Summary: A dying woman meets her guide to the sunless lands.

A Banner of Stars

Dying is not as I dreamed it would be. I am not cold; simply numb and maybe a little afraid, but mostly I am at peace. I am lying on the tarmac, limp and helpless as a rag doll, and vaguely I wonder how the people in the other car are doing. Are they engaged in the same process I am? Is the blood slowing in their veins and their hearts grinding to a stop? Perhaps.

There are no sirens yet, so there is nothing to distract me from the sky wavering above me. Everything is slightly blurred and trembling, and the stars look like radiant diamonds scattered on black velvet. The moon is almost full; the shadows from its craters swim together smoothly, and the face of the moon transforms into the face of a woman.

She melts from the sky, her hair raven and wild and her eyes kind. She is beautiful, but not in the way runway models are. More like a sunset casting a final glow over the sea before night falls. The sky quivers behind her like a flag or a cloak or maybe a comforter. She also seems familiar, like an old college friend or the girl who bags your groceries every time you go to the store. I know her intimately, it seems, but at the same time I know I've never met her. I would have remembered those eyes.

Her pale lips curve into a sympathetic smile and she reaches toward me, beckoning in a welcoming way.

"Take my hand," she says, in a voice that pulls me to her, and as I reach to take her hand I realize I am no longer in my body.

Her hand is warm, and we walk into the night together.