Flash Fiction: Fade (466 words)

The Night Fire was a strange sort of ship, prone to prowling the darkened oceans with its lanterns unlit and bound to their hooks to keep from creaking. The glass was kept under light wax paper to erase their glinting. All the other creakings and moanings of the ship were bundled and padded and greased until the ship moved like a stone on water, the waves whispering rumors against the hull while it stayed silent.

Almost, Vardan could imagine himself on a rock on the middle of the ocean. The sleek body of the dark ship tossed like any other, built for speed and sharp turns, not steadiness, but the quietness of the timbers left him stranded somewhere else. He listened to waves with their thick voices that overlapped each other on the wider waters, and when he looked up, the sky glittered with stars kept only in the light of their own company.

Without lanterns, without the dull yellow light of flame that touched the world with young, clumsy fingers, the sky didn’t draw back so far. Every star in its face peered down into the world, flaring and primping themselves to be admired.

The spaces between the stars glowed at the chance to hang so low, forgot to be dark, and passed the somber responsibility to the black waves. There were sheets of richest silk tumbled between the stars, gleaming in their own elegant way as they touched both horizons. Unmoving water sparkled here or there, and it might have been ice for the cool way it shone down.

Familiar stars cast halos, bright enough to dazzle, and unfamiliar pinpricks salted every inch of the sky.

Vardan rested with his back to the lines, anchored to the deck, and let his head fall back to take in as much as he could. Not long after sunset, blinking and in awe, he could convince himself that there was no such thing as a dark sky.

He hated when another ship intruded, forced the stars to retreat and crowd back into the safety of distance and dimness. The other ships jangled ridiculously, and glared yellow in a world that shoud have been painted all in ancient blue and white.

The Night Fire‘s sure-footed sailors stepped lightly toward him, or steadied themselves at the rail, looking out over the water at the fresh company.

Glancing at them, Vardan cast one more helpless glance at the stars, wishing them back.

“Ready the cannons,” he murmured to the mate at his shoulder, before he’d brought his face down again. His voice seemed eaten in the silence of the ship. He looked back at the yellow-lighted sails, the shaking shadows of their swinging lanterns. “Close the gap.”

Because that was the sort of ship the Night Fire was.

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