That Night (Aphelion)

Through the bushes and mist, Aphelion saw something glimmering dimly. The wind tossed her hair and commanded branches to bend and dance aside wildly. It roared and howled, screaming at her to turn back. Turn back to where, Aphelion wondered; she was far from anywhere at all. At least the wind kept her company, however much it chilled her to her core. Her legs ached from walking all day – hopefully whatever was gleaming atop the hill was somewhere she could sleep. The wind kept keening ‘no’ at Aphelion, pleading, and she kept walking.

The light twinkled more as Aphelion approached. Shivering, she tucked her icy hands under her armpits as she came over the crest. Every last bit of warmth melted from her body, leaving goosebumps even on her pattering heart and the taste of hail in her lungs. There was a hunk of radiant ice, like a diamond hewn from the heart of the earth, with drops of water trickling down to a pool at its base and a crystal shard prying its way out the top. It was this that glowed, this amethyst with its pulsing luminescence. Still the wind screamed at Aphelion, calling, singing out in its ghastly voice – but it could do nothing about her curiosity. She’d been wandering for a couple of weeks now, and she relished the discovery of something new. She stepped carefully closer. The deepest parts of the ice had a cerulean tinge and the thinnest sections seemed almost like glass, if glass was made of frost. The part of the gemstone that was still encased appeared the same shade as a ripe mulberry, gradually changing through violet to the pale warmth of lilac at the tips. She didn’t stop to wonder how or why it shone on the still dead of night, nor why the wind would not cease its insistent warnings. The longer Aphelion looked at the amethyst with its pulsing rays and soul-like charm, the louder and fiercer the wind became, but to Aphelion it was only a distant humming.

Cautiously, curiously, Aphelion reached out her hand and ran it up the ice to the gemstone. Her heart tapped against her ribs with the same rhythm as the gentle pulsing and flickering of its glow. There seemed a faint warmth within the crystal, kept in its heart and seeping out the pointed tips. Her hand reached those spikes, and her index finger was pricked as if she’d touched a spindle. The wind fell suddenly silent at the tiny bead of red Aphelion left atop the ice-encased amethyst, and her heart gave a sharp beat that stung.

Goosebumps slid over her shoulders like a shawl. She reached out again after wiping her finger, taking care not to touch the tips, and pulled away in fear at a spark of pain in her fingers. In that moment, the light had become so hot and the eerie gemstone had become so cold that it burnt her – though she wasn’t sure how. Either way, the night took full hold over the hilltop and extinguished the glow, leaving Aphelion standing in the misty dark and her blood boiling in her veins.

“What is this?” Aphelion murmured in shock to the unresponsive wind, before shaking her head and taking a deep breath. She moved a branch away so she could pass, continuing her search for a place to sleep, and when she let it go behind her the leaves crumbled away in her fingertips like dust.