~ a short story

The wanderer’s steps fell under the serious moonlight.

It was nearing midnight and tomorrow had him in a panic. The man walked through the field between highways one and sixty-nine. His pockets were empty. The night was long and dark. For him, wandering had become a ritual to dispel the tedium.

Titus did not sleep, he wandered. Each trip was longer than the last.

Around him, a full moon glow washed over a town of parking lots. Titus beckoned himself over the cooling grass, shivering in the wind as cars powered themselves past him at more than 70 miles per hour. Buffeted but unbowed, the young man stumbled through the uneven dirt.

As to where he is going, no one knows. This town is nowhere in particular, but everywhere in spirit. A thousand times Titus wanders to watch such stars every night. Loners, outsiders, exiles, freaks and punks and rebels. They all watched the stars in their own way.

Strangely enough, the stars looked very different tonight.

A sterling light cast itself across the sky. Titus stopped and gazed up from the field. He stood in its direct center, equidistantly located to the matrix of criss-crossing highways on all sides. The shooting star draped across the cosmic landscape, and seemingly toward the young man in the field. Titus watched the star loop around the moon and blinked hard, unbelieving of what he was seeing.

A shooting crash bellowed, and a more than fledgling heat engulfed Titus a moment later. Right where he stood, buried in a small crater, was the star from above. Instinctively, the wanderer reached down to retrieve an object there, from inside the star. No, it was the star. Titus held a small golden eye in his left hand. It steamed but did not burn. Mechanical and yet wet with some kind of otherworldly flesh, the eye looked up with a dilating pupil. Focusing in and out, it stared at him.

Titus saw back into the eye a realm of fantastic, adventurous, startling… life.

A second bolting flash dazzled into the earth before him a few feet away. This time stood a man. Fast turning from silhouette to person, they wore makeup. Titus studied him up and down. He wore sparkling tights and his hair in a frazzling scape of contours and beauties. An angular face, too imperfectly exquisite, smiled. The mystic androgynously-shaped outsider, sizzling with extraterrestrial energies, reached out a friendly hand. A bolt of red and blue lightning was painted across his face, centering an eye that pulsed and dilated, focusing in and out with curious measure.

Titus reached out to take the hand. He shook it.

Behind the strange being with crimson hair and shining tights, others appeared out of the dark. One in a suit vest, with stark white hair and a devilish panache; one with an eye patch and a snarl; one in a space suit, with scared yet hopeful eyes; one was a mod, another had hair as long as Jesus and wore a dress the color of the sun; there was one with bleached blonde hair, a blue suit, and ravishing red shoes; one looked clownish, with a hat and fluttering jester’s outfit; one held a title block and posed for a brilliant mugshot; one wore a red, gold, and blue jumpsuit and looked as though they could fly; one was king of the goblins; one was dressed for a wedding and another for a funeral. One wore a mask that continuously shifted shape and color, emitting all sounds and visions. There were others too, each more chameleonic and alien and unprecedented than the last.

Even in the dark, Titus saw they all wore the same face. Aged along gradations, distinctively garbed and uniquely tuned auras for each, the starmen had come to greet the young man in the field of highways. He shook their hands with gusto, with an unconscious appreciation for their presence there in his life. They looked him up and down with a recognition young Titus did not fathom.

Altogether, there were more starmen than Titus could count. But he saw them all. And heard them too, for they were singing and playing. Music surrounded their summoning. Discordant yet clear, the music dashed his soul with touches of pain and pleasure. They walked in a circle, as if they were all each other’s after-images, each an iteration of the same man. Hope and despair sourced from the lyrical explosions. They came from a voice that was vaguely British and wholly harmonious. Rock n’ roll, pop, avant-garde, funk, electronica, art, glam, experimental everything. Their profiles were like that of a pantheon of Gods. Titus could not breathe, his body buzzed with a second life.

It was all here, walking in a circle about Titus in a smogswept field that this world’s builders long ago forgot.

Titus found his voice and tried to speak to the starmen. On instinct, all he could say was:

“Are you Gods?”

The starmen returned all together, a thousand voices as one clarion cry:

I am. But I’m no different than you.”

“Why are you here?” Titus asked, unbidden tears of confused joy and sadness in his eyes. Somehow, he understood they would not stay long. He’d summoned them for this transient appearance, this short performance.

Your dreams, your love,” sang the starmen. “All for us. For the world. Carry it, bring it, unleash it. Please, love.”

With a furious spiral of riffing culmination, as swiftly as the starmen had arrived, they zapped away in a quicksilver blink. For a moment, Titus thought the whole thing was just a daydream. He was back alone in the dark in the chilly field. All the light and music was gone.

At long last, the night sounds of cars and insanity returned to the young boy’s consciousness.

But moonlight fell upon him and a set of bursting realizations set down the surreality into history. He held the golden eye in his hand, now closed, and still stood in the bolt-shaped crater where it struck down from the distant skies.

Standing there with knees no longer trembling, Titus exhaled heartily, and discovered his voice humming. ~