He complained about seeing things…everywhere he went he would talk about “little stars”. In the air, on the ground, in the kitchen or the park. Everywhere he would point, crying “Mommy, mommy! The stars are back! Look!” And she did look, but she never saw any stars. She tried to tell herself “He’s only five. Five year-olds tell stories…” But five years turned to eight and the talk of stars never waned. She couldn’t stand it. “Please, Alex. Stop talking about that…help me set the table.” It was always “those stars.” Often, she would watch her son staring off, she would wonder what it was he was looking at. What else was he seeing that she couldn’t? It didn’t matter how hard she tried. She was afraid to wonder, afraid to watch him and see him staring like that. If she asked him about it, she knew what the answer would be… She wouldn’t– couldn’t admit to herself that her son was crazy.
Then, one day he was gone.
She was late picking him up. She was often late, he didn’t understand why he couldn’t just walk with the other kids. It wasn’t that far…
…She hadn’t been this late in a while.
It didn’t matter much to him, he supposed. His mom was never around much anyway. He could pass the time as he always did, looking for those shining lights. Sometimes they were there, sometimes they weren’t. Sometimes they were little more that a slight glitter in the air. He wondered why sometimes he could see it and sometimes he couldn’t, but it wasn’t like he could ask his mom.
…she didn’t like hearing about the stars.
Alex sat on the cement steps, leaning forward, eyes narrowed in concentration. If he wished hard enough, they would come…
It was too quiet here.
…If he wished hard enough, he wouldn’t be alone.
Little lights flickered to life around him bit by bit, and Alex smiled. Like little stars traveling on the winds, they surrounded him. Still, he concentrated– he wanted to see more of them. More stars came to his call, now at a rapid pace– then a flash of blue dazzled his eyes.
Suddenly, he could see an image of a city scape, one that he hadn’t seen before. Alex leaned in close, eyes wide with wonder. He could see people– people! Not only that, but cars and pigeons, all moving about. Alex reached for the image eagerly and then for a split second, all he could see was blue–
–then he was standing on a strange side walk, and the hustle and bustle of hurrying grown-ups and cars descended on his ears with a crash.
They had found him in the next city over. As she drove, she had been sure that they were pulling her leg– making fun of her. She would drive all the way there and then they would laugh at her worry induced gullibility. After all, how in the world could an eight year-old without any money make the distance in so short a time? The principal had said that he’d made it to school and left with the other kids…
…She couldn’t have been more than a half hour late picking him up.
Yet as she walked through the doors to the to Riddleton Police Department, there he was.
Little Alex, alone and teary-eyed.
Before he knew it, there was his mom. A neat work suit, high heels, and pinned up hair revealing a weary face. She called out to him.
“-Mom!” Alex cried. He almost flew to her.
Though he would have liked to give her a hug, she held him firmly by the shoulders and peered down into his eyes. “How in the world did you get over here?” Despite the strength of her hands, her voice shook a little.
Alex felt a pang of regret. He stared up at her guiltily, but his answer was true. “The stars took me here!”
The grip on his shoulders weakened, and it seemed for a moment that her face was about to come apart at the seams.
Fear flashed in her eyes, she half-pushed him away. “No, Alex. Not this again…” she turned away.
Pain erupted in his heart. How could she look at him like that?
‘Mom-’ Alex wanted to cry after her. ‘Mom– I’m not crazy!’ But he was too afraid, the words wouldn’t come.
She headed for the door, her heels sounding in a hollow echo as they hit the hard floor.
‘Mom…’ Alex sobbed to himself silently. Why couldn’t she understand?