Congratulations to author David Xiang on winning Readers Lane’s final Flash Fiction contest! Here is his story!
Searching for Starlight
Author: David Xiang
I found her near a lake. Drenched in insects and covered with grass stains, she was sitting by the edge, searching for something in the pristine ripples. The tide was slowly receding as I approached her. The clouds parted to give my privacy, and the winds picked up to distract any intruders. As her image grew larger, I noticed her inner beauty. Sensing pride, compassion, and kindness, I slowly reached out my hand. Touching her bony shoulder, I received no reply back. Sitting down next to her, I noticed it was a wooden mannequin.
I woke up suddenly. Everyone was staring at me. The teacher carried on, like I was an insignificant fly in her spidery web. She was still sitting in front of me, with eyes that would make Venus jealous. Her breathing was a steady in and out and her hands occasionally strayed to her head, where she would curl and place some invisible strand of auburn back into its place.
We finally went down to the lake together. Pushing the wooden mannequin aside, we sat on the bench and watched the gulls screech and the stars twinkle. As the sun set and the moon arrived for its shift, her features became smoother, as if sandpaper transformed into quicksilver. The grey streaks in her hair vanished and the wrinkles along her face walked out of existence. We counted the stars and named the constellations: Orion, Leo, Gemini. I told her one star out there was for her, and that our family would control an entire constellation, forever weaving our story in the world above.
Now she’s gone and I’m still here. On the day she left, she whispered to me that if I wished to remember and see her, to look up at the sky. Alone from dawn to dusk, I spend every minute thinking about the cabins and the lake. I collected the insects, birds, and stars we saw that night. I spend night staring up at the sky, looking for the star that I gave her. I search and search, but to no avail. All of them look the same.
Last summer I went back to the lake. The place had turned into an academy for all ages. Children laughed and played, teenagers studied and practiced, and adults worked and loved. I found the bench tucked away amidst the prickly vines and branches. Dragging it out, I maintained my silent vigil, a sentinel waiting for day to disappear. As the lights slowly winked into view, I tilted my head and looked up as I had so many years ago. I asked the stars how they were doing, and they entertained me with polite chatter. A few minutes later, I saw her star ease in, with the same elegance she shad. I reached out for her, but only managed to crash land on the moon. She laughed her laugh, and I could only imagine that mischievous grin returning. I professed to her our whole lives, as stars don’t remember. They fade in and out, sentries that only know the task at hand. I’ll come back, I promised, I’ll come back. Day had returned and I straightened my prehistoric legs. I brushed off my plaid shirt and fixed my hair, something she had often teased me about. I left the beach and looked back only once. In my place, there was a young boy and girl, shoulder to shoulder, laughing and talking. I saw him point up at the sky. In the bench next to them, the one I shoved away, was a wooden mannequin glancing stoically out onto the water.
Biography: David Xiang currently resides in Little Rock, Arkansas and is completing his junior year of high school. In addition to writing, he enjoys playing soccer and the piano. This short story was inspired from a Kenyon Review writing program he attended earlier this year.