Okay, Colleen, you get your wish. Hereʼs more from Stars in Heaven…
If the spines could slice your skin “like butter, kidboy, just like,” then the powder of their making flayed your lungs like a living fire.
Picking stars, however, was beautiful. Each star was a genuine gob of pure light, ecstatic color. The blossom of the unique, glasslike gorgeous plant which glorified and plagued their lives. Quintessence of pain. The light was fragile, and plucking each from the shaggy glassware stem was delicate and focused work lest you burst that frail, diaphanous bursting beauty. Utter care and concentration extended your extraordinarily clumsy, engauntleted paw to gently caress the almost insubstantial effulgence, finger its dainty base beneath the warmth fluttering within your palm, and pressing barely upon that point alone, extract the star.
If you were good, you had light’s pure beauty cradled in your gentle grip, ready to place in your collection bag among the others. Less skill and less care, and you had a ruptured star blasting brilliance and oily illuminate and ooze all over yourself, or worse, the powder of the stem crushed and blowing, feathery light, all around—dust of a substance too dangerously edgy to breathe. Thus the respirator.
You stirred up dust with every movement, the starstalks were so thick and so fragile this time of year, all of the energy of the things going into the stars themselves. But dust was as sharp and as deadly as the edges of the stems. One breath and you were bleeding to death inside. Aunt Agatha had gone that way.
He’d been little, just two or three, but he remembered vividly. She’d been hot at the far end of the field and thought she was far enough from the starstems themselves for just one breath of fresh air. She was wrong. She had died, coughing blood, over a long and savage week, and nobody could save her; she’d shredded her lungs. Jism, who’d ever been sour, Daniel asserted, turned nasty and vicious once she was gone. In his own way another victim of the stardust.
Hell. What he had always taken for beauty in his heart, he knew in his head was suffering and death. So he had been told by everyone he knew, so now he told himself from his own experience. The stars were lovely, but the stars would kill you if you gave them any chance, no matter how small.
Stars were life, and stars were death, as evenhanded as the stars in heaven themselves. That’s what he had heard everyone repeat since before he could understand what they had been saying. The stars were life, and the stars were death. The same as the stars in heaven themselves. Just as lovely and just as horrible.
But the horrors of the starfield when you were working were little or nothing, he believed that he now realized, to the miseries of the road. These many weeks, interminable day after day, always walking—almost running after the first fortnight.
In case I made you doubtful, the Pleiades are often called the Seven Sisters (and this is the seventh installment of Stars in Heaven). This section is short because from here it goes into quite different material, as the Boy recollects their journey on the road to sell their stars.