THE WEATHER STATION PILLAR

Beyond the pasture the hills rolled on one after another, while their flat blackened peaks seemed to be lined up lower than usual, dim and hazy below the Big Dipper in the northern sky.

Giovanni was already deep inside a grove of trees that were dripping with dew. He climbed steadily up a narrow path that was like a thread illuminated by starlight, the single clearing in a thicket of dark plants taking on all shapes and sizes. There were tiny insects gleaming blue amid the bushes, rendering their leaves a transparent green and reminding him of the lanterns that all the children had been carrying.

Giovanni came out of the pitch black pine and oak wood, and all of a sudden there was a vast sky above him, with the Milky Way, soft and blurry white, streaming from north to south.

He could make out the pillar of the weather station at the top of a slope that was a carpet of daisies and bellflowers. Their fragrance was so strong that he felt you could smell it through a dream. A single bird passed over him, crying above the hill.

Giovanni came to the base of the weather station pillar at the very top of the hill and, shuddering, plopped down into the cold grass. The lights of the town below were burning through the darkness as if the town itself were a miniature shrine at the bottom of the sea. He could faintly hear snatches of children's screams and bits of whistles and songs. The wind howled far away and all the hill's plant life rustled. His sweat-soaked shirt started to give him a chill as he looked down on the distant sweeping-black field from the edge of town.

The sound of a train came to him from the field. It was a little train with a single row of tiny red windows, and inside it all of the passengers were peeling apples, laughing or doing one thing and another. This made Giovanni feel immensely sad, and he once again gazed up at the sky.

But no matter how hard he looked at the sky, he just couldn't see the cold barren place that the teacher had described in class. On the contrary, the more deeply he stared into it, the more he saw a field with little groves of trees and pastures. Then he noticed the blue stars of Lyra, the Harp, multiplying, twinkling all the while, and the Harp itself stretching out its legs then pulling them in until it looked like a long flat mushroom. As for the town just below, it took on the appearance of a blurry cluster of countless stars or a single, enormous puff of smoke....

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(c) Roger Pulvers 1996
The original, ' "Night On The Milky Way Train" in English (Bilingual Edition)',
was published from Chikuma Shobo.