The Night

The darkness was in the glass jars. The strapling was in the chair by the road. They waited with their jars in a ditch, hiding among cattails and silver grass. When the jars had filled, they climbed the embankment and shuffled towards the chair. Clouds of breath mingled with the mist. Their boots crunched gravel and dead leaves. Now, said one to the strapling, let us see how much night you can swallow. Nobody ever makes it through the first jar. Someone forced the pale head back while another tilted the first jar and poured it into the strapling’s mouth. The strapling swallowed and swallowed with flashing eyes and jerking limbs. There was a long gasp when the jar was emptied. They gave him eight more jars. Once it had consumed the ninth jar, they unstrapped it and set it loose. Anything could happen. A white rope hung from one tree; a knife lay on a roadside stump. There were other temptations placed in concentric circles, the farthest at a radius of a mile from the chair. The strapling was oblivious to all of them. It whispered to itself and walked slowly into the middle of the road. Then it looked into the galaxy above. There was a sound of distant thunder, a shockwave, and then an atomic silence as one third of the stars above rained down. A rainfall of sparks, cold water and dark ash fell around them. They started to run, screaming into the electric air as stars continued to fall. The strapling sparkled with burnt stardust, its cold, pale hands reaching into the broken sky.

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