On a Starry Night
An Excerpt from Misty Creek, a novel
By John W. Vander Velden
Later, much later, she awoke in the dark, in a strange room, in a strange place, deep in a strange land. Elizabeth drew the chair to an open window. There she sat looking out into the night. Even now Elizabeth could feel the slight touch of the breeze against her skin, the wind that seemed never to cease. On that breeze came the sounds of the night. The sounds of creatures near and far, creatures she had never heard before. Odd short hoots, an owl of some sort she felt certain. A distant wolf like howl similar to what she had heard earlier set the dogs of the community off to barking. Insect’s sounds, crickets and katydids, filled her ears. And above it all was the sky, a cloudless sky, simply ablaze with countless points of light. Those lights were more than stars, more than any stars she had ever witnessed. Looking upward took her breath away and caused a tremble deep within. She understood, at least a little, of what the pastor had said. And seeing those stars in that canvas of black, Elizabeth found she could not look away for several minutes.
Elizabeth sat there her mind flooded with so many thoughts. She drew a breath as she considered just how far from home she had wandered. She went back to nights years ago, her mother brushing out the tangles in her hair. A time when many thought she would never become a lady. Those days she could wrestle Mitchel Dogerty to submission. But she had not been a child for a long time, and though she had not lived all those years in her parent’s house on Elm Street, having taught for three years in the small Ohio town of London, the ache of homesickness filled her. Closing her eyes a moment she could almost smell breakfast’s bacon greeting her with the sun as it slipped through the white curtains of her yellow bedroom. The sight of her father in his paper. The smell of coffee mixed with his aftershave when she greeted him each morning. How far away she felt. But far away was what she had wanted. Something alien to the world that had always been her life. Now as she opened her eyes to the diamond sparkled sky, she wondered if she had entered a world too different. Elizabeth swallowed as she looked across the open prairie. Sitting there allowing the gentle breeze to pass her cheeks and move an errant strand of hair, the thoughts of home seemed to be pushed aside by the children she had met here on the boundary of humanity. There was something familiar in them, something that all children seemed to have in common. She smiled at the thought and sat by the window until the drowsiness came. Softly it came. It came with a calmness she had not felt, not felt in a very long time. A smile formed on her tired lips, and in the dark, the weary teacher made her way to the bed, and in it found sleep waiting.