Star Merchants

by Rohinton Daruwala


The ones you've heard about
are probably all corporations,
bartering away proto-stars
to tyrants or selling
time-suspended gas clouds
to as-yet-unborn empires.
These are the most visible and mundane
of star merchants.

Journey, if you will, to the outposts
of barely-civilization, and in the
compressed by-lanes of a domed city
you'll find men who are little more
than cloaked whispers, selling stars
in boxes that will power entire
poor planets, with enough light
to fuel each workday, but never
enough for a single sunrise.

Closer to home, look more carefully,
at the old woman selling those
oddly glinting trinkets, who will
take no money, credits or barter,
just a lock of hair or
sometimes a skein of sweat,
and very rarely perhaps a
thimble of piss or blood.
Wear what she gives you
as ring or necklace, pocket it
carefully and reach for it
in the darkest of places when
when you walk the sunless
nightmares of your despair,
and be renewed.

If you use the services
of a magician selling you
a shadow dispeller, remember —
the constant light that keeps
your dark hunter at bay
is tied to the magician's life,
so always pick a magician
younger than you.

The strangest star merchants do not
sell anything at all, they teach.
They appear as all masters do,
when their students are ready,
in dreams or in waking flesh.
If one appears to you,
and you follow their orbit,
you as a star child will
live far fewer lifetimes
than anyone else, a single
billion-yeared incarnation instead of
an eternity of brief appearances.
And the reward for your discipline
and the burning burning burning of
your infinite soul in so short
a space is simply this — 
to hold at once in your arms
the million million delicate shells
of creatures whose lives flicker,
like motes in a sunbeam,
ever so briefly in the warmth
of your love.

###


Rohinton Daruwala lives and works in Pune, India. He writes code for a living, and speculative fiction and poetry in his spare time. He tweets as @wordbandar and blogs at https://wordbandar.wordpress.com/. His work has previously appeared in Strange Horizons, Liminality and Through the Gate.

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