The great whirl of blazing light is spinning around its hidden center, arms of fire and stardust fingering the endless void around…somewhere inside this pulsing ring of fire there’s a small blue drop, revolving around a modest young sun. A drop of azure in the ocean of blinding light and swirling, hot dust…
The planet is teaming with life under the protective blanket of transparent air and ever changing streams of clouds. Sometimes lazy, sometimes turbulent oceans and seas are constantly washing the sandy or rocky shores, thick, lush forests stretch over hills and steep mountains. There’s light, color, sound and fragrance everywhere. Life has been victorious here.
As expected, at a certain moment in time one of the animal species started its bumpy evolution towards intelligence and self-awareness. They rule now their own life and live in a tolerably respectful relation with Nature surrounding them. This human species has split in two and agreed at some point to divide the planet between them. They look very much the same and only a few features and habits differentiate them. They have wings…all of them. The Angels have white feathered ones, while the Night Flyers have kept the originally translucent ones. The more colorful Angels have hair colors ranging from silver to flaming red and their eyes are mostly various shades of blue and green. The Night Flyers are dark haired and their almond-shaped black eyes are sometimes speckled with tiny golden spots. The Angels live mainly on the plains and the soft-curved hills while the Night Flyers are highlanders. They trade goods and knowledge between them but they don’t mix. This habit has become a long respected custom.
But the laws of humans are not eternal and they aren’t laws of Nature or of the Universe, that’s for sure. They are becoming obsolete and they are…decaying just like those who had stated them. Not that this goes ever easily; try to challenge them and you’ll find a lot of supporters, despite the obvious stupidity or injustice of those laws. People tend to act like enraged dogs when you try to rob them of a prized…bone. Still, it’s worth to try. Step out from the ranks and find your own pathway!
The story begins on the Angel side, in an average family. Their eldest daughter has turned 18 and she has become officially an adult. The family has also two younger girls and a first born boy of 23. Arielle is a very peculiar girl; calm, quiet but hard to bend, she has a mind of her own.
Arielle’s childhood had been a happy; she’d been a joyful tomboy, climbing all the trees and all the fences. Things started to change while she became a teenager; her mother noticed that Arielle desperately tried to erase any traits of womanhood. She became obsessed by hard sports and she kept working out her body to look manlier. The once easygoing girl turned up soft spoken and a loner. She had no close friends and she refused to wear dress outside the school. Though her mother did her best trying to find out the reason for this sudden change, her daughter shied away from her questioning. After a while the family decided to let her be, hoping that sooner or later she would grow out of this phase. There was one more noticeable change in Arielle’s appearance: her silky blond hair turned into silver, a very rare color among young people. As for the wings, she still has 7 years to wait until it would sprout.
Due to the more comfortable environment, Angels had longer childhood, so their wings were ready to out only at the age of 25. The Night Flyers got their wings at 20.
Finishing high-school Arielle opted for the ArtSchool; she was talented and could more easily express herself through drawing and painting. Her brother was already working and ready to marry the daughter of a prominent family. For Arielle anything like that was out of question; she equally disliked the company of girls or boys. She found solace in roaming the depth of the thick woods that covered the hills and the mountain-slope towering above the city. With a backpack and her guiding instinct she used to leave the house early in the morning to return only when the shades of the closing night were enveloping the streets of the city.
Ryu sat on the cliff above the small waterfall, enjoying the playful light turning into rainbow through each water droplet. This was his favorite spot in the thick, dark forest; it was peaceful and untamed. He used to spend some of his free time, gazing into nothingness, dreaming up new fantastic shapes to be carved out from the scattered wood. Yet this time, he wasn’t alone; a slender human was moving cautiously through the forest below. The person looked very strange and out of place here; with shoulder long silver hair tied in a loose pony-tail, long and delicate limbs and a small back pack this was for sure an inhabitant of the town…a young Angel.
Ryu decided to take action only when the distance would shorten; he waited a few moments, than took a flight and landed closely behind the stranger.
-Lady! I think you ventured much too far for your safety! This is not a playground for city-girls; the forest is a dangerous place for somebody on its own.
The stranger took a sharp turn and faced the young Night Flyer.
-I’m sorry to disappoint you but I’m not a girl and I feel comfortable in this forest. I hope that’s not an inconvenient for you.
The voice was a light tenor and the face disturbingly…beautiful. From the oval of the face two light-green eyes were watching him intently. A thin, straight nose and nicely curved pink lips completed the androgynous figure. The youth tilted his head and assessed the young man in front of him. Ryu was taller and had a strong bony structure, enhanced by the powerful translucent wings. His black hair was cropped short and the tiny golden droplets were sparkling in his deep-black eyes. The full lips were stretched into a teasing smile. He watched the stranger for a moment and then laughed.
-Sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you; it’s just that you’re the first inhabitant of the city bellow I have ever encountered venturing so far in the forest.
-It’s fine with me-smiled back the stranger. I’m Ariel. Who are you?
So this is how it started…and it went on at high speed. In less than two weeks they were close friends, anxiously waiting for each sunrise and another meeting. Whatever they hid from the outside world, they could easily share with each other. Ariel opened up like never before and Ryu fell in love almost instantly with this unusual and complicated youth. Their highly creative and sensitive mind entwined and so did their soul. They roamed the forest and when the sun dropped beyond the horizon, Ryu flew Ariel close to his home and then backed silently in the forest, to his own high town.
The young Angel was still holding back his deepest secret; it was a constant torment for him, he didn’t know how to…share it. Yet, there came a moment when the truth burst out. He and Ryu were attracted to each other like magnets and sooner or later, they felt the need of a closer relation. They were sitting on the top of a cliff, under the warm shower of the afternoon sun; a strand of hair fell in Ariel’s face and Ryu pushed it aside to watch the lovely face. The gentleness of the touch stirred up the hidden feelings of the Angel. He jumped and ran back.
-Don’t treat me like a girl! You’re my only friend! I cannot take it anymore!
Ryu caught him from behind and stopped him.
-Hey! What’s wrong? Tell me!
Ariel shuddered and turned away.
-You are right-his voice almost a whisper. I am…freak: a man born into the body of a girl. No matter how hard I try, I am a prisoner of my own twisted birth. My family cannot accept that; they still expect me to…grow out of myself, of my pretense that I am in fact a man. You are the only one ever who treated me right; I cannot loose you! I…I am so desperate…I wish I could die…
-So-said Ryu in a calm voice-you think you’re the only freak around? Well, my friend, you’re wrong. To my own people and family I am a freak for sure’ cause I am a man who loves…men. So I fell in love with you, head over the heels and I don’t care how odd you think you are.
-But what am I?!-cried out Ariel.
-I don’t know and I don’t care. For as much as I know, you’re a unique and beautiful person and I’ll be damned if I let you go away. Ariel…
Ryu held him close and kissed him until the stiffness of the slender young man dissipated entirely. They stood there embraced then Ryu whispered in Ariel’s ears.
-Let me show you something.
He flew the youth deep into the forested area to a high tree; well hidden between the huge branches and under the cascading green leaves there was a tree-house, Ryu’s private summer place. Ariel’s eyes rounded in surprise as he looked around; the place was wonderfully created and decorated with many of Ryu’s carvings. It was a place out of a fairy tale. It had all the comfort needed so they both sat on the bed and relaxed.
-I’ve always dreamed about a tree-house…said Ariel, light filling his eyes. You made this?
-It’s my secret place; now it‘s yours to…it’s ours.
Ariel closed his eyes and leaned against the Night Flyer. The translucent wings enveloped them…and the rest was bliss. They became lovers.
The sparkling seed moved daringly along the warm, dark path; he was searching for that fertile spot where he could nest and bring out the light he was carrying. That sizzling moment when he dived in slightly altered the spin of the Galaxy. For a fraction of a second, Time halted and took a deep breath…
Days and weeks went on as Ariel and Ryu’s love blossomed; even some of the family members noticed the change in their look and mood but they were happy with the fact that these odd youth weren’t bothering them with their peculiarities. Ariel’s main concern was his brother; Bart has secretly threatened him that he would kill “her” if “she” embarrasses him or their family in any way. Ryu’s family wasn’t that conflicting; they were slightly annoyed by this son of theirs but on the whole the Night Flyers were a more tolerant community. Yet they disliked the Angels for their upstart behavior and kept only the necessary contact with their civilization. Coming out with this love was unthinkable on both sides; yet the need for each-other of the youth grew stronger every day, speeding up the unfolding of the events.
It was one of the late summer afternoons with golden light flowing languidly over the surroundings, blurring the contours, the warmth muffling the noises of the forest.
-I have to go home, Ryu. My parents are out with the little ones, visiting the grand parents and I’m alone with my brother. I have a feeling that he suspects something and I don’t want him to find out about us.
-I’ll take you home and leave you inside the forest. He would not be able to spot us but take care, love. Let’s go!
Ryu put Ariel down on the pathway and kissed him good bye. He watched him until the Angel reached the exit from the woods, then he turned home. He was hopeful yet he sensed the danger hanging in the air. Ryu had the distinct feeling that they weren’t alone. He sighed and tried to shake away the concerns; if only the dawn would come sooner…
Ariel found the house empty; his brother wasn’t at home. Relieved, he went up to his room and changed his clothes. The door banged behind, making him turn abruptly. Towering above him, a strongly built young Angel watched grimly: his brother, Bart.
-You stupid bitch!-he thundered. I knew you were seeing someone but I’ve never thought that you’d be hanging out with…those!!!
The fury in his voice was almost tangible; he stepped in front of Ariel and hit him hard. The younger Angel lost balance and fell backwards on the bed. After that things only got worse; he remembered biting Bart and fighting him bitterly. Then everything was engulfed by pain and fear…
He woke up in darkness, lying on his back, hands tied to the bedsides. He tasted blood; his lips were bruised and his whole body hurt. He was nauseating…he passed out again. He came back later with only one clear thought in his mind: to escape from the house before it was too late. It took him almost an hour to free himself but finally he succeeded. He dressed up swiftly, threw a few things into his backpack and escaped through the window, by the tree that grew under his window. The descent and climbing off the fences proved painful but the fear supplied the necessary strength. Ariel reached the forest and stumbled upon the pathway; guided only by a desperate instinct and a small torch-light he walked until he reached the waterfall. He found a dry spot, curled up and fell asleep.
Ryu found him there, cold and shivering; he quickly flew him to the tree-house. He placed Ariel on the bed and gently undressed him. The sighting of the bruised and battered body of his loved one made his blood boil. He could only guess about the horrors the youth has been through. Wrapped in the soft blanket, caressed by his protector, the Angel cried like a child until all his pain washed out and he was finally able to talk.
The secret light was growing slowly, hidden deep inside in the protective surrounding. The storms and torments of the outside world were unknown to it. The ultimate shape was emerging graciously, the core pulsing with the rhythm of the Universe.
-You’re not going back-said Ryu. We will stay here during summer and until autumn allows us. We’ll figure out a place for winter. I’m afraid my folks won’t be supportive either. I don’t give a damn; you and I, we’re one.
Ariel folded in his arms; a shadow crossed the delicate features.
-Before he left the room he said: “Now this was only an appetizer but until our parents are back I’m sure I’ll turn you into a decent girl. And you know what? Maybe I’ll find a friend of mine to marry you and keep you tamed.”
His voice broke; Ryu squeezed him.
-Forget it. I won’t let anyone hurt you again.
The disappearance of Ariel created some commotion in the city of Angels. Search teams were sent out into the woods to find out “her” whereabouts but they all returned empty handed. After Bart told his parents what he had witnessed in the forest, they decided to call off the search and consider their weird daughter lost forever.
During this time the two young men were working side by side to build a new location for the winter. They shared all the efforts and the joy of the power combined. Love made everything seem easy and hopeful. Ryu payed some visits home and carried away his personal belongings to his new home. He tried to talk about his love and make his parents interested in his choice, but once they’ve learned that he was an Angel, they refused any contact.
-“It’s your choice, we’re not going to stop you but he has no future here. It’s up to you to handle this; after all it’s your choice. Good luck, son. You’re a man on your own now.”
So Ryu returned to the woods, emptied his mind from the hurt of rejection and filled it with the wonder of being loved by his unique Angel. The world around them opened in blossoming beauty and magic.
The delicate soul of light moved its tiny limbs and stretched inside the comforting warmth. He was happy and safe. He gave a small, playful kick to the protective bubble surrounding him. The breath of the Universe hitched at this unexpected touch. The stars noticed the small speck of light and turned their attention towards him, watching closely his journey…
As the autumn painted the trees in gold and scarlet, Ariel felt something changing inside. He couldn’t point it out and he didn’t want Ryu to worry; they were handling well the difficulties of life in the wilderness. The art-works they both created were selling fine and they had stocked enough resources for the long, hard winter. But as his body started to change, Ariel was unable to hide the puzzling event. Ryu had already noticed it but he just couldn’t adjust to what his mind was suggesting: they were becoming parents. They both eluded the question until one day when Ariel lost balance, due to a sudden dizziness.
Ryu caught him in time and carried the Angel to the bed.
-Stay still, love. You’ve exhausted yourself. It’s too much in your condition…
-You knew?-asked Ariel in small voice. I didn’t want to worry you…I’m so confused. I can feel him moving inside; is this really happening?
Ryu bent and kissed him lovingly.
-Let me see…
He touched the rounding belly gingerly; there was a small kick and Ariel gave a small cry of surprise.
-He moves…smiled the Night Flyer. He knows we are watching; he’s watching us to. Don’t worry, my Angel; we’ll manage together. We are one.
Ariel swallowed the lump in his throat and fought back the panic. Ryu embraced him and they sat there in silence. The Universe unfolded its wings of million suns and wrapped them in light.
Winter arrived one night, riding the North Wind. It stopped on a promontory, watching the sleeping world at its feet. At a sign, all his faithful aids gathered around his tall and erect figure, waiting for the chance to unleash their powers. Snow storms, hail, sleet, frosty fogs were all aligned. Winter raised a slim finger and drew a magic sign in the cold, crispy air of the night; suddenly, the gates of high skies opened releasing the shower of sparkling stars over the stillness of the world. His long reign has started in blaze.
By morning, snow covered all traces, cracks and dirt; the new face of the world looked pristine and radiant.
The new season brought some changes in the two young lovers’ life. As the landscape turned into a magic land of brilliance, with shimmering light dancing through laces of icicle and patches of rainbow beaming through every dancing snowflake they bathed in the childlike joy of the beauty surrounding them.
But all the same, the shortened days kept them more inside the house, just the two of them lost in that wilderness. The emerging of the Northern Light, a much loved and important winter feast was quickly approaching. The families of Angels and Night Flyers were busy in preparing for that unique night when the skies would open to release the light above all of them. Ryu flew back to his hometown almost on a daily basis to sell the ornaments they both created. People were happily buying because they were colorful and creative. The young Night Flyer hoped to meet his parents at the fair and try to reconcile with them. Now that his own child was about to be born, he hoped that they would be more opened to his choice. Deep inside, Ryu was scared of what was coming; he was afraid that he might loose Ariel. Despite all bravery, the Angel was fragile and very young for the sudden burden he was carrying.
From the big house across the Winter Fair, an old woman was watching people moving around in happy gatherings. She was the most revered person in town, the Matriarch of the community. She loved her people and watched over them but right now her attention was focused on the tall young artist with sad eyes. She has spotted him before and wondered about what could be cause of such sorrow in a time of joy and happiness. She discreetly made some enquiries about him and learned that he was living outside the community due to his choice in love; people were whispering about a strange creature, an Angel perhaps…Right now, the youth was pleading with a pair that looked very much like his close relatives. He argued but they looked unconvinced.
The Matriarch called her maid.
-Do you see that tall young man? Go down and buy an ornament from him. Hurry!
The woman rushed down and arrived at Ryu while he was still in heated arguments with his parents. They all stopped as they recognized the Matriarch’s maid. The woman asked for an ornament; Ryu chose some of the most delicate ones and packed them carefully. He offered them to the maid but he didn’t want the money.
-Take it, young man. My lady wants you to take this money for your work. Happy Light Night to you all!
Ryu thanked her and turned to his parents questioningly. They hesitated for a moment but then his father shook his head and they left. Ryu sighed. He packed up and flew back home. It looked like the weather was turning for bad and Ariel was waiting for him.
Left alone Ariel took some time to assess his thoughts; he could clearly see that Ryu was upset and suffering. This time was the best in the year; it was the time for families and loved ones to gather and enjoy the gift of Nature. The Angel thought about his family…he missed the giggling of his little sisters; but the thought of confronting Bart after what he has done made the youth shudder. He shook away the bad memories and filled his mind with Ryu’s image. It was the only comforting thought…along with the warmth he felt coming from the soul of light nested and growing steadily inside his body.
Moments before the sun dropped behind the mountain top, Ryu landed. He was tired but smiling anyway. He lifted Ariel and flew him around happily; nothing in this world could replace the joy of loving and being loved the way they did. They kissed and went inside.
Ryu woke up suddenly; he must have dozed off. He realized that Ariel was not there; he searched for him in the house but the Angel was nowhere to be found. Alarmed, the Night Flyer took a coat and opened the entrance door. A few steps away, right in the middle of the swirling blizzard there was a slim shape, with long, silver strands flying around him in the cold wind. Ryu reached him in a moment, picked him up and carried him inside. The streaks of tears looked frozen on Ariel’s face; he burst out:
-Why?!! Why do they hate me?! What have I done?!…
He turned to Ryu.
-I’m so sorry…-he whispered. I messed up your life. You’ve lost your family because of me…
Ryu cupped his face with both hands.
-Don’t say that! I am unhappy because they don’t even think to give me a chance to show them how wonderful you are! You’re the best thing ever happened to me! I love you, don’t forget that. Come-he said, let’s go to bed and I’ll warm you up. You’ll see, the Northern Light will shine on us to.
They folded in each other arms and quickly fell asleep. The next day Ariel woke up with a small fever so Ryu ordered him in bed. He flew back to the town to buy some special treats for the special night. He returned as soon as he finished the shopping; he worried about the Angel’s condition. He found his love asleep but sensing him, Ariel woke up and smiled.
– You’re here…I feel a little dizzy but don’t worry, I’ll be fine.
Ryu wasn’t convinced so he talked some tea into him and they shared the goods he brought from the fair; they shared the love and the joy of belonging to each other. There were still some hours before the rising of the Light. After a while, Ariel fell asleep again as Ryu watched over him. Shortly before midnight he checked upon him; the Angel was warm and fever cast blush in his cheeks. Sheen of sweat covered his face and he stirred in his sleep. Instinct told Ryu that this was bad; in a fraction of a moment he took a final decision. He wasn’t going to lose his love to the stubbornness of his own kin. He needed help and quickly. Ryu dressed up and tucked Ariel in the warmest blanket and flew him to the town.
The night cleared up and the air was still. There was no moon that night and the ribbon of stars arched about them in a glitter of diamonds. The Night Flyers were gathered in the central city square, laughing and singing. Everybody waited for the Light. Ryu descended amidst them and looked around. People stepped back and silence fell between them. They watched in disbelief the tall young man, holding in his arms a silver haired youth, wrapped in blanket.
-What do you want?! Why are you here?! Go away!
Some Night Flyers were shouting in anger. Ryu slowly turned around and faced each of them with a determined look in his face. When he spoke, his voice was clear and powerful.
– I am here because this is my place. I am one of yours and I belong here. You came with your families to celebrate this night and so did I. He is my choice; he is the one I love. We are one. My family refused to know him. They’ve told me to hide and work it out for myself. So I did and I hope I made them proud.
But now my child is on the way and I need help! I need you stay by my side; help me save both their lives in the best of your long claimed tradition of solidarity and compassion. For the Light’s sake, don’t stare at me and let me deliver speeches while he is dying under your eyes!
As the echo of his words faded out, an old woman approached him and put a hand on his shoulder.
-Come to my house, young Ryu. It’s warm inside and I have all the knowledge you need. Follow me.
The Matriarch turned and left the square with Ryu close behind her. The crowd silently split to let them pass. As they reached the house, they rushed Ariel into the bedroom. The rising fever rendered him almost delirious and triggered the birth. For a moment, Ryu felt like drowning. Numbed by stress and fear he followed wordlessly whatever the old woman ordered. As the minutes passed by, the house filled with helping people, relieving the shaken youth from any task. He just stood by Ariel’s side, holding his hand, unaware by the tears running down his face.
After a hard struggle, the newborn cried out as he reached the world. His tiny voice echoed through the Universe, letting the stars know that their magic has increased by a new one. Ryu watched his son with awe; it was a perfect child, with big blue eyes, a small rounded nose and cherry lips. He held him close and kissed him.
-Thank you…-he whispered and people around him knew that it was meant for all of them.
The young Night Flyer turned to his love and placed the child on his chest; Ariel held him instinctively. He turned his face towards his love, the luminous green eyes gazing deeply into the sparkling black ones. The air around them filled with warmth and seemed to glow. People took a step back in amazement.
Outside the room, the Northern Light erupted in full glory, streams of sizzling blue and green entwined with gold painting the endless canopy above them. The river of light ran across the vast spaces and circled the blue dot nested in dark depths of Space. For a magic fraction of Time this tiny planet became the brightest spot of light around. The hope for a new beginning radiated a new light into the Galaxy.
The Universe smiled.
This is not the ending. It’s the beginning.
Enjoy. Free your mind.
Be part of it.