Sunday Fiction: Stars in the Oak Tree, Part 1

Part 1 of "Stars in the Oak Tree" as well as some news on the artwork for "Where the Stars Used to Sing"

Hello again!

This week I’m only posting part of a story for Where the Stars Used to Sing as it’s a bit long for an email in its entirety. It’s still a work in progress as well - needing some editing before it’ll be ready to appear in the collection.
To make up for giving half a story, though, I’m including a sketch and some news on the artwork for the collection (that’s still scheduled for a December release).

Stars in the Oak Tree

The stars died one by one as hope seeped from the world. Soon the nights became darker and even our own sun and moon seemed dimmer by the day. We walled ourselves within stone towers from where we watched the universe blink into darkness.

The change started in one of the oldest towers, it was later said.  That she just found an acorn lying on a courtyard paving stone one morning. Where it had come from, no one knows to this day. But she picked it up and planted it in the inner courtyard of her crumbling tower.

Rumour had it that her own heart had been darkened by sorrow many years before but, that she held on to a seed of hope even within that sorrow. Rumour had it that it was that seed’s spark that had called the acorn to her.

Every day she’d take water from her kitchen and carry it in a glass over to where she’d planted the acorn. She felt her hope grow dimmer and, when her favourite star flickered one night and died while she was standing outside watching it, her tears spilled onto the loose soil where the acorn lay dormant.

The news only mentioned the dead star in passing – and even to see that news article she ‘d had to dig through her feed. The stars slowly blinking out was already yesterday’s news. In the sprawling cities, after all, most of the stars were invisible even on a clear night.

She took water out again the next morning, but the glass shattered on the stone when she saw the young sapling standing three feet high.

She barely left the tree’s side that whole day. The news cycle still blurred by on her various feeds, and the dead star still lay heavy on her, but she felt as if the tree gave her a reason to be there. Someone had to bring it water, after all. Rain barely ever fell in the city.

In only a week, the oak was as tall as she, the trunk thickening day by day. She ripped up the paving stones in the courtyard and placed them against the tower’s broken wall. For a moment she saw the world outside through the hole in the wall.

Towers rose as far as the eye could see. Whether round or square, their grey bulk seemed to sprout from the asphalt roads that criss-crossed between them. Here and there a delivery person wound their way among the towers, their brightly coloured shirts the only way to tell the different companies’ people apart.

She turned away from the grey city and for what seemed the first time in years, really had a look at her crumbling tower. Why exactly it was crumbling, she could never tell. None of the other towers seemed affected. Not that anyone cared about her tower or how it looked, she thought, taking out her phone and searching the local warehouse for plant food of some kind. She was, she had been told more than once, one of the few who would greet the delivery personnel at the door and have a conversation.

She glanced at the tree and wondered if she should photograph it. For posterity, she told herself. Maybe someday an archaeologist would find her tower, find her photo, and … her thoughts trailed off. Find what? Her skeleton and a giant oak tree? She shrugged. Much worse fates than that. She snapped a photo of the tree and of a few of the leaves.

A strange tune woke her just before daybreak the next morning. She glanced at her phone, but it showed no alarms or messages. . .

To be continued!

On the artwork for Where the Stars Used to Sing

Behold! The first sketch for the collection in the style that I want it to be!
This sketch will be part of the artwork that will accompany the stories - not the cover. It’s done in graphite pencil, coloured pencil (Prussian Blue and Venetian Red) and black, sepia, and white ink.

Basically, I want all the sketches to be done in the same style and with this limited palette. It actually didn’t turn out to be bad - especially taking into account that I haven’t really drawn anything outside of maps for some years!

What do you think? Is there perhaps a sketch that you would like to see from the stories that I’ve already posted with Substack?

Let me know!

Until next time, stay safe!