A page of my life.
Fireflies are like little astronauts, glimmering in and out of existence.
Glimmer was my favorite word and world in Spyro 2.
Spyro 3 was where Midnight Mountain was, that one world we never beat. I fell asleep that afternoon on her bed, controller still in my hand.
I woke up to the smell of maraschino cherries and strawberry ice cream, sunset peeking through the slats of the old vanilla venetian blinds. The lights splashed around on the wall opposite, turning the silkscreen closet door a brilliant vermillion. Silence swept across the room, and wishes against it were quenched with the buzz of a television on the far wall, playing old Spyro music. Everything was left where it was, right on a platform in Midnight Mountain.
Her footsteps filled the room, echoing gently along the floor. She stood in the doorway and blinked slowly, eyes half opened with the slivers of her irises dull, but awake. When she spoke, it was crystal clear: "Fireflies are out. You hear 'em?" She turned towards the window and gazed outside. I closed my eyes and held my breath, and I heard them. Tiny beats, wings of emerald film and air weaving in and out of time itself. They were faint, whispers of whispers, but I heard them.
"Yeah, they're all there. You ready?" I rose from the bed with a magician's flourish, and she came to meet me with a dancer's glide.
I shed my satin cocoon and zipped on my cotton skins, strolling outside with an aluminum bat in tow. She took the wooden one and twirled it in her hands, letting the leather and grains slide across her fingers with the momentum. I gripped the worn plush protector and let it seep through my fingers, anchoring the bat in my hands.
We traipsed along the garden until our sights came on our prey; a sudden flash, and a dimensional traveler flickered into view. His telltale emerald neon streaked through the air, and then vanished; we rushed to the coordinates and scanned the horizon for a second glimmernaut. A spark near my toes, and he came into existence without a moment's notice. I thought without thinking, and my bat snapped into action; with an adroit flick of my wrists, the spark flared, burst, and sprayed across the cosmic plane in a fluorescent fashion, ending its trail on the tip of my blade.
"Goodbye, starman." she whispered, then a supreme crack rocketed through the air, and she held her bat up high; a constellation lay across it like a tattoo, staining into the wood and soaking the grains in its ephemeral glow.
Nine hundred and ninety nine nights later, the bloodbath ended. The starry skies lay wrapped around our bats like ribbons, and the air smelled of flowers. Scattered along the grass were the bodies of the fallen explorers, bleeding their burning bellies out. The bright twilit solar lamps littering the lush expanse shimmered awake and drenched the floors in their embered glow, calling the night in; the light drowned out the emerald, and anchored the darkness to the walls and floors as shadows. Our blunt blades blazed intensely, feverishly soaking up the last of the sun and shine to keep the warmth imbued in them.
The viridian heroes didn't appear again for seven days.
Horizons were lit as stars rose and fell, actors on the stage.
I woke up to the smell of burnt chocolate and crisp mango rinds. Sunlight ricocheted on the edges of the closed vanilla venetian blinds, leaving the room dripping with darkness, but balmy. In the black, footsteps came.
"They're back. You feel like going?" The words slid across the walls, spelling out sentences that spelled out thoughts. In the deep of my mind, I pulled together myself and cracked my jaw open to answer.
"I feel like I slaughtered them and the rest of the race. I don't think there's much more we could do to them." My heart skipped a beat, pulling lies from truth, from experience. Even the blood between burned a little brighter. In the corner, The old Spyro music stopped up right where it was, on a platform in Midnight Mountain.
"There is. Have you ever held a match to one? Pretty little pop, like popcorn. Pop." Little red-head sticks sprouted from her fingers like the sun at dawn. A slash across the starter strip brought fire, sweet fire. The flare called out in a low roar, appealing to instincts I never had out loud. It grew louder and stronger, burning everything around me until a gentle gale took it all away. Her lips drew the match in and engulfed it, the sizzle whispering 'thank you'. Something inside wanted to be out, out of my body, out the door, outside. I obeyed.
The shimmering bat hung low in my hands, heavy with blood lust and spirit chains anchoring it to a hell where only glimmernauts go. My hands wrapped around it, the fingers bound by a shameful weight. A gentle chord rang out, and a Gibson whipped into existence right before me. "I'm taking my dad's guitar this time. He doesn't ever play it anymore."
"He can't play it anymore, anyway. He's dead."
"He never played any, anyway. I never heard it." Her feet went in time with the words; I was the reverberation.
We had gone through a portal in time. The night we last had together was here again, a festival neither could forget. Samurai with our swords, we blazed a trail. Hours later, stars littered the fields to mirror the akashic; her Gibson stained and bloodied. Across the strings lay the lives of the fallen glimmernauts, her fingers flew around them and streaked the cords clean. "Please, don't let it stain these, dad's gonna kill me."
"I thought you didn't care if it got dirty. You said he never played it for you."
"He plays it for mom." She scrubbed furiously, almost as if it would never be clean.
"He's dead, so he can't play it anymore."
"He'll come back."
The otherworldly adventurers got wise, and never came back.
The matches stood stoic and silent, patient to the end.
I woke up to the smell of blooming apples and lush caramel, sunlight lounging behind the lofty vanilla venetian clouds. The gold light dappled the sides of the room, hiding in shadows what stood in the glow and bringing out things that were too shy to come forward themselves. The world seemed to drift around, as if it was built of mist. A ragged pulsing took my eyes to the door, a heartbeat three times too loud called my mind to her frame pressed against the doorway. Off to the side, old Spyro music played. Midnight Mountain was finished, but we kept it there, on that platform.
"I can't go out this time."
"Are they even out there?" The mist wasn't clearing, the world was swirling. I began to feel lost, in a place that felt like home.
"Yeah. Go look." Out the window and in another world, the emerald streaks shot from edge to edge blinking out morse for a language I didn't understand. The sun still stood high, breaking through the clouds and announcing superiority. The glimmernauts obeyed, flocking to the streams of aubade like moths to flame.
"You can't go out? What happened?"
"Mom got mad because I took out dad's guitar." She slid down and smirked, eyes dull and half tilt.
"Damn. Can't we sneak out, or something?"
"Yeah, I just don't want to. I'm kinda sick of killing all those little fireflies."
"Are we monsters? Smashing starmen left and right, acting like they don't have lives. Are we?"
"I don't know. Do you wanna be?"
"Kinda." I eyed the aluminum bat in the corner, propped plump and content against the glossy Gibson. She strolled over and ran her hand along the old polished neck, plucking string after string. As they echoed deep inside the wooden shell, she sat and pressed herself against it, embracing it lewdly.
"Come on, don't do that. I'm right here, you know." My cheeks burned red, and the sunset couldn't mask them.
"What? You like this, don't you?"
"Me and daddy's guitar, doing bad, bad things."
"What? Are you jealous of Gibson because he gets to touch me there?"
"Stop, or I'm leaving!"
An itch I couldn't touch broke out. With the skill of a mestre, the room dashed backwards as I reached for the corner and took the guitar in my hands. The strings bit into my skin and screeched, scratching my itch and taking me away from the heat and heart. "I don't see what's so cool about this stupid guitar anyway!"
"Put that down!" She ripped it from me and gripped it tight, pressing it against her chest.
"Give me that stupid guitar!" I lunged and almost caught it, fingers scraping the strings.
"STOP!" She swung and sent me reeling down, head dropping to the floor like stones in a river. Time washed over my face as the dark set in, cotton in my ears and pennies on my eyelids.
The black broke and sound poured in like sands in an hourglass, tearing my mind out of my body. I heard things I should never have and saw things I wasn't meant to see as the world came back, booming like african drums.
"My head hurts like shit. What happened?"
"I-I think you fell asleep. Are you okay?"
"I feel really bad. Am I bleeding or something?"
"No, you look fine."
"My head hurts like fuck."
"I'll get some pills."
"No." I pulled myself like a puppeteer and rose to my feet, tottering around the stage with shaky hands on my strings. "No, I just wanna go hunting."
"I can't go out, remember?"
"But we can sneak."
Outside, the moon sat dead center in the sky, watching over the world and smiling down at us. Everything looked whitewashed and antiquated, like an old photo filter that blanked out vibrant colors. The emerald dots lit up again, calling to us.
"I wonder why they keep coming back." I caught sight of one and never let go, linked in the path a seeker and prey follow.
"Maybe they wanna die." She shot across the grass like a lioness, tearing through two glimmernauts like butterfly wings.
"Then we're not monsters? If they wanna die, then we're helping them." I smirked, laughing at lovely logic.
"That makes us heroes." I brought the bat down and blindsided a viridian blink, launching it far across the grasses.
"Heroes aren't supposed to kill." She took her bat and swung it around to face me, blood streaking across my lips.
"Why not? What rule is there?"
"Do you ever see Samurai Jack kill people? No."
"Yes, he does! He kills people all the time!"
"That's just robots. Have you ever seen him kill a person, though? Blood and bones?"
"No, but that's because no one ever asks for it. If they did, he would have to."
Silence across the grasslands rang out victory. I took my bat and threw my shoulders into my swing, busting one in half and splitting the streak across both sides. Just before I burst my bat through another, a dull thud echoed in my skull.
"You're lucky you're not a firefly. I'd have smashed you to bits right then." She threw herself on me and we toppled like towers.
"Shut up, and get off of me." The itch blazed back into place, burning my cheeks and somewhere else I couldn't say aloud.
"What, you don't like this? It's not even Gibson, is it."
"Don't say that. I don't wanna hear about your stupid guitar."
"You don't have to be jealous. There's room for you too."
A quick peck on my cheek set my heart on fire, and nothing would ever put it out.
Even the fireflies started glowing a midnight red, blinking out in blushed shame and shyness.