So, I write a lot. I write, but it’s mostly poetry. I have tried fiction, mostly in the form of Nanowrimo. But it’s pretty bad stuff. I have never completed anything. I have lots of beginnings. LOTS! So, anyway, this semester I had a fiction workshop, where we had to complete not one, but two short stories!! Since I’m going to try my hand at actually blogging and actually sharing the things I do (eep!), I’m posting one of the short stories here. I wrote it earlier this semester, but I had to revise it by today. It’s the first short story I have ever finished. So please, be kind. Just kidding, you can tear it apart 🙂 If you read it, you’ll see it’s tied to the poem I just posted. I’m obsessed with Ananke and the Fates, you see.
Fate: A Fable
On a distant planet spinning around a distant star in a distant galaxy, children of a distant race laughed and spun in circles in a meadow. Their voices were tinkling bells. The grasses of their planet were pale blue and glowed and danced in the light wind. Theirs was a simple life. Their sun was shining, their dearest friend, and they could feel its warmth shining down, spreading its light within their souls. They played make believe with the light, forming it into friendly sprites which danced and hid from them. Their laughter amplified the energy and sent it outward. These were the Children of Light, and they lived their lives out on their little planet at the edge of the universe.
On summer nights Coral’s father used to take her down to the river and they would spend all night watching the shimmering lights to see if they could catch a shooting fable in the same manner our fathers watch with us for shooting stars or lightning bugs. If she looked closely at the lights shimmering through the river, she could catch on to a soul or a spirit, someone who had sent part of themselves off into the universe, their story in their soul. Coral loved to find those ones and point them out to her father. They always seemed to sparkle a little brighter, or have a beautiful color which Coral loved. Her own spirit was a pale blue light, but many of these were rich tones of navy, royal purple, or emerald, that would flicker much darker than her own. Much darker, and yet also, more fleeting. Coral’s pale blue light was strong and never faded like the life signatures from these alien worlds.
“Why does the light end up here anyway, Papa?” she asked him one day.
Her father looked at her gravely for a moment. “You know the answer to that, Coral.”
“We are the end of the universe.”
Coral looked sad for a moment, “All these stories that reach us, these creatures have lifespans that barely fit in the palm of my hand. By the time their light has reached us, it has been put out at the other end. These beings are dead, Father.”
“They’re not any such thing. Their threads reach us through many places and times. They have lived and so they are alive. When they reach you, is their light dead, Coral?”
Coral wasn’t sure and she didn’t answer.
Her Papa looked at her very seriously then. “Coral,” he said, “you have lived in relative safety your whole life. But not long ago our entire race was in danger. We hid our planet, enveloped it in life-thread. We are not just the end of the universe. We live at the end of time. If we were to ever step foot off of this planet, we would fall into the circling of time. We would land somewhere, sometime
“So they’re dead now, but they’re not dead?”
“Here, I’ll show you. Choose a story from the river, Coral.”
Coral peered down through the twisting and weaving lights. A sapphire blue, brighter than the rest, was dancing through the currents. She was inexplicably drawn to it. “Ooh, look at that one, Papa!” she cried.
Her father grinned and kissed the top of her head. “Who do you suppose he was?” he asked.
“A merchant,” said Coral decidedly. “A merchant who sold silks and soft furs and traveled far distances to sell them. But he saved the softest, most expensive silk for the softest, prettiest girl. And one day when he had traveled as far as he could, and he hadn’t found her, he thought he might never see the girl. He was hot and thirsty, and he stopped at a well, and he could not see if there was any water in the well. There wasn’t any bucket. And an old woman came to him and asked him if he would like any water and poured some from her jug. He was so thirsty that he gulped the water down, spilling some all over his fine silks, but he didn’t care at all. And he thanked her so honestly and so profusely that she laughed. Her laugh didn’t sound like an old woman at all, and when he looked at her again, he was shocked. There in front of him was the most beautiful girl in the world. But then he looked down and all he had were silks that were soaking and smelly from the trip, and didn’t look one bit like the beautiful, soft cloth that he had saved for the girl.”
“What happened then?” asked her father.
Coral peered down at the water, but she couldn’t find the thread again. “I don’t know,” she said.
“You don’t know? But that’s a really good story, you ought to find out.”
“I can’t find the thread,” Coral said.
“Look closer,” said her father, “look closer and find a thread which matches the spirit and soul of the man you found.”
As Coral looked, she did find the thread of light that she had first noticed, and it was true, there was no more of the story to see, but as she peered closer, she could see another thread that matched it in color and intensity. The other light was a beautiful emerald green and seemed to dance along and spiral around the first. Her heart soared. “It’s the woman!” she cried.
Her father smiled. “That’s so. And what happened?”
“They had love for a long time and they had a child, and they grew apart, but they never lost the enchantment of their meeting.”
“That’s right. Why did you think you could find her?”
Coral thought for a while. “I don’t think I could have found her if I didn’t know about the man.”
Her father’s eyes twinkled with some unknown secret. “That’s true, Coral. To know a light, you must come to understand the lights surrounding it. Then and only then can you attempt to weave them together, or unravel them, or do what you will with them. It is a dangerous task that you should only attempt when you are ready. It is lives that you tangle with when you attempt to sort through these things, Coral.”
Her father told her that the light they gathered was a gift from souls on their way to the afterworld. He taught her how to appreciate them. He taught her how to love them.
It wasn’t much later that destruction came to their world. For the Children of Light were what you and I know as Fates, and their enemies were many. Though they thought their world safe and far from the prying eyes of any advanced civilization, they were discovered. The survivors scattered throughout the known universe. Coral cried that day, for her Papa was sending her to a strange planet with her sisters, to tend them alone. She didn’t understand why he wouldn’t come.
“Ananke stay with you,” were his final words to her, faithful to the end. Coral didn’t even believe in Ananke, and thought if she did exist she would kick her right in the knees.
Coral and her sisters had far to travel, and when they arrived, it was to New York City, Planet Earth, and not so long ago. They were old now, and the journey had taken most of their light. Yet they found that the city welcomed them, enfolded them, assimilated them.
In those days, the city of New York had not yet found its spirit. It was not yet like a melting pot, not anything remotely resembling melting, but rather like an enormous patchwork quilt, with all its pieces still quite separate and distinguished from another. Its patches were neither bright nor intricate, but they were beautiful. They contained the muted, dusty colors of the Old World woven together with the deep earthy browns and greens of the new.
Coral’s sister Elena was too young when they left to remember the Old World now. When Coral tried to teach her how to tend light, she ran amok, gathering it from any unsuspecting soul she wished. Coral watched aghast as over the next few week’s Elena’s face returned to its former youth.
Coral was presently stitching her own quilt, and she had great plans for it. Her fingers were old, but they deftly turned the needle as she worked it. And though her eyes were dim, the life-threads were full of light, and her fingers knew the way.
Coral loved to stitch and weave; she no longer had the energy to do much else. Daily she sent out her youngest sister, Moira, to find threads of people’s lives stories for her to weave together as her father had taught her long ago. Coral had often mentally visited the lives of the simple merchant and his wife. She had learned their story backwards and forwards like a favorite old fable. The story was a story of Earth, she now knew, but it reminded her of home. It reminded her of this city too. She had woven the enchantment she had found there into so many other lives. It comforted her. She learned her lesson. She was careful to teach Moira restraint, as her Papa had done, as she had failed to do with Elena.
Moira daily brought her stories from the city docks. Ellis Island. She watched them all. Who had arrived from the Old World and where they went. Who she had greeted and welcomed as long lost friends, and who she had carefully hidden from and avoided. Who were new souls, thousands and thousands of bright young fires alight, ready to set their course through this life.
One day, however, when Moira returned she was quiet, busying herself with little tasks around the shop. She said nothing to Coral. She made a point of saying nothing to Coral. And she was humming. She was most definitely humming.
“I saw a man today,” she finally said, nonchalantly.
Coral laughed. “You see men every day.”
“Not like him.” Moira turned toward Coral, her entire face illuminated. “His light was so strong and familiar that I followed him from the docks. He had nowhere to go. He met no one.” Here she paused for effect. “But he never stopped walking, as with an unseen purpose.”
Coral rolled her eyes. “Is that the great reveal? So, what? You’re in love with him? This man whose life thread is probably no longer than your pinky?” She was quite tired of her sister’s infatuations, always pretending that she was a maiden or a princess, always fawning over the muscled builders and brawny sailors of this new world.
“It’s not that. I can’t explain it. You have to see for yourself. Come with me tomorrow, Coral. I know where he went. Trust me.”
Coral didn’t know why she gave in to her sister’s flights of fancy, but she relented. “All right. We’ll go tomorrow.”
In the morning, Coral rose as usual, her muscles aching. But the air was electric. She was, she hated to admit, excited for their small adventure. Coral rarely left the house, old as she was. She wondered how time had so caught up with her. As Fates, they were timeless she knew, yet she had refused to reclaim light, not wanting to steal from those who needed it. It was different on their old world, when it was given freely. Still, when Moira led her through the city, her skirts full and bustling, sparkling, Coral had no problem keeping up. She was, though she hated to admit it, genuinely intrigued.
Moira led her past the docks, past court houses and post offices, past the public charity houses where many immigrants stayed at first. It looked as if Moira would soon lead them out of the city, but at length, she slowed. The neighborhood was nondescript. Brick brownstone houses lined the streets like any other, and Coral presently found that she had no idea where they actually were.
“It’s not far now,” Moira shot back over her shoulder, disappearing around a corner.
When Coral reached the corner she almost ran straight into her sister, who was standing firm in the alley and grinning.
“Here!” she exclaimed giddily.
The two sisters peered into a smudged and dirty window, through which they would find the object of this adventure.
“There! In the corner!” One face turned to the other with glee, while the other stared unblinking, unmoving, in complete and utter shock.
It was unmistakable. Here, in their city, in their world, in this time, right here in front of her was the man she knew intimately, better than she knew her sisters, better than anyone. Beyond that dark and dusty pane sat the handsome merchant, quietly reading some letters.
Coral looked down. Her skin was glowing faintly, but growing richer, a deep emerald green. Her heart thudded, and she knew what she had to do.