“It lies just over the next hill.”
“Thank you,” I’d said, hoisted my backpack over my shoulder and moved off down the road. This was the fourth time I had done so.
It wasn’t that the people had been rude to me, far from it, nor that they’d deliberately caused me distress, they hadn’t, just that no matter how convincing they sounded the village never appeared. Every person knew of what I spoke. Like automatons, each would scratch their head, mull over the best way to arrive at said destination and then simply advise following the road. I had no reason to doubt them, they were local, I was not.
I made up my mind that if I crested the next rise and the village did not appear, I would go back to the last visited, find an inn and take a room. I had walked for far too long, for far too many miles and my patience wore thin.
“I’ll meet you at The Village,” the girl had said.
“What’s its name?” I’d replied.
“That is its name.”
She’d kissed me on the cheek, beaming from ear to ear, and set off up the road; missing her hurt before she’d even left my sight.
We’d met at a youth hostel that bulged with eager young adventurers. I wanted her the moment I saw her, there was just something about her, something ethereal, otherworldly. I’d promised her the moon and stars and she’d believed me. I had, too, at the time. The next day the other travellers had all gone off in one direction, whilst Celestine and I had gone in the other. She’d set off before breakfast saying her parents would be expecting her for dinner, whilst I had remained to stuff my face with a fry up; eggs, bacon, beans and fried bread, I loved a warm meal first thing in the morning.
The problem had come when the so-called Village never appeared and now it was dusk. I stepped onto the brow of the hill the road swept over and looked down into a valley of sparkling silver. The village was there, spectacular, the valley it sat in, more so. It was as though the place existed in a realm of its own, somehow apart from the road behind me, somehow unique. I forgot all about Celestine that very instant, lust and desire set aside in favour of starlight.
When I reached the first house, the rest vanished. I rubbed my eyes, but they did not reappear. Too tired to care and blaming that for the illusion, I knocked on the silvered door. Celestine answered.
“Hello, can I help you?”
“It’s me,” I’d said.
“Me, from the hostel, Richard.”
“I don’t know you.”
“Look this isn’t funny. I’m tired and need somewhere to sleep.”
“Can I come in?”
“But there isn’t anywhere else.”
“No, you’re right, there isn’t.”
With that, she shut the door in my face and no matter how hard I knocked wouldn’t answer it again.
I turned back to the road, which had gone, replaced by stars. The effect was like vertigo, as I swayed in the nothingness. My feet touched the ebony-sprinkled ground, and much to my surprise, it held. I moved off reluctantly, I knew not where. Wherever I looked all was the universe, all was night.
So what happened next?
Nothing. I wandered the stars, nothing more, nothing less. Occasionally, when time allowed, I’d remember Celestine. When I did, I’d hear her groans of contempt in the moonshine and comets, her anger at my preferring their beauty to hers, then I’d wander off again.
So, if ever you should promise a girl the moon and stars, when your true motives are less chivalrous, remember me and Celestine. I got both, but I won’t be getting them again.