A Fisherman’s Catch

Once there was a fisherman who spent all his time fishing for the village. And he missed his wife as much as she missed him. But she could not bear to be in a boat so he had to fish without her. One day his wife decided that she would try and overcome her fear and visit him as a surprise in a separate boat. And she did a really courageous job even though the seas were calm for a sailor, and when the other fisherman directed her to the cove where her husband was she found him singing a song with a woman. Her long hair was as curly as the waves. And when they saw his wife, she jumped from behind a rock and into the sea. His wife saw that she had a tail!

Her husband rowed after her. Back home, he pleaded for his wife to understand the arrangement. For a duet, the mermaid would give him a bountiful catch to take home. And he had gotten used to it and stopped fishing altogether. But his wife didn’t want to hear it and told him never to see her again and to start fishing again no matter how poor the catch because she could sauce and add other ingredients to make a meal fit for a king let alone a peasant such as he. He knew that was true and agreed. Strangely enough, when she humbled him like that, it made his stomach glow warm for she grounded him in a way that made him feel wanted and needed.

But as the fisherman fished he yearned to sing the duet.  He had really enjoyed singing.  It was a better way to pass the time than staring at the sea.  So he began to sing on his own.  To his surprise he remembered the songs the mermaid taught him.  And he sang them at the top of his lungs.  Miraculously, a bountiful catch found its way on his boat.  And before he began rowing home, a vision of his wife came to him.  He saw her yelling at him.  Would she not think that he had sang a duet with the mermaid again?  He took out a few fish that would suit a meager catch commensurate with his passionless fishing and threw the rest of the catch back in the sea. 

A piercing shriek caused the sea to capsize the fisherman’s boat.  He felt his legs being pulled under.  The mermaid took him down to the bottom of the sea where she had a cave she filled with air for the fisherman to breathe.  He pleaded for her to understand the arrangement.  The mermaid was insulted that his wife would not accept the bountiful catch she provided in exchange for song. 

She took the fisherman deeper to a chamber behind the cave’s walls. Therein glowed a treasure beyond anything the fisherman could imagine. As she told him that the entire treasure could be his as long as he left his wife and spent the rest of his life with her, he noticed a skeleton encrusted in diamonds, emeralds, and rubies and it had a grin of pearls that made him feel cold inside. He also saw that the chamber was buttressed by beams of gold and knew this was no chamber at all but a cage that he had unwittingly walked into. Feeling trapped, the fisherman felt sick to his stomach and yearned for that warm humbling love that only his wife could fill to the brim of his modest cup and knew that these chalises would always be empty of the only ambrosia he could ever handle.

To his surprise, she returned him to his boat when he politely declined but she left one strand of her curly hair on his jacket as a parting gift.  And his wife took the strand of hair and he explained what had happened.  She forbade him from singing ever again out at sea.  And the fisherman quietly fished thereafter but his wife soothed him by singing after supper in a voice he had never heard before that sounded so delicate and heartfelt that it brought him to his knees and made him forget about his duets at sea.

The Plain Faced Villagers

Once there was a village of plain faced people. Not only were they plain in face but everything about them seemed plain. In the plainness of their appearance, their work, and their art, they found great comfort. They found everyone alluring in their attractive plainness and valued what they called normal above everything else. They preached the golden rule to do onto other plain faced people as they would do onto themselves. They would often say that nothing beat such a plain face as theirs because no other face measured emotions as well. Seeing excitement overcome a plain face was like watching the wind blow over a field of wild grass. Gratifying indeed.

Then the One was born. The One was anything but plain. The One had the most captivating face. The One’s body seemed made from a divine hand. The One radiated in words and behavior. The whole plain village was dumbfounded until they felt their plainness in a different way. It was uncomfortable. This discomfort spread ideas until it seemed that the only way to preserve their old pride about being plain was to banish the One. And that is what they did. So the One went on to be celebrated by other villages and the One reached the throne and received knighthood.

Back in his home village, the plain folk hated hearing about the One’s success. And they had spent probably more time ranting about the One than when he was one of them. And when the One returned to visit his home – to rub their noses in it as they put it – they ambushed him and took away his good looks by cutting up his face and disfiguring his body. They poisoned him with a foul tea and it only gave him a few more moons to live.

The One begged them for forgiveness but they refused to accept it. He stayed in the village and begged all of them for any help he could perform in his crippled state. The One showed such exceptional humility that it made them sick to their rotting tummies. And they used him until he died.

When the rest of the kingdom came to the village to pay their respects, they were convinced that these ugly people were impostors who must’ve killed the plain faced people who used to populate the village. Who else could have disfigured and poisoned the One? The once plain faced villagers, however, could not see how their faces had changed over the years from their rancid hatred centered on the One nor could fathom why the others from the kingdom were giving them such strange looks.

Under the king’s swift orders for the brutal murder of the One and for the assumed massacre of the plain faced people (whose bodies were never found), the village of brutal impostors was removed from the face of the earth.

Custards or Jellies

Once there was a baker who filled all his treats with either custards or jellies. When it came to custard, he could whip up a custard to any degree of creaminess or fluff. There wasn’t a sad piece of dough that he couldn’t liven up with his custard as he imagined vast tranquil seas of custard upon which his customers could find safe passage through their day. But then there was the jelly. When he made jelly, it sparkled so brilliantly that it glistened with an irresistible shine that drew people to not only eat his treats but gaze upon the infinity contained in them. The baker dreamed of its suspended seeds as insights hanging in the plasma of a consciousness supreme and wished that his customers partook of the jelly and at once released the insight to nourish their minds. But the jelly was harder to make and required more of his attention to perfect its depth. Eventually, he learned to appreciate the custard as much as the jelly, for the custard filled out what the jelly could not.

The Puppet Kingdom

Once there was a man who could hear the truth.  And he heard the people in his village.  He heard everything they had to say.  And he noticed that they were talking to themselves even when they were speaking with others.  He also saw the truth.  And he saw how differently each one of them viewed everything.  And how distorted and strange their visions were compared to each other.  There were seas of nuance between them even on what they thought they agreed on.  And he heard how they talked to themselves in order to convince themselves of the words they were using and the idea that those words exactly expressed what in fact they could not.  

He also saw that everyone felt as if the world was moving about them and not that they were moving through the world.  There was this deep feeling that the world overwhelms them with more demands than they could ever have wished for.  There was an even deeper sense in these villagers that they did not ask for this life nor surely did they ask for its death.  And so it was no wonder with such irreconcilable matters that they ended up speaking in monologues even when they called it a conversation.

Worse than knowing such things is not being able to say them.  So he kept quiet and pretended as if he were having conversations with others while listening to their monologues.  And he tried to stay in his hut as much as he could in order to minimize that feeling of being overwhelmed by the world’s demands.  Whenever someone asked for his advice, he would tell them the answer they wanted to hear. Otherwise it would take too much conflict to make that person see the truth because when such a person is told the simple truth, the messenger always becomes the enemy.

After a bad night’s sleep, though, he caught himself talking to himself in front of someone.  And that person did not seem to notice nor care.  None of the villagers seemed to notice or care for that matter.  And this angered him because he was slipping into doing it as well.  So he vowed not to fall into this malaise and he figured out a way to make others who were already talking to themselves say things he wanted them to say to themselves by the power of suggestion.  And it was remarkably easy.  All it took was the right word or sentence implanted in the perfect moment and they’d run off with it as if it were their own.

And so he convinced them to convince themselves that he should be their lord and that he should be given whatever he needed to live the life of their lord.  Of course, there were villagers who didn’t like it and felt that he was using them but it didn’t matter because they did not know how to have a real conversation for they only spoke in monologues that nobody really listened to.  Besides, everyday he would suggest how powerless they felt about the overwhelming fact of what it means to be alive and they would convince themselves of it to the point of paralysis.  

He took one of his puppets for a wife.  And they had little puppet children who enjoyed things he never got to enjoy as a poor kid.  And the villagers sacrificed much to provide them with the best of possible lives.  He made them sacrifice even more because he still felt as alone as he was when he tried to isolate himself in his hut but now he had power over others and even though it didn’t cure his loneliness it was better than nothing.  

That is until the villagers suffered too much under his rule.  He went too far without knowing it because he had stopped hearing their monologues and expected them to sacrifice as he requested.  He himself had gotten lost in his own monologue without realizing it.  And through that suffering imposed by him, the villagers bonded against their common enemy and finally learned to have a real conversation with each other.  And after much discourse they went to their lord and realized that when he spoke he no longer spoke to them but was speaking to himself.  And they saw that he did not hold them in his heart and when he called them puppets they knew they had to put him out of his misery.  

The villagers got back control over their village and once everything returned to normal and they benefitted mutually from their labor, they forget about how they needed each other and drifted back into talking to themselves.

The Disappearing Necklace

Once upon a time there was a poor man who found a valuable necklace on the side of the road. He lived with others he did not trust so he found a spot in the woods and buried the necklace there. When he figured out where to sell it, he returned to dig it up but it was gone. At first, he thought his mind had played a trick on him so he dug many holes. Still no necklace. Tired from digging he took a seat and saw the necklace dangling from an oak branch. he thought to himself, “how did the necklace unbury itself and get up there?” Surely somebody else did it but why? Was someone watching him? He looked around the lonely forest before grabbing the necklace and pocketing it. But when he returned to the village where he wanted to sell it, he reached into his pocket only to discover it lost again. This village was known for its pickpockets. He figured that somebody slipped it out of his pocket. On his way home, the necklace appeared in his other pocket. Determined to not let it slip away this time, he hid it in his bed. But in the morning, it was gone. He shrugged it off and went to work where the necklace reappeared in the mouth of a horse. He grabbed it but it fell to the floor and broke into pieces. While he was on his knees picking up the pieces, somebody asked him why he was putting the horse’s teeth on a string. He looked up at the horse who gave him a toothless grin and finally laughed at losing the necklace all over again.

Silvery Fish

Once there was a diver who found a special school of fish. Whenever he stood on the sea floor by a certain rock near a hole that seemed bottomless, the school of silvery fish would appear above him. And they swam into shapes of the things and people in his life and showed him what they were doing. He saw the fish swim into the shapes of his mom falling and his dad catching her. And when he got to shore that day he visited his parents and they asked him how he knew what had happened. On another dive, the fish swam into the shape of his son who helped an old woman carry a pail of water. And he told his son later what a good boy he was and his son looked at him in amazement. And the fish swam into the image of a ring while others swam through it. He went to the cave near the village and trapped enough game to last the village a season. The people celebrated with a feast and aksed him how he knew about the game hiding out in the cave and he said it was the fish who told him and they laughed and thought he didn’t want to tell anyone his secret. The last time anyone saw him was when he went for a swim and the fish showed the largest dome he had ever seen. There must’ve been thousands more of these silvery fish who made a dome that stretched as far as the eye could see. And a glowing ball of reflections ascended from the bottomless hole and took its place on high under the ceiling and appeared to the diver as a waterfall of sunlight. And then all the fish swam down the hole and he after them.

The Merchant and the Fool

Once there was a merchant who kept the strictest account of his business. He did the same with anything else in his life, actually. He would always say there was an order to everything and he meant his order. He knew exactly who was important to him and who didn’t matter. He knew exactly who offended him and who earned his respect. When anyone asked him for help or a favor, he had to assess the value in relation to the risk.

    One day there was an accident and a complete stranger needed his help but it was easy for him to keep walking because it was all risk and no value, as he liked to say about almost everything that did not involve his profit.  To get involved in such an accident would only be a threat to his well being as he saw it.  This sort of thing happened before and would happen again and it was of no concern to him.  Who was he to try and change the order of things?

    And once there was a fool who kept no account of anything.  If somebody needed something like the codpiece off his crotch, he’d give it.  He had no real business to speak of except the business of life.  It might’ve been a poor life but it was rich with friends who he made wherever he went.  

One day, the merchant was busy running numbers in his head while he was crossing the road and a team of horses pulling a carriage galloped straight for him. And the fool saw what was about to happen and without a care pushed the merchant out of the way but was trampled to death instead. The merchant stood up and brushed himself off and cursed the man who pushed him as a downright fool who should’ve looked where he was going

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.

The Witch’s Web

Once there was an old witch who lost her ability to see. She could no longer use her cauldron or her mirrors to watch over the village nor could she see where anything was in her hut nor any wolf lurking in the woods nor any tasty rabbit hiding in the understory. One night a spider came down from the ceiling and landed on her nose. It woke her but she stayed still and felt it walk across her cheek. it’s string trailed behind it and tickled her skin in a way that felt loud to her. This gave her a brilliant idea.

    She brewed up a pot – a magic stew – of liquid power that allowed her to spin webs from her finger tips.  Those spun from the left would not be sticky in order to just gather information.  Those spun from her right were sticky and intended for traps.  As she felt every surface of her hut she wove webs into and under everything with her left hand until she could feel where anything was from anywhere she touched her web.

    Any movement of the smallest bug or slightest wind was brought to her attention too.  So she wove around her hut and webbed the forest to her awareness.  Now she knew where every wolf and rabbit were unlike when she had her eyesight.  She had rabbit stew whenever she pleased and wished she had lost her sight much sooner.

Then she made it to the village and wove her web into every house and pathway. And as the village folk performed their daily duties, their actions reverberated in her web and startled her with a new vision of the people she had previously despised. All of their daily movements struck the strings and produced a music unlike any she had ever heard. She had heard the music of nature and when she webbed the woods that music did not surprise her. She had even heard the music of the celestial orbs, and the delirious sounds of the moonlight. But she had never heard the humble music of the folk from the village. And she wept at the spare beauty of all that seemed so unadorned and plain.

The people, however, did not hear any of this music. They did not know why she had webbed their entire village and it angered them. They grabbed their axes and torches and marched toward her hut. But she had heard that music too. It was loud and angry and full of confusion. She knew that confusion was almost always involved whenever somebody killed someone else anyways. So she had already made a sticky perimeter from her right hand that the marching villagers got entangled in. They tried to burn through it but there were only more webs.

With a captive audience, she told them that she had gone blind and meant them no harm. She told them about her idea and why she webbed everything. Then she let them go, and asked for their mercy because the music of their humble lives soothed her and she needed to hear it to go on living. And they, in turn, stopped calling her a witch and came to her for advice since she had heard all of the reverberations of their words and actions.

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.