Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Journey Begins (A Writer's Quest, Chapter 1)

     The storyteller stood quietly by the fire, looking into the flames and wondering what secrets they held. I watched him in anticipation, waiting for him to begin telling one of his famed tales. I imagined that he was just working on resolving a climax he'd thought of all day. Now, behind the blank, thoughtful face, the final threads were being woven into completion.

     The men sitting around the fire had similar thoughts, but they weren't willing to wait. "Let's have a tale," one of them said. "We're all in the mood for hearing a story."

     "Of course you are." The words were uttered very softly, barely distinguishable above the crackle of burning wood. The storyteller stroked his short beard in thought, never once moving his eyes from the fire. He said nothing else for a long time.

     Another man broke the silence. "Well?"

     The storyteller looked up and met his eyes sharply. "Yes?"

     "Are you going to tell us a tale?" the other man, Nob, returned.

     There was a silence, then, "Look up at the sky." He pointed upward.

     We all craned our necks and gazed into the night sky.

     "You see all those points of light? Some call them stars. Each one is a world apart from ours. I've been to many of them. They are my stories. I go to them and find the tales that you love so much. You might as well call me a traveler, rather than a storyteller."

     It was hard to believe. The heavens were covered with the bright teardrops. There was no corner of the night blue canopy that starlight didn't touch. I gazed upward in awe. What unbelievable and wonderful things could lay out there? What were the other worlds that fueled the amazing stories I loved? How could I find out?

     We remained staring up at the sky-worlds for a while, before Nob finally said, "So?"

     The storyteller--the traveler--sighed. "I have walked across universes, and what do you ask of me? Something nice and simple to tickle your ears and thrill your hearts. I imagine you don't care much for the worlds I visit, as long as they get you a good story. Go on back to your homes. You'll hear nothing more from me tonight."

     The men slowly rose and returned to their huts, their wives, and their children. Nob was the last to go, muttering moodily under his breath. I remained, having neither home nor wife nor children to return to.

     At length the traveler addressed me. "Are you still hanging around, boy?"

     I nodded. I wanted to venture a question, but didn't know how. It wasn't right to interrupt this man's thoughts.

     "What do you want?"

     I swallowed. "How do you travel to the other worlds up there?"

     He looked at me, not seeing much of anything. There was thought behind his muteness. It was almost as though I'd surprised him. "How do you imagine I do it?"

     I thought for a long time, then said, "Perhaps there's a bridge somewhere?"

     A slight, barely noticeable smile graced his features. "There is, though not as you might think of it." He bent down and withdrew a book, a blank page, and a pen from his bag. "These are the bridges between worlds. Read, and you cross them. Write, and you cross them."

     "Oh." I felt disappointed. "So you don't actually visit other worlds in person?"

     At that, a roguish smile spread over his face. "Ah, son, the things I've seen 'in person'!"

     "Then," I ventured, but stopped.


     "Could I ever travel to those worlds in person?"

     "Do you really care about the places up there?" He indicated the sky.

     "They sound incredible," I said. "I'd love to see them if I can."

     "You'll do more than see them," he said, stepping across to me and offering his hand. "Come with me, and you'll tell their stories to every corner of the globe."

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