Pushing the pen, Takara finished the shadow of the little star. Her forearm was now covered with tiny stars, flowers, and mysterious symbols. In the center of her palm, the full bloom of a single rose. The petals seemed deep and full. It was magic and soon the journey would start.
When she was young her mother taught her the art of shadow walking. She watched Mother’s hands lightly moving over her arm. Decorating with little symbols. So small but so powerful. The rose on her palm was her favorite. A simple flower would do. But why not have fun with it?
Takara smiled softly. Pushing away the memory and focusing on the task at hand. If she messed this up, she’d be in big trouble.
She admired the drawing’s intricacy. Her brow furrowed. Something was missing. She slowly turned and gazed out the open window. A soft breeze wafted across the room with the scent of cherry blossoms. Melodious twitter of bird-song permeated the air. “The bird?,” she wondered, “A sign of flight.” She smiled again.
In minutes, she sketched a small bird. On the back of her thumb, it perched. “That feels right — whole,” she thought. And closed her eyes. Her dark lashes splayed across her smooth face.
Inside her head, a little dream-spin began at first. Then she felt the need to clutch her arms close. The dizzying spin grew stronger. And then she disappeared into shadow walking.
The spinning eased and finally was a slow rotation. Something wasn’t right. Before she even opened her eyes, Takara knew she was in the wrong place. The air was thick and clung to her cloak and skin like a parasite. It was sour, acrid, and dry. Something was wrong. Her eyes fluttered open afraid of what she would see.
She was greeted by a grim landscape of tall black trees, their branches bare, looming over her. Surrounded by flames and smoke. Her hand flew to her face in shock. Her work was perfect how could she have ended up here?! Her mother always told her never ever go to the Shadow Plains, “What went wrong?” she wondered, “My drawing is perfect.”
Frantically, she searched her arm trying to find a flaw, there was nothing — flawless.
And then she noticed her right hand on the fingers she used to hold that little pen — ink. A smudge of black ink ran along the heel of her palm and up the side of her little finger. Ugliness. Unattractive. This flaw sent her into the Shadow Plains. There would be no water here, no sign of life, only death.
She tried rubbing it off. It was dry. She had no liquid to erase it. Spitting in her left hand, she rubbed the right smudge. But doing so, the drawings on her left hand smeared, too.
She realized in a panic she’d left her pen in her room. Trapped in the Shadow Plains, her breathing quickened.
Scanning the terrain, Takara noticed a trickle of liquid. It puddled between two banks of smoldering earth. She crawled through the smoke. Bathing both arms repeatedly in the hot liquid soon all the markings were gone.
With no marks or images, she had no way to navigate home. But she knew she must end up somewhere better. She closed her eyes. The dream-spin of shadow walking began again.
Was she lost forever because of a simple mistake? Or would she find herself in a safe place?
Lunar Day: 29.5
I’ve searched for days for you. Some report you’re in the Shadow Plains. That doesn’t seem possible. Not to me who know you so well. You’re always cautious.
If only I could draw as you do, I’d fly to rescue you. But that isn’t my gift. So I await a message. I fear the range of my interstellar telepathy is only a weak signal.
I’ve worried about your safety. Of course, I’m fearful. I know you’re strong. Perhaps you recall the time you shadow walked to the snowcapped mountain peak. And the thin air caused you to faint. That was a close call. I know you’ll find another smart solution and escape from wherever you are. You aren’t lost to me.
I consulted the pond’s visionary goldfish. They attempted some sort of symbol. But it is meaningless to me. Perhaps this is the drawing you need to return.
I miss you. More than you imagine.
No one’s imagination is as beautiful as yours.
My power wanes with you so far away.