Author's note: The idea of fearing the dark has always been captivating. I hope that you, the reader, will be... Show full author's note »
Aura“Starbright, starlight, don’t go to sleep tonight.”
The whispers of her mother’s bedtime song haunt her.
“You wish you may, with all your might.”
The bedcover, a layer of security, is tucked to her chin.
“Forever fight the sting of light.”
The nightlight’s lone flicker is hungrily devoured by the darkness at the click of a switch.
Mother's gentle fingers stroke Aura's forehead for a brief moment. Then Mother leaves, the steady rhythm of her footfalls slowly receding into the darkness.
Aura is alone. The familiar features of her pink-drenched room have been erased into nothingness by a hand of shadow and gloom. All she can do is hope she’s looking in the right direction at the painting on the wall.
She loves that painting. The artist has captured the precise moment the girl takes flight. Her silky black hair seems to be flowing off the canvas, several strands dancing across her pale face. You can just sense the gentle summer breeze tousling those locks, pushing her golden frock to her knees as the skirt poufs out behind her. The dazzling blue sky is broken up by her arms, outstretched to her very fingertips, while her feet soar above the rich green grass. The girl is lovely; a flying princess, but what Aura loves is not her beauty. It is the expression of pure bliss in her youthful eyes. That is what makes her fly, Aura has decided.
Aura wants to fly too. She wants to dance into the air, away from the black stain of night.
Terrible things happen at night, she’s heard. People get sick and die and little girls get lost. Children are stolen from their homes. Dogs turn into wolves by the light of the pale moon. Evil villains plot to take over the world. Darkness makes everyone blind.
Then Aura imagines a secret council of clever foxes, sweet owls, regal cats, and other nocturnal animals meeting to discuss the natures of toadstools and fairies and the magic of a forest. They need the dark to speak together. The image comforts her a bit. And in another country, maybe some other little girl is enjoying her breakfast, having conquered the dark already. Yes, it’s much better to be that girl. Night has left her, chased away by the sun, and has settled in Aura’s world, a world of soft pajamas and fairies and pink.
She closes her eyes and the comforting thoughts cease. The myriad of different blacks hiding behind her eyelids scares her horribly: it’s worse than the seething darkness in her room, prowling and snarling like a tiger. Here, in her mind, it envelops her with no escape.
The fingers of her imagination stretch and pull the sounds around her; she is afraid of what she can’t see. So in reality, that lone owl is hunting her, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. She jumps at a mysterious creaking; someone bad is creeping through the house, looking for a little girl with golden hair and butterfly pajamas to steal. The whisper of the wind is Mother, singing her terrible bedtime song in the still of the night.
Aura has always hated that song. It never sounds quite right...like it’s meant to be a different song altogether. The most awful part is the way Mother sings it, in that whispery way. It gives Aura the chills. Mother has tasted darkness. She flies into it the way Aura wants to fly away from it.
Aura slips under the bedcover, basking in her own warmth. It's not long before sleep begins to tug at her eyelids, weighing them down. Aura wants to fight it. She doesn't like going to sleep. It is the darkest moment before the dawn. She has to give herself up to the shadows in the instant before slumber embraces her in a storm of enchantment and allure.
Dreaming is like flying with borrowed wings: exhilarating and beautiful, but shadowed with a thin sense of dread. Somehow, while you fly, you know that you’ll have to return the wings and plummet through the clouds back to Earth.
Aura sits upright in bed, pushing aside the cover, struck with a sudden urge. Her eyes are still closed. It’s all right; she knows how to get to the window just fine. She makes quite a sight, shuffling over the carpet with arms outstretched. She is quick to reach the window, though. Her blinded fingers fumble against the clasp: in one sharp movement, she pulls the two pieces apart and the curtains drift open. She doesn’t dare to look. Not until she can drink in the full picture.
She can feel the tantalizing starlight playing across her features, beckoning to her as she clambers onto the window seat. That’s when she follows the pull of the stars, tilting her head towards the sky. She quivers with delight, her thin fingers pushing loose strands of gold from her face. Her innocent eyes shine as they open to a breathtaking view of a million, luminous stars. They're like old friends, twinkling and smiling down at her. Aura is captivated as she imagines setting the girl in the golden dress free from the bonds of her canvas, watching as she takes wing to the sky burning with stars.
The beautiful moment comes to an abrupt halt at the loud thumps of someone coming up the stairs. Aura tenses as the thumps approach her room. If Mother found her hidden behind the curtains, drinking in the starbright sky...
Aura flings the curtains together, plunging into darkness. The glitter of the night sky is replaced by forms and shapes blurring into blackness. She darts to her bed, tucking herself in. She turns her head away from the door as her eyes widen in fear. All she can see is the faint memory of twinkling stars. Now, as she lies in wait, they dissipate into the ever-present darkness.
She listens to the door sway open. A thousand things come into her room: a ferocious monster, a fire-breathing dragon, every nightmarish being she has ever conceived in the pitch dark. Aura imagines that the fairies leap off her wallpaper, armed with brilliant defiance and bramble swords. But she quickly loses them to the darkness. The thousand enemies stomp out the colourful fairies, merging into a black tiger dripping with shadow. The tiger lunges—Mother approaches. It’s all Aura can do not to vault from the bed at the hand on her shoulder. She can't see Mother, but she knows she's there, watching with eyes that hold a secret. Fingers rub and caress, so gently and lovingly it has to be her. Aura is guilty for thinking such horrible thoughts about sweet, kind Mother.
The fingers tighten. Aura is perfectly still. Does Mother know? Without a word, Mother slinks off into the night, leaving Aura to wonder.
The curtains fall apart, letting in a trickle of moonlight.
She smiles and breathes in deep. She is determined to sleep.
This time, as she closes her eyes she pictures the girl with the golden dress, the one from the painting. She cuts and pastes until the girl isn’t flying into a summery afternoon, she is whirling into a night sky flooded with stars. Then the girl’s hair turns to shining gold, butterfly pajamas billowing out behind her. She is still flying, but with the arms of a young girl. She is Aura, covered in bliss.
Stars puncture the dark before the dawn. A storm of enchantment and allure embraces her, comforting her with images of nocturnal councils and colourful fairies, of flying girls and summery afternoons.
That night, Aura dances into the starbright sky.
She flies with borrowed wings.