Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Once in a Blue Moon (01/06/11)
TITLE: Day of the Long Star
By Gerald Shuler
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The fateful morning broke much as any other had in his long lifetime. Hilka, as was his custom, had been up all night watching the stars. As usual, nothing happened. He had seen only the mundane common stars. Hilka was weary and the rooster’s crow signaled, for him at least, that it was time to rest. The sun was beginning to push its light into the eastern sky and soon, Hilka knew from experience, the stars would fade from sight. As he prepared to enter his hut, though, something caught his watchful eye. Although the night had been common in every way, there seemed to be something about the sunrise this morning that was anything but common. The sun was chasing an unusually bright star. Hilka stared at the wonderous sight. It was not the Morning Star . . . that would have been expected and barely worth notice. This star was even brighter than the Morning Star, and much larger. Even more remarkable, this new star appeared to have been stretched by the very fingers of God until it had become a long, cylindrical bright body in the heavens.
“Oh, Lord!” Hilka whispered. “Has that dreadful day finally arrived?”
Hilka felt as strong and healthy as ever, not at all like this was to be the day of his death. Surely, though, this was the star of prophecy. He had never seen a long star before; never even heard gossip of its existence. What could this heavenly thing be, but the marker of his demise? He took his place once again on the knob of a hill near his hut and began watching the Long Star, awaiting the revealing of its secrets.
As Hilka watched the sun make its way into the early morning sky its massive power finally defeated the Long Star and it faded, as any other star would, from sight. The day was now, in almost every way, normal. Hilka found himself confused by the star’s disappearance. He had learned no secrets and (thankfully) he was still alive.
The next morning, people began arriving because they had either seen, or, more likely, heard that Hilka’s star had arrived. They now wanted to be near enough to learn the secrets Hilka would be told and then, morbidly, watch to see how the star would take the old man to his final rest. Everyone wondered, Hilka most of all, if the star would even be seen again.
The cock crowed on the second day and, once again, the Long Star was chased by the sun into the sky. Once again, the sun overpowered it and once again it disappeared from view. Also, once again, no secrets had been bestowed upon Hilka and breath remained in his lungs. The neighbors seemed disappointed, a grief to Hilka since it was his life at issue.
The Long Star came again for the next seven days and each day saw an increase in curious observers. On the eighth day, though, without fanfare of any sort, it vanished forever. The crowds continued to come for several days until it was finally surmised that the Long Star would not return . . . and Hilka had not been the receiver of secrets on his deathbed. Slowly, the crowds stopped coming and Hilka was left alone.
“Lord,” he said, “I don’t understand.” He looked to the dark night sky. Everything was as normal as it had ever been. Had he wasted his entire life waiting for this? “Ah, Lord, now I understand and, Lord, I repent!”
Hilka, for years, had spent his life watching for this star. Finally, once the Long Star had come and gone, he understood that signs in the heavens are only that . . . signs. They were never meant to interrupt the business of living as it had for Hilka. He knew now what he must do.
He would get back to living.
(Author’s note: The Long Star in this story was a comet, usually only visible near the early morning sun. Comets are visible from a day to several weeks before they move from sight. Ancient people would have seen a comet and tied it to all sorts of prophecies.)
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