The star in Dan’s pocket woke up one night, when Dan should’ve been sleeping.

He was sitting on the edge of a harbor in a town whose waters were white, the tips of his boots dipping into the waves. They were dotted red, reflected from the moon hanging over the ocean; its edges tipped into the water, just like Dan’s boots, when the waves rose to meet it. It was a soft kind of red color, the patches in it golden; its glow soothing in the dark and quiet night.

Dan has been thinking about his home-town. It has shifted in his memory, now; he remembered the bright, artificial lights and the buzz, remembered the concrete walls and the electric cables strewn all around — dangling from light-posts, lining the sidewalks. But it was distant, now. Like a cloud after the rain has passed. Especially when he was looking ahead, seeing nothing but the waves and the sky.

There weren’t even any boats here. No lighthouses. Just a small, quiet town behind him, long asleep after dark; and the endless vastness of what might lie up front. He wanted to go out there, but he couldn’t exactly walk on water. And even if he could find a boat or a raft, he thought that waters like these called for company — which, at the moment, he didn’t have.

The star in his pocket suddenly heated, and Dan shifted, pulling it out. It was a simple star, made of a softly yellow-glowing metal; it had five pointy points, one of them tied to a string that’s been cut off. Dan was still looking for its owner.

He glanced up at the sky, thinking that maybe he could find them up there. And, lo and behold, one of the stars overhead twinkled. “Somebody you know?”

The star in his hand didn’t reply, obviously, but its heat reduced a degree. Maybe it didn’t know the twinkling star; or maybe, Dan wasn’t asking the right question. He tended to do that a lot. Ask wrong questions.

“Maybe I should get Jamie,” he mused out loud. “And we could go out to sea, look for that horizon.”

The star pulsed in his hand, and Dan looked down at it. “You think it’s a bad idea?”

The star didn’t respond, so Dan looked up to the sea again, at the waves rising up and falling in their rhythm. Meeting the moon, shying away; like a child’s play. Maybe the moon knew the star’s owner.

Dan didn’t ask it, though. He didn’t think he would get an answer. Instead, he leaned a hand back against the ground, tilting his head as he continued to look ahead with half-lidded eyes.

It was probably time to go to sleep, he thought as the star fell back asleep in his hand. But if he did, the path to the horizon might be closed.

“Maybe tomorrow,” he said, to nobody in particular. “Wouldn’t want to get lost on my own, right?”

With that, he stood up and put the star back in his pocket. He gave the moon a casual salute, then turned on his heel and walked back into town.

© Michal Rotko

Photo by Philippe Mignot on Unsplash

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