
A second star met his hands, and he ate it, too. Then a third, and a fourth. Piles of stars plagued the cliff he hovered above. He would continue his meal throughout the oncoming days.
The moon turned around to look at this damned occurrence. She squealed with rage, but sought no revenge. For what could she do? The last of the stars amassed itself upon the bodies of its brothers, scarcely gleaming. He floated down, wings scraping the air, and nestled himself amongst the stars.
A blackness had devoured the sky.