Last year, this story was published in The Enchanted Conversation, a part of Fairytale Magazine. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that the publication has vanished. So, now rather than let my fairytale wander lost in cyberspace, I’m sharing it here.
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The sky fell in love. The sky fell in love all the time. It was so big after all, and there was so much to see. When the sky fell in love it shaped clouds into hearts or whatever it imagined the objection of its affection wanted—though rarely were these gestures noticed.
The sky fell in love with men and women. Sometimes it fell in love with a tree or a swath of green. The sky knew little difference between the inanimate and the breathing. Some things moved about, yes, and some things stayed forever in one place, but the sky was unable to appreciate movement other than the turn of the earth, which the sky took for granted.
The sky had a thing for beauty.
The sky gave its loved ones gifts—a rainstorm at midnight, a breeze over a lake, or a snowfall at dawn.
Always the sky lost at love. The love was never returned and eventually the loved one died. The man or the woman aged. The tree aged too although more slowly and often disappeared, cut down and carried away. Green turned to sand or was plowed away. The sky wanted to reach down and save them, to stop the blade and the decay. But though the sky moved through the universe, it couldn’t stop fate.
Isobel Moran liked to lie down at the top of the hill and stare at the sky. She loved the birds and the clouds, and she’d drift off to sleep watching them.
One afternoon she woke up with the sense that someone was watching her. No one was around as far as she could see, and she got up, picked up her sandals and headed home. The feeling didn’t leave her. A soft rain began, and she enjoyed the cool wet on her face and her bare arms. She stopped, still barefoot, and tilted her face to the sky. The rain coated her hair and ran down her neck. She felt inexplicably happy. “Thank you, sky!” she shouted and then laughed at her foolishness.
The rain stopped and Isobel continued on her way. “Never walk pass the graveyard without your shoes on,” her mother said. “You don’t know the consequences of walking on the dead.”
“I’m not walking on their graves, mother,” Isobel had replied.
“And why should you think the dead stay in their graves?”
But Isobel knew more than her mother dreamed of. She knew that if she walked through the graveyard with her feet bare and her heart filled with desire she could talk to the dead. And Isobel Moran had her heart fixed on a young man who’d died before she was born.
The grass was wet but drying quickly in the warmth of the sun. At the cemetery gates she glanced back up at the sky now clear without a hint of the rain. Her dress was already dry and if not for the bit of moisture on the back of her neck under the spill of her hair, she’d have forgotten all about the rain.
Her mother didn’t suspect a thing, for her mother believed there was no trouble in the graveyard in the light of day. Her mother thought the dead couldn’t bear the sunlight and the waking world.
But the ghosts loved the sun as much as the living. The sun burned right through them, warming them inside in a way nothing in the dead world could.
Christian Fairfield waited near his grave. The others were jealous of his good fortune. The newer dead, who had no one visit or believing, and the one’s who had yet to make peace with not being seen, all watched the young woman approach. A few though were not jealous but sad. They’d seen a lot in their years on that side of life, and they saw failure from the point it began.
Christian and Isobel walked side by side to the churchyard nearby. Anyone who happened by would see only Isobel, and they would sigh. She always was a little strange, talking to herself where everyone can see.
“When you look at the sky,” Isobel asked Christian, “what do you see?”
“Blue, sweetheart. Did you think I could glimpse heaven? I am no saint.”
She shook her head. “It was the strangest thing today. I felt as if the sky was watching me as much as I was watching it.
He looked up. To her he was almost solid, an opaque form. The church loomed behind him as if in a fog. “Being dead, I’m afraid, hasn’t given me a greater knowledge of the universe.”
“I have to be home soon or my mother will come look for me.”
“Then we shall have to hurry…but not too much.”
Isobel laughed, and followed him into the dark places in the woods where the sky couldn’t see.
Christian had learned with a mix of passion and will and the help of the magic scattered around the graves to be real for a little bit of time each day. A few of his fellow dead could do the same if they cared enough to haunt the places of the living. And the effort took so much energy that it wasn’t unusual for the dead spirit to burst apart into the air and vanish for a few hours or even days.
When Christian was gone, Isobel picked herself up off the ground and brushed the dirt and grass from her skirt. Perhaps, she thought, he would back to himself by tomorrow, and she slipped on her shoes to walk home.
The sky had seen lovers before, lovers of all kinds, but it was rare for the sky to care. But this time it was Isobel Moran and the sky was in love.
Jealousy as big as the sky is an awesome thing, and the sky felt betrayed. All that blue and caressing rain dismissed and forgotten for a moment in the dirt, and the sky did hate the dirt more than it ever hated anything. The sky worked itself up into a storm. Here was the enormity of the sky wrapped around the world, and the girl chose a wisp of a man who couldn’t even feel the air in his lungs.
Black clouds rolled and thunder banged along the earth. Isobel looked up at the sky and remembered the gentle rain from earlier. “So unpredictable you,” she said, and quickened her pace.
The sky had never been good at containing its emotions—why should it be when it was greater than everything else living? And the sky felt its rage at every loss it had felt over its long life. It would be alive when Isobel Moran was an old woman. The sky would remember her forever, and while she could turn away from the blue and the weather and shut herself inside, the sky could never look the other way. The sky was always looking no matter what it didn’t wish to see.
Isobel was very close to home now, but the rain came down in a pour and the wind whipped at her as if trying to tear her feet from under her. She held up a hand as if her fingers could block storms.
It was unfair to be trapped above the world, thought the sky, throwing its thunder and lightning. The sky pressed in on the earth in an effort to feel something, and it did. The sky felt the usual turning of the planet, turning like it always did, never speeding up, never slowing down, never considering what, for once, the sky might need or want.
Within sight of her home, Isobel fell. The pavement cut her knee. She couldn’t see the blood for the rain washed the blood away faster than the blood could flow. The wind swallowed her voice. “Damn you,” she shouted at the sky.
In its fury the sky threw itself at the earth. It pressed and pressed itself again and again. The sky didn’t see any of the animals or other people cowering and praying for to be saved. Only the dead were not bothered, tucked away in their graves or letting the water go through them. A few of the dead suspected more would be added to their number. A storm like this always did damage after all.
Isobel felt pinned to the ground, the sky loosening itself around her. Thunder shook the ground, and she resolved to get to her feet and make it home. “I shall hate the rain forever,” she said, pushing herself up. And she looked for one last time at the sky.
The sky shuddered, threw one last bolt of lightning, and Isobel Moran fell, burned from the inside out.
Her funeral was lovely, but Isobel paid it no mind. She and Christian embraced, their figures like morning mist. “I didn’t expect you to join me for many years to come,” he said.
The ghost of Isobel Moran smiled. “Maybe the sky saw our love. Maybe the sky wanted us to be together.”
“I didn’t want you to die on my behalf, my love, but I shall be forever grateful to the sky.”
“So shall I,” Isobel replied.
And the lovers leaned into one another, never again feeling the fall of the rain or the warmth of the sun. It didn’t take long for them both to forget about such things as the sky.
Thank you for reading!