She came down from the tangerine sky when the ground cooled enough for her to tread barefoot on its blue sand. Her hair, threaded with strands of gold, whipped and fluttered around a round face that had looked on so many festivals and celebrations in her lifetime. Festivals in her honor, thrown by people who no longer believed in her.
“What are you doing down here?”
She turned spotting his bent, nervous figure instantly. She turned up her nose. “Not that I have to answer to you,” she said, “but I wanted to see the festival.”
“Can you not see it from up there?” He crouched around a naked, dark tree, pointing at the sky. In the molten light, his bulging eyes looked like pools of hot lead.
“I wanted a closer look for once. Would you begrudge me that, Fye?” She shifted on the cool sand. How long had it been since she had felt that silky sensation? Ten centuries? A dozen? She had lost count long ago.
Fye glanced around the desolate landscape. He rubbed the back of one hand with his fragile fingers. “You know what will happen to you if you’re caught?”
“I do,” she said with all the solemnity of a judge passing a sentence.
“And you know what will happen to me if I’m caught helping you?” Every piece of him seemed to jitter in the bright light.
He cringed and plunged his hands in his tumbleweed hair. He shook his head. “Selfish, arrogant woman. You will be the end of me, Lyra.”
She looked away, embarrassed by his display of emotion. “You say that so often. I begin to think you don’t believe it.”
“I could say everyday that the sun rises and sets. It would not mean that I believe it any less every day I say it.”
“Fine,” she said. “You’ve made your point. Will you help me?”
Fye clasped his shoulders. “Yes, I will help you. But do not blame me if something should go awry.”
“Of course not.” She turned.
“You just couldn’t stay in the sky, could you? Had to come down from your place.” It sounded like an aside, but she looked back at him anyway.
“I’ll not be put in one place because my mobility makes other people uncomfortable. I’ll do as I please and deal with the consequences myself.”
“You really don’t think of anyone but yourself, do you?”
She squared her shoulders. “Why should I?”
Lyra turned and headed to the village, the clump of silhouettes and lights the desert wore as a brooch every night. Her favorite time came when the town exploded in light and color in her honor. She would stay awake as long as possible, watching the dancing lights. Occasionally, when the wind was just right, she caught the faint sound of music.
She reached the town’s gate and paused. Would they recognize her? Had her portraits and sculptures survived all these years?
She knelt in the blue sand and raked it through her hair. She dashed some in her eyes and wiped it over her lips. Finally, she fashioned an airy dress made of the indigo sand and entered the town.
People clad in silk and velvet loped and danced through the streets. Paper lanterns and streamers bedecked buildings and awnings. All around Lyra were the trappings of a great festival, and it was all for her.
“New to our town, miss?” A small boy stood at her feet. A brush fire of red hair stood out on his head, and he fiddled with an old watch chain.
“You could say that.” She smirked.
“You’ve come at the right time. Festival season is the best time of the year.” He offered her his small hand. “I’m Dewey.”
“Why does your town celebrate?”
“Don’t know. We just do.”
Her jaw seemed to double in weight. She pursed her lips. “You’re young. Who can give me answers?”
He indicated the far end of the main street, where a huge crowd had formed. Lyra thanked him and hurried on. She reached a platform on which stood a figure shrouded in a dark cloak.
Lyra pushed through the mass of citizens. She waved a hand in the air, and the hooded head swiveled toward her. “I have some questions for you.”
He nodded, and someone hoisted her up. “Why do your people celebrate? What is the occasion for this festival?”
“Why ask questions to which you know the answers?” He took down his hood, and turned a pair of glassy, bright eyes on her. “They celebrate you, Lyra, and the way you light the sky at night.”
She gaped at this man who had first placed her in the heavens to ornament the night sky. This man who had shackled her to a silent position. This man she had tried to avoid since stepping down.
Fye stumbled onto the stage, hands bound behind his back. He looked at Lyra. “I tried to warn you. I tried. You wouldn’t listen.”
Lyra looked at the man. “I will not go back. You cannot put me back and render me mute. I have a voice. I have a body. It is mine, and I will use it.”
He chuckled, a sound as deep as the oceans from whence he came. “I did not place you there without cause, Lyra. Have you ever asked yourself why you sleep when the world wakes?” He looked at the horizon, which glowed now with coming light. “No matter. You’ll find out soon enough.”
Lyra shifted in her place, not wanting to stay still but not knowing where to go. She stared at the brightening horizon, and a terrible heat swelled in her chest. Never before had she felt such an unbearable heat. Only warmth like being wrapped in expensive furs. Now it scorched her from the inside out as the sun stood up while she realized the answers to her questions.
A moment passed, and Lyra disappeared.