The Starlight Voyageurs
Not many in our human world know of this, except for me, a soul who quite accidentally came upon it one night, and now you, who read this account.
My life had become a life of many years, my childhood had become but fading memories and scattered moments, tucked away in an old cedar box kept in the corner of my room and in the corner of my life.
Years of sameness had brought me to a late November night in the November of my life. The fire in the fireplace had turned the oak logs into but glowing embers, the last moment of life, the last moment of warmth, the last moment of light, before the darkness and the cold returned.
Wrapped in my tartan, wool blanket, I had fallen asleep to comfort of the crackling fire. It was dreamless sleep, the kind that comes when you've grown too tired to dream, when your soul loses touch with the passing of time and becomes lost in timelessness. The autumn cold was now creeping back into my house, the fire having lost its battle with time. Through the windows, the starlight danced in, brighter and brighter as it sailed through the cool, clear air of the Canadian night.
There with the starlight tapping on my eyes, I heard the low chime of our Grandfather's Clock begin its next mark in eternity's endless flow. The call to listen in that Westminster tune led to the chiming. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten. Eleven. Twelve. And then, where the silence should have begun, one more chime came to be. And there in the thirteen o'clock, in the coming together of the ember's last glow and the starlight fire, the realm of the Other World, the world that lives in the thirteenth hour, came to life, not knowing I was still there.
The starlight became stardust and filled the air with the light of a thousand fireflies. Mind you, not the fireflies themselves, but the sparkles they cast in the darkness.
The embers in the fire, they began to glow as if an unseen breath was coaxing them back to life. They became a chuckling fire, not a blazing fire, but more a warming fire than anything else.
I began to waken into this starlight realm. And as I did, I could hear the lid of my childhood memory box begin to open. And before my eyes, my disbelieving eyes, one by one, the five Starlight Voyageurs came forth.
And this is the story of the voyage they took, one night in the thirteenth hour.
They Were My Dearest Friends in the Then of My Life
First, a shaggy gray paw appeared and then a coal black nose, then those royal blue eyes, as the lid first lifted, then slid, and then fell to the floor. It was Baron, my first stuffed bear, crawling over the side of the toy box, holding on to the edge for a moment before letting go to the short drop to the floor.
He surveyed the room and then motioned for the next bear to come forth. Old Smoky, the color of dark chocolate and the growl of an always hungry ... well, bear. I chuckled when Old Smoky didn't quite land on his feet, causing him to roll over and over until he came to rest against the Baron's sturdy legs. Baron shook his head at his clumsy friend, shussing him for making such noise. Though I could hear nothing but the ssshhh itself.
Smoky righted himself and joined Baron in encouraging the next in line to dare try. They seemed to be having trouble getting the next one to come. And then I began to see why.. That dark brown nose on the tip of that blue-green fur gave me my first hint as to who it might be. But it was that timid "I'm-not-sure-if-I-should" look that gave it away for sure. It was Fuzzy. Always reluctant to be the first to try any new adventure, but I knew he would come with the help of Big Brown Griz who gave him a push from behind. In one full head over heels tumble, Fuzzy fell to the floor. And looking down at him from above, smiled the naughty big brother grin of Big Griz.
Griz came down in a very Griz way. With one swing over the edge, he hopped down in a very competent way. Showing off? Possibly, for Griz was known to brag a bit about all that he could do, and sometimes to brag of things that he could do not do. As Smoky was shaggy and dark chocolate, so Griz was smooth and the brown of creamy, hot chocolate.
Then with Griz as the base, and Smoky as the next, Baron on the top reached over the edge of the box and lifted young Grey Bear out of the box, handing the little fellow down from bear to bear paw. I had forgotten how cute, cute could be, until I saw once again baby Grey, who had somehow grown older through the passing o thes years.
There in the twinkle of the starlight and the glow of the golden fire, I watched all my childhood friends, the best friends I ever did have, come to life again, once before my sleepy eyes.
All this took place in the thirteenth hour of a November night in the November of my life.