The Constellations of Daughter Death Lyndsey Croal
When Death decided he wanted a child, he plucked a ghost orchid from the furthest edge of the world – the kind of flower that could survive in the dark indeterminate edges between life and death – and grew her from its roots.
Born from blackened soil, Daughter Death was a quiet baby. She simply gazed upwards and watched the sky, the roots of the above-world trailing through the whorl of obsidian clouds. Her eyes were round and silver like the coins gifted for the dead, and her smile was a crescent-moon, a sliver peeking light into the darkness. When she looked upon her father and reached out with chubby little hands to grab the skeletal ridges of his face, Death was immediately besotted.
Daughter Death became his pride and joy, a girl grown from such dark places that she could bloom anywhere. Everywhere she crawled, moths chased her luminescence, fluttering between her shoulders, settling within her hair, so that soon she was adorned with a cocoon crown. Occasionally moths would hatch and fly free, in search of gaps to break into the brighter world above. In these moments, Death would find himself worrying whether his Daughter’s own luminescence could last in his world.
Did any part of her know what lay above? In her dreams, did she imagine visiting the place where mothwings fluttered at dusk, and plants stretched towards the sun, not through the earth?
* * *
Between his travels, above and between, Death watched his daughter carefully, her expressions the shape of commas and question marks as she narrowed her glow-in-the-dark eyes and pointed to the sky and kept reaching.
It was the strangest thing, but she one day reached far enough into the above-world, that she was able to pluck something from it. A daisy, which she planted at her feet. At first, the flower remained closed, petals folded over in eternal night. Frustrated, Daughter Death tried to uncurl the petals gently, but they’d always retreat after she let go. She cried for the first time, then, tears silver like comet-trails across her cheeks.
On his next visit to the above-world, Death plucked more daisies from a field to bring home. But when he returned, the flowers were ash in his hands. Daughter Death still took the gift and sprinkled the remains around her own daisy, life and death, together.
* * *
Daughter Death kept searching for a way to make the flower bloom. She reached as far as she could, past the tallest mountains, through the brightest aurora, into the space above both worlds. There, Daughter Death plucked a star, like her surrounded by darkness, and planted it beside the daisy. The flower awoke and blossomed, casting the space around her aglow. Though Death found it strange, the look in his daughter’s eyes consoled him – shining so bright as if galaxies themselves lay within.
* * *
As Daughter Death’s meadow grew, she crafted daisy chains imbued with starlight, gifting one to Death himself. So, Death came to be adorned with her symbol of light, so that everywhere he went, he was reminded of how she bloomed and glowed. Even those he sought in the above-world found themselves drawn to the daisies with a smile, before willingly, accepting his hand.
* * *
As Daughter Death’s imagination grew, so did her power. Once, she captured a fly from the air, the kind that used to float aimlessly in the between-skies of the living and dead. As she held it in her palm, mouth scrunched up into an eclipse, the fly began glowing with a light so bright that when she let it go, it danced fireworks in the dark. One by one, she captured and released her newest creations into the land above, becoming little torches for wanderers on darkened nights.
Then came other luminescence where dark usually swallowed parts of the above-world whole. Daughter Death travelled the length and breadth of the land of death, so she could reach through the watery abysses of the above-sky, where oceans broke upon grey shores. Her hands grabbed jellyfish and algae, and odd-looking fish lurking in the darkest of depths, and lit them blue with phosphorescence.
Later, she journeyed far to the darkest corners of the below-world, pushed hands up through thick black peat to the above-fens and bogs. There, she set gases alight to dance amidst the fog and reeds, and come to be known as spirit lights, leading travellers to treasure, if they did not in their misfortune find Death.
Next, in spectral trees she wandered, with her cloak of daisies and her cocoon crown, where she reached past the tallest canopies, through gnarled sky-roots, breaking into the above-world woodlands. She found mushrooms, touched their mycelium hearts, and set them thrumming with a glow that dappled forest floors, atop rotted wood, between layers of lichen, beside carpets of moss, casting pinpricks of brightness under the cold night sky.
Soon these new lights spilled through into the land of death, the skies now glittering with constellations of Daughter Death’s own making. Horizons and canopies speckled with fireflies, fungi, and phosphorescence.
* * *
Death spent many long nights pondering his daughter’s creations. Where he brought darkness and decay, she brought a vibrance. A balance. This land was now as much hers as it was his.
When Death steered people here, Daughter Death would wait to greet them, with her wide silver eyes and thin crescent smile, and her hands that were half in and out of the skies above and below. She’d show them her constellations, and if one light snuffed out, she’d have them close their eyes and make a wish. As they held their breaths, she’d reach out to ignite something new in the above-world so that when they opened their eyes again, they witnessed a new light flash in the dark. It was a promise, from Daughter Death herself. That there was nothing to fear, no darkness she couldn’t overcome. And that here, in the land of death, a long, luminous life awaited.
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