Welcome to #QueerBlogWed! A day to share a touch of the rainbow via our blogs.
For mine, I’ve decided to share a little Tale of the Navel concerning Christopher.
Once you get lost in the Shadow Forest, it’s only too easy for fragments of you to get lost. What if some of those pieces slipped through Doors into other worlds? Other versions of Omphalos?
Christopher may very well have done this…
“Once Upon a Time is the avatar of every story’s beginning. S/he takes on a number of forms, giving birth to everyone’s plot. It’s a vast power, so it’s passed to different vessels.”
I blinked, trying to measure the meaning of my master’s words. He was a Tale Weaver, one who seduced with pretty words and images. Deceiving others with them was part of his art.
Even if one of his victims was his own student.
“Whom are these vessels?” I watched him roll up a scroll of parchment, placing it among many other scrolls, indistinguishable from the others. No gaudy adornments for him. Those craving his stories would have to show determination to look within.
“Once Upon a Time is selected from among our ranks, we shapers of story in whatever form exists today.” My master shot me a sly glance from over his shoulder. “If you consider it, Christopher, it makes perfect sense. It’s a Tale Weaver’s nature to warp unreality, just as it’s his duty to deal with shadow and illusion.”
“How so?” It was only too easy to be lulled by my master’s seductive cadence, without comprehending his actual words.
“How so depends on the Tale Weaver.” His cool, gray eyes assessed me. “Different minds interpret what they’ve glimpsed beyond the Door in different ways, determing the nature of what they’ll find and how they’ll shape it.”
This may well have been honest. At least as honest as my master was capable of being. Not that I could ever hold it against him. It was part of his playful, whimsical nature.
“You’ll understand in time, my dear.” My master waved a spindly hand at me. “If you have the magic, you’ll hear it, captured within a story’s words.”
“I will?” I frowned at the tablet in front of me. Older than any of the scrolls, its carved words refused to yield any secrets.
“You will, with practice.” My master laid a long finger against his nose. “You’re much closer to grasping its meaning than you realize.”
“Once I do, I’ll become a Tale Weaver.” I shivered a bit at the thought, only it was a delightful chill. “This means I could become Once Upon a Time, if I’m selected.”
“No, it means I’ll become Once Upon a Time.” My master crooked his finger at me. “You, my sweet, may very well be my Happily Ever After.”
“The end of the story?” I recoiled a bit at this.
“The very best ending of the story.” My master lowered his hand and bowed his head. “The outcome every character hopes to catch.”
“There’s no such thing as a good ending.” The tablet shimmered in my vision, like light reflected on water, shifting, in motion. “Every person’s story ends in death.”
“Only in reality.” My master’s voice diminished while he himself blurred into light and shadow. “A Tale Weaver challenges reality with every tale he tells.”
I blinked at the surface of the pond. The water was inches away from my nose.
I raised my head and turned to face a pair of rose purple eyes, gazing at me out of an amused heart-shaped face. Damian allowed his lips to twitch at a private joke he silently invited me to share. Only he was the only one who understood the jest.
“Why do you smile like that?” I murmured. “I’m right here, waiting for you?”
“Who’s waiting?” No, not Damian.
“Ashleigh.” I gazed at the girl with the shaggy head of silvery golden hair glaring at me. “I thought you were someone else.” I raised a hand to touch my face. “For that matter, I thought I was someone else.”
“Every time I catch you up here, looking into this pond, it’s like I’m interrupting a private conversation with someone I can’t see!” Ashleigh shook her head, a bright strand of hair falling forward over her face. “I keep wondering if one day you’ll just lean forward and fall in, heedless of your safety.”
“Perhaps.” I reached forward to brush the stray lock from her forehead. “Fortunately you’re here to distract me from that.”
Ashleigh flushed at the attention, batting my hand away. “What did you see this time? Visions of another Christopher?”
“I’m not sure.” I recalled little before stumbling out of a Door into this reality. I’d been fortunate enough to find Map, Ashleigh, and Omphalos. An entire village of creatures half real, half shadow.
We called ourselves halflings, for whatever else we were, we preferred to regard ourselves as half human. Especially when we weren’t. Feared and shunned by true, flesh and blood humans who were born, ate large quantities of solid food, eliminated waste from their bodies, tied to reality in a hundred little ways, we were odd. This oddness manifested in other ways and abilities.
We’d founded Omphalos on the edge of reality. Ashleigh named our village after an ancient word which meant ‘navel’. Here we’d have the peace to contemplate our navels, unmolested by humans.
Living on the edge of reality, though, meant other realities could slip into our little sanctuary. I kept catching glimpes of other versions of Omphalos, reliving the memories of other Christophers. Unless they were my own lost memories. Or did these visions belong to someone else?
They came to me at the top of a hill overlooking Omphalos, whenever I gazed into the pond there.
It was only too easy to get lost in the images floating within its multicolored waters. Or were the hues only reflected light from the sun, dazzling my eye?
“Map thinks no good will come of gazing into this pool.” Ashleigh blinked eyes bright with silvery light, sparkling with curiousity. “What did you see? The many limbed seductress, Duessa? Or the beautiful Damian?”
“Once Upon a Time.” I shivered at his name on my lips, wondering if I’d cast a spell just by uttering it. “And…Happily Ever After.”
“The beginning and the ending to all stories.” Ashleigh lowered her eyelids. She collected tales herself, fashioning them into new forms at a whim. Some of them she scribbled down in rough notes, which she seldom kept track of. “The way you speak of them, you’d think they were people.”
“Not just people.” Tears gathered behind my eyes, tight and hot. “Titles won and inflicted upon others.”
“Inflicted?” Ashleigh frowned, the silver triangles in her violet blue eyes dimming. “Is becoming Once Upon a Time or Happily Ever After a punishment?”
“It could be.” One of the tears escaped from the corner of my eye. It trickled down my cheek, stinging and wet. “I’m afraid it will be.”
Ashleigh studied my face. Without thinking twice, she took me in her arms, enveloping me in a fierce hug.
“Don’t be afraid,” she whispered in my ear. “Whatever you see in that pond, face it without fear.”
“Easy for you to say.” I yielded to her arms, rippling with muscle beneath the softness. “You’re not scared of anything.”
“I’m scared of you slipping away.” She tightened her grip around me, like the constricting coils of a snake. “One evening, I may climb this hill, only to find you’ve disappeared.”
She released me and backed up a step, studying her feet, the tiny wavelets following the wind across the pond. “Even when you’re here, you’re somewhere else.” That stubborn lock of silvery gold hair fell forward to hide her face. “Whomever I was before Ashleigh clung to a piece of you, dragging you into this world. It would only to be too easy for that piece to vanish.”
“Ashleigh.” Another name for her bubbled up within my memories, only to pop before I could recall it.
“Ah, look how fanciful we’re both becoming!” Ashleigh flipped her head back and flashed a grin.
How like Damian she seemed, the young man who slipped in out of my visions in the same way she accused me of slipping. Keeping the world at a distance with a bright smile.
Not that Ashleigh could ever be Damian. It was unfair, even comparing the two of them. Yet I needed her, needed her as badly as I’d once needed him. Map, too. The two of them grounded me in the same way Damian once had.
“Maybe Map is right.” Ashleigh stretched out her hand to me. “Come, Christopher. Let’s leave this pond of visions for a while. Let’s return to her.”
I hesitated for a moment before accepted the offered fingers. There’d be a price for this. There was always was.
Nor would it stop me from returning to this pond.