“Huge moons there wax and wane-
Again- again- again-
Every moment of the night-
Forever changing places-
And they put out the star-light
With the breath from their pale faces.”
(Fairy-Land, by Edgar Allan Poe)
Once upon a future time, when dragons are hatching in the the tops of clouds that float in the highlands, Gastropodia, sometimes also known as Crystal Isle, is a very secret place where poems, legends and even reality are not separate things, as they are today.
And there, outside of time itself, in a great maple tree which had grown in the loft of a sky-scraper poem, lives a wise silver starling and a little orphan boy.
He is the last little boy in the world. The starlings had discovered him, perfectly preserved, in the waters of a frozen lake in the Strawberry Mountains.
The age of mankind has long since faded away.
The boy’s name is Puck. When the starlings found him, he had, in his pocket, a small, glow-in-the-dark laptop encased within a poplar bud. Every morning as soon as he wakes, he records all the sky’s wishful sighs, dreams, pictures and memories of clouds.
Days are infinitely long, so Puck and the silver starling waste away some of their time climbing the plastic trees, left long ago by mankind, to peer into the nests of other birds.
Each and every day, an old fluorescent sign showing ripe cherries still flashing and flickering away reminds Puck to ask the silver starling,
“Mr Starling, I feel so lonely as the only little boy in the world...I would love to know how wise you are and if you think it might be possible for me to learn to be a starling”.
The bird blinks and looks at him through his photo-shopped pince-nez a fancy accessory, purchased on the internet, from an outdated file fair. “What is there to be said?” is always his shrugging reply.
Despite sleeping under a large blackberry leaf, the sky is visible through the old cracked whitewashed walls and the friends are often cold. So at night the moon helps to keep them warm and in the morning, the sun rises and sends Puck his own personal rays of sunshine to warm him. For his breakfast Puck takes a bite from the ray while looking longingly at an old label, advertising jam filled croissants, that the starlings had found in his pocket when they discovered him.
The silver starling had never felt the warmth of the suns rays. He had seen them but had felt nothing. Now the heat is felt by Puck and he in turn warms the starling.
“Did you ever wonder yourself, Puck, why the world could end up like this? Why we are at war?”
“No. Why, mister starling. You never told me about a war!”
“Well, imagine, when we found you, or round about that time, Block Head, the snail king, was fighting the green starlings to try to re-enthrone his son Kra Kru. He had pleaded for his father’s help following the green starlings’ capture of Gastropodia the snail capital. Block Head had then attacked both Gastropodia and the starling’s capital Great City with a huge snail army”
“And what happened?” asked Puck excitedly.
“Oh.. not much. He was driven away by the bravery of the starlings, who had stood as one against him.
As well...It is said the green starlings were so brave that they dripped sacred fire on their own hearts and this would allow them to be swallowed by the smoke of oblivion if they were eventually defeated in battle. The snails had not been very mobile and were unable to fend off a humiliating defeat after only two weeks fighting and finally fled from the chequered Milk Meadow, the scene of the last battle.”
“Mr. Starling”, asked Puck, “why did they start fighting in the first place? “
The silver starling sighed and looked sorrowfully toward the horizon through a rusty rainbow.
“They say that green starlings cannot stand the snails because they are hermaphrodite. The snails, in turn, hate the starlings, because they have feathers.”
“Hermaphrodite. Whats that?”
“Well..It is a plumper fruit, which does not grow in trees, and which gives birth to itself several times”.
“And what happened after the fighting?”
“Well the snails and the green starlings still hated each other so much that neither one of them wanted to forcibly rule the other’s country so in the end they signed a peace treaty, setting the golden fur oak forest, which lies between the courses of the River No and the River On, as neutral ground so that they would never have to see each other again.”
The Ancient Baobab Spirits , acting as the peacemakers decided, in the Cinnabar Celestial Vault, to place the Ice Children as sentinels between the two kingdoms.
“Really, who were these ice children?” asked Puck. “Were they real children, like me?”
“That’s something the inhabitants of the two kingdoms often asked themselves. But no, I’m afraid not”, the starling replied sadly.” All humans had become extinct many light years before and had disappeared through one of time’s unpatched holes. These were starling children.”
“And why were they frozen?”
’Their mother froze them” the starling explained.”It’s all written down in the Crystal wing”.
“The Crystal wing?” questioned Puck.
“’It is the snail’s record of the past and since the starling victory, they too have access to it. It explains that the guardians of the threshold between the kingdoms, the ice children, had been frozen by Ozz-Anna their mother, a beautiful starling fairy who lived in the mountains.
You see, in ancient times the Oracle had prophesied that Ozz-Anna would give birth to two children who would then swallow the Moon instructed to do so by her evil husband. So Ozz-Anna threw her husband into the volcano and with the help of an old otter, cast a spell which froze her two children when they were only six years old. Thus, on the nights when the moon was full, Ozz-Anna was the only one flying across the golden fur oak forest, comforting her children with sobs, magical songs and sprinkling them with fragrant orchids’.
“She froze them so that they would not eat the Moon?” said Puck.
“So please Mr Starling- Why could they not eat the Moon?’ Puck implored.
“At the end of the Smooth-Flowing ocean, on a pine-tree island, there is a great golden ivy which hooks The Earth to the Moon. So by swallowing the moon they would have condemned the earth to spin into space”
“Well, did the Sun know about all this?”
“Just before mankind became extinct, the Sun married the most beautiful female mortal and took her to live in a far off palace he had built for them both”
“But he still sends me rays in the morning’ ‘Yes?’.
“Yes but if you notice, he only sends them to you,” pointed out the starling.”The sun must consider you very special indeed”
Puzzled and confused Puck looked around and noticed that it was now dark.
“And where are you from, do you miss your country?” Puck asked the starling, chasing an imaginary circle with a stick on the pavement.
“Not really. How can I miss my country if I have no country? All the starlings in this world are green. I am the only one who is silver”.
“You seem to be the only one who understands my language”, Puck chuckled and gave the starling a tight, teary eyed hug.
The surprised silver starling blinked gently. Poor soul he, like Puck was now very tired.
‘I think the other silver starlings left with the sun’, he sighed.
‘Why did the Sun go away, with his wife, and leave you?’ enquired Puck.
“Because of the awful winged snails! They sucked up the sun’s entire coat of clouds, until they left him naked. All the clouds in the world were stolen. Block Head shoved them in his magic crystal wing, to be able to foresee The Past- cell of the future - the seed of all times”.
“The sun can only really come back to all the world after the clouds are released”.
“Mr. Starling, I would like to bring back the sun so that everyone can see and feel his lovely rays and not just me. Perhaps, with the help of the sun, I can find my mother. Do you know anything about my mother? Have you ever seen her?”
“I haven’t seen her, but I have heard she was the most beautiful woman-human on earth. Now enough for today! It is time for bed”
The following morning Puck and his chum had recovered their strength sufficiently to swim across the Great Pond. On the far bank frogs had built themselves nests from bamboo sticks.
The starling took off his top hat and sat it down on a lotus flower, he then performed a peaceful silk symphony on the flute just for Puck. The little boy fell asleep, dreaming of great bunches of basil and fresh rain spreading bouquets of light to the dark world of the ants.
Then in his dream there appeared a woman with long hands and turquoise cheekbones descending from the sky carrying the sun in a straw basket, light gushing out between its strands and lovely newly baked bread spilling over the sides
The rattling of the ripe poppy flower heads in the wheat field where they lay did not disturb Puck’s dreamy slumbers.
The woman smiled at him, and he stretched out his hand in his sleep, - “maama...” he whimpered.
The silver starling peered at Puck and somehow understood immediately the significance of his friends dream for a grain of fire came from the embers of the sky and for the first time in his immortal starling life, he saw with his own eyes, a sunrise bursting, felt its warmth and saw returning the most wonderful fluffy clouds. Perhaps and just perhaps this might be the start of the future.