The Trap of Time

Once there was a knight who found a labyrinth. As soon as he entered it, though, he exited it in an instant. He wondered what he could have missed because he had been told that this labyrinth was impossible to escape.

He turned around and went back in through the exit and turned corner after corner to find the entrance that he could not so easily find. Some corridors looked long but then felt short. And as soon as the walls seemed to be unfolding toward the entrance that had become the exit, they folded back in on him and made him feel like he was trapped in the smallest of cages.

In one cul-de-sac, he saw a child playing and unconcerned with being in the labyrinth at all. In another dead end, he saw an old knight who was skin and bones and was, like the child, unconcerned about the situation he found himself in. He wondered what cruel hand could have made such a trap.

Sometimes the ground felt soft and the walls seemed to wobble, but then he’d turn on his heels and the ground turned hard and the walls impregnable. He tried to follow a breeze but it would change direction. And the shadows were no help since they changed to fit his view. When he tried to mark a wall or the floor, they appeared where he was sure he had never been before.

The knight wished he had never thought of coming here. He should’ve listened when they told him it was impossible to leave. But exactly that notion of impossibility made it impossible for him to resist. So there he was, where he had always been. But he hadn’t thought enough about it, until he did, and went in through the exit to find the entrance only to get lost in time’s design instead.

The Kingdom Plucked

Once a knight was out plucking flowers for his queen’s crown when he looked more deeply than usual into one.  Inside the flower, the knight, much to his surprise, saw a kingdom the mirror image of his own. He could see the castle and the grounds upon which he stood. 

More flabbergasting than that, he saw an ant-sized human exactly where he stood, and it moved exactly as he did. He realized it must be his miniature self looking into a minute flower. Then, the knight felt like someone else was looking at him. He could feel a strong gaze on his nape. He turned around but saw nobody.

However, when he dared to look up, he saw a giant eye filling the entire sky as it looked back down on him. The earth shook. And the castle came crumbling down. And the gardens folded back into the earth.

He looked back at the flower in his hand and saw that he had accidentally crushed it when he had seen his own enormous eye staring down at him from the firmament.  He cried out and lamented what he had done.

He had plucked his kingdom for no great purpose.

The Accidental Labyrinth

Once there was a bricklayer who had a daughter as beautiful as any princess, but he was a poor bricklayer. And men from the village were always trying to sneak into the house. So the bricklayer did the only thing he could do and laid down walls within the room and a hallway within a hallway that led to his room first.  It was very uncomfortable for her because the windows were walled over and the room within the room was considerably smaller. And the hallway was so tight she had to side step it.  

But the men kept coming. The bricklayer had a most beautiful daughter and no choice but to build more proxy hallways and rooms that once the men entered, he would wall up and seal their fate. He built the walls so thickly that nobody could break them without the necessary tools. And so he put up hallway after hallway and room after room to trap every man who dared woo the daughter he loved more than anything else.

Thirsty for revenge and hungry to protect his precious gem of a daughter, the bricklayer stayed focused on building his traps but failed to keep in mind any overall plan. Eventually, he trapped himself with suitors on every side and had lost track of where he might even be in relation to his daughter’s room.

The bricklayer’s daughter worried when her dad did not return but when she exited her house she found herself on the outside of her dad’s accidental labyrinth. She knocked along the outer wall and each one claimed to be her father.  

As she sat down to cry, a man approached and asked if she had lost her father.  She was choked up and just nodded. The man promised to get her father out only if he could marry her. Taken aback by the rings on his finger and the handsome robes draped from his broad shoulders, she told him that he didn’t understand. She couldn’t marry him because she didn’t want anyone to save her father. She was crying tears of joy.  

And she shamed the prince for offering such a promise that by the very offering made the opportunity of shrugging off her dad’s self-imposed fate a little harder for her to swallow and this somehow made her feel like it was the prince’s fault.  The prince insisted that she did not know what she was saying and insisted that he ask her father for her hand. At once, she saw her father in this prince. He wasn’t listening to anything she said. He wasn’t royal in spirit but another bricklayer who wanted to do the same thing her dad had done to her.

She showed the prince the sledgehammer and he ripped a hole in the roof where her father was. The prince extended his hand and lifted her father out of the hole. But dad pushed the man in and sealed the roof back up.  

The bricklayer returned to his daughter’s empty room. She had escaped. And her poor father did not understand why. A heavy sleep overcame him. And he slept for days in his daughter’s bed.

When he finally awoke, he found himself wearing his daughter’s dress. When he saw his reflection, the bricklayer didn’t know what overcame him but he could not stop dancing and laughing at himself. And this silly joy attracted men from all around who wanted a dance with such a fun girl. When he tried to tell them that he was a man also, they laughed even harder. When he stopped dancing, the men chased after him to gain his hand in marriage.

The bricklayer walled himself back up in his house. He really wanted to be outside in this dress and dancing and laughing for the sake of nothing but fun in any space without walls (his whole life had been about lousy walls, he screamed in his mind), but he couldn’t with all these serious, deranged men around looking for property to own at all times. And then it dawned on him what he had done to his daughter. He hadn’t protected her. He had imprisoned her. Worse, prepared her for another man to imprison her as well.

To make amends, the bricklayer tore down all the walls he had built. He destroyed the accidental labyrinth. Released all of its prisoners. And became a carpenter who built a nice house of wood with plenty of windows and doors. And he planted a garden and spent his time kneeling beside his plants in the sunshine. He yearned for nothing anymore except the freedom of wide open spaces.

His daughter returned one day but she didn’t recognize her father. She demanded that this man in one of her dresses tell her what had happened to her father and the labyrinth that used to be here. He stroked his beard for the right words to say but they never came. Instead, he brewed her a tea from his garden and asked for her forgiveness. Then it hit her that this was in fact her father so she accepted his heartfelt apology.

She found the new house inviting with all of its doors and windows. And she moved back in. And whenever a man came to visit, if dad didn’t wear him out with dancing wildly in the fields or by showing him everything in his garden, his daughter could easily slip out any window or door if any man let his possessiveness ruin the situation.

The Old Man's Return

Once there was an old man who wanted to return to the village where he was born one last time before his passing.  He had left his home long ago by following one type of work after another and in so doing lost track of how far he had traveled away from the home of his childhood.  

His life appeared to him as the strangest dream from which he had awoken.  He was so far away that he was unsure of how to find his way back home. So he retraced his steps and went form place to place where he had worked.  But after a few places he got lost. Because he was so old, some of the places where he had worked were abandoned or destroyed.  

He asked anyone he could if they had heard of his village and people told him that nobody called it that anymore, not in many years, but they told him the new name.  And when he came to the village by a different name, he was sure that it wasn’t his old home at all. There were no familiar or friendly faces and the village didn’t even look the same. So he moved on.

He did indeed come upon the village of his youth eventually.  And he spoke with his folk and they smiled and smirked at each other as they heard his stories. He swore that they hadn’t aged a bit. All the sweet faces he had longed for were before him now.  They thought him a peculiar old man who told them he came from there, when they knew he never did.  They took him in anyways and cared for him. His last days were spent in bliss.

A Blind Duel

Once there was an old man who thought he was young and there was a young man who thought he was old.  The old young man challenged the young old man to prove who was the youngest and who was the oldest of all. 

They agreed to hold three competitions. One to see who could row the fastest across a lake. Another to see who could outwit the other at a game of  trivia. And the third to see who could woo a lady.

The first proved that the young man was much younger than he thought. The second that the older was a lot older than he had hoped.  But the third ended in a tie because the lady could not be lured by the strange display of decrepit youth or stupid maturity. Of course, the young man was offended that she had called him stupid and the old man was also very insulted when she uttered that foulest of words, decrepit.  After she told them that they had gotten her insults backwards, neither understood what she meant at all.

Furious at their unwillingness to admit the obvious, she lead them to her bedchamber and for a moment both men thought he was the winner. Instead, she stood them before a mirror.

The young man called her a witch when he saw a baby-faced reflection. And the old man called her a sorceress who commanded the dark arts to conjure up such an image of a frail and haggard old toad. 

Thus, the competition solved nothing because fools only try to prove what they believe at the cost of rejecting a simple plain truth.

Wood Shavings

Once there was an old woman who swept the wood shavings from the floor of a young carpenter.  She brushed the shavings aside into a pile before scooping the pile into a basket. The floor had not one shaving left on it for the next day.

In the morning, the young carpenter would come in and work all day and not think about the shavings spilling all over the floor because they would disappear by tomorrow.  The old woman thought nothing of what the carpenter made because every day new shavings would appear for her to sweep.

The young carpenter saw people as wood for the making, but the old woman had already been made long ago and now saw people as they were: not as the woodwork but the shavings from the woodwork meant to be swept away.

The Queen's Tapestry

Once there was a queen who had some trouble ruling her kingdom.  One day whilst walking through the market, the queen came upon a poor old woman who made tapestries with intricate images that nobody could decipher. 

When the queen insisted that she tell her what her tapestries meant, somebody had to tell her that the poor old woman had lost her ability to speak long ago.  The queen pitied her for this and wondered what tragedy she must’ve suffered in order to never speak again. And the details of these fascinating scenes in the tapestries transfixed the queen and she saw how others scratched their heads when they looked at these mysterious things.  

The queen took the poor old woman and gave her a place to live where she would be taken care of for the rest of her life in exchange for her tapestries.  The queen had them burned without the old woman’s knowledge, and had her make a single giant tapestry for her. And she put it up in her court.

The queen had subjects who thought they could better rule the kingdom and this had plagued her for years with constant second-guessing.  So she challenged them to decipher her tapestry and whoever could tell her the exact meaning would gain the power of the throne.

Her subjects, of course, could not guess the meaning of the tapestry and so it left them feeling as if she knew something they didn’t.  And this feeling grew into an obedience. So the tapestry worked in getting her subjects to stop challenging her.

Until, the good fortune of the old woman somehow returned her speech to her.  And she rushed to the queen to tell her how grateful she was to the only person who showed her kindness since she stopped speaking and to tell her what the tapestry really meant.  And she told the queen in front of her subjects what the ornate images in her tapestry stood for and the subjects could see that the queen herself had not known all along. Now that her plan had backfired, even the queen had to admit that this old woman was far greater in mind.

The poor old woman became their new queen. She ruled the kingdom as she made her tapestries, with rich detail and meaningful acts whose images sat in her subjects’ minds like perfect orbs in the sky.