Vienna was twelve and she loved the night.
Especially when there was a moon out, even if it was just a fingernail of it with just enough light to make the night Van Gogh-esque.
A brighter one would have dimmed the light of the stars and her favorite creatures: the sparkle of fireflies on the long blades of grass around the house where she lived, the glow worms on the cliff a ways off and the light-emitting jellyfish on the dark beach within skipping distance of their porch.
The night was her special time and she never needed a torch to make her way to where her friends were waiting, stepping nimbly around the scurrying sand crabs underfoot and calling to those new souls in a voice that you and I might confuse for a breaking wave or the sound of the wind in the nooks and crevices of the distant cliff face.
You heard right. I did say new souls.
For that is what they were—the fireflies, glow worms and bioluminescent marine life—and this was their astral plane or in-between place before they enter heaven.
A new soul’s light was dim, you see, and it needed Vienna’s help to bring up its luminosity to just the right amount of radiance.
Vienna somehow discovered she had the unique ability to store moonlight much like a solar panel collects energy from the sun before turning it into electricity.
She distributes this phosphorescence in bits to the souls that needed them, and stranded souls heard of her viva voce from those that had already crossed over, and came in droves to seek her help.
In the small seaside village where she dwelt, the cliff face, long grasses and sea edge always looked like they were dressed for Christmas or strung with lambent lights.
She rationed it out in small doses—first come, first served—or to children first if she happened to have a mix of various ages.
While they waited to complete their store of just the right amount of luminosity and have Vienna launch them like sky lanterns to become stars in the firmament, her souls did what they did best solely for her enjoyment:
glow worms hang like chandeliers on cave ceilings (where she went to spelunk).
fireflies flitted to and fro like winking diamond studs to light her way in woodpaths she favored.
and the jellyfish released glowing particles into the water to share with smaller marine life, producing a chain of light that I suppose would look something like a rhinestone-studded lace bridal train to a camera drone, if one happened to be flying-by overhead at that very moment.
Vienna ventured farther, on occasion, if the situation called for it. Dispensing part of her supply to the dim lights that hovered just above the marsh or bog, sending them bouncing about in a happy dance.
Even ships that pass in the night—seeking safe harbor before a storm hit—got a share, although Vienna would be the first to admit she had to improve her throw and aim in hurling the balls of light that far across the water.
She had been doing the light thing for years now that she lost track of just how long. But there were nights when she would be so exhausted, she couldn’t even make it back to the house and either slept right there on the beach or on a patch of grass with the fireflies.
Tonight, sleep found her by the water’s edge with the waves lapping at her heels, when she was gently nudged awake.
Standing before her was a glowing being in white robes and great big wings who delivered its message in a high fluting but strong voice:
“Your work is done here, you’ve earned your eternal rest,” and taking her by the hand flew up to heaven with her.
From that time on, the tiny seaside village truly became deserted for Vienna had been the last soul left stranded there.
But if people were to drive through its only leaf-strewn road en route to other places, or stopped to stretch their legs and chanced to look up at the sky—they would see her—the brightest star huddling with the moon—and might say out loud to no one in particular:
“Oh, look – there’s Venus!”
But they would be wrong.
That’s not Venus. Because we know what we know.
It’s Vienna—the fay of glowing lights—gone to her just reward.