The world shaper poured cream into his tea and turned its swirls with a spoon. I stared at my pastry trying to think of something worth saying to a man who could mold reality to his whim.
“Anuaxi, sir,” I started, but my next words were lost at his scowl.
“None of that,” he said. “Just Anuaxi. What’s on your mind, child?”
“I… how do you create a world?” I asked.
He nodded thoughtfully at his tea for some time. “Let’s create one together,” he said.
“Over breakfast?” I scoffed.
“Over breakfast,” he said with a smile that for a moment made him seem something other than intimidating.
“O-okay, what do I do?”
He buttered a croissant and chewed down a large bite.
“What kind of world do you want to make?” he asked.
“A beautiful one,” I said right away. “Waterfalls and mountains, and it should have lots of rainbows.”
“Stone and water, light and air, good,” he said. “What else?”
“Nice people,” I said, emboldened. “I’d want it to be full of nice people, who can be trusted, and nobody lies.”
He savored a sip of tea and nodded. “How would the people in your world learn?” he asked.
“I’d fill it with the best teachers,” I said.
“What would be the purpose of teaching, if your people could trust everyone and all were good?”
“I don’t understand,” I said.
“It is a world that teaches,” he said. “The purpose of living is to grow. That is the first lesson you teach to anything you create, in order that a world may thrive, the things in it must want to grow. Look at the garden. What would it be if the plants in it had no desire to reach for the sun?”
“What does that have to do with people being nice?” I asked, hiding a confused frown in a swig of tea.
“We’re no different,” he said. “A successful world allows for diversity, and challenges, so that all may thrive.”
“How do bad people make people thrive?” I asked.
“Is that what I said?” he asked, leaning back in his chair and studying me through impressive eyebrows.
“Well, no,” I said, wishing I could think of something better to say.
“Plants are simple in that if you give them nutrients and light, they thrive,” Anuaxi continued. “People, though… Have you noticed how your greatest moments of growth happen after times of difficulty? It is in us to grow, not just in body but in spirit. When something stands in our way, we must learn our way around it, no?”
I chewed on that with my pastry. “I understand,” I said at last. “I suppose it could get boring after a while if there aren’t any challenges.”
“Not to mention planning for the eventuality of your world attracting those for whom you did not design it,” he added.
I hadn’t considered that. “I’d allow for all kinds of people,” I said. “I guess,” I added, looking around, “I’d make it a lot like this one. More rainbows maybe. And unicorns. I’d have unicorns.”
“You can create an environment to attract them, but as with the people, the choice to come will lie with the unicorns,” he said.
“Then I’d want to do that,” I said. “Can you teach me how?”
Anuaxi smiled again, and this time it was tender. Fatherly. “I’d enjoy that,” he said. “Is that all, then? This world, plus more rainbows and a favorable environment for unicorns?”
I nodded eagerly. “It’s a good start for my first world,” I said, and he laughed.
“I agree,” he said. “Then it’s settled.”
I watched him finish his croissant and drain his tea cup before I asked, “what happens now?”
“Tomorrow morning you will open your eyes to your new world,” he said.
“Is it already made?” I asked in astonishment. “We only had a conversation. I didn’t feel anything. When did it happen?”
The world shaper leaned back and studied me solemnly.
“This was a lesson,” he said, “an exercise. The thing is, you must understand what makes a world and those in it before you can begin to shape them. Have you ever known someone who was convinced that the world wished them ill? At every turn they expect heartache and disappointment. Have you noticed how the world seems to oblige them?”
I thought of Anita, my mother’s friend. Mother often complained that Anita just never got a break. Every time Anita came over, I knew that mother would be with her for hours, consoling her though each time it was a different tragedy. Like the woman had the worst luck on the planet. I nodded.
“Could it be said then that they are a world shaper, of sorts?” he asked. “They live in a world of their own creation.”
“But they’re still sharing the world with us,” I said.
“Are they?” he asked with a quick shrug.
I didn’t have an answer. He was the world shaper. If anyone knew the answer to that, it should be him.
“Aren’t they?” I asked.
“Enjoy this day,” he said, rising from the table. “Enjoy your garden and your art. Tomorrow, when your eyes open, I leave it up to you to decide whether you have awakened in a world of my creating, or of yours.”
“Tomorrow morning then,” I agreed, rising as well. “But, if what you’ve said is true, I’ve already created my own world and am living in it.”
Anuaxi smiled, and this time it was filled with pride.
“I chose my pupil well,” he said.
His praise meant more to me than I would have guessed. I gazed around at the kitchen and the way the morning sun played with the curtains to paint patterns across the counter tops. Out the window, above the neighborhood, a rainbow arced over the mountains.
“What do unicorns like to eat?” I asked.
Written by W. C. McClure. This may be shared (and please do); just please be sure to share it in its entirety, unaltered (and including this fine print), with credit given to W. C. McClure. This is a work of fiction. None of the characters or events depicted are meant to represent anyone or anything this side of dreams. Comments are welcome at http://www.farsideofdreams.com. Oh, and please help support this indie author by telling your friends about this short story blog and buying W. C. McClure’s books http://www.wcmcclure.com. Thanks for reading!