Welkin was in trouble.
Not that the Star was unfamiliar with punishment from their own kin. Bestowing a human child to an ailing woman in secret had been bad enough.
But this was different. There would be no redemption this time.
The Star was a prisoner. Their unrelenting need to visit Earth and dabble in the lives of humans had long since been a source of anger and frustration amongst their peers. But this latest trespass had the entire celestial council responsible for Earth in an uproar.
<<It was unthinkable for you to befriend that human girl and grant her an unauthorized wish,>> scolded one incensed Star. <<But to circumvent her daughter’s death? Tensions are high enough among our faithful without your foolhardy meddling.>>
Welkin remained silent. It had only been a matter of time before the council – the Stars responsible for Earth and its place in the greater Plan of the Universe – found out about Emanthy. Welkin didn’t need to exacerbate the situation by admitting that, given the chance, they’d do it all again if they had to.
<<The fallen wishing star and its ill-gotten wishes are still causing problems,>> said another of Welkin’s peers, this one more fretful. <<We’re having a challenging enough time containing the disruptions they’ve caused to the Plan without one of our own creating more. Why would you do something so asinine?>>
<<You wouldn’t understand,>> Welkin replied, unable to hold their opinions close any longer.
The other Stars crackled at Welkin’s defiance. What they said was true – despite their close link to life on Earth, none of them had connected with it the way Welkin had. All these Stars knew was how each living thing fit into the Plan, how the planet’s existence was meant to unfold over a dizzying number of millennia.
While these celestial beings saw the planet’s story as one great tapestry, the minutiae of its creatures were lost on them. They didn’t understand grief. They didn’t understand love.
Yet not every human experience was unfathomable to the Stars. They were all familiar with notions of loyalty and duty. There was a kind of beauty in the order they kept, and Welkin had all but set it all ablaze.
<<We understand your selfishness jeopardized the Plan yet again,>> came the booming reprimand of a Star best described as a leader within the council. They were sympathetic to Welkin’s misguided affinity for life on Earth, but it was no longer prudent to turn a blind eye. <<We serve at the pleasure of the Universe, not our own desires.>>
Rebellious indifference swirled within Welkin, reminding them of Emanthy. The memory of their daughter – the knowledge they would likely never see her again – stung. They imagined this was how Jeremy, Connor, and the rest had felt when they lost Audrey.
If there was one thing the Star had learned, it was the worst part about love was the inevitable pain that came with it. The humans Welkin loved taught them that.
<<What’s it going to be?>> Welkin wanted nothing more than to get the trial over with. <<Will you snuff my light and be done with me once and for all?>>
It was a bold thing to say – to goad a Star into ending another’s existence. But Welkin was tired and haunted by their many mistakes. To be done with it all hardly seemed the worst option.
<<No,>> rumbled the leader. <<We will not take on the burden of relieving you of yours. You have a choice: stay among your kind and never return to Earth again, or fall.>>
If Welkin had need to draw breath, they would have found theirs stolen away.
This ultimatum was worse than being snuffed out.
<<What kind of choice is that?>> Welkin asked.
<<A fair one, given the circumstances,>> the leader replied. <<We hope you’ll choose wisely.>>
Welkin observed their kin. The decision held colossal weight, but the answer came easily.
<<You should know my answer without posing the question,>> they stated.
<<I fell a long time ago.>>