Rita Simpson, of Huyton, has been announced as winner of the 2020 Prescot Festival Short Story Competition. The theme this year was ‘Dreams,’ and the judges felt that Rita’s story held a magic that gripped them from beginning to end.
Rita receives a cheque for £100.
When You Wish upon a Star
By Rita Simpson
A silver trail silently weaves its way around the tightly packed, sleepy terraced streets, sometimes criss-crossing itself as it returns to a missed courtyard or entry. Above, a full moon illuminates the glutinous, shimmering ooze as it journeys along, while inside, a young boy stands at his bedroom window, staring out.
The lone figure dreams of travelling to the planets, landing on the moon, being an astronaut, but tonight is different, he is distracted. He watches in astonishment at the moving spectacle below, on his very own street and rubs his eyes, not certain of what he is seeing. Before he can check, a hand gently pulls him back from the window.
“Back to bed Kelvin. School in the morning. It’s nearly midnight.”
“But dad, I need to tell you…”
Before Kelvin can finish his sentence, his frustrated dad is at the bedroom door, shoulders hunched, thinking when will his son ever sleep the whole night through, instead of staring out of his bedroom window, star gazing.
“Night, son,” mumbles Kelvin’s dad.
Later he hears his father’s snores and creeps back to the window and there it is, all down the middle of the street, the silver trail. He finally drags himself away, knowing he won’t sleep a wink, tossing and turning, wondering where this trail came from and where it is going. Tomorrow his mum and dad will see it too.
But morning brings only daylight. Kelvin questions his school friends, to find out if they have seen what he has seen, but nobody mentions anything unusual. His mind is racing, unable to stop the images in his head. Questioning himself, did it really happen?
Midnight again, certain his parents are both asleep, Kelvin goes to the window. The street, encased in moonlight, he leans out of the open window, spotting in the distance an approaching shimmering shape, low on the ground. All ready dressed, he slips his boots on and sneak’s downstairs, unlocking the front door, pocketing the key, before pulling the door closed. Moments later, he watches, awe struck, as the rivulet of light unfurls its way up the street. Kelvin runs alongside it, following the trail, as it travels onward.
A constant, steady flow of luminous liquid wraps around the timid streets, leaving Kelvin behind and he knows now he won’t be able to keep up with it. Out of breath, he stops running, and looks back down the street at the silvery trail left behind and reaches into it. Transfixed, his hand lights up, glaring in its intensity and he feels his fingers tingling and the heat emanating from them. But in seconds, the trail has gone, vanished. He finds himself alone on an unfamiliar street, the magic has disappeared with it and the moon is cloaked in darkness.
Fear, disappointment and sadness overwhelm Kelvin and he sinks to the ground, not knowing what to do next. He doesn’t understand what has happened to him and he has no one who will believe him. On the verge of tears, he tells himself he must get up and go home. Running in all directions, he finally finds himself at his own front door. No one hears as he turns the key and creeps upstairs to his bedroom.
He can’t rest, there are too many questions unanswered and he blames himself for what has happened. In his head he can’t stop repeating the words, I’ve spoilt everything, I’ve spoilt everything, if only I hadn’t touched it.
In the morning, he struggles to get out of bed and only for his father being off work, does he get a lift to school. They have a supply teacher, a Miss Farthing. She tells the children that today they will be involved in listening and writing stories and if there is time, to read out their own. Kelvin loves reading and he can’t believe his luck, it is the only thing that will stop him from thinking about last night’s events.
They spend the first lesson in the library, picking a favourite book, to share later with the rest of the class. Kelvin scrambles to find Cosmic or his other favourite, The Boy from Mars. After break, Miss Farthing wants them to write a story. By the time she has finished talking about story structure, Kelvin knows exactly what he’s going to write. He scribbles away, spilling out his secret on to the paper, only stopping when the dinner bell rings. But he hasn’t written his ending. Don’t worry she tells the class; you can finish them later.
But things don’t go to plan, Miss Farthing is called away and when she does turn up, she apologises, their stories will have to wait, instead she’s going to tell them a story, one her father told her when she was growing up and was obsessed with space.
Kelvin is thinking about his story ending, when he catches the words, silver stream. He listens, astonished, as she tells the story of the boy who sees a magical stream, flowing through his town when everyone else is in their beds, fast asleep. How he tried to follow it but couldn’t keep up and on the second night when the boy dipped his hand into it and the stream disappeared.
Kelvin’s whole body is tingling, as Miss Farthing recounts the third night. How the desperate boy rushed out, and threw himself into the flowing mixture and was carried along, all through the night until dawn broke and both the stream and the boy had disappeared.
“But what happened to him, miss? “
The whole class is asking.
Miss Farthing pauses, people believe the stream only reveals itself to the chosen, those who long to be in the heavens. Jumping into the stream on the third night of Full Moon will grant them their wish; to be carried away, to live forever among the stars above.
Kelvin knows exactly what he is going to do.