Advertise Here
Want to advertise here? Get started for as little as $5
The Boy and the Keeper

The Boy and the Keeper

A Story by Sloane Goldflies

A strange little story about a boy and his midnight adventure among the stars.


Sometimes a restlessness would take him and sink its teeth in deep.  It always came in the night, just when the sky had turned to sparkle-flung velvet and his mother had kissed his forehead and proclaimed “Good-night my love, my duck”.   The boy was beginning to feel uncomfortable of his mother’s attentions, so that he squirmed and wriggled while she leaned over him, her perfume wrapped around him like a second blanket, until she had gently shut the door.

One such night, when tossing and turning had whiled away a handful of hours, the boy decided he’d had quite enough and tossed the knotted sheets to the floor.  If sleep would not come, then he would go looking for it.

The hour was such that all the lights in the house were snuffed, the snores and stuttering deep breaths of his parents spilling from the open door of their bedroom.  Through the hallway that ran past his and his parents’ bedrooms, through the kitchen, and out the back door padding as silently as a cat; he paused only to grab a jacket and slippers from the mud room.  I’ll go on a walk, thought the boy, just a short one, to tire myself out.

The world of the night is different from the one we see when the sun is reigning high in the sky: all is shadow, moving and mobile.  Even the gentlest breeze will turn the shadow of a tree on a brick wall to a shuddering, bucking monster.  Street lamps help nothing, giving just enough light to show you all the terribly mysterious things creeping along the edges of your vision.  The boy had never been outside this late, and so while he had lived in this neighborhood all his life, he felt as though he had been transported to a land of demons centuries away from his home.  Ahead of him a cat crossed the street and regarded him with lamp-like eyes, mewling enquiringly.  Once it had melted into the night the boy felt an immeasurable loneliness, shivering as he was in the empty chill of the early autumn midnight.

Suddenly, a noise rent the air�"it screeched and keened above him, setting his nerves on fire and his heart to leaping.  He turned to look above him, panic making his senses sharp.  He could see nothing, but still the sound persisted; it was like nails on a chalkboard, sirens, and a shrieking infant all melted together into one enormous, foul lump and verging on supersonic volume.  The boy found himself on his knees, his hands pressed to his ears and begging for it to end, for him to end so long as the noise would not chase him after.  He wondered dimly in the part of his brain not screaming out for mercy why no one else seemed to have noticed it, how he seemed to be completely alone in his experience�"no windows, no doors were flung open, the people within their frames searching for the answers to the question of the noise.

On and on it went, until the boy thought that perhaps he was dying, when as abruptly as it had started, it ceased.

The boy opened his eyes, moist with tears, and immediately closed them again, convinced he was seeing things�"before him where there had been nothing but empty sidewalk and dark sleeping houses there now stood a great white staircase, cold and gleaming in the night.  Hesitant after the horror of the sound, the boy reached out and touched the lowest step a few feet in front of him.  It was cold and silky smooth, and made from some sort of stone.  He placed a ginger toe on the step, then his whole foot.  When the stone held the weight he placed his other foot beside the first and stood there.  He bounced a few times, he stomped his foot, he knocked on it; when after all his tests it held he began to climb it up, up, up into the stars.

Perhaps that sound was the staircase growing from the sky, he thought in passing (of course this was silly, for staircases don’t grow out of nothing in the middle of nowhere).  Perhaps I’m dreaming, and I never left my bed.  But there was a niggling doubt in that, for the wind bit through his thin pajamas and nipped quite convincingly at his nose and fingertips and that kept him climbing this strange staircase into the sky, even after his breath was short and his legs on fire. 

The boy was about the give up on his mad quest and turn back when his foot slammed down on a flat surface instead of the step it had anticipated.  Surprised, the boy looked up and away from his feet.  Before him was a smooth plateau of the same glowing white as the steps, empty but for a small cabin that appeared to be covered in twinkling white fairy lights, like a bizarre Christmas tree.  The boy, fascinated, crept forward, his slippers scuffing over the stone.

As he neared the small but spectacular dwelling the boy saw that it wasn’t covered in fairy lights, but was made from them�"hundreds of thousands of them buzzing and humming with white-gold light.  The boy stared at them, amazed and wanting to touch them but unsure of actually doing so�"too many stories ended up with trouble starting when you touched what you weren’t supposed to.  But the lights looked so welcoming and warm, what could be the harm?  Tentatively and ready to bolt at the first sign of trouble, the boy lifted his hand and extended a finger to one of the lights. 

To his surprise, nothing happened.  The light twinkled on, almost as though pleased by his touch.  Beneath his finger he felt something warm and rough, like�"yes, exactly like wood!  But this was certainly not wood, these tiny stars all strung together.  To be sure the boy ran his palm over it, knocked on it, producing a dull thunk like wood.

But with the thunk came the creak of footsteps, and the boy froze in panic, searching desperately for a hiding place.  The boy knew he didn’t want to find out what kind of creature would live in a house made of star-wood on top of an endless staircase into the sky that only appeared after a hell-sound had rent the air, no sir. 

But there was nowhere to hide save around to the back of the starry cabin, and so the boy was turning to run back down the stairs when a section of the star-wood creaked inwards and a smooth, deep voice asked, “Well now, what’s this?”

The boy froze, on the verge of tears and yearning for his bed back home and his mother’s coddling.  He said nothing.

“Silence, eh?  No matter; come on in, boy.  Come out of the cold and the wind.”

The boy shook his head, endless lectures about strangers and dangers flooding his panic-blanked mind.  “No sir, you’re going to kidnap me and hurt me and I need to be getting home now, my mom knows where I am and will call the police if I’m not home soon.” 

There was silence from the door for several heartbeats.  Then a deep and booming laugh poured forth like molasses, sweet and thick.  “I know it’s coming, but it’s still so much funnier to hear it!  Come now, I won’t hurt you; I only eat the clouds and drink the morning dew, I have no use for flesh or blood.  And I am so old you could not tempt me into darker things even if you tried with all your might.  The cold, however, may prove damaging if you’re out much longer.  Now come, I have a fire built up to roaring and can probably find some cocoa for you if you’d like.”

The idea of a warm fire to sit beside and the promise of hot cocoa were too much for the boy, and against his better judgment he stepped into the doorway left by the missing stars.

Inside the cabin was deliciously warm and inviting: two overstuffed easy chairs sat together in front of a healthy fire like two old friends.  Wood paneling covered all the walls up into the shadowed heights of the vaulted ceiling.  Off to the right a small kitchen took up a corner with a small bathroom leading off of it, everything within it neat and gleaming and clean.  A great big bed took up the entire left wall, and the boy began to shudder in fear of the being that would need a bed so large.  The boy saw no sign of his host (the presumed owner of that frightful bed), and he began to look around anxiously.  That voice had surely not come from nowhere, and everything was so clean here that there had to have been someone here recently, but there was no sign of anyone anywhere.

Behind and above him there was a creaking, and the boy turned around to see a loft with a ladder leading up into its shadowy depths.  The boy had seen no evidence of the loft’s existence from without (in fact, the dimensions of the cabin looked completely different now he was inside it).  More sounds of rummaging and movement came from the loft, and then the voice called down: “Make yourself comfortable, my friend; I’ll be down in a moment.  Go have a seat by the fire.”

After a moment’s hesitation, the boy obeyed, settling into the easy chair closest to the door.  As he sat down the spicy smell of cloves wafted over him, as did the heat of the fire. So glorious was it compared to the freezing chill of the marble plateau that despite himself the boy began to relax.

“Ah-ha!  There we are, just a moment now and you’ll have your cocoa, my friend.”

From his seat the boy could also see the loft.  He looked up at the sound of his host’s voice in time to see a great chunk of shadow tear itself from its fellows and lumber over to the ladder.  Panic began to flood the boy again, and he had stood up from his chair and begun to edge towards the door before he began to discern familiar shapes amidst the shadow: a head, shoulders, two thick but human arms and a pot belly connected to two trunk-like legs.  His host was a giant man, but a man nonetheless.  The boy paused in his escape, adrenaline still screaming through his veins but his curiosity holding him in place. 

The giant was perhaps two or three times as tall as the boy’s father and thick with muscle gone to fat.  His skin was a deep dusky purple, with hair that spilled thick and coarse over his shoulders with a beard to match.  More of the curious star-wood had been carved and whittled into beads and charms and woven through his beard and hair.  His eyes were kind and soft but lined with an immense weariness.  The giant wore a simple navy tunic belted over loose fitting slacks of the same navy.  I must be dreaming this, thought the boy, because there is no such thing as giants.  And so he allowed himself to return to his chair and watch the giant.

The giant walked over to his kitchen and filled a great dull black kettle with water from a glass tumbler sitting on the counter, then brought it over to the fire and hung it from a hook to heat.

“No milk unfortunately but your cocoa will be alright with just water.  Now,” the giant sighed, settling his vast bulk into the chair next to the boy’s (but hadn’t they been the same size a moment before?  Surely the giant’s chair had grown to accommodate his vastness), “I know I frighten you, and while I apologize I can’t do much to help it.  This is all very strange and scary for you, and the best advice I can give is that you continue to treat it like you’re dreaming.  How are you feeling overall, are you warm enough?”

The boy looked up into the giant’s big warm face, considering.  “Yes,” he finally responded in a voice barely there, “I’m very t-toasty, thank you.  I guess I’m just very confused.  And I want to go home…” he began to tear up at the thought of home.  The giant handed him a handkerchief as big as a sheet, and the boy used a corner to wipe his streaming eyes and nose.  “Thank you,” he muttered, wadding it up and handing it back.

“Would you like to know how you got here?” the giant asked kindly, tucking the sodden handkerchief into a pocket on his breast.  The boy nodded, bringing his knees to his chest and hugging them tightly with his arms.

“You left your bed unable to sleep, and decided to go on a walk, yes?” the boy nodded, unsure as to how the giant could know that.  “Well, it was because I had called you there so that I might meet you.  I could only do so very late at night; only in the witching hour is there enough room in the world for me.  I hope you don’t mind terribly the lateness of the hour, or the strangeness of my presence.”

The boy decided to take the giant’s advice and to treat what was happening like a dream. “There was an awful noise,” said the boy, uncurling himself and setting his feet on the floor, “What was that noise?”

“Ah,” said the giant, settling into his chair and crossing an ankle over his knee, “When you call someone, you hear a ring before they answer, don’t you?   Well that noise was my dialt tone, if you will.  It is no easy thing to hear, I’m sorry it affected you so.”

The kettle began to steam and whistle and the giant rose to pluck it from the fire and pour its now-hot contents into a cup.  He took two packets of instant cocoa from his pocket and poured the dust in, stirring it with a silver spoon and handing it to the boy.  “Careful, it’s hot,” the giant warned.

The boy blew on the milky brown surface and took a ginger sip of the steaming liquid.  It was good, sweet but pale and very comforting.  “Thank you,” he murmured.  The giant smiled.

“Now I suppose it’s time for introductions, eh?  I already know who you are, child, for I am�"well my name is old and complicated.  You may find it easier to know me as The Keeper of All.”

“Of all what?” asked the boy.

“Of all Knowledge in the Universe,” replied the giant.

The boy furrowed his eyebrows.  “But that’s impossible, no one can know everything.”

The giant nodded, “The universe is constructed in such a way that it must always be balanced; I am the balance to the collected universe of ignorance.  Basically, if everyone only knows a little of everything, even with all the people taken together (which is so, my friend, make no mistake there) then there must be one being who knows all.  I am that one.”

The boy shook his head in disbelief.  “Prove it,” he challenged.

The giant chuckled, and only a bit tiredly.  “You once ate a beetle on a dare and then threw up all over the girl you liked.  You wet the bed still sometimes when you have nightmares, as recently as last Tuesday.  Your mother’s name is Heather and your father’s name is Jeff.  You thought my home was made of twinkling Christmas lights.  When you started school you got terribly homesick and cried in the bathroom all through lunch and recess.  You�"“

“Okay, okay I believe you,” the boy said, his face burning with shame and the cup of cocoa clutched uncomfortably tight in his hands.

“I am sorry, it’s hard to hear those things.”

The boy changed the subject. “So if you’re not one of the many people who only know a little, then you’re not human, are you?  What are you?  Are you…are you God?”

“I am me.”

“But what are you?”


The boy frowned.  He didn’t like it when adults gave answers that went in loops like that.  He turned his head to watch the shadows dance on the wall, thinking of something to ask the giant, something that an adult would ask him.  “If you know everything, then do you know the meaning of life?”

The giant nodded his shaggy head and said, “I do.”

“And you know when you will die?”

“I do.”

“Or if there’s a Heaven and Hell?”

“I do.”

“Well then you’ve got to tell me!  Will I be rich when I get older?  Will I get a puppy for Christmas like I want?  Who will win every sports game ever?  Why is the sky blue?  Does Sally Anderson like-like me?  What�"

The giant held up a halting palm and shook his head, smiling sadly.  “I know everything child, and so I know not to tell you these things.  You will know them when you need them.”

There was a silence between them then, the boy sipping his cocoa and the giant waiting patiently for him to speak again.  Seconds seeped into minutes and at last the boy spoke: “It must be a great burden, knowing everything.”

The giant sighed and tugged on his beard, saying “Yes, it is a burden, young one.  But it is one I have to bear, for it was the very reason I was born.  I am the balance between knowing and unknowing.”

The boy nodded, though he didn’t really understand.  He did know though that he felt very sorry for the giant, so alone among the stars.

“Why did you want to see me?” the boy asked the giant.

This creased the giant’s large dusky face into a smile.  “Because someday soon I will die, and another will take my place.  That someone will be you, my friend.”

Shock gripped the boy, making his gulp of hot cocoa stick in his throat.  “What?  No that’s crazy, I’m only eleven.  I don’t know anything, I can’t be a keeper for all knowledge in the universe, that’s crazy.  You’re crazy.”

The giant laughed, “A great man once said that he was the wisest man because he knew he knew nothing.  But you’re not going to take over from me for some time yet; you are not ready, my boy.  But as you can imagine I have not had much company for many years.  I wanted to meet my apprentice and have a bit of conversation with someone besides myself or the wind.”  The giant settled into his seat, the old leather sighing with him.

“But I don’t want to take over.  I don’t want to have to live up here all by myself.  Can’t you get someone else to do it?”

The giant combed his fingers through his beard, causing the beads to clink together delicately.  “I’m afraid not, my boy.  No one chooses the life they lead, they can only make the best of what they are given.  Long before even your greatest of grandparents were born, you were going to be my heir, my apprentice.  I cannot ever apologize enough for this, though I chose you no more than my predecessor chose me.”

“But that’s not fair!”

“How so?”

“You shouldn’t force people to do something, they should choose it, otherwise it’s just…it’s just not fair!”

The giant regarded him warmly.  “I suppose it would be more fair in a sense.  But who would sign up for this, eh?  I daresay no one would, and it is not an option for there to simply not be a Keeper�"the universal balance is essential�"so we come back to the same problem of forcing someone.  It is perhaps not fair, but it is what is necessary.  You will find that the two are often at odds.”

The boy looked into his half empty mug and frowned.  “It won’t be for awhile, right?” he asked.

The giant nodded.  “Yes, you will have enough time to do the things you want, to live your life as normally as possible before the mantle settles on your shoulders.”

“Well at least there’s that,” the boy muttered darkly.

“You should leave now and return home, dawn is not far off,” said the giant into the stiff silence, rising from his chair.

The boy stood as well, suddenly not wishing to leave.  “It must be lonely up here all by yourself.  I could stay a little longer if you wanted,” the boy blurted out, still clutching his cup.  The giant paused on his way to the door, his back to the boy.  His shoulders seemed to sag a bit as the boy watched. 

“Yes, I won’t deny that it can be.  But you get used to it, after a time.  Now my friend, you must be going, you need to be in bed before your parents wake up, unless you wish to give them a nasty fright.”

The boy handed his empty cup of cocoa to the giant, shaking his head. “No, I don’t want my mom and dad to worry,” he said.  The giant opened the door and the boy could see the night sky again, though now it was tinged with a hint of pale grey off in the east.  Crossing the threshold, the boy turned and looked back at the giant.  “Thank you for the cocoa, sir.  I had a nice time, even if I had no idea what was going on and everything was very scary and weird for awhile.  I’m still kind of thinking this was a dream.  Will I see you again, before…before you’re gone and I take over?”

The giant held out his massive hand, and the boy took one of his fingers in both of his hands and shook it. “You will.  I must teach you my craft after all, my apprentice.  Take care, lad,” the giant rumbled, and as he said it the boy’s vision became pale and fuzzy.  The ground slipped sideways and he felt as though he were falling from a great height…

The boy opened his eyes to warm sunlight trickling through the blinds, safe and sound in his own bed, his mouth thick with sugar turned sour and with only the lingering ache of the climb and a rumble of laughter so faint it might have only been the rush of blood in his ears to remind him of his evening among the stars.

© 2011 Sloane Goldflies

My Review

Would you like to review this Story?
Login | Register

Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


Added on October 2, 2011
Last Updated on October 2, 2011


Sloane Goldflies
Sloane Goldflies

Chicago, IL

I am a writer. That's what I do. I hope I'm good enough to get published some day. Tell me honestly what you think of my work when you review: I want to know where it's weak, where its cheesy. more..


A Chapter by Sloane Goldflies


A Chapter by Sloane Goldflies


A Chapter by Sloane Goldflies