There was something out there. She could feel it.

Krystal tucked the flashlight under her chin and grasped the door knob with both hands. She remembered to pull the knob back hard and turn at the same time to keep the door from sticking. Roscoe followed along at her heels. His brown beagle ears flapped as he scampered down the porch steps. Roscoe was always up for an adventure and in his excitement he leapt up leaving a white scratch down the side of Krystal’s leg. She yelped in surprise, “What’re you up to?” her mama yelled from inside on the couch.

“Nothing, Mama.”

Krystal patted Roscoe’s head. He didn’t mean any harm. She continued down the porch steps, leaving her mama in the haze of cigarette smoke, overflowing ashtrays, and empty dreams. Krystal twisted the flashlight releasing a foggy beam of dim light. She crept around the side of the house avoiding the sharpness of crunchy pinecones in her bare feet and the stumbling hazards of broken bricks scattered from the old well that was collapsing on itself. The dark sky held no moon. A sure night for star gazing — her grandpa would say.

Krystal saw the stars as openings in the sky. Little escape hatches. She found the Big Dipper. That one was easy. Also, it is part of the Great Bear constellation. Her grandpa told her that the stars are hot. Some are as hot as the sun and when they get too hot they fall out of the sky. That’s how Krystal figures the fallen stars left openings in the sky. If she could reach up through the liquid sky, open the hatch, climb through…

A voice came from just in front of the tree line and barely visible against the black woods — a shape changing form like mist. Roscoe pulled his ears back and cocked his head—curious, but ready to defend, emitting a low growl. The dark mist rose hovering above the trees so that Krystal had to look up to see the shape elongate and shift into a giant with a long beard and draped in a glittering black robe. The voice bellowed shaking the trees from above, “What are you searching for?” the voice boomed like summer thunder.

“I’m not searching,” Krystal answered; “I’m star gazing. Aren’t they beautiful?”

The door slammed on the porch. The robed shape dissipated in every direction all at once, “I thought I heard your daddy.” Krystal’s mama had a deep, gruff voice that made Roscoe cower.

“Where is Daddy?” Krystal asked.

Her mama snorted, turned, and a trail of smoke rose up out of her nose toward the sky. The dark mist swooped down toward her mama and Krystal shouted, “STOP THAT!”

“Stop what!” her mama shouted back; “Get in the house anyway! You and your mamby-pambying!”

“I’m star gazin’,” Krystal declared.

“Star gazin’ nothing,” her mama mumbled, smoke escaping her lips.

“Don’t you think they look like little openings in the sky — little escape hatches?”

“Hmph. A star is a star, a moon –a moon. Nothing worth gazin’ at,” her mama scowled.

“I don’t believe that. I believe they’re magic openings,” Krystal crossed her little arms across her chest.

“Well then, launch me up there. I’m about due for some damn magic,” her mama’s mouth released puffs of cigarette smoke with each word. Whoosh! The dark mist swooped from beneath her mama, lifting her off the ground, fast as a rocket, up into the liquid sky.

“Mama?” Krystal squeaked. Out of the corner of her eye, Krystal caught a glimpse of a shower of orange sparks falling from above and mama’s cigarette landed on the dirt path.

P.S. Wright earned a BA from St. Andrews University in Laurinburg, North Carolina. Her short fiction has recently been published by and The RavensPerch. She lives in NC with the usual suspects as well as some fictional characters who inspire her.