Luna and the Sky Gods

by Fran Benson. Awarded a Special Mention in the Best Novel Opening for Children or Young Adults competition 2023

Fiver lies on his side, panting. I stroke him gently, my fingers rippling over his ribs.

‘Luna…’ Wink looks at me as he speaks, his lower lip wobbling. ‘What’s wrong with him?’ He blinks, and a fat tear rolls down his cheek.

‘A bug or something?’ I try to coax Fiver into eating the little ball of boiled rice I’ve saved from dinner. I dip it in the water bucket in the corner of the shack and hold it to his gums. 

‘He’s eaten nothing for two whole days!’ Wink sags, lower and lower until his head rests against Fiver’s shoulder, so it’s impossible to tell where Wink’s raven hair ends and Fiver’s black fur begins. ‘Eat. Please eat.’

I rest a hand on Wink’s shoulder and take a deep breath. The tide’s out beneath the floorboards, and the smell of seaweed pinches my nose.

Fiver stares ahead, his eyes, all pupils, dark as night.

Seven, who’s not left Fiver’s side all evening, licks the side of Fiver’s head and down his ear. Long soothing licks. Normally, when Seven does this, Fiver stretches out and lets Seven groom him. But today, nothing.

‘Come on, Fiver,’ I whisper and stroke his soft damp cheek. For a moment, his uppermost eye flickers towards me, and the tip of his tail lifts off the ground in an attempt at a wag before dropping back to the floor.

I scoop some water into my hand and drip it into Fiver’s mouth. His tongue lashes back and forth flicking water to his throat, little beads of froth rising over his lips.

‘Good boy,’ I whisper and scoop more water.

‘Needfood,’ mutters Wink, the words muffled by fur and fear. When I don’t immediately reply, he looks up and repeats himself, clearer this time. ‘Water’s not enough.’

‘It’s a start,’ I say.