A Vacancy in the Starless Realms—Rebecca Harrison

No one but you can move the moons!

Yes, you. This notice is for you! So don’t turn away, shrug your shoulders in the gleam of the twenty moons, and bimble away down the city alleys. I know that spark in your eyes. For I had eyes like yours when I forged a harness from comet tails and captured Scrimrion. 

Yes, Scrimrion – the silver bear who treads the starless heavens. The bear, bigger than worlds and older than always. Yes, you know of me. Your mother whispered tales of me as she tucked you under a blanket. You walked past a statue of me on your winding way to school. You have lived in the light of the moons I gathered from empty planets and set in this sky. I made this world bright. It was quite a quest; I can tell you. 

Of course, I didn’t push them myself. That was Scrimrion’s job. Before me, your planet was dark – its only moon, a wretched sliver of a thing. Barely a blink of light! A world so dim, we never saw our shadows. Yes, I was the hero, and foolish with it. And perhaps foolish still, though my beard is white and wispy. For why else would I want to go home? 

The role 

  • The light bringer
  • The moon harvester
  • The banisher of dark

Because of you, light will fall on worlds abandoned by the stars long ago. Longer ago than you can imagine, for they were myths even when I was a tumble-foot toddler. ’Course, you lot don’t talk about them much now, not since I set the moons in the sky. No need. But when I was a boy, folk mourned and chanted and wished. In my dreams, I still hear my grandmama humming ‘the Grave of Sirius’. I confess, I sang it myself when Scrimrion last trekked the star graveyards. And if I cried and muffed the verses, who could blame me? 

Yes, I’ve grown sentimental in my dotage. Would you believe, I even took off my hat to Bellatrix? Of course, it was only for the Princess’s sake. The Princess was singing of Bellatrix when I first met her, when I climbed the palace walls just to listen. Had I not heard her, I would’ve lived my life in that dark and passed from it, and no one would have ever whispered my tales or carved my likeness in stone. 

Activities you will be involved in 

  • Taking care of your home on the bear’s back
  • Cartography – both making new maps and amending old
  • Delivering moons to dark worlds

Do not be afeared of Scrimrion. Though I wouldn’t call him tame, he sulks more than he roars. When he lays down his great head and grumbles, do not tug on his comet-tail harness. Do not give him the attention he seeks. You’ll have plenty of chores to occupy you while he wallows. I know I didn’t expect the heavens to be so dusty. And sometimes I wonder if the golden dust that has collected on my maps while I’ve slept is the very same dust that I tipped out the windows, before trundling up the stairways to bed. There’s a broom on every floor, and there are many floors. Yet, the little garden on the roof needs no watering, and the moon berries grow sweet and fat. 

You’ll have to navigate Scrimrion, or he’ll meander or worry-pace the same stretch of heavens. But of what can a celestial bear worry, you ask? 

‘Maybe his family are all gone?’ Princess Oriina whispered, long ago, as we sat on the palace roof watching his silver shape in the faraway. Her heart was so tender and her eyes so bright, they called her ‘little lamp’, for lamps were the treasures of that dim kingdom. She once held my hand when he roared.

What we can offer you

  • The heavens at your feet
  • A companion who shares his birthday with the first stars
  • The chance to be a hero

You’re young enough and foolish enough to be a hero. But your world has no cruel king to vanquish, no beast to capture, no princess to rescue. Only toil and games and merriment. But you can be a hero to worlds you cannot even name. They wait halfway to forever. Or you can stay in your city. There are no princesses there now. And the cruel king is only a rhyme. Yet once his words shuddered through the crowds:

 ‘Bring me Scrimrion, and I will chain him above the city. I will have light.’ 

Twenty lamp bearers surrounded him: if their hands trembled and their flames faltered, the knight would put a sword through their bellies. 

Did I volunteer then? Of course not. The moment hadn’t yet arrived when I would become a hero. But then a soldier appeared carrying Oriina. He held her over the edge of the wall. Her gentle face was stretched with terror.  

‘The princess’s hand to any who captures Scrimrion. If no one succeeds, this will be her fate.’ 

And that was my moment. 

We are looking for people who are

  • Voyagers – the old starways are waiting, though all the stars made their final journeys to their resting place long ago 
  • Scholars – many worlds still need marking on the maps
  • Heroes – my own path was the gutter to glory

I was a drackle-soul street rat. I had no hearth but the wind, no roof but the sky. Yet the princess loved me. I melted an enchanted goblet to fashion a blade, climbed the Dridaba mountains, and sliced off the comet’s tail. Yet, Oriina begged me not to chain Scrimrion, even to save her. So I rode him to another world and he pushed a great pearl moon all the way back. 

You’ve heard this story. 

You know the cruel king smiled. 

You know he demanded more moons. Moons from further out, and onwards. 

And so we went: bear and I.

Important information 

  • Time

Time is strange on the bear’s back. It cannot be counted or caught. There are no years in the heavens. Only ‘forever’ or ‘long ago’. Even for a hero. Even a hero riding a celestial bear. A bear pulling nineteen magnificent moons. For I had been diligent and discerning. Not for me were the measly or the cratered. Perhaps you’ve taken the beauty of the moons above you for granted? I assure you, they were the glories of the galaxies. How proud I was as Scrimrion trekked towards my little dark home. How the city would cheer. How the cruel king would nod. How the princess would look at me, her eyes moonful and welcoming. 

And the city did cheer. But as for the cruel king, he was just a tomb and a story. And Oriina, the little lamp? She had grown old eras past and was gone. So I stayed on the bear’s back. I kept on with my endeavour. 

But now I must hand my quest to you. 

Now, I wish only to walk by the palace and look up at the roof where we sat: the princess and the hero, and watch Scrimrion tread into the faraway, just as we watched him long ago. 

Rebecca Harrison sneezes like Donald Duck and her best friend is a dog who can count. 

photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin and Aperture Vintage (via unsplash)

The City on the Wind—Rebecca Harrison

Our wind carried our city through the long nights. So, we sang it songs. And the crystal pieces of our city whirled apart and then joined in new shapes, then whirled apart and joined, on and on. In the time of long nights, we hung shine flakes on our crystal walls, and they lit our wind’s way. I peered out into the dark and I saw the other pieces of the city, floating crystal, lit by shine flakes, and I placed one on our wall and felt its shimmer on my face. 

“Long ago, snowflakes fell from the sky, all in bursts and clumps – so many of them they piled right up until everything was white, white as far as you could see,” Gram said. “Long before we lived in break-apart cities on the winds. When we lived in towns on the backs of running bears, and even longer ago still.” She leaned on her stick and pried herself off the sofa, her gnarled hands quivering. 

“Drina told me we never lived on bears,” I said. “How could we? Look how small they are.” I pointed to the bears running outside in our wind, round and round, the shine flakes lighting their golden fur. “The biggest one could fit next to you on our sofa,” I laughed. 

“The world changes, Pennally,” she said, and she patted my shoulder. I linked my arm in hers and breathed in her scent of wind moss. For even though it hadn’t grown since long before I was born, Gram spent her young years sorting and stewing enough of the stuff to smell of it forever. “Now, to sing,” she said. 

Everybody from our city was already in Gulkanna Hall, their faces bright from waiting. We sang to our wind and the golden bears howled. And our city pulled apart and remade itself and pulled apart again. And our wind moved through the night, over grounds dimmer than the sky. 

“Our wind will carry us home,” we sang as one voice, in a melody that felt like loss. 

“Where is home?” I asked Gram when we were back in our house, eating smoked slices of sky fish. She touched one of our walls to make it vanish. The bears lumbered over, and I fed them flakes of sky fish while she ruffled their golden ears. 

“A green place. The bears are looking for it – that’s why they run around and around. My ma told me, if you lead the golden bears to the ground – they’ll take you there.” One of the bears nudged her with its black nose. “They’re trapped in the wind, you see, and they can’t get down.”

The bears licked our hands. Then Gram touched the side of our house and our wall appeared again. 

“Are we trapped, too?” I asked, but she didn’t answer. 

In the morning, I was alone. I scoured the city, all its pieces, some of them two or three times as the city remade itself and I didn’t know my way, but Gram wasn’t there. When I looked out, the bears had gone, and I knew they were with her in a slow walk to an unknown home, and I wondered why she’d left me up here in the wind. 

Rebecca Harrison sneezes like Donald Duck and her best friend is a dog who can count. 

photo by Annie Spratt (via unsplash)

Obit—Rebecca Harrison

Welimma Yog was the first Plutonian author and spent her years writing in the leftover light of the solar system. Not for her were the cities gliding Saturn’s rings, nor the ocean at Jupiter’s heart where the old cathedrals of England drift, salt-deep. When she finally left Pluto as a two hundred year old lady, her manuscripts in a battered suitcase with a faulty lock, little could she have anticipated the fame and acclaim – for who among us hasn’t weeped over ‘Stone Skies At Nunpa Dune’? Who didn’t fall asleep from their mother reciting the poem ‘No steps further but just one more’? Could Yog have known that she would never return home to the Plutonian dusk? Or that she would have written her last great work in a batter-craft riding Venus’s lightning? She never learned any other language, preferring the soft gutterings of Plutonian, but her works have been translated many thousands of times. For every time a new world is discovered, we send her works first, so that they will know the best of us. And in this way, Welimma Yog has never died. Some say that if you recite her poem ‘Wind drops on the spullamet’ into the last light of the year, she will appear and write a new tale for you alone. Who among us hasn’t tried?

Rebecca Harrison sneezes like Donald Duck and her best friend is a dog who can count. 

photo by NASA and Justice Dodson (via unsplash)