Fall

By: Keph

Please note, if you haven't seen the movie, this story is a sort of spoiler to the ending! Be warned and therefore happy:)

Long ago things were very different.

Duh, some things were the same-the sky sprawling and glowing across the heavens-the burning sun, the silver moon, the shadows and the light. Good and evil. Some things were the same, but then again, some things never change.

How boring.

And yet, this story starts long ago when two opposites came together-something which had never changed, not a day in his life and a boy who was on the brink of growing up.

Long ago, these two came together and would never realize just how much their meeting would change everything.

The sky was huge that night-as big as the sky always is, save, for Howl, just a boy standing alone in a field of flowers, eyes wide and eager as he watched that sky-it had never been so endless. Perhaps the sky allowed the boy to see how wide and grand she really was because she saw the wonder in his eye, knew that this boy, this little pupil of a wizard had little time before he would look up and just see a sky. Perhaps she saw just the hint of hidden sadness. Or, perhaps she was showing off with the purple between the stars set in place and the sound of little bells ringing soft in the wind as some stars fell into the waiting field. Either way, Howl thought to himself that he had never seen a sky like this before, not in all the years he had been here studying and alone.

He wondered if he just had never looked up.

Maybe he had been trying too hard to be the most skilled and beautiful wizard in the world. Was that so bad?

He smile. "Maybe..." he laughed softly.

The field sang around him, the flowers which should have closed with the evening, still blossomed...It was magic. So much in Howl's life was magic-the flowers, the field, the cottage in which he lived, his studies, his family, his teacher...he shuddered as he thought of her. "Old hag." He said loudly, mouth twisted sour, because he knew that this was the one place she could never listen in because the magic in this place, making it grow, giving him shelter...was freedom, even from her.

Howl sighed.

Leave it to Sulliman to ruin the mood.

A star fell into the nearby lake and Howl watched as its glow suddenly died.

"The most promising pupil, you say? Brilliant?" Howl's uncle said almost a month ago as Howl did what he always did-study alone in the next room. He was so used to this little phrase, he barely registered it-that it, he barely had a chance to smile and silently agree before Sulliman spoke.

"Yes, but he is wasting his time. He'll never be anything more than what he is if he remains in this..." Howl could hear Sulliman's derision in her voice and he rolled his eyes and imagined her looking the place over. Sure it was tiny and dark and covered in dust, but this place was Howl's and he loved it here-alone or no. Sulliman needed to get away from the castle more-that anal, control freak would do good to see life as it really was...Howl suddenly paused, mid-thought, his eye rolled to the side and there, he saw through the doorway to the hall, Sulliman herself, her own eye cast narrow on him, "He must be taken from here, Gammon. Bring him to the palace. He is my pupil. I shall have a room prepared."

"But, Master Sulliman..." Howl's uncle said as Howl spun in his chair, but before he could rise, his body went rigid. Sulliman was smiling at him.

"I have decided, Gammon. I must insist, surely raising a boy through school is quite expensive for you, Gammon, and besides, Howl is no longer a child. He must learn, Gammon, " She turned to him and Howl didn't stop the insults burning bright in his mind, but Sulliman, if she heard them (and surely she did) didn't seem to care-she had the upper hand, after all. Howl was only a child, and for the first time, he hated that fact, "I'll return for him in a month. Don't bother packing anything, Howl, we'd just toss it at the castle...or burn it."

How Howl hated Sulliman-He's turn her breasts saggy, he'd curl her milk, deny sugar to her coffee, make the wheels on her carriage square...If he could. Howl couldn't deny he was the best apprentice in the castle right now, surely, he was more powerful than most wizards and some witches. Of course, he was. Duh. However, Sulliman was simply...more powerful...

The stars were falling faster now, but Howl barely saw them. The sound of bells filled the field.

She had said it was time for him to learn. "Learn what exactly? I've studied astrology, white magic, black magic, summoning. No one can use an astrolabe to divine the future of their children's uncle's dog without mistake five generations in or use a divination stick to find a husband for the ugliest of witches-although I pity their husbands..." He sighed. What else did he have to learn?

That was a simple answer, wasn't it?

Power.

He didn't understand that at all.

Standing alone in this magic field, with the stars falling and flashing all around, there was no reason to understand it...

He would've cursed Sulliman's nails to break (she was really too proud of those) or her foot odor to make a grown man wretch, but suddenly, for no reason he could say, he felt...deflated... He turned his gaze to the sky and the moon nestled there, watching everything as it always done and always would do, "There's nothing to be done, is there?" Howl said, glad there was no one around. He'd never admit how defeated he felt.

But, of course, in truth, he wasn't.

Howl was never defeated.

There was a way.

Give the boy some credit. Being called "Genius", "Brilliant", etc is not such an light thing.

Howl knew a way. He had found it on his own, and he would carry it out without his uncle's knowledge. He knew the old man was tired of him, proud of him, but Howl's antics seemed to ware even the best down…

In fact, that was why he stood in this field on this night and looked up to the sky, a magic circle beneath his feet, an astrolabe laying on its side nearby.

He knew that the stars would fall tonight.

More than that, he knew that they were not stars.

The bells were loud in his ears.

The stars had started falling as soon as the sun had set. The birds, thousands and thousands of birds had flown from the field as they descended, and Howl had watched them, envied them for the first time in his life.

They weren't even very handsome birds.

Were he a birds, he'd be the most marvelous one imaginable.

Of course, should he go to the castle with Sulliman, there would be no chance of such a thing. He would study and he would blow them away with his theories and his spells and the possibilities he saw in his mind, but he would be stuck in the castle, that still and boring, unchanging castle, at the beck and call of Sulliman and that king who couldn't talk unless he yelled.

Stillness terrified Howl.

The field was never still, the sky was never still, the birds were never still, and yet the boy feared what he knew was true. The castle was stagnation.

The castle was a slow death.

And yet, it was a majestic thing, a castle...Howl liked castles…just not that castle…

Howl peered at the moon. "Should I do it?" he said to it.

A cloud suddenly passed across that moon like a wink.

Howl laughed even though he was shaking now in fear.

There was a way, a dangerous way, a terrible way, a forbidden way.

He'd be an outcast.

He'd be alone.

But...

He would be powerful.

And, he would have the only thing he had ever wanted with his whole heart-freedom from stillness and boredom and...Sulliman...

"Should I...?" He said again as a star that wasn't a star at all fell close to the magic circle. They were getting closer-the time to decide was upon him.

In his mind then, came an image, clear and so beautiful he was jealous of it. Birds, rising into the purple of the night. He saw their wings spread wide and saw the wind draw them up and up into a endless sky...A strange feeling came over him, a longing, really, to see the end of that sky...surely it wasn't endless...surely there was a way to see beyond its edge.

Of course there was.

Howl was a genius.

He was beautiful.

And he would do something like this because it would truly piss off Sulliman.

Howl smiled and closed his eyes.

"Alright," he said and held his hands out to the sky.

The bells were so loud in his ears now, he was certain he would be deaf when this was over and he didn't care. He heard two stars fall right at his side, felt their heat, but he knew no matter how close they came they wouldn't burn him. In fact, he needed one to get very close...in fact, he needed one to fall right in his hand.

"Come!" He called and the wind picked up, the moon excitedly went in and out of clouds. Howl stared straight into the eye of the sky and that's when it fell into his hand.

Well...almost...he had to take one step out of the circle, but his left foot remained within.

He stared into the flame of the star in his hand. "You're beautiful..." he said, barely believing he admitted such a thing, barely believing it was his voice, it sounded so far away. In his hand, the fallen star flickered and burned without sensation. He had saved it, and it was glad, he knew, although he sensed its own irritation at being caught. Howl's gain would take the freedom away from this flame...Howl thrust the thought away and took a deep breath.

It passed his mind to reconsider. It was, after all, a contract with a demon...and its price...such a price…

But, Howl didn't hesitate.

"Demon!" Howl said louder and the little light in his hand jumped, startled. Howl could feel the magic circle now and he realized it was the demon, laying down the terms of the contract. Of course it knew that was what Howl intended. Howl might have saved his life, but the fire demon knew that people didn't go demon catching for fun. This child who to the demon who had, indeed, seen the edge of the sky and beyond and the beginning of "long ago", couldn't help but think how young the boy looked, or how desperate he must be to do this.

"Make me strong, Demon!" Howl said between his chanting, "Make me powerful! I'd give you my mind, my blood..." Howl swallowed before he continued, "Even my heart...Please..." The light in his hand seemed to bow forward-a nod perhaps, or perhaps just the wind. Howl smiled, then, and peered back at the empty cottage and across the empty field. It looked different in the glow of the demon..."Alright. Here we go." Howl whispered and lifted the demon to his lips.

For a moment, he felt nothing, then pain as the demon slid down his throat. He felt as though his skin were on too tight, his throat was aflame...Then it reached his chest and Howl gasped, grabbed his shirt.

Calm down, said a voice in his head, the demon, This'll only take a second.

Howl couldn't breath suddenly, this legs buckled beneath him...And then the demon reached his heart.

For a moment, as the demon coiled itself around his heart, Howl regretted doing this, he was afraid, but it was only a moment and like a cloud crossing in front of the moon, the fear and the pain passed and Howl was peering into the eyes of a fire burning painlessly in his hand. "Hey, kid, you ok?" The fire demon said and Howl's eyes widened as he realized the thing within the fire, the thing he felt fluttering against his hand...was his own heart...

"Ho...Howl..." Howl said, his voice weak.

"Howl." Said the demon. "You're going to hurt for a while, but in the end, everything will be alright. I wouldn't let my new master die, you know. By the way, I'm Calcifer."

"Cal...Calcifer?" Howl whispered as the little demon nodded. Howl just stood for a moment, breathed in, breathed out and reached and touched his own chest.

"Kid...Howl...? You alright...?"

Howl was silent for a moment, what was this feeling...he felt unattached suddenly, like a weight had been lifted from his chest...It was such a wonderful feeling. It was exactly as he imagined it. Freedom..."Let's go, Calcifer." Howl said.

"Al...Alright, Kid." Calcifer said, but Howl didn't move and Calcifer couldn't quite rectify the smile he saw on the boy's mouth with the tears falling down his chin.

In a near-by tree, bird sang.

The dawn had come.

FIN.

Author's Note: Hey! Hope you likey! This was one of the most awesome movies I have ever seen. It was wonderful! It was really like a lovely dream watching it. I loved it. If you haven't seen it, please do, you'll be glad you did and if you can't see it, at least rent it on DVD. Alright, wow, I wasn't even paid to say all that. :)

Well...thank you very much for reading and if you liked it, please review :) Arigatou!