THE TWINKLE OF THE STARS ABOVE and the light breeze of a chilly wind hid the terrors of the world behind the deceitful guise of a calm, quiet night sky. Luminescent butterflies fluttered around a tall, lopsided building already torn in half, while many fireflies gathered around the bottom floor.
A tiny yawn was barely audible from the bedroom at the bottom level of the torn building. A small child in a bed several times larger than them, stretched their arms as much as they could with their hands hidden in the long sleeves of their oversized, hooded white jacket. They slowly opened their eyes that glowed as if the sun’s rays came to meet the shrouded world once more. They sat up with a bad case of bedhead with their dark brown hair down to the base of their neck and rubbed their eyes. The small child kicked the blanket off and swung their legs over the edge of the bed as they sat up.
At first glance, they thought the missing wall in front of them was nothing more than an illusion. The small child rubbed their eyes once more and realized it wasn’t shortly after. They walked up to the edge of the room while a strong gust of wind blew past them and stirred around the bottom level, tossing piles of a child’s drawings off the side table and scattered across the floor. The small child pulled up their sleeves and rushed over to pick them up as the fireflies followed them.
The small child carefully looked over the first doodle with their eyes as their main source of light and remembered drawing it from a lost, faded memory. The colorful scribbles depicted an old, bearded fisherman in a yellow raincoat rowing through a flooded city. With the drawing in hand, it glowed and radiated a faint light. Their eyes widened as they let the paper fall gently onto another drawing next to it. The radiating glow spread from one to another, over and over again.
The child pushed their sleeves back over their hands and moved the first colorful doodle over to see the next one. There were two stick figures, one smaller than the other. Both had lines sticking out to resemble a little dragon’s tail, small wings, and stubby horns. Messy gray scribbles behind the two figures vaguely resembled tents in a watery area.
A few fireflies landed on the drawing next to the first two. The child waved them away and picked it up. Several brown scribbles in the background appeared to be a large tree with multiple nests. Another stick figure stood by it with many black strokes to resemble long hair and wings.
At the corner of each drawing, a yellow sun shined down with a single name in the center of it. It read: “Kou”. The small child piled their drawings together and held them close as they took to their feet. They walked over to a nearby desk and left the drawings beneath a star-shaped paperweight as the child smiled. They approached the edge of the room once more and took a deep breath.
The moonlight of the night sky shined down at Kou, revealing their appearance to the world as they gazed up at the endless field of stars above. The small child took a single step out of their room and accidentally stepped on a puddle that splashed on the sides of their black shoes.
The wind stirred, slightly blowing through their messy hair. With every step Kou took, the fireflies and luminescent butterflies followed as if they danced around the child. The land before them was nothing more than a swampy marsh as far as Kou’s radiant eyes could see. They pulled up their sleeves and picked up a pebble, making it glow in their grasp. Kou tossed it across the waters of the marsh, skipping across the surface and spreading the light.
The dark, dreary mash felt lifeless with the cold wind beneath the world’s starry night sky. Each step this small child took, the ground beneath them lit up and radiated with a warm light. The glowing pebble they threw continued to spread the light until it sank to the bottom. Seconds later, the once dark and dreary marsh lit up with life and gave off a warm glow.
Their eyes widened with awe as they walked through and made a small splash with each step. They pushed their sleeves back over their hands and held it out as a luminescent butterfly landed on it. Kou shuddered from the chilly wind and pulled their bunny hood over their head. The “ears” of the hood draped over the shoulders and slightly moved with the breeze.
Kou tried to see beyond the glowing marsh, but a heavy, distant fog limited their field of view. The ground beneath them shook with enough strength to topple skyscrapers as the night sky rumbled with the sound of faraway thunder. Kou immediately crouched down and covered their ears. Scared and shaken, the small child had no clue what to do next. Their once bright eyes dimmed with fear as it overcame their curiosity.
The scared child took a deep breath and tried to yell for help as loud as they could but to no avail, there was no sound. They tried again and again but there was not a single peep. Not even a mere whisper could escape their lips. There was nothing but pure silence.
Kou peeked up at the starry sky and saw the clouds appear as if the world itself formed a sinister smile with sharp teeth and glared down at them. The small child felt nothing but fear. They couldn’t figure out whether it was real or nothing more than a figment of their own imagination. Kou reached up toward it with their small, sleeved hands but their vision quickly became hazy as the small child tried to fight their own drowsiness and failed. They fell over onto their side with closed eyes as the ground beneath them rumbled and slowly rose.
The glistening moonlight and twinkling stars reflected off the surface of deep waters. What were once tall skyscrapers were long abandoned and became a flooded city of ruin. Glowing butterflies rested on top of cracked lamp posts that were no longer able to brighten the forgotten city.
Kou slowly sat up and rubbed their eyes. Their tiny yawn was silent as they tried not to think back to the face they saw. Where there was once fear in their eyes, hope and curiosity quickly brimmed to fill the space. Looking at the surrounding city, the small child noticed that seemed to be moving, wasn’t moving at all. But rather, they were instead. There was grass around them but the ground itself felt different. Kou tapped the floor beneath them twice as it sounded like hitting wood.
The small child rolled up their sleeves and touched the floor. It glowed in the shape of a shell and in a pattern, they could barely remember, causing a picture book to come to mind. Kou crawled forward as a green head rose and peeked out of the water and they recognized the large creature. A big turtle whose shell was covered with small patches of grass and moss. It turned its head and glanced at Kou before returning its gaze forward. The small child reached out their hand with shining eyes and the intent to pet its head, but they held back from doing so.
The turtle swam up the flooded street, passing by old buildings where nature itself took over. It came to a slow stop next to a flight of stairs. Kou stood up and patted any dirt off. The small child hopped off the shell and onto the concrete. Kou bowed to the turtle as thanks and waved as it swam away.
Looking up at the magnificent city around them, Kou ran up to the entrances of many broken buildings, only to find that they were blocked off by piles upon piles of debris. They looked down the walkway and found it was the only path to take. The further they walked, the less scared they became.
Kou turned around a corner and found a lit red lantern with a carrot inscribed onto all four sides, hanging from a tree. They rolled up their sleeves and held out their hands toward it. Kou’s glowing eyes brightened with happiness as they savored the warmth of the small flame. They peeked around it and saw a trail of crimson lanterns leading off the path as they pulled their sleeves back down with curiosity filling their mind. Following the strange trail, one after another, Kou came across a dock with a wooden raft tied up to it as a familiar, delicious scent filled the air around them. Hungry from the beginning of their adventure, their stomach growled loudly as they followed the scent.