Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2021 finalist Risha Jadhav! Risha wrote this when she was in 6th grade. Her story is called “Twinkle, Twinkle.” Enjoy!
By Risha Jadhav
Inspired by ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star’
Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are
The man puffed and huffed, stumbling over his feet. He hauled a bag full of papers fluttering in the wind. At the top of the grassy green hill stood a shiny, silvery new telescope. It had taken so much saving to buy it. The man grinned and dropped his bag. He adjusted his glasses and moved the telescope, peering through. It had been years since he started searching for it. Everyone thought he had gone mad, but he knew in his heart that it must exist. It had to. He had almost driven himself mad looking for it. The telescope desperately searched the starry clear skies, before focusing on one particular spot. The man gasped, freezing. His colleagues definitely wouldn’t be laughing at him now.
An especially bright spot blazed across the night sky, suspiciously close. The man’s eyebrows furrowed and squinted. Removing himself from the telescope, he gazed at the spot in wonder. The spot flew across the sky, seemingly coming closer and closer, and then BOOM! The impact snapped the man from his trance. He looked beyond the hill, into a dark forest. A light pulsed from the darkness and smoke drifted up. The man gawked, then broke into a sprint, abandoning the papers and telescope. He knew it! No one should ever have doubted him.
The man reached the crater. The glowing light created sharp shadows that cast a mysterious ambiance. In the center of the rocky crater lay the source of the glow. A five-pointed, slightly rounded yellow star. And most shockingly were small black eyes and tiny upturned mouth. The man fainted.
The man woke up to a harsh, hot sensation on his face. He shot up like a rocket, slamming his forehead against a shockingly warm thing. In front of him stood the little yellow anomaly in all of its strange glory. He was still outside and the side of him facing the star was crispy warm and the side away drenched in cold. The yellow star chirped happily. The man stared. Half of him was screaming in excitement and wonder, yelling at him to show everyone. He could practically see their stunned expressions now! The other part of him was shell-shocked, positive he was dreaming. There was no way this could be possible. The practical side told him to just take the star to his lab to find some solid answers, but for some reason, the man didn’t want to do that. He felt special, proud that he had been the one to find it and maybe he just wanted to savor the feeling of being the only one in the world knowing of such an amazing discovery. Then afterward he could bask in the glory of his colleagues congratulating him, finally accepting him.
The star chirped again to snap him out of his daydreams. He thought for a minute, then said, “Are you hungry? Nod if you can understand me.” The star looked slightly puzzled at first, tilting its head, then nodding furiously.
“Woah, okay. Can you speak? Shake your head if the answer is no, and nod if it’s yes,” he said.
The star shook its head.
“Alright, we can work with that. What do you eat?” The man handed a paper and pen to the seemingly intelligent creature.
It looked at him expectantly.
“Draw what you eat,” he instructed.
The creature paused, then drew a dark puddle.
“Well, what’s that supposed to be?” the man said, irritated but also intrigued. “How about this: let’s go to a store and you pick what you want.”
The star looked confused, and the man just picked it up, dressed it in a hoodie, sunglasses, and hat, stuck it in a stroller and headed out. The star tried to peek out, but the man just shut the stroller’s head shade down. They arrived at a retail store, and the man strolled inside.
“Holler if want something,” the man said.
The star nodded seriously, making sure to remember the instructions.
The man strolled past the produce section, through the dairy aisles, into the freezers, and back around into the canned section, carefully naming each product. Every time, the star tried to escape from the stroller. Every time, the man would have to chase it. He got a lot of stares. Finally, when he had shown the whole food part of the store, he looked at the star in disbelief.
“What do you actually eat? Do you even eat?”
Just then, they were walking past some motor oil. The star hollered. The man yelped as everyone’s eyes swiveled to him. The man speed walked away, desperate to get away from the stares.
“I didn’t mean to actually yell! Just, next time let me know quietly!” then the man paused. “Wait, you want to eat motor oil?” he said incredulously.
The star blinked at him innocently, nodding.
The man trudged out of the store with a stroller and some motor oil, plus aspirin, wondering if they had motor oil in space.
Time passed and the man and the star got close. They were actually very similar in some ways and very different in others. The star followed him in his backpack almost everywhere. The man must’ve been the happiest he’d ever been. He took a leave of absence from his job, enjoying a couple of weeks of peace, well, as much as he could have with an alien star thing. The star made him feel wanted and needed. He felt special. The man didn’t usually feel special or wanted. The star was something out of a dream for him.
The holidays approached, and for the first time in a while, the man left his house with the star in tow to enjoy the light shows and free hot chocolate. They wandered around the merry town square together. The man didn’t even feel self-conscious around all the people – he was having too much fun to care. His face softened, staring at the star’s eyes glimmering in awe of the beautiful lights. It chirped excitedly and he offered it some hot chocolate. It turned away immediately, and the man chuckled. After seeing all the festivities, they meandered back to the grand Christmas tree in the middle of the now empty square. The sky was deep black, and the air was chilly.
“Well, shall we head home?” the man inquired, and when he was met with no response, he turned to look for the star. “Hello? Where–”
The star had wiggled its way out of the man’s bag. It gazed wistfully at the top of the Christmas tree, where a brilliant sparkling star sat daintily. The star tried to hop up the tree and it made whimpering noises that broke the man’s heart. The Christmas topper sat cold and plastic as the star tried in vain to get it. Its stare held so much longing that the man understood.
“Oh,” he said softly. “This is not your home. I forgot.” He hadn’t noticed before, the sadness in the star’s obsidian orbs when they star-gazed together, or how it jumped frantically, in futile effort to soar back to its place in the sky.
The star had been happy at first. A new adventure, a new friend! But then it missed being in the sky and it felt lonely without its constellation, its family. The man was torn. In the end, he chose the star’s happiness. As sad as it made him, he knew that he and the star were of two different worlds. So, he pledged to help the star get back home. After weeks of painstaking calculations, he had finished building the small gunpowder-based rocket that would shoot the creature into his place in the stars. A couple of days before he was supposed to launch the rocket though, his leave ended and he had to go back to work.
Work wasn’t a great place for the man. His colleagues ridiculed him and the fact that he was something of a social recluse didn’t help. When he first got the job, they didn’t think he was qualified. He had a hard time adjusting. Then he saw a curious little star one day in the sky, and he tried to track it ever since. He knew something was special about it, but when his colleagues heard, they thought he was crazy. His manager was a little kinder, and she gave him some room to chase his side project. He was desperate to prove himself, and he finally found what he had been looking for! But it turned out he didn’t want to tell them about the star anyway.
But when the man went back to work, he just couldn’t stand the snide comments anymore, not when he knew they were lies. So, he burst out in a fit of anger and told them all about the little star who could understand speech but not talk and ate motor oil and wanted to go home because he was lonely.
There was a long silence. “Has he been drinking?” someone whispered.
That did it. The man threw caution to the wind, racing home in his beat-down car. He grabbed the star roughly, ignoring when it chirped inquisitively, and drove back furiously. It seemed hopeful, like it though it was time to go back into the sky.
“It’ll be okay,” the man told it. “You’ll see.”
The star looked confused. It sounded more like he was reassuring himself.
The man walked into the building, huffing and puffing. He hauled a bag which held the star creature. He opened the office doors and set the bag down. The man grinned. He had waited so long for this! The workers gawked, just as he had when he first saw the star. Gasps of excitement, incredulity, and wonder filled the room.
“We have to take it to the lab,” one said.
“Yes! This is an amazing discovery.”
More and more similar phrases suggesting the star be taken for experimentation filled the room. People congratulated him left and right. The star shrunk in its place, slightly anxious. The man felt a bit of hesitation, but he reassured himself it was for the greater good of science. He was desperate to fit in, to be the center of attention and be appreciated, just once. And with that last thought, he let the others carry the shivering star away, who looked at him as if begging him to save it. The man looked the other way, repeating the words ‘it’ll be okay’ in his head. The funny thing was that he didn’t feel appreciated or celebrated. He just felt hopeless and ashamed.
A couple of days passed, and the guilt lingered in the man’s stomach. He tried to ignore it the best he could. One day on the news there was a story of a kid whose parents had given her away to very bad people. In the program, she said, “I can’t believe that people who I actually trusted, people who were tasked with my safety, just gave me away when they knew in their hearts bad things were going to happen to me.” This struck a chord in the man’s heart. He couldn’t stand the guilt anymore.
The man drove to the laboratory the star was kept in the day they planned to launch. He ran inside, huffing and puffing. He hauled a bag that was empty, for the star. He scrambled to the doors of the lab, tiptoeing around the corner. He saw the cage the star was being kept in, but he did not grin. A pang raced through the man’s heart. The star was bandaged and bruised. It did not look cheerful or happy or curious. It looked utterly and completely hopeless and submerged in sadness. When the star saw the man, its face did not light up. If possible, it only seemed to get sadder.
“It’s okay, I’m going to get you out of here.”
He opened the cage and got out of the building with the star as fast as he could. Someone saw him, and now people chased after him, yelling faintly. He sprinted into the dark forest, stumbling until he found the crater. The rocket was set up there, all ready. The man strapped the surprised star into the seat, fastening it in. Tears ran down the man’s face. Just before he lit the fuse, he felt the star’s warmth on his wet cheek. In its eyes were a million things that remained unsaid, a million things that couldn’t be communicated through words. The man lit the fuse, backing up rapidly. And with that, the rocket was off.
The man puffed and huffed, stumbling over his feet. He hauled a bag full of papers fluttering in the wind. At the top of the grassy green hill stood a rusty, gray old telescope. It had taken so much saving to buy it. The man grinned and dropped his bag. He adjusted his glasses and moved the telescope, peering through. The telescope searched the sky until it focused on one spot in particular. An especially bright spot seemed to twinkle and dance, as if saying hello.
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the sky
Twinkle, twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are
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