Skip to content

A Story Worth Telling

Once upon a time, there was a perfect world — a paradise, where all mankind dwelt in peace with nature and with others. It was, of course, a primitive existence, all the bustling promise of humanity living together in quiet little villages, scattered across a handful of verdant islands.

In those days there wasn’t much in the way of artifice or labor. Human society needed no justices to mediate disputes, no lords to set down laws or soldiers to prop up disputed borders. In all the world there were but four occupations, and the humble villagers could spend their days pursuing any of them (or none of them) as the interests and appetites of each recommended.

Some were Gatherers, finding food and resources within their environment to meet their simple needs, and some Builders, fashioning rude shelter and such furniture as animal comfort required. Others were Explorers, seeking out new paths for the Gatherers, new village sites for the Builders, and new vistas to delight their own hungry curiosity. And all of them, in their time, became Teachers — repeating the lessons they’d learned to the younger or less experienced.

It was a peaceful existence, and pleasant enough, and the people lived together in this paradise for many generations. But there came one among them, a gifted young Gatherer and a masterful Explorer who could never quite find experiences enough to satisfy his hunger.

He refused to stay home, to spend any time teaching, disgusted at the thought of repeating what was already known. He craved something new. So he spent his days searching, farther and farther from his village, neglecting friends and family to chase after the extraordinary.

And, at last, he found it. He climbed to the farthest edge of the most distant island, and stood just beneath the setting sun. The earth fell off steeply before his feet, hundreds of paces down bare cliffs to the angry sea, frothy red in the sunset burn.

His thoughts weren’t on the Boundless Sea, though. Nor were they on the perilous drop beneath his feet, or on the dazzling shades of the dying sun. His thoughts were all fixed on the angel that waited, hanging in the middle air, just beyond the edge of the cliffs.

It was a creature in the shape of a man, but far more beautiful. It glowed with a tantalizing light and called out to the hungry explorer in a voice like music, alternating between pleas for help and promises of great reward.

The explorer averted his eyes, overcome by the pathetic majesty of the creature. At last he looked down, at the very edge of his world, then turned his back on the precipice and looked back to the east, over the whole of the islands that held all his people — the rich green of dense forested hills broken by ghost-white sand beaches and the aquamarine sparkle of the narrow channels that separated them all.

Here, in this perfect little patch of land, he had grown up — like everyone he’d ever known — in perfect peace and tranquility. Here, too, he’d learned all the tired lessons the Teachers had to offer. He’d heard them again and again and again until he, like every other adult in the whole community, could repeat them with the same perfect precision.

And in all the lessons, there had only ever been one that truly reached him. The warning against the Burning Light — a devious and dangerous spirit, the Teachers said, who hovered at the edges of this sacred land, forever seeking entrance, seeking any opening to corrupt and tear down and grind underfoot.

It was an old story, as old as the islands themselves, and most of his family and friends had dismissed it long since as a child’s dreamtale. He’d always felt the truth of it, though — felt the pull of something powerful, something exotic hovering just out of sight. It had driven him, all his life, and now he looked down on the world that had proven too small for him. He smiled, then turned to face the beautiful Thing made of melody and flame.

“This,” he said to himself, as he took one step forward and extended his hand in welcome, “This will be a story worth telling.”

My Stories

That’s the beginning (or, more accurately, the backstory) of a fantasy tale I made up shortly after I moved to Tulsa. It was supposed to be the storyline for a videogame project some guys from my new church were working on, but when that project sputtered out and died (as they tend to do), I preserved this plot as the genesis story for my fantasy world.

The novel would be called The First Myth, and it would follow the story of one of the other villagers in the aftermath of this event. Oh, and everything I just told you would be a huge spoiler of the book’s big twist ending. I don’t feel too bad sharing it, though, because awesome as this tale is…it’s unwritten, and it will probably remain that way for a very long time.

I’ve got dozens of storylines in the same state, and that’s a problem I’ve found to be common to nearly all creative writers (and one Courtney mentioned just yesterday) — Chronic Project Accumulation. Tomorrow I’ll wrap up my self-evaluation with an inventory of all the stories I’m trying to tell, and follow up Saturday with some advice on how you can handle your own projects list.

Photo credit me (with more than a little help from Photoshop).

Comments are closed.