Talking to Fireflies

One warm summer afternoon, Astrid took a walk in the fields. She was a petite girl of nine and could easily sneak through hedges and broken fences. She roamed everywhere. Most of all, she liked the wild meadows and the strips of untended vegetation that separated the fields of crops because they harbored a miniature world that didn’t exist in her parents’ cultivated garden.

That afternoon, she headed over an overgrown path to the abandoned fields south of her house. Astrid heard steps ahead. Nobody ever used this path. so she froze. The steps drew closer until from around the bend emerged a short, squat girl with a round belly and a mane of flaming red hair. The girl was not much older than Astrid.

“Hello there!” a relieved Astrid said when the girl came close enough.

The girl didn’t reply.

“Are you lost?”

The red-haired girl said nothing.

Astrid attempted to approach the girl, but for each step forward that Astrid took, the girl retreated by two. Astrid’s relief grew into alarm. In the end, she turned around and walked quickly home checking if the girl was following. She wasn’t.

From then on, whenever Astrid took a walk, the red-haired girl appeared and watched her silently from a small distance. She never approached, nor spoke, and always wore the same clothes.

One evening, Astrid told her parents about the girl and asked if they might know where she lived. Her parents didn’t know, and when Astrid described the girl’s strange behavior, her mother said that perhaps the girl was only shy. Astrid didn’t think so but said nothing more.

“Who are you?” yelled Astrid to the girl one afternoon as she once again appeared out of nowhere. “What do you want? You’re scaring me!”

The red-haired girl began to retreat with a pained expression.

“I’m sorry!” Astrid said and ran after her. “I didn’t mean to be rude. Come back!”

But the other girl continued to back away. She hardly took any steps, yet she retreated so fast that Astrid had to break into a run. Astrid followed the strange girl path after path and field after field until they reached the edge of the forest.

“Stop! I’m not allowed to go in there!” Astrid yelled. She halted, unwilling to disobey her parents.

The other girl entered the first row of trees and stopped.

“You shouldn’t go in there either,” Astrid said. “It’s easy to get lost in the woods. I’m going home now.”

The girl shook her head vigorously. Uncertain, Astrid took a few steps forward. The girl backed away. When Astrid went a few steps back, the girl protested silently. In the end, Astrid sat down bewildered. The red-haired girl remained motionless and upright as if waiting for something.

Bright afternoon turned into purple dusk. Behind the red-haired girl, the shadows gathered thick and deep among the trees. Each time Astrid tried to go home, the girl shook her head in a commanding manner that suffered no refusal. As the sun was setting, Astrid hugged her knees and watched the tiny hairs covering her skin rise in the cooler air.

A faint glow attracted Astrid’s attention. Amidst the gathering gloom, the red-haired girl had begun to emanate a soft, yellow light. Some of it came from her face and limbs, but most of it from her round belly. It grew stronger and stronger the fainter the sunlight.

Astrid watched enraptured. The glowing girl smiled and opened her mouth, but instead of words, a soft, persistent hum carried in the air all around. One by one, tiny blinking lights lit up everywhere. A cloud of glowing fireflies swarmed toward Astrid from all directions, answering the light and hum of their queen. Some landed on Astrid’s body and covered her in light, but most buzzed about, blinking on and off and creating a mosaic of yellow light and hum.

Astrid watched the moving lights with wonder until they all blended in one glorious wave of luminescence that enveloped her whole and cut her off from the rest of the world. All about her, darkness might have fallen inevitable and still, but that night, Astrid lived in the light.

The next morning, a policeman found Astrid fast asleep by the edge of the forest. She was covered in dry leaves that had protected her from the cool of night. When the policeman asked Astrid what had happened, she found it easier to say that she had gotten lost. She didn’t know how to explain to him, or later to her parents, that a swarm of beautiful light had whispered all around her in a collective humming voice,

“For you who loves all things small.”

4 comments

  1. A really gripping story. When I first started reading it, I will admit, I found Astrid a little insipid but became hooked the moment the ‘red haired girl’ appeared. I honestly had a very dark impression of the mystery child at first, and shared in Astrid’s uneasiness as her encounters with the girl intensified. I really dreaded the moment Astrid chose to pursue her, and was almost certain things could only end badly. That would have been the predictable route though, and it was far more rewarding to discover that the red haired girl was not, in fact, a malevolent entity. A very nice twist, which actually lifted my spirits at the end. Fantastic story, and I’ll definitely look out for future works here.

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    • Hello Andrew. This is a little bit strange, because I’m sure that I replied to your lovely comment. I don’t see my reply here, so something must have gone wrong. It’s been a while since you read my story, but let me (once again) thank you for your supportive words and for letting me know how reading “Talking to Fireflies” made you feel. This is valuable “intel” (wink), so I’m grateful you shared!

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  2. I randomly found you and your website through nanowrimo, and have to say that I’m very pleased that I did! This was a very nice story. I loved: ‘Amidst the gathering gloom, the red-haired girl had begun to emanate a soft, yellow light.’
    And I got goosebumps when you wrote: ‘The glowing girl smiled and opened her moth, but instead of words, a soft persistent hum carried in the air all around.’
    Very interested in the novel you’re working on if it’s along the same lines or within the same sort of genre, and looking forward to hopefully reading it when it’s done and published! X

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    • Hello Alberte! Thank you for your kind words. I’m really pleased that you had a good time reading “Talking to Fireflies”. After all, making readers happy is a writer’s most important task. The book I’m working on now is a fantasy novel, and I believe that in some aspects it comes close to “Talking to Fireflies” in tone and style. I hope that one day (not too far off) I will have the pleasure of making you a happy reader once again.

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