Stars That Sing the Requiem
by Deb Houdek Rule
This is a very personal, though not truly autobiographical, story of the yearning for space and the future for those of us who had been pushed away from it. “Stars That Sing the Requiem” began in 1982 as a concept for a screenplay, a college film school project that had to percolate a few more years before it came together into this short story. This is more of a tale of feelings than events, and has always struck a stronger chord with female editors and readers than male–it’s October Sky for those of us who had for most of our lives been pushed away from the quest for space yet yearned for it as strongly as any of the men. “Stars That Sing the Requiem” was first published in Galactic Citizen, accepted as a reprint to regrettably defunct Keen SF (and spoken of highly by the editor in an interview), published in Millennium, both the webzine and a later ‘best of’ print issue. The editors of Millennium nominated it for a ‘Best of the Web’ anthology, to which it was also accepted. ©1990 D. A Houdek (Deb Houdek Rule)
The long howl of a wolf rose into the icy night air. Beneath the cold gleam of countless stars and the staring white light of the moon, the cry spread over the snow-covered hillside, rising to a wailing crescendo. Along the length of the hillside voice after voice took up the cry, the eerie howls clear and loud in the winter air.
A shivering chill passed up Clara’s spine. Though the night was cold with the bitterness that reaches to the bone, it was the howling of the wolves that made her shiver. Inside their small, rough shelter Clara’s sheep stirred restlessly, a woolly mass huddling together against the sound that rang with terror to their ears.
Clara looked in at the sheep. The moonlight reflected in their eyes, turning the normal dullness of the sheep’s eyes into radiant blue gems. The sheep stared back at her with wordless fear.
From the frightened sheep, Clara turned toward the hillside. She sucked in deeply the freezing air, feeling its burning bite, like life itself, inside of her. Beneath her boots the snow crunched softly, even this small sound distinct among the chorus of howls.
Clara let her gaze drift upward, carried by the wolves’ song. From the stark branches of the frosty trees, her eyes lifted to the stars that filled the darkness. The clarity of the winter night seemed to have increased their numbers beyond any lowly human ability to grasp. She wished she could let her voice rise like the wolves’, a wordless lament of longing and wonder at the spectacle above them.
On the horizon, low above the trees, a single bright red star drew her attention. It was Mars. The vision of that planet, so near yet so unreachably far away, brought a tear of yearning to Clara’s cheek. The tear froze against her face.
As the howls died away, Clara turned to go back to the house where Mother and dinner and all the ordinary earthbound things awaited her. Then one last, lonely cry rose into the night. To the glaring light of the moon, the song was offered up as a remembrance of a darker, primal age, a requiem to the lost past.