Upon the peak of Mountain Star he lived. His back was bent of old age and habit, for he had spent nights and days that eventually turned into a lifetime of labour meticulously searching through sands of the world, to find that occasional grain, that one dust in the wastes that he would keep, carry all the way to his home, nurture, love and then release.
One night, as he climbed the mountain to finally rest after a journey that had taken two years, he heard the sound of light footsteps following. He brushed it off at first as make-believe distrusting his old ears, and he climbed on. As soon as he reached his doorstep, a voice cried out from behind.
Saki turned his head to see a child of around twelve staring at him; his blue eyes gleamed beneath the moonless sky. Saki looked around to see how the boy had managed to follow him; it was such a tiresome climb!
“How did you get here?”
“I’ve followed you sir.” A hint of shame ran across the boy’s face; it came and went too fast for Saki to notice only to be replaced by a look of arrogance.
Saki stared at him in disbelief. That mountain was too high; it had taken him days to climb it. Had the boy followed him for the whole journey?
“Are you telling me you have been following me all throughout the three-days’ climb?” Saki looked at him with tired eyes.
“No, sir.” The boy lowered his eyes, and shuffled with his feet. “I have followed you on your journey.”
The hair on Saki’s neck stood on end. It was impossible! How could he have followed his for two years and remained undetected? He looked at the boy who’d mustered his strength and perused his features. He was a gentle boy with a handsome face. His body was thin and lean, and gave the impression of someone older than his years.
“And the purpose of your stalking would be?” Saki’s eyes squinted, studying the boy.
With a haughty smile, he lifted his head towards the skies. “I wish to become a Starmaker.” The stars were glowing beautifully that night. The moon had been absent for about a week now, and the stars seemed to rule the heavens, shining brighter each night. Tonight they shone through the boy’s blue eyes who looked back down to see what old Saki’s reaction would be, but found that he had already walked away.
“Sir. Sir,” He screamed into the night that carried his voice over the land, “please wait, I need you to teach me.”
“Go home, little boy. You’ve wasted two years of your life following me.” Saki grumbled as he reached the door to his house.
“I have no home, and care not for one. I wish to make stars.” He stood frozen in his place, his heart almost breaking from rejection. He closed his eyes, hoping against hope that Saki would reconsider, for the old man had stopped for a few seconds before entering his home. The boy’s eyelids closed, he felt the cold night-air against his skin, and the whistling of the trees. He wished upon the stillness of the night, he wished upon his life and all he could believe that old Saki would agree to teach him, and suddenly, a flame of hope flickered in his breast— SLAM, came the bang of Saki’s door closing.
Beneath the sky, he sat and waited, for what he knew not. His eyelids began to go heavy, and sleep began to creep into him when he was startled into waking when Saki’s door opened again. The boy, Stello, looked up and saw his shadow standing in the doorway; he jumped to his feet and obeyed Saki’s tacit invitation inside. The old man grumbled as Stello walked in, but the young man felt his heart burst with joy as he entered the shrine where stars are made.
Stello was shocked to find the house barely furnished and looked around him not bothering to be tactful.
“That is all? This is where you make stars?”
“This is all, boy. What did you expect? Magic?” Saki shuffled around, the room was dimly lit so Stello could barely see what he was looking for. “I suspect you must be hungry. Here, I saved this for you.” He produced a plate into which he scooped something Stello had never seen. Hungry as he was, he jumped at the plate and gobbled down all of its contents.
Saki had been watching him devour his food with what seemed like an amused expression.
“So you’ve followed me for two years.” He eyed the boy.
“I have, but I could not help but wonder: Does it take that much time for someone to find one dust to turn into a star?”
“I am old, boy. My eyes deceive me and my judgement is impaired, my movement is slow…” A sadness crossed Saki’s face, but Stello seemed to miss it.
“Can you teach me? Can you teach me how to make stars?”
“Can I teach you? The question is: can you learn?”
“I can learn, I assure you sir, I can.” His eyes gleamed as he stood up. “When do we begin?”
“Tomorrow night. Now we sleep, I am tired.”
Saki woke the next day to the sound of heavy weights banging on the floor in the adjoining room. He got his old body out of bed and walked out to see large bags of dirt thrown onto the floor. His eyes widened and his head heavy with anger; he yelled:
“Boy! What in the name of the Heaven are you doing?”
“Why, gathering dust, sir. For our lesson tonight.” Stello paused; his face and clothes covered with dirt.
“Gathering dust? You fool! You’ve seen me search far and wide for two years searching for special dusts to turn into stars! And here you think you can turn every wretched grain into one?”
“But sir, why can’t all dusts can be turned into stars?”
“Starmaking is an ancient craft! It takes years and decades to study, let alone master, and you think you know what a star is made of?”
“But… Why can’t they become stars themselves?”
“You wretched little fool.” Saki slammed his foot to the floor in anger, his hands shook at the boy’s impotence. “Clear up this mess or by Heaven I will sweep you off like the rest of it all.”
Disappointed, Stello looked at his master and grumbled as he started to pick up the heavy bags, dumping its contents outside again. He never heard from Saki the whole day, and he went about his day playing and chasing after butterflies and birds in the sun.
When nighttime came, Saki finally emerged from his seclusion. Grumbling and frustrated, he came to Stello whose eagerness to start their lessons held him before Saki’s door waiting for him to come out.
“Starmaking is a sacred art,” Saki started, “It began with the first Starmaker Astral who would travel the world turning dusts into stars that illuminated the skies above us. He passed on his knowledge to his disciples, and throughout the ages his legacy was carried on. Some say that his spirit still remains around us.”
Stello’s eyes and ears belonged to Saki, whose slow speech floated in the silence that surrounded the small house.
“It takes much patience to master the art, so much of that temper of yours must be controlled.”
Stello nodded his head with anticipation for the lesson.
Saki told him of the history of starmaking and its processes, that some dusts are born different with a quality that seems to overshadow all the dusts around them. They look different; their touch, although barely noticed by regular men, seems different than that of others’. He told him that dust needs special care; it needs to be shown that it is part of its belonging and to be reminded of its value in being part of the universal plan of existence. Dust has to be fondled through whispers and incantations passed on from generations, and left out beneath its fellow stars for months before its spark begins to show, and dance in the dark, illuminating and absorbing the dusts in the air around it before it finally becomes a star.
All this Stello absorbed eagerly. But an unanswered question that he dare not ask remained, and haunted him for the years to come.
On that first night, Saki took Stello to a wooden shed behind the house. It had no windows and a barely noticeable door. They both entered and the door closed around them. From the top of the shed, a shower of silver light cast on an altar at the centre of the room.
“In this very room the first of sparks begin, and stars are born. It is designed to allow the light from the stars to come and guide the dust on how to shine and guide it toward its future home. I keep that hole open only on moonless nights— for the moon’s glow is deception: only reflection of real light. Never during the day— the light from the biggest star of all would burn up the dusts’.”
Saki walked towards the altar and from his pocket took out a piece of white cloth folded carefully. He opened it; inside it was a single grain of sand.
“This dust I found in the Great Desert. You remember following me there?”
Stello nodded and saw the old man carefully place the grain of sand on the altar using one finger. Then Saki began to whisper. He could barely make out what the old man was saying, but he heard mention of The Great Desert and could make out the closing of Saki’s whispers.
“Burn and rise. Watch your birth. You are a star.”
“Now we speak to it.”
“Of stars that have lived and ones that have died. Of its mother Desert and fellow dusts. We teach it of its origin and its destiny, and we show it we believe that it will one day shine.”
So the night went. Saki telling of dusts that have passed, ones that have found their light. For hours he spoke until just before the dawn began to creep. Then he rose, and grabbed a handle Stello hadn’t seen by the door and pulled it down. The hole in the ceiling began to close and all light went off from the wooden shed.
“Sleep and rest beloved Dust. And light shall come.”
Stello heard Saki’s footsteps. The door was opened, and the old man and young walked out into the light of the night.
The door was closed behind the them, and Stello turned and stood still watching the shed.
For months to come, the boy and the old man would visit the dust on moonless nights. Speaking to it of its own virtues and those of the skies. One day, just as the night crept, Stello heard Saki’s cry of laughter and rushed outside.
The door from the shed was open wide, and from the inside a blinding glow of white burst. Saki stood bathed in light, laughed, and cried towards the light.
“Fly my beloved. Soar and illuminate the sky your home. Fly.”
From the hole in the shed, the light came out. As it soared, it grew stronger. Slowly at first, it rose to the heights, until it reached the heights of Heaven. A wink and a burst singled its standing. High up in the sky, a silver mark was painted and stele’s eyes were filled with wonder as he witnessed the birth of a star.
For the years to come, Saki and Stello travelled the lands collecting those special dusts and turned them into stars. The boy grew into a man, absorbing knowledge from the master whose health began to decline. Stello watched his teacher’s back bend, his wrinkles go deep and finally his limbs go frail until he could no longer walk.
Saki became bed-ridden and was unable to make the travels he had done in his years, and so the young man remained by his side taking care of his health. The star making had to wait. He had now become an expert and was confident he could carry on the legacy, but something inside him from his childhood year kept tickling his insides. As much respect as he had for his master’s teachings, he still felt that something was missing.
On days he could afford to leave the old man alone, Stello would travel the area surrounding their home collecting random handfuls of dusts. He would observe them, study them and gather them in his room. He felt these grains were not as useless as his master had proposed. They must have come from somewhere, and must have their own path and Stello was intent on making them shine.
For nights on end, he would admire them, spread them across his room, sleep among them and feel them itching and tickling his own skin. Such practices he kept from his master who would surely not approve.
He spoke with the grains of sand just as Saki had taught him in the shed. He whispered his secrets and those of not only stars, but those of the family he had once had, of kings and trees, rocks and waters. He spoke to the grains in the darkness of moonless nights, and light of sunny days. He kept nothing from them and gave them the nurturing and love he so longed for. These dusts became Stello’s companions and his solace from the sadness brought about by his master’s failing health.
Saki kept sharing his wisdom with the young man. He taught him all that he had known and the secrets to finding the dusts that could be turned into stars, and Stello would listen tacitly to his master. Then he would go back to his room, and pour his affection upon the millions of dusts that littered his room.
After months of Saki battling his illness, clarity dawned on Stello that his master would soon die. Stello was afraid. Although he knew that Saki will never truly leave, he realised an end was on its way.
One night, an especially dark night, after having sat with Saki all day, crying without tears for his master’s approaching demise, he came back to his room. Anger swelled within him, and tears finally erupted. He fell to his knees, weeping for the loss he was about to face and mourning the loneliness that he knew coming. He gazed around the sand covering the bed, the chair, the window sill, and finally broke out:
“Burn and rise. Watch your birth. You are a star.” Frustration and anger took him over.
Nothing happened. Stello fell in despair as he realised his own stupidity. He whispered in supplication, his tears almost blinding his sight.
“Burn and rise…” His palm slammed the floor, “Watch your birth…” His words were almost inaudible. “You.. You are all stars.” He sobbed into the night.
His eyes began to twitch. From the corner of his eye, he saw something twinkle. He turned his head quickly. Another twinkle. and another. And another. Soon the whole room began to to twinkle and to glisten in the darkness of the room.
His heart beat fast. He ran outside of the room toward Saki’s bed. He could barely contain the excitement that suddenly surged through him. He went to his old master, and tried as gently as he could muster to wake him.
“Master, wake up. Please. There is something you need to see.”
The old man’s eyes opened slowly.
“I need you to come with me. Can you stand?”
“What… is it?” The old man’s voice wheezed.
Realising Saki was too old to stand, Stello’s hand wrapped behind his head and he gently carried him into his room.
Silver sparkles of all sizes illuminated the room. They slowly drifted in the night air and out the window. Stello carried Saki outside and they both gazed into the night that had momentarily turned into day. Millions and millions of stars began to escape Stello’s window and up into the night sky, above the mountain that towered over rivers and forests. Stello’s tears were on his cheeks. But these tears were those of joy.
Saki’s eyes were wide with wonder.
“How… How did you find them all?”
Stello sighed and cried and a tingling ran across his body though his skin.
“Oh dear master. These are not special dusts.” Stello said through his tears. “These are dusts. Dusts I’ve gathered from these gardens and lands. Dusts that are ignored and unloved. And these dusts… these dusts could shine.” He paused as he, and old Saki in his arms, looked up towards the illuminated sky filled with a million lights.
At that moment, forests and mountains, rivers and seas, stood motionless. Their bated breaths hanged by that moment of immaculate birth, bowing in reverence for the dusts that shone, and the stars they were born into; and all of nature sang the song of life and light, for the stars and dusts, and for Stello, the Starmaker.
“Stars are not made of anything different than what you and I are both made of.” Stello sighed, “as do these grains, so do we all transform: from dusts to stars, and from stars to dust.”