Both Eva and Girl, who was the human’s small, amber-coated mix of a best friend, howled atop the roof of the only place they’d ever known as home. For the man who’d placed them there before the waves had taken him away. For the rains that had broken for the first time in a week to come back and take them, too. But it was already done. The man was long gone, and the water was receding.
As they looked to the sky, the moon performed a miracle. It returned.
It seemed braver upon its arrival. Bolder. Somehow more alive than before. So alive that it didn’t stop when it filled to its brim with its splendid light. Soon, it spilled into the rest of the timid sky. Glowing. Burning. Like the sun.
There was such an abundance of brightness that Girl hid her eyes in the creases of Eva’s soaked jeans. When she peeked again, she saw that the light wasn’t only of the moon. The stars, which had been among the first to flee—after the birds—had found their way back, too.
But they seemed off. Weak. Confused. Forgetting to float overhead. Instead, they fell.
Crashing and bouncing. And, then, they died. Their light diminished.
Eva held Girl and tried her best to shelter the both of them as the curious fragments of the sky stormed upon and around them.
The celestial corpses dinged against Eva’s arms and dug into Girl’s back. Some smacked the tin on which the pair sat, and others landed onto the soggy ground and into the few oaks that remained rooted in the bleeding soil.
When the world went quiet, finally, Eva and Girl waited.
They watched above, below, and to their sides, their bodies so close they couldn’t tell which heart’s rhythm belonged to which body.
But nothing more came. Not in the immediate seconds that followed. Or in the minutes after that.
Eva got up and walked warily across the dented roof, and Girl trotted behind.
The human girl bent down and touched the just-gone stars. At her touch, they blinked. But went out again.
Girl nosed a few herself, becoming closer with the scent she had believed, only a few minutes gone, she and Eva would very well know.
Eva used her foot to sweep the surrounding stars into a pile, and, then, she picked them up—one and then another and collected them in the cradle of her small arms.
Slowly, these stars, sensing life, began to glow.
Seeing this, she added more. All those she could see and reach. Ones she, herself, picked up and ones Girl placed at her feet.
Eva, with her arms stuffed full of stars, turned to Girl and was so bright it looked as if she were holding the moon itself.
Girl howled at the stars her human had raised again. But this simple act of barking wasn’t enough. Girl put her head down and squatted against the tin. Then, she raised her head and called as far up into the sky as she could reach.
Eva began howling herself, letting loose the fear and sadness she contained.
She threw her hands in the air, sending her bundle of burning stars back into the sky. And there they remained, floating higher and higher—all the way up until they were back beside the moon.
In their place. In their home.
At the edge of the roof, Eva and Girl looked out into their world.
Above the graveyard of flickering stars, bright, beautifully glowing ones were shooting back up into the sky. To try again.
Perhaps, believing that, with this time, it might be right.
Eva placed her hand softly on Girl’s head, stroking the insides of her friend’s ears and watching beautiful show. Of light. Of reclaimed life. Of the world being put together again by those who remained.
Eva and Girl were so very tired, but they knew what it was they had to do.
Although it was still dark and hard to see, the spreading light from above would guide their way.
Bradley Sides is the author of Those Fantastic Lives: And Other Strange Stories. His recent fiction appears, and is forthcoming, in BULL, Ghost Parachute, Psychopomp, and Superstition Review. He is an MFA candidate at Queens University of Charlotte and lives in Florence, Alabama, with his wife. For more, visit bradley-sides.com.