Soon, the Stargazer found himself at the door of the Waif’s house. He hesitated for a moment, unsure of what to tell her, before shaking his head and opening the door. She needed him, excuses could wait.
“‘Gazer? it’s a bit late… how are you?” he heard her quiet voice from her bed.
The Waif’s home was much like his own, a simplistic, one-room affair—only situated near the center of the Village instead of right on the outskirts. The Waif herself was still resting in bed, skin clinging tightly to her ever-thin frame, and the sight made him even more guilty—even as it was no surprise.
“It’s a long story. I’ve got your medicine—just need to mash it up. Umm, do you have a pot I could use? And a pestle?”
She rolled her eyes, gesturing to a nearby set of cabinets.
“I’ve got a bowl over there. No pestle, though… you could use a spoon?”
He quickly found a bowl and set the leaves within.
“You didn’t answer my question though, ‘Gazer. How are you? It’s not like you to be late.”
He kept his eyes on his work, using a large wooden soup spoon to mash the medicinal leaves.
“I’m fine. Just got held up a bit, really.”
She watched him with disbelieving eyes, but didn’t comment further as he prepared her medicine.
Soon, he brought over the bowl of green paste, sitting by her bed and spooning a bit out for her.
“So, uh…” She watched him as she ate. “Could I… stay here for a few days?”
She blinked, putting the spoon down and propping herself up a bit higher on the bed. Her mouth opened, and closed, and then opened again. For a few moments, the house was filled with silence.
“…Only if you tell me what’s going on.”
“Alright. It’s just, kind of an unbelievable story. I… actually, why don’t I just show you, once you’re well enough to walk?”
“Yeah. It’s just hard to explain. I dont… really have a house anymore.”
She raised an eyebrow at that, but after a moment of silence, nodded.
“Alright. Just give me an hour or so, I’ll be well enough to stand soon.”
Nearly two hours later, the two arrived on the far outskirts of town, in front of the Stargazer’s ruined home. They weren’t alone, either—while his house was relatively isolated from the rest of the village, the smoke had still drawn people in, eventually. Gathered in a rough circle to the side was the portly form of the Baker, the long, flowing hair of the Seamstress and a hunched over, balding man called the Cobbler.
“Stargazer! What happened here?”
The Baker was the first to notice them, his booming voice carrying easily.
“Oh, lay off it, you oaf!” The seamstresses’ voice was old and raspy, cutting in before the Stargazer could even begin to reply. “The poor man’s house is gone. And you, girl. Are you eating enough? You look even thinner than usual.” The three of them began bustling over, led by the Seamstress. “Now, what happened here?”
The Baker shot her a dirty look.
The Stargazer sighed, rubbing his forehead, and the Waif’s thin arm came to rest on his shoulder in silent support. “It’s a long story. I woke up this morning, and there was this… can, sitting there, at the foot of my bed. Open topped, made of metal smoother than anything I’ve ever seen. But that’s not the really unbelievable part.”
He breathed in deeply.
“You see, that can, it looked like a piece of the sky. It had color.”
The small crowd around him blinked.
“And there was water inside, but viscous, and whatever the water touched gained color too!”
The Baker scoffed. “Gained color? What do you mean gained color? The stars have color. The sky has color. This”—he gestured broadly to the land around them—”doesn’t. Never has, never will.”
The Stargazer raised an eyebrow, and waved a hand at the smoking ruins behind him. Amid the blackened ash, orange embers danced.
The Baker grumbled, arms crossed, but said nothing.
“So, as I was saying, anything I painted gained color. But color wasn’t everything. It… I can’t even describe it. Once something was covered in paint, you couldn’t just see it with your eyes. You could see it with your nose, your ears, your hands.”
At this, the three in front of him grew louder in their grumblings and mumblings, and the Baker looked fit to burst into another protestation.
“Look!” He pointed to the smoldering remains of his house before anyone could interject. “Breath in the smoke, through your nose. You’ll see what I mean.”
Skeptically, the three of them wandered towards the ruins, the Waif detaching from his side to follow them.
“It does… Eugh. That’s so strange.”
The Seamstress scrunched up her nose and shook her head.
“Normal smoke doesn’t do that.”
The Baker grumbled.
“What is this?” The Waif, meanwhile, had stretched her hands out to hover above the smoldering embers, the remaining warmth soaking into her. “It’s pleasant.”
The Stargazer frowned, walking up to join them and doing his best not to breathe in the lingering smoke. “It burned down my house. I wouldn’t call it pleasant.”
The Waif turned to face him, hands still outstretched towards the smoldering remains. “True… but it still feels nice now. And all this.” She gestured to the orange embers, and the few splotches of green just beyond, where he had painted parts of his garden. “It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. I’d wager it’s like nothing anybody has ever seen. We can rebuild your house—but bringing the sky down into our world like this? Do you still have that can?”
The Stargazer’s frown deepened. “It’s somewhere in the wreckage.” He waved a hand to the ashes in front of them. “I’m not inclined to fish it out.”
There was silence in their little group for a moment, no one quite sure what to say.
“I have to agree with the Waif here.” The Cobbler finally spoke up, his voice quiet. While the rest of them spoke in front of the ruins, he had wandered off to the garden, examining the spots of green grass and pink flowers. “This is a one of a kind opportunity.” He pressed his hand against the grass. “I think I would quite like to make something like this. Something… that feels…” He paused, thinking of the softness of the grass, the warmth of the embers, but knowing not the words that embodied those concepts. He had never felt something soft or warm before, after all. “Like all this.”
“And what if your shoes fall apart when you paint them?” the Stargazer responded. “Or burst into flame? Or hurt the person wearing them? My house just started collapsing when I painted the fire in the fireplace. The fire spread, Cobbler! Like a living thing!” He breathed deeply, in and out, calming himself. “We don’t know what will happen when we paint something.”
“That’s true.” The Waif spoke up, this time. “But like I said. We can rebuild, if something goes wrong. If we toss the can away, though? We might never get another opportunity like this again.”
To the Stargazer’s consternation, even the Baker and the Seamstress were nodding along with her.
“I still don’t like this. This paint is dangerous. We can rebuild a house, but what if someone gets hurt? What then?”
They stood in silence for a few moments, none quite knowing how to answer his question.
“…why don’t we get everyone else’s opinion, then?” It was the Seamstress who finally spoke up. “I’ll gather the Village. We can put it to a vote.”
Despite himself, the Stargazer found himself nodding along at her proclamation. It was a solid, fair plan.
“Good. Baker, go fish the can out of this ash, if you please. I’ll be back in a jiffy.”
The Stargazer licked his lips as he stood before the assembled people of the village, holding the mysterious can, the Waif at his side. He had just finished telling them his story, showing them his destroyed home, the embers still glowing. He had told them of how the can was dangerous—now it was the Waif’s turn to speak in its defense.
She took a breath, suddenly seeming unsure of herself. He put a hand on her back as if to steady her.
“You have all seen the damage this can has caused.”
The statement hung in the air.
“But, I would have you now think of the possibilities it brings. You have all seen the colors, as if the sky has touched down upon into our world. You have all seen the new senses it conjures. We have here something special, something we may never get a chance at again. To bring color into our world.”
The people grumbled and mumbled amongst themselves. Smiling faces were in equal number to the frowning ones.
“We have here a chance to touch the skies. I know some of you may be afraid. I know some of you may be worried. But I ask you—should we not at least try? To be something more than what we are? If we fail, then we fail—but if we succeed, we will live in an age of wonder like none we have known before.”
She spoke louder now, her back straighter.
“It is better to reach for the stars and fall, than to live everyday on the ground. That is what I say. I would ask you, all of you, to reach together with me today.”
She fell silent, and the crowd did as well. The Stargazer gave her a pained smile, a mix of pride and sadness warring within him.
The can’s verdict was not decided immediately—in fact, by the time the people had finished talking amongst themselves and the votes were tallied, the moon was nearly out.
The vote was not close, but neither was it unanimous. Of the two hundred something people who lived in the Village, near one hundred fifty advocated bringing color into their world.
The Stargazer and the Waif stood, the can of paint between them.
“So, how do we do this, exactly? Just take the paintbrush and start?” the Waif spoke quietly.
The Stargazer bit his lip.
“I don’t think the can has a bottom. At least, I never ran out, no matter how much I spilled or how much I used. So…”
With a gentle, almost fearful motion, he pushed the can over. Green bloomed across the grass, spreading steadily outwards. It did not slow.
“…I think we just push it over, and see what happens.”
The Waif’s hand slipped into his own, and he gave her an appreciative look. Together, the two of them watched the sunset, as color spread across the world.