Voices/Future Tense

An Orions’ Arm E-zine

The Fabulist

Todd Drashner

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree :
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

— Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Old Earth poet, Pre-Information Age

In Xinidin the fabulist strode across the desert of Rei. He walked across the brilliant sand and where he stepped artful flowers sprouted, each brilliant stem tipped with lacy blooms. He stopped a moment and put forth his hands and an oasis sprang from the burning sands, sweet water welling from the ground to form a cooling pool, shading trees growing at improbable speed, and in the center a small temple guarding a cave leading down to an enchanted maze protecting a cavern of jewels and magical artifacts.

In due time a group of travelers came across the sands, following the line of newly grown flowers. They found the oasis and then the temple with its cave and the cave with its maze, which they proceeded to explore. After becoming lost, finding their way again, battling through various adventures and dangers, and finally finding the cavern of jewels and magical things they won their way through to the surface again. And they laughed and cheered and offered up words of thanks to the fabulist and the wonders he had wrought.

And from the place where he watched such things unseen, the fabulist smiled.

At Caer’Cori it was Carnival, and the people laughed and cheered. There was music and dance, singing and laughter and the fabulist moved through the crowds. He stopped and talked with various passers by, exchanging greetings and pleasantries with each. He laughed and joked with them and those he spoke with seemed to find the lights a little brighter and the excitement even sweeter as they continued their celebration. At midnight and the height of the festivities there was a great fireworks display, brilliant flames and explosions and bolts of light flashing up into the sky. At that moment a breeze blew across the city, fresh and rich with the smells of the sea and somehow a hint of orange blossom. As the people sighed and breathed deeply of the sweet air they found themselves exclaiming in wonder and awe, for the lights of their fireworks display had been joined by lights of a different kind. A glitterswarm had been blown across the water from the other side of the bay, and the rainbow beacons of the tiny insects, strobing through all the colors of the spectrum on their mating flights, fell among the people and their celebrations, filling the air with sparkling pinpoints of living light.

The tiny lights seemed first to be a perfect contrast to the much larger show above and then, after the fireworks had ended, to form a restful echo and fitting ending to the great display. Many children would be conceived this night and in later years their parents would tell them of the great display, the living lightshow that nature had seemingly sent to answer it, and feeling of rightness that had seemed to fill the air that night along with the scent of orange blossom

And from the place where he watched such things unseen, the fabulist smiled.

In the wooded hills of Gredidet, the fabulist joined a group of travelers. The group was traveling nowhere in particular, simply hiking through the sun-dappled forest at the base of the snow-topped mountains for the sheer joy of taking in such natural beauty. They spent the day climbing steadily higher into the hills, and the fabulist climbed with them. He quickly became the favorite of the group, telling jokes, explaining something of the plant and animal life seen around them, finding and pointing out particularly pleasing bits of scenery, and somehow knowing just when to add a particular comment or observation that enhanced something that someone else had said in just the right way to make both the speaker and the listeners feel that they had achieved a deeper than expected understanding of the topic at hand.

That night the group camped around a blazing fire and told stories of past exploits or fictional events. The fabulist sat among them and again seemed to always know just the right thing to say to help them remember a particularly good story or anecdote, even if in many cases it was something that the teller had not thought about in centuries. When it was the fabulist’s turn to tell a story, he launched into a tale of rogue AIs and a particularly insidious and chilling blight infestation supposedly encountered centuries ago and light-years away in a far off corner of the known worlds. His audience gasped and jumped and shuddered in delicious fear as his words seemed to draw the night in closer and make it a thing of hidden dangers and shadowy watchers waiting for a moment of inattention in the dark.

In the morning the fabulist was gone, departing quietly while they slept, and the campers felt both sadness and joy at his departure. Sadness that he would not be continuing with them on their journey. Joy that he had visited with them at all and in that visit had made their journey that much richer and more memorable that it would otherwise have been.

And from the place where he watched such things unseen, the fabulist smiled.

And now, finally, the fabulist came to the flying islands of Idril, hanging among the clouds of the Infinite Sky. He sprouted wings of rainbow light and flew across the heavens, weaving and dipping among the floating multi-kilometer spheres of the islands, until he reached his destination. A great number of islands had been temporarily brought together, their sails flashing in the sun dappled light, for the great Festival of Music and Art, this year celebrating its tri-millenial. The swarm of islands was a blazing galaxy of color and a hammer blow of sound.

Music filled the island clouds and roared out from them in all directions. From instrumental pieces to choral works to individual performers, the gathering was filled with song and more than song. From the walls of homes and towers in the island towns, from banners hung from their tops, statures set among them, and hologlyphs set to float above it all, images filled the gathering. The Festival was the culmination of the artistic efforts of millions laboring across years, decades, or even centuries of time.

Among them all the fabulist flew. And flying, he sang. The song itself was one of hope and understanding; a song of being very small in a universe large and cold and uncaring; a song of knowledge gained and lost and gained again and always moving forward even if only a small amount. Those hearing the song found themselves wanting to sing or play or even just hum or whistle along with it, and those hearing them felt the same way. In a surprisingly short amount of time the song had spread across the Festival, leaping from person to group to person again until, for just a moment, the entire Festival resonated as with a single voice, carrying a single tune for just long enough that everyone hearing felt a connection with everyone else. Then the moment passed and the normal cheerful chaos of the Festival resumed.

For those who experienced this moment, the remainder of the Festival was even richer than the time before. People laughed more easily, and spoke with those around them more readily, and appreciated the art they saw and heard and experienced more, finding it somehow easier to grasp the intent of the artist and the feelings e was trying to express or invoke through eir artwork. By the time it was all over virtually everyone who had experienced the shared moment, which was to say virtually everyone at the Festival at the time, was willing to agree that it had been one of the best Festivals in a very long time and certainly worthy of a tri-millennial event.

And from the place where he watched such things unseen, the fabulist smiled. And then he turned away.

The fabulist came out of link-fugue in his studio, suspended in effector fog. As his mind slowly reattached itself to the ril, gradually dis-linking from creativity enhancers and transavant complexity shunts, he noticed the gentle golden light streaming in the window. The sun was setting and night would be falling soon. And with nightfall would come the fabulist’s most important work of all.

A brief command through his netlink and the effector fog released the fabulist, gently lowering him to the floor. A glass of water shifted into easy reach and he took it and drank deeply, savoring the icy freshness. Although navigating the planetary cybercosm and practicing his art in the myriad virtual realities that it encompassed required no physical exertion and took no toll, soon he would need his voice to its fullest degree. Best to prepare.

Nightfall, and a moment later the thumping of little feet running on the wooden floor outside. With a thought the fabulist opened the door to the studio, the carved panel swinging aside just in time to avoid a dashing bundle of barely contained energy that ran across the room and threw herself into the fabulist’s arms.

“Deddee, Deddee, you’re back! I missed you! Will you tell me a story?!”

And in this place, where talents normally used to enrich the lives of billions were directed to the happiness of an audience of one, the fabulist smiled.


More about the author, Todd Drashner, here.

One Response to “The Fabulist”

  • Upon reading The Fabulist -
    We’d all like to believe or work as storytellers is appreciated, either by a mass audience – or just one small, uplifted face. Round a campfire, on someone’s knee, in a song, or using the printed word, stories are a gift indeed.

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