Opening the Stars (A Chuck Wendig Challenge)

Posted: January 11, 2016 in chuck wendig challenge, Fantasy, Fiction
Tags: , ,

Another year, another flash fic challenge from Chuck Wendig. This is the Flickr challenge.

The image that goes with this story can be found here. The words are all mine, however. As always, comments are welcome and appreciated.

“Are you sure this is the place?” Julie asked. She peered out the passenger side door of her boyfriend’s two-door. They’d left the town limits far behind, and the only sound were night creatures singing.

Kyle nodded, his fingers tapping against the screen of his smart phone. “Ugh. No signal. Guess that shouldn’t be too surprising, seeing as how we’re in the ass end of nowhere. But yeah, this is where Nate said we should meet him.”

Julie got out of the car, taking her backpack with her. She fumbled in it for a moment, before turning on a flashlight. “It’s dark out here.”

“Yeah, what were you expecting? There’s no moon tonight and the closest thing to civilization is a good hour away.” Kyle got out, popped the trunk open. He grabbed his own backpack along with the case of beer they’d bought on the way out. He decided not to tell her about the bag of weed until later.

“Well, his truck is here,” Julie said, shining her light across Nate’s battered pick-up. “Look’s like the trail is over here.”

“Yeah, yeah, give me a second.” Kyle closed the trunk, then slapped at his neck. “Damn bugs.”

“Here, hold on a sec.” Julie rummaged in her backpack, then sprayed something on the back of Kyle’s neck. “Here, let me get your arms and legs too.”

“Is there anything you weren’t prepared for?”

Julie smiled and winked. “Don’t think so.”

“About time you guys made it,” a voice called out from the darkness. Julie shined her flashlight in the direction of the voice.

“Hey, hey, lower the light will you? Are you trying to blind me?”

“Christ Nate, you almost gave me a heart attack,” Julie said. “Been waiting out here long?”

“No.” Nate stepped closer. “Maybe half an hour or so. Hey, you brought beer?”

Kyle laughed. “Yeah. You invite Julie and me out to the middle of nowhere, tell us there’s this lake we’ve got to check out and you don’t think I’m going to bring anything?”

Nate nodded. “It is a nice night, isn’t it? Yeah, come on. You haven’t seen the best part yet.”

“Oh, what’s that?” Julie asked.

“Why tell you when I can show you? I promise it’s not far.”

Julie and Kyle followed Nate, Julie’s flashlight bobbing along on the path in front of them. They stepped onto a sandy path lined with beach grass, their feet slipping on the loose ground. Julie played her flashlight out, illuminating a finger of land jutting out into the water.

“Turn off the light, Julie.” Nate walked further out. “Trust me, okay?” he said when she hesitated.

“Yeah, all right.” Above them the stars glittered like jewels, their light reflected off the lake in front of them.

“It’s beautiful,” Julie whispered, her voice barely above a breath.

“I know, right?” Nate replied. “Can’t see anything like this back in the city can you?”

“Yeah, it’s all right.” Kyle set the case of beer against the rock. He opened it and handed a can to Julie and one to Nate. “You’re telling me you dragged us all the way out here to look at the stars?”

Nate shook his head, little more than a shadow against the water. “No, nice as this is, I’d be wasting your time if this was it. You bring the weed?”

“What?” Julie said. “You didn’t say anything about pot. My parents would have kittens if they found out.”

Nate smiled, his white teeth shining. “Well, I’m not going to tell them. And I know Kyle won’t. So unless you decide to tell them, I don’t see how they are going to find out.”

“Come on, Julie, live a little,” Kyle said, a joint forming between his fingers.

Julie raised an eyebrow but didn’t say anything. Nate spread some blankets out on the sand by the rock, and three lay back, staring up at the stars, passing a joint between them.

“I’m going to miss this, you know?” Nate waved the joint through the air, the cherry end leaving a trail of light.

“Huh?”Julie asked. “Are you going somewhere?”

“Home,” Nate said, stabbing at the sky with the joint. “This is it for me. I, well, it wouldn’t be right to leave without saying goodbye.”

“Nate, man, you’re making me nervous. What are you dying or something?” Kyle sat up, eyes focused on his friend, beer and weed forgotten.

“No, no nothing like that.” Nate stood up, held his arms out wide. Kyle and Julie could see a luminosity taking over his body, a subtle illumination coming from within. “I wasn’t supposed to be here as long as I was.” He smiled, soft and sad. “Thank you both, for so much.”

As Julie and Kyle watched, Nate began to float up, breaking apart into a million dots of light. Above them, the stars danced, welcoming their brethren home.

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