Winnie the Pooh meets a stranger.
Pooh knew he wasn't terribly bright. It came with the territory: he was a small yellow bear, and bears in general weren't noted for their intelligence. Pooh usually left the hard thinking to Owl or Rabbit, and focused on more immediate concerns, like honey. It suited him fine, because honey (and even bees) he was accustomed to. They behaved in familiar, predictable ways.
But every now and then he would stare out at the starry sky from atop the hill overlooking the woods, and wonder what else could be out there. The woods were "here", and despite knowing every feature, every tree stump and gully, Pooh had never wandered outside.
And so when the stranger in black came, the very exoticness of his appearance intrigued Pooh, and he forced himself to sit and watch as he approached. Even of part of him wanted to run away as fast as his stubby legs could manage, because the cloak the stranger was wrapped in smelled of the things that went bump in the night.
As the stranger arrived beneath the shadow of the tree house, he bowed politely and sat down beside Pooh, and soon they were chatting almost like old friends, though he never did take off his hood or give his name. Contrary to the first impression, the stranger was kind and attentive, and there was a warmth and familiarity in his voice that belied the mystery of his outward appearance.
The stranger asked him about the woods, about his friends, and about honey, all of which Pooh were more than glad to answer. Offering no information of his own, the stranger nevertheless responded to Pooh's thoughts and comments with an enthusiasm that made Pooh think that maybe his guest wasn't entirely unfamiliar with the joys of a lazy afternoon basking in the sun, or the perils of angry bees. From sunset until well into the night they talked, until the stars rose into the night sky and three jars of honey stood empty by the door.
"Don't you wish for more?" The question was sudden.
Pooh tilted his head, pondering. More? More than the woods? More than the smell of honey in the morning and Piglet's chatter in the afternoon? More than Tigger's enthusiastic bounce, or Eeyore's doleful stare?
"Sometimes I want to see outside, Mister Stranger. But I like the woods more, and there's only so much one Pooh can do. I want everyone to stay happy."
"And because of that, there'll never be darkness here." Although his expression was hidden beneath the dark hood, Pooh thought he heard a smile in his voice.
Not quite understanding, but not wanting the conversation to end just yet, Pooh said, "Won't you stay awhile longer? Piglet will be back tomorrow, and there'll be more honey."
Shaking his head, the stranger said, "I'd really like to, but I'm afraid I can't. There's still a long way to go."
"Oh bother. I hope it goes well." Pooh had never been good with words, the way that Owl or even Tigger was.
The stranger rose from his perch and reached over, gloved fingers brushing lightly over Pooh's forehead. Despite their relative sizes, there was such careworn gentleness in the touch that it seemed as though centuries stood between them. "Thank you. That means . . . a lot to me."
After the stranger had left, Pooh couldn't help but gaze up at the sky full of stars, brilliant pinpricks of radiance and inky blackness in between, and wonder if each one had a story just like theirs.