It would hurt to return to the stars. It meant leaving everything behind, and for too long, she wasn’t sure that she could.
No need to hurry, the stars said. At your own time.
But would she ever be ready? Could she? In the light of day, she wasn’t sure. But at night, under the spread of stars, her doubts were quieter, her future clearer.
When her last day dawned, she felt her certainty rise with the sun. She knew that, by nightfall, she would be among the stars. That last day was the sweetest of her life, seasoned by finality and peace. Evening neared, and she prepared herself for the sky—for her beginning and her end.
She had chosen the place long before. Quiet, away from the lights and sounds of town life. Here, under the darkening sky, the earliest stars already shone and beckoned.
It is time.
And so, she began to undo herself. First were the outer things—those things she had never mistaken for herself, and yet held so close. Clothing, jewelry, needless ornaments all fell to the ground around her, and she felt lighter without them.
But then, the harder things to lose. Locks of hair fell away painlessly, but still she felt the cold core of fear within her, knowing that pain must come.
Sure enough, the pain was intense as she began to shed herself. The skin that had for so long defined her limits began to peel away. Arteries, veins, capillaries unraveled themselves from the tissues that had softened her, the bones that had hardened her, the muscles that had strengthened her. These things she shed, and with each loss there was pain, but also lightness. Lighter and lighter she became, until she was light itself.
When at last all pain, all fear, all thought fell away, she knew she had returned. Looking at the distant Earth, she added her glow to that of the stars, illuminating the scraps of a life already long forgotten.