ancient open book with magic light and flying birdsAn excerpt A Legacy of Stars
from Flash in the Can
by Danielle Ackley-McPhail

“I open the door of heaven.”
—The Goddess Sesheta,
The Book of Coming Forth By Day

Have you ever gazed into the heart of a star?

I have. You are blind to anything else forever after, no matter if your eyes are yet capable of seeing. The memory dazzles your vision, your mind, leaves you in open-mouthed awe at the wonder of it. No commonplace sight that the universe may offer can hope to compare.

I did not intend to alter my perception so radically. I had no choice in this.

My name is Sesheta.

It was not always, but any other name I may have laid claim to is long lost to me. Some may know, might even tell you if you ask, but otherwise it would not occur to them, blinded as they are, by the lingering light of that star.

In darkness…I shine.

This likewise was not always so.

On the day of my rebirth I was led to a chamber in the ship no other was allowed to access. Etched into the hatch was a single word: Library. I wondered at that as the simple portal opened. Inside was dark, near complete, but for a pinpoint of light on the far wall. The atmosphere was stale, heavy with the scent of dust, despite the steady rumble of cycled air.

“Go,” my keeper ordered. A gentle shove to my back sent me forward fearing to stumble, fearing what might obstruct my path, unknown, unyielding…but there was nothing.

“Go, child. You must. There is no other….”

He was ancient and all to him were ‘child,’ no matter that I was no untried youth.

I went forward, though I could not bring myself to anything but timid steps. My breath trembled in my chest. I remember this. I can yet feel the slick skin of sweat coating me, clinging my clothes to my body, chilling any bare skin. Nothing came up hard against my shins…nothing sent me tumbling to the deck. The point of light grew closer, if no bigger.

Don’t ask me how I knew. Such details simply are since I took up my mantle.

“You must look through,” the keeper murmured at my back, distant in both space and my awareness. “Place your eye to the hole.”

His voice sounded sad to me, but beneath that hope and dread and uncertainty colored his words. It was an echo of my own heart.

Fearful, but obedient, I advanced until my breasts flattened against riveted steel. The placement of the glass-covered hole forced my head to bow in compliance.

It was the last time I would assume such a position.

I saw everything and nothing. Every color of light flooded my vision and all the knowledge of the universe was at my command, wrote itself into my very being until such a simple thing as a name scarce had room for itself, it was buried so deep. For an instant and forever I heard the music to which all light dances, the singing of stars and the beating of their hearts, felt my sweat-dampened hair ruffled by the solar winds, tasted the bitter cold of space, scented by the aeons.

I saw forever in the heart of that star.

Do you wonder that I was so changed?

~ * ~

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A collection of speculative microfiction by award-winning author Danielle Ackley-McPhail, featuring works of fantasy, science fiction and steampunk. With an economy of words, yet decadently lyrical, each story looks deep into the heart…of the matter… of a star… of darkness…and finds the strength and beauty of humanity shining through.

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