Continuation of Part 1:
Elijah had no knowledge of his brightness. He knew the blind woman was not lit, but thought naively that it was because she could not see. The other child, Vuk, was barely older than Elijah, but much dimmer. Neither knew what they looked like compared to the other, but believed themselves the same, as children do.
The woman found quickly that life must change around Elijah. She contentedly thought of him while venturing further from their small home to set traps. She thought of touching his hair, and holding him while singing him to sleep; of letting his innocence and goodness burn into her chest as she held him in her arms for the first time. There was a clarity, a purity in him that could only call out love from her. Esme’s life was not easier with Elijah in it, but it was lighter.
The only living beings Elijah had ever met were Vuk and Esme. Insects, though mystified by his beauty, quickly starved in distraction on the periphery without ever nearing the source. Though the density of the foliage flourished, and new species bloomed on the mountain every day, none were fruited. There were no bees or birds to pollinate and spread the seed. Other animals, whose eyes were weaker, were terrified by this god-like being. Wolves, geese, cats, all revered Elijah as some terrible thing.
“Tell me about fireflies, Vuk.” Elijah’s breathing had stopped, waiting in reply.
“You don’t want to hear.” Vuk’s hard hands sharpened stone against stone. He loved to tease Elijah—waiting to see what he thought was the tiniest dim of Elijah’s light, but it never came. Night and day, Elijah remained constant.
Elijah could read Vuk like Vuk could read the skies for the weather, taste the coming of rain.
Elijah had first noticed Vuk’s inconstancy. Three months ago he simply asked, “Do I ever dim?” Vuk had never noticed, but was drawn instantly to the origin of the question.
As stone scraped against stone, Vuk’s brow furrowed, remembering his cheerless discovery. “No, Elijah. No, you never dim”. Silence. “Elijah, do I ever dim?”
“Sometimes. Only when you’re sad, or busy.” The word's soft kindness didn't stop the bottom falling out of Vuk's chest. Somewhere, deep in his heart, he wanted to see Elijah dim too. To see him quaver, if only momentarily—to show the depth of this purity. But he never dimmed. A deeper part of him hoped to never see this change. To know that Elijah was, and would always remain, ‘other’. Other from Vuk.
He imagined Elijah watching him, noting his lackluster display as he sharpened arrowheads and thought.
“I do” Elijah whispered. “I do want to hear.”
Vuk let out his breath slowly.
“Well, I’ve only seen them a couple times. Esme says there used to be more…before.” Before you. “Darkness comes. It feels like you are waiting forever for the light to dim. And then you start noticing these twinkles. Some are in the air, some are near the ground. Soon, it’s black, and all you see are the stars in the sky, and millions of tiny blinking lights all around you.”
“Stars,” breathed Elijah.
“Esme says there are special places where they all…” he shook his head, “ALL blink at exactly the same time. Can you believe it?!” That part was new. The old woman had whispered it to him last night as he was falling to sleep. He paused to watch Elijah breathing loudly, thinking of the light bombs blinking. He was silent for a few minutes before Vuk noticed the corners of his mouth twitching. His light was swelling. Elijah never dimmed, but it could swell. He was constantly expanding. Next came the question Elijah always asked.
“Vuk, where do the lights come from?”
The leaves swished in the breeze, and Vuk let Elijah wait for his answer, light radiating in anticipation.
Elijah squealed with laughter, and the light threw waves of glory, so that all the trees turned to look, and all the birds in the thrush miles away rose in fear.
More to come. KM