Working Excerpt from Of Evernost: A Traveler’s Tale
The stars among us are like ghosts here. Faces unseeing and blessed, finished and sealed. Their smiles are glorious, their beauty, whatever their features, harmonious, radiant and empty of darkness or resonance. They wear the forms that were theirs during their life here, if they lived here at all. They visit some regions in flocks, where the residents can identify them at once.
At first, people long to know them, if they have lost someone to the sky, madly. Some stars will say nothing at all to their old friends, others speak with disarming normalcy of everything save the life, if life it is, that they lead now, and yet others answer questions with a slippery vagueness that is not even riddling. But all of them, one way or another, are elusive, whether because you cannot catch them, however slowly they walk and however quickly you run, or because you cannot feel their friendship. And they never stay.
Some people rage at them for it, or their hearts are broken, never to heal. All things told, though, these cases are surprisingly few. The great majority of people simply lose their interest in stars, who seem to leave few footprints, on the earth or in the mind.
There is a different, rarer star madness, though. These are the people who manage to detect in these vague travelers some heavenly taste invisible to the rest of us and find they cannot wait for death to ascend. They will chase after them when they leave. The ones who fail are sick, recover, or pine away. Some become artists. Starstruck art is always more gap than work, the fragments are humble, monotonous arrangements of the same small palette–blue, white, gold, rays of light and open fifths, pale rich-robed gods flat like a child’s drawings. Others do succeed, and some even return. Every one of them led a strange and wandering life afterward, so we have only a few direct accounts of their discoveries.
Whether all who die may be found there–who returns and why—whether that life is to be desired–these things we do not know. Some say there is nothing in stars but the sum of what they were–our astrologers point to the constellations and speak of epic actors who endlessly replay the central dramas of their lives, selected, magnified, and orchestrated. Others suggest a separate, joyous existence entirely incommunicable to us.
There are stellar wanderers, it is believed, who have not yet been born. There are stories of stars that descend during their mortal lives and haunt themselves. Some have claimed to travel among the stars in dreams, some even that their terrestrial lives are but shadows of the celestial.
In the north starlight is ubiquitous and heady, strong as anything in its silent, temperatureless way. It freezes, it fizzes, it is almost solid. The firebirds in their freer states dance with it. Little else can survive it. On one view stars give off a brilliance that is positively deathly, obscuring, blinding, even maiming, mutating, inimical in its strength because it can turn only to its own joy. But if so these are the worst of stars. It is a peaceful thing, in another way, starlight. Cool, fierce, unreactive. Imbuing the ground with its otherness. Is this the truth of starfolk, we ask, and cease to wonder at their strangeness. But these may be greater stars, sources, not reflections, of a light that does not fit in this world.