Palace of Tales

The room is white with more doors than wall space. I know many of those unseen corridors well. Others are less familiar, and possibly less adequately illuminated. The glow peeking out along the floor is more subtle than the better tended quarters, whose doors glow rectangular outlines. Still, there is enticement there in those less explored avenues.

My fingers brush along the well-worn knobs of doors labeled “Big Books” and “Little Books.” I wonder, not for the first time, whether I could have been more creative in that labeling. The “Big Books” wing is immense and well-tended. I could get lost in there for the day. That doesn’t help for creating a blog post. I pull my hand away. A couple of doors have similarly intended titles. “Stories” and “Writing” have interconnecting hallways and often lead to shared rooms. Truth be told, those corridors are a mess of architectural concepts spanning decades. I always gear up before delving into those realms. Anything could happen in there. There are more doors, but they lead to maintenance corridors and media-filled rooms dotted with sleeping strategists and partially sculpted system models. No. Not today. I consider consolidating those corridors behind a single door entitled “Rabbit Holes.”

“Stories” then. I turn the knob and step through before I can change my mind. The chaos that affronts my senses gives me second thoughts. Noise and color assail me. Scents too. Some exotic, others mundane, but all together are too much. Doors here don’t conform to practical architecture as we know it. Some open from the floor or ceiling. Some doors are embedded within other doors. The clack of them slamming opened and closed makes my head throb. I take a steadying breath and push forward. Characters and settings peer at me through furtive cracks as I pass.

“No, not today,” I hear whispered. “It looks like she’s more into organizing.”

Mixed sighs of relief and exasperation follow behind this announcement. It’s an accurate guess. This is a mess in here, and today is suddenly the day to get this neglected space whipped into order. I reach for a diagonal door and tug it into a more expected shape before tossing it against the wall nearby and reaching up with a new name in mind.

An hour later, I gaze with satisfaction at the neat row of newly renamed doors and soft carpet of meadow moss cushioning my feet. I know in my heart that I have only accomplished a clean antechamber. The chaos still exists down several of those new corridors. That’s okay. I need that untidy jumble to percolate beyond my line of sight. It’s part of the process. The world outside this space is more fear and chaos filled than ever and today I need things I can control. I need silence and space to push past the distractions to remember where the true gems are in my life.

A small voice hiding behind one of the newly painted doors murmurs about my purpose being to find a story to post today.

Right.

I open the door named “Seeds” and push through.

Rich, fertile soil blankets this space. It is more garden than corridor, and I love that. Here, the scents are sweet and earthy. Birds sing merrily from tall branches sprouting high overhead. I realize there are no tree trunks. Ah. I see. The trees are painted between the doors. No, they are painted around the doors. Oh. My mistake. I see it clearly now. The trees are the doors. And they could go on endlessly. Flashes of movement and color enliven the sun-dappled greenery overhead. I breathe in deeply and appreciate the layers on the air. Thick fertility. Budding life. Light, cleansed air from… is that mountain or ocean? It feels soothing as I take it deep into my lungs and smile.

Underfoot are blooms of every hue. They burst open as my eye falls upon them, eager to be admired and loved. Are they whispering or giggling? It’s hard to tell. I feel their joy, though, in knowing they have succeeded in their aims.

Remembering my purpose, my gaze shifts to the doors. I came in here for a new story. The names etched on the trunks aren’t always legible, but each tree is unique, nonetheless. I feel I can find my way without signage.

I push through a door with “Chase in Space” scribbled above. It takes about two minutes of gazing around before I remember this seed. It isn’t that I forgot the story concept. No, I think about it often. I just completely forgot that I had decided to name the character Chase. I’d love to dig into this soil, but this seed will grow a large story. I’m looking for something smaller and more manageable. I step out again, making a mental note to rename that door.

Next, I step through a door entitled “Come Through” and stare obtusely at the lobby for an early version of “The Parallel Abduction” collection. When had I ever thought “Come Through” was a workable title? “Deep in the Sea” is another quick trip. It was obviously a story constructed for one of my nieces, but I don’t remember its creation. That’s an adventure for another day. I step back to my forest garden. “Conversation with Gav” is a cut / optional scene from “The Mountain of Skulls,” the third (and as yet unfinished) book of the Far Side of Dreams series. I sort that quickly and move to the next door.

“Frame” I recognize. I have visited this story frequently over the last couple months. It started as a short story concept, but I can’t tell now whether it will remain short. It’s coming along gently and deliciously. I consider staying, but my objective is to come away with a story within today. With a reluctant sigh, I turn back and reach for the next tree trunk.

This door holds my attention much longer, though the text inside is a single paragraph. A quotation, though its source and intention are lost from my memory. I suspect I may have used some portion of it in another story, but which one?

“One night there were stars all across the sky.  It was beautiful seeing them all up there, dancing, playing away from all of the bustle down here.  It was a good night.  They glowed bright and brighter yet, and soon they came together, one star linking arms with the next, and the sky was vibrant and warm and alive.  There was music, beautiful music.  Voices raising and exalting the heavens like no earthly sound could make.  There were so many stars.  They brought their warmth with them closer and closer to the earth.  It was night and it was day.  Love glowed out of the stars and down onto the bustling people.  The people were happy about the warmth and the light, and no one cared that it was supposed to be night.  The light was so welcome and beautiful everyone shared hugs.  Thank you said the people to the stars.  Thank you.  You taught us to dance and to hear beautiful music.  We can sing to you now and try to learn your lovely songs.  The stars withdrew on a single note and went back to their places, keeping only a low hum to remind the people of their promise.”

I stand for a moment more, savoring the low hum of infinite stars declaring their love. I close the door quietly, careful not to interrupt the peace within. Whatever time and inspiration created that paragraph, I suspect it may have been cut from a character’s lips so it could speak to me years later, on this searching day.

I take in the remaining trees stretching away from me and consider my journey to get to this spot. How might one put this into a story of its own? How to describe the frustrations and reassurances I have built in this strange shifting palace? I wish often that I could share it. Let people explore the long and varied corridors. Have adventures in the worlds they find beyond the strangely named doors, as I do.

“She found her answer,” I hear someone whisper through the crack of an open and watching tree trunk. “I see it in her eyes.”

“Yes, I think I may have,” I reply.

Titters and giggles recede quickly and go silent when the door clicks shut behind them. I wonder briefly whether I should try to track those voices to their source, but that can be another day. I need to head back. I have a story to tell.


I’d like to thank my patrons at https://www.patreon.com/wcmcclure: Dustin Martin; Nicole Tuma; Rainy City Ukulele School; Stephanie Tuma; and my World Shapers, Ann, Jess, Natalie, Barney and Diane. Thank you for your continued support!

from the far side of dreams

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