The history of stars is the story of two minor gods, lovers who each carved out a part of themselves to give as a gift to the other. They lived apart, their hollows slowly burning until they met again. And so they met when they could, in the darkness of gardens and orchards at night to cool the burning. Their kisses gave strawberries their sweetness. Their caresses gave fuzz to the peaches. Their licks made the avocados luscious. They made love the way gods do, in thunder and whispers. (And their thunder turned the earth, and their whispers rose from it as cloud cover.)
On parting as she climbed into the clouds their whispers had made, one took a stone from the garden and clutched it in her hand. As she rose up into sleep and her hand relaxed, the stone dropped to the earth to mark the moment, taking the form as it fell of what she dreamed in her drift. Over time, she covered the ground in a garden of strange sculpture. A clutter of small stone cats sprung from the earth as she dreamed of a bed woven from whiskers and tails. An enormous copper canopy of leaves and branches reached out to cover a town while she dreamed of a night making love in the trees. Frothing waves of blue crystal arced above a grassy field as she rode the ocean in her sleep. As she dream-read a book to her lover, she showered a town with pebbles shaped like tiny letters and numbers and marks of punctuation.
And on parting as he sank into the rippling soil their thunder set in motion, the other scooped up a handful of water from the garden. As he settled into sleep, he opened his hand and gave the water to the air, the droplets catching fire in the moonlight and rising in patterns that painted the sky with his dreams. Over time, he traced the sky with stories, of the bearer of water, and the hunter, of the great and little bears, and the centaur, of the lion, and the crab. On some nights the lovers – the gods – met in their dreamscapes, and the stars above mirrored the stones below. (And so a starry patch of sky-serpents lit a garden of stone snakes, and the sky grew a constellated tidepool roof for a patch of ruby anemones and sapphire limpets and pearly fish and topaz snails on the ground.)
Soon after they fell, her sculptures grew fruit, swelling in the dark and the moonlight. And when it was ripe, at sundown the next night, it rose into constellations of peaches and grapes and apples, starry food for the great and little bears, and the hunter, and the centaur, and the lion, and the water-bearer, and the crab.
The stars and the stones traced their travels, and the lovers used them as maps to each other. But after some time, the people they watched over began to demand much of them, and their sleep grew thin, and they both stopped dreaming. Without their dreams they left no maps of their meeting, and without their maps they grew difficult to find, until soon she lost him and he lost her. And so their hollows burned without respite, and they each flamed away in a pattern of starlight.
But constellations dream. And the starry lovers used their sleep to paint bedtime stories for one another, and each knew the other well enough to recognize the stories they had made, and each knew those stories made a map, and each traced it through the sky. And so, long after the stone stopped fruiting, and the pebbles were crushed into dirt, and the canopy rusted, and the crystal shattered, and people forgot them, they roamed together in a sky made of lullabies.
[You can return to The Elizabeths this way.]