Dust (Of Dust and Darkness) - By Devon Ashley

J.R.R. Tolkien

I smile as my eyes adjust to the morning light, squinting as a beautiful blur of yellow and white squeezes between my eyelids. Sunbeams stream in through the thatched roof made of wood and twisted vine, one directly onto my face. My eyelids twitch as they fight their way open. Specks of dust float aimlessly through the air, twinkling as bright as the stars in the night sky. A thickleburn pushes through one of the cracks in the thatch and flits about my tiny tree house, finally landing on the uneaten blueberry I left on the floor last night. It looks at me thoughtfully with those black, metallic, oval-shaped eyes that are way too big for its head.

“It’s alright. You’re welcome to help yourself.” The thickleburn releases a tiny squeak, then eagerly punctures the flesh of the blueberry with the point of its oversized beak. A gentle, repetitive sucking noise barely makes its way to my ears. The little bug reminds me of a hummingbird, yet no larger than a fly. The green sheen of its silky coat shimmers now that it’s settled down within a sunbeam.

I stretch my limbs as far as they go, feeling the sigh of my muscles as they extend farther and farther. The fresh, soft leaves I picked last night to make my bed have dried and now crunch beneath me, a few broken twigs poking my skin in random spots. My skirt wrinkled during the night, and I try to rub the creases out of the silky fabric that drapes over my thighs. No go. My best bet is to dip into the river and fly to air-dry it quickly. And I can’t see them, but I’m sure the tails from my matching bikini top that wrap and tie behind my back are wrinkled too.

I roll over and notice that a vine flower has pushed through one of the floor cracks and bloomed. The white flower petals are wilting, its stem weakened and curved over, exhausted from trying to touch the warmth of a sunbeam just out of reach. “Aww,” I sing with compassion. I pull a pinch of pixie dust from the weathered satchel around my waist, the fine particles prickly against my thumb and forefinger. Concentrating my desire, I will the dust to grow the vine as I sprinkle the glittery particles over it. A shimmer forms around the structure and an iridescent glow pulsates, first slowly, then so fast it’s constant. Like a still heart suddenly brought back to life, the vine strengthens and the neck of the flower rolls upward. The stem lengthens and the flower reaches the sunbeam, its petals thickening with magical strength as the wilted, curvy tips suddenly stiffen and hold strong. Satisfied, I roll myself up and lean back on my hands.

Morning is my favorite time of day. The air seems fresher, like every living organism releases a sigh and fills the forest with a delicious combination of sweet and floral scents. The thickleburn has its fill of blueberry juice and buzzes my nose in appreciation before squeezing back through the thatch above me. I reach for the purplish fruit and savor the semi-sweet flavor for myself.

There’s a terse knock at the makeshift door and I rush to pull the rickety wood inward, imagining the aged structure crying in pain, begging me to prevent the knuckles from rapping harshly once more. My roommate Poppy glares at me. Her arms are crossed over her chest and her opalescent wings flutter madly in the light, splattering the walls of my small tree house with dancing rainbow-colored specks.

“Seriously? You slept here again?” Her lips curl in a way that makes me think I smell, but really it’s because she’s disappointed in me.

“As if you’ve never slept up here before,” I accuse.

Poppy’s arms drop and wave dramatically as she cries, “We were pixlings then! We’re teens now, Rosalie! Do you really think hotties like Tin and Mustard will want to court a pixie that prefers a pile of leaves to fine silks?”

I want to be mad at her for being so shallow, but I know how important the idea of courtship is to her. I just don’t feel the same way. Sure, I’d like to find a mate, but it won’t ruin my life if I don’t. Lots of pixies go through life solo. And secretly, I fancy the idea of living life within nature’s warm grasp.

“Poppy, I love nature. I love to touch it, breathe it, taste it. And

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