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The Elderflower Star

By Zannah Poulsom


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The sky that covers my part of Earth contains so many stars they overflow its brim and fall into the sea. People who catch a glimpse of them gasp at their beauty and make wishes. On one of those miniscule pin pricks of light, some larger than Jupiter, I knew I had to stand.

Each evening, as night slowly blinked awake, I walked bare foot over hot coals, preparing myself, while I scanned the sky selecting a star. At last I found it, flickering Morse code at me through the atmosphere. I chose it mainly because it was just reachable from the highest branch of the tallest tree in the furthest corner of our garden.

The next night I went to the tree. The moon had spilt milk over the grass, so it was wet beneath my feet. I climbed the tree’s warm trunk, grabbing at outstretched branches as a baby does to adult fingers. I paused a while to lean my head against it, allowing myself to be rocked to and fro as I listened to the rhythm of its heart beating in my ear. A tree is like an egg, its leaves the hatching. I climbed higher and reached out my hands for the strand of light the star had unfurled for me. Soon I was wrapped in beams and torn from gravity.

After all my practice over burning coals I was a little disappointed to note its surface was not hot at all, but cold, with the dampness of concrete. I stood on the star’s knobbly, fizzing, swirling surface, letting air slip into my lungs, chilling my body, turning my lips blue.

All was as far away as it had been from Earth, an eternally retreating trickery; a 3-D movie where you reach out from behind red-green glasses and touch - nothing. I saw how lonely it was to be a star.

The star invited me to taste it, so I broke off a small chunk, the texture of coconut ice. It mixed flavours of lemon sorbet, honey, elderflowers, rivers and cinnamon. It was pleased with my visit, with my delight at its taste, with my exploring fingers as they stroked its quartzy shell beneath the layer of mist that licked my ankles.

It was an unhappy star, pessimistic about the shortness of life. It did not say this as you and I would say such things. It did not use words or voice, but it told me. It told me that my arrival was the only highlight it had known. It told me that my eating a part of it was a celestial equivalent to becoming its blood sister and that now it would have to take a part of me.

The intensity of sudden burning felt hotter than ten of our suns. I thought that all my skin would blister and bubble and drip from my body, but it lasted less than a moment; it took the soles of my feet.


It was agony to stand and I wanted to go home. I was passed back down from star to tree and felt glad of the moon’s soothing milk-light to bathe my feet in as I hobbled back to my house.

I have no photo to prove my story and people dismiss my charred soles as being the result of walking over burning coals late at night. But if you were to kiss me, I would taste of lemon sorbet, honey, elderflowers, rivers and cinnamon.




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