Lauren is the writer I aspire to be.
We Tell Stories
We are obligated to tell stories to each other. That is how the world is woven. Through the tapestry of the stories that we tell.
There was a girl with wisps of curling gold for hair. Gold is expensive and there was a recession, so there had not been much to work with. But working fine, fine threads of gold is difficult, too, and the finer they are the more the threads tend to curl in upon themselves. So this girl wore a wreath of golden curls instead of hair.
She lived under an apple tree. The tree was her twin. She always knew she had a twin, and no one ever said she didn’t, but no one ever said she did. Her twin lived outside of the window of her bedroom. When she shed the fragile golden curls, the tree, her twin, caught them and from them it grew magical blossoms that shimmered in the bright sunlight. The girl and her twin, the tree, lived in a very sunny place.
The place where the girl and her tree lived was an old castle, and it was made from bricks of ruby and garnet, because theirs was a magical land of glowing pink mountains and shadowy, giant red rocks shaped like animals. These animals were the sleeping servants of the rock gnome who lived deep beneath the mountain. The rock gnome was a good gnome and a generous one, and shimmering iron pyrite rimed his underground palace. Long before he became the rock gnome he was a god, a god who had blown the earth into existence with his breath, which was rock itself, and as he blew his breath become hotter and hotter, creating volcanoes to renew the land, until all that was left of his breath was steam and mist, which swirled and settled on the fresh ground to wash and polish his new and giant gem. His new earth was wonderful, and everything sparkled with his magic. And though everything the god touched glittered, he was alone, and he wept, and each tear was a new gem: a ruby, an emerald, a diamond. But it hurts to shed tears of gems, so he hurled this into the sky and the stars were born, each a tear of a god. Some fell back to earth, sometimes shattered and changed but still glittering and glowing, and this was the first snowfall, leaving mica and quartz and diamond dust coating the ground. Thousands and then hundreds of thousands of years passed and the god watched as creatures were born of his land and sea and the dust of his stars, creatures he did not make, but creatures who grew and changed and thought, and wore the embers of the god’s creation in their flesh, and loved the god’s world for its preciousness. The god was happy. He groomed some of these creatures into companions, pets gigantic and glorious and fit for a god. For a hundreds of thousands of years he enjoyed this land of his, roaming its surface, its secret places underground and underwater. The more he roamed, the more he saw that the Earth had new caretakers, new beings to shape it in ways that he could not. For they could create imperfection where he could only create the glassy hardness of glittery perfection. Content, the god decided to retire, so he once again breathed a place into existence. This was a gallery of glitter-studded beauty, a cave with no entrance known to the creatures above him. He set his pets to sleep, guarding his secret place of retirement, and he became no longer a god but a rock gnome instead, and he breathed no more worlds into existence, but he left behind him his throne, the pink mountain that rose behind the girl’s castle, and his magic spilled into the soil and the water in this place so that the earth glittered a with the dust of a thousand thousand rubies and garnets, and the water flowed like liquid aquamarine from the wings of the sacred mountain throne. The water was cold and pure and good.
The rock gnome did not wish to be completely isolated from his world, so he created a magical pool of this water, filled with magical golden fish, and the pool reflected his work as a god, and when he felt lonely, the gnome, who was still very powerful, would touch the pool with just the very tip of his finger, and his tiniest influence would create something new and peculiar, in the world, something no one had yet seen.
Thousands and thousands of years after the gnome retired, his pool showed him a new and different kind of creature walking the earth, and this creature was man. He watched man for a very long time, and listened, and heard man telling stories. The gnome had never heard stories before, being all alone, and for many years he listened. Man spoke of buffalo, of lion, of mammoth, of bull. Man spoke of bird and horse, and man spoke of things the gnome did not understand: of new gods, of beauty—for even though the world the gnome had created when he was a god was very, very beautiful, the gnome did not understand this: it was all he had ever known. And he saw that man created, like he did, and what man created was beautiful. Men traded from distant lands for shells and plants that produced vibrant dyes, and they carved stones and he did not know why, but he knew that man saw things that the god-gnome had made eons ago, things that had grown into life, and man loved this beauty and used it to make new and more beautiful things.
Man was a new god, the gnome saw, blowing creation into his world. The gnome wished to know these new gods, and so he touched his pool and the earth opened, and soon enough, man found the gnome’s new and sacred places, which glittered with strange dust and rocks never before seen, stalagmites and stalactites. The gnome had retired to a sealed and bejeweled place much like these new openings in the world, but had left himself no access to the outside, for former gods do not roam the earth with men. So the gnome’s new caverns, made in the image of his own but made for men, were secret and no one could enter them save those who could find their way through passages nearly sealed. Deep inside the nearly sealed pockets of the earth, the men found themselves in sacred gnome-spaces and they knew that these spaces were the work of a very old god, a god who lived in the deep earth, a god who could blow existence like a bubble and spangle the sky with stars.
But the sacred is not for everyone, and the gnome both feared and loved man, the being that could tell stories that would shape the world, so he reached into his pool only rarely, and touched the special ones, and they became god-touched and could enter the gnome’s worlds. The gnome had created beauty and splendor in his cavity under the land: man created stories, told with pictures and words to the light of tallow lamps, which would sometimes sputter and leave the god-touched in darkness. But the god-touched knew the cavities of the world and so they were safe and never lost and knowledge of the god’s home was not lost until one day the gnome gazed into his pool and listened to a story and death followed. Then he began to fade from the mind of man. And there were new stories, some of gods, some of power, and some of wealth—and always death. The stories of wealth made the gnome the most sad, because the wealth had been his and man had reshaped it into greed, which shaped stories of power, and greed and power always followed stories of religion, which the gnome had embodied when he had been a god.
The gnome would not weep more tears of jewels, nor would he become a god again for there were quite enough of those already, but he watched his pool now and again, and when he heard good stories, he touched the waters that were cold and clear like liquid diamond and aquamarine. The good storytellers held special powers: they were mad stories and wild stories but they were stories and not lies. They were true stories.
Do you know what a true story is?
One day, in a ruby-red castle at the foot of his throne, the gnome heard the voice of a storyteller, a true storyteller, and so he touched the man and the man could hear and see and create unlike anyone else, because that is what true storytellers do. And this man knew the secret places in the earth, and he knew how to create beauty from the gnome’s own beauty: from the mica that flaked from the beautiful throne, and the man knew what the men of old knew: he knew all the ways to tell a story that was good and real and that pleased the gnome of the mountain, the gnome who had been a god.
So when the man had a child, the gnome gave this girl spun-gold hair and a royal tree for a twin. Twins are sacred. The Storyteller told stories to the child and the child learned what made a true story. She did not make her own stories, but she sought other true stories and taught those who would listen about old gods and real gods.
This is her first real story. Her hair is brown now, an indeterminate color, perhaps that of a tree. Yesterday she noticed a streak of silver. Her twin has grown tall and still showers the earth with diamond-gold petals. The tree grows royal apples for the gnome, but he never tastes them. The squirrels in the neighborhood are god-touched. They grab the golden apples growing in the sun, taste the former god’s ambrosia, and fling it to the floor.
That is their story to tell.
Lauren Kinnee, July 17, 2017