The Traveling Troupe

Once there was a troupe of actors who traveled from village to village like a merchant who sold emotions instead of wares.  The troupe inspired sparks of joy in the saddest of places and reflected the dangers of aggression to angry villages who tended to be more peaceful afterward.  All across the land the troupe found great success and villages eagerly awaited their return for they were also renowned for their after-parties.

    But then one day, the troupe performed for a village upon which they had no effect at all.  The troupe could not read the audience and this put them in a state of dismay and they noticed their performance suffered for it.  They were used to making a mark on even the blandest of villages and this felt outrageous as a result of their comparison.  Who were these ignoramuses, the actors asked themselves backstage.  

    After the show the audience invited them to the show they put on for themselves once a week that happened to be right after theirs.  The troupe needed to know why this audience did not respond to their act, so they postponed their after-party and quickly accepted.  And the troupe took a seat as the audience. Despite their desire to tear the performance of these novice dunces apart who clearly could not appreciate the sort of worldly entertainment they had brought to them, the actors were driven to mad laughter instead! And they cried the most cathartic tears they had ever had!  

After the show, the troupe praised the villagers and knew they must be the healthiest people they ever met for their village appeared as a result of good hard work and somehow they also entertained themselves at the highest level.  The troupe begged to let them live with them but the villagers politely declined because they had no need for this troupe who demonstrated such an imbalance through their performance.  It was the nicest way they could tell the troupe that they were in fact not good enough for their standards.

And so the troupe traveled on and moved villagers in other villages but their performances did not feel the same. Subconsciously, routines from the village crept into their show but each one mangled up into an unrecognizable lump of half performances. Each show made them feel like a traveling band of old and stale tricks for imbalanced audiences who needed their mediocre entertainment to get through their miserable lives, as they bitterly put it.

They wished they had never performed for that village and became so bitter that they forbade any from talking about the village and its performance as it really had affected them. Sarcasm infected each member of the troupe. They could only appreciate the irony of any situation. And only schadenfreude brought them any comfort. And the more harsh and biting their shows became, the more farcical, the more popular they were throughout the kingdom (except in that one village were they dared not return). They drowned their sorrows in ever more lavish after-parties that became so depraved that one party became their last when it involved debauching the kingdom’s princess for which they were sacrificed as part of a new campaign by the king to return his state to some modicum of purity and what he liked to call good living by burning a select few at the stake.

When the village heard of the poor troupe’s fate, they were relieved that they had not accepted them into their village but they felt deeply sorry for their tragic lives and so they put on a tender show salted with the bitterness of what the troupe had become, as accounts came pouring in from traveling merchants. And the show was so powerful that they decided to travel with it. They moved village after village and when the king happened to see it, it brought him to tears as it struck a nerve with regard to his notions of purity and the imbalances suffered by the troupe so that he demanded that the villagers become the official troupe of the kingdom.

Moon Bread Curse

Once there were two brothers who stole some bread from a witch.  And the witch caught the boys when they came back to steal some more because they had seen that she had plenty.  They had already taken bites out of the bread they stole when the witch grabbed them by the ears and sat them down.  She asked them if they knew how many moons it took her to make that bread which she called moon bread, though she knew full well that she had made the bread in an instant to tempt these innocent creatures.  

    The witch told them that they were cursed for having eaten the bread.  The boys cried as she told them that one day they would be separated and one of them would die and the other would know it and the one who survived would also die within a cycle of the full moon.

    The boys ran home and told nobody about the curse and tried to forget it.  But each brother kept thinking about it and felt the hot pain of the witch’s ear pinch when they did. Each brother wondered if it was he who would die first and if it were better or worse than the other fate.  

Years passed and the brothers tired of trying to forgot about the moon bread curse. And one brother got tired of always being with his brother. And one night, under a full moon, he snuck away to go swimming at the lake. In the middle of the dark pool, while he floated under the moon, a pain struck his chest and he couldn’t breathe. At that moment, his brother awoke and knew right away that his brother was dead and he knew exactly why. He looked outside and saw the full moon and knew he had only a month to live.

    He rode off on his horse to escape his fate.  He rode fast and wildly wherever any path would take him.  The closer he got to the next full moon the more distance he traveled.  But the full moon came and went and nothing happened.  And another.  And after a third, he thought that there was no curse at all.  His brother simply had an accident.

As he rode back home, winter had come. The landscape had already changed. Snow-laden fields and rocks glazed with ice made it difficult to recognize the terrain. The land had become barren and he began to wonder where the trees went. It was so cold that under the moonlight he could see that his skin had turned blue. He had forgotten when his horse could not carry on, but found himself kicking snow across these desolate hills when a figure in the distance appeared.

The figure looked even bluer than he. The man had translucent icicles hanging from his limbs. Clearly, he had been frozen there a long time. But his lips could still move slightly and only one word could slip out. Brother. That frozen blue and purplish face that upon first glance seemed blank to him was now clearly his brother’s face. And his brother’s frigid eyes cracked the ice to look up at the sky. So he turned around and saw that the moon was no longer in the sky but there was a blue orb.

A cruel wind sucked at them and it carried the wicked shrieking laughter of the witch. As he clinged to his brother, the wind pulled them toward a crater. At its lip, he hunkered down, held his brother in his arms, and witnessed the last image of his consciousness while peeking over the lip: at the center of the crater was a black hole into which the snow and ice fell in to its vacuum but once in the crater moved strangely, more like mercury than frozen water. And there was this aura emanating from above the black pit. A silver mist shined what appeared to be an ethereal dome of intricate geometries composed of something like an infinite number of light-bearing snowflakes.