Sunday, December 7, 2008

The First Story

There was a time before death. Men and women were born into the universe as though they had always been in it, and they grew up and grew old and grew young again, and old again, and young again, and this is how they passed through life, a stable population that produced no future generations, for what need was there for children when everyone lived forever? Mankind lived through many ages, gaining knowledge and wisdom about everything, until there was nothing left to learn in life. They grew restless, and yearned to know the unknowable, to find a place that came after immortality. Their desire was so strong that man's immortality, full of compassion and wanting to help mankind in its search for the missing knowledge, waited for men and women to come together in the union of love, for that was the only place from which new life could spring. When they were united, immortality stole away with the best of each and hid in the woman's belly, where it put all the pieces together and created New Life. This New Life, when it was ready, leapt out of woman's open place, taking with it the immortality of man. Without their immortality, men and women did not grow young again after growing old, but instead they grew still, and in this stillness they went to the unknowable place, and gained the last bit of knowledge in the universe. And this is how it has been ever since, and how it shall be ever after.

As for sex, as far as I can tell it was about recreation; procreation wasn't even the suggestion of a shadow from the glimmering corner of a thought in anybody's uninformed head. Who knew what a child was, and what it was for, we created ideas, and what we made together was life for the present. Pleasure was a release from the demands of the everyday, the strains of invention and discourse, the inevitable boredom that attaches itself to timelessness. It made us feel good, and connected, and much less alone, the handful-hundred of us that existed. If there were predecessors we never knew them, our origins were hypothetical at best. We had always been the sole beneficiaries of the universe. The only lonely generation. We might have lived forever, and it already seemed as though we had: the first ageless nation, and the last.

Beauty held no meaning to us; where is the value in your youth when it returns with the seasons, cycling back after sixty or seventy more summers? Decrepitude was not the end, it was a winter that melted into autumn, it meant that soon you would be young and strong again, christened a thousand times under the sun's inescapable heat. Our tribe was never separate, and nothing was ever forgotten. Our collective conscious was an encyclopedic brain trust, a history of the world from the time we first came to know it. "It" was everything, almost. We still did not know about the time before. We had never known death.

We knew, or else we wanted to know, that there had to be something more than ourselves. We had exhausted our potential, learned all we could within reason, however much a people can learn given hundreds of thousands of seasons for aging and adolescing. All that was left was the time before, and the time that would come after, the unknowable darkness preceding awareness and following in its stead. And suddenly we had to know, what is it that we don't know? What is in the dark that belongs in our history? We began to dream of a world where the rising of the sun did not follow its setting. We wondered if it gave us meaning, and if it was cold.

When it did finally happen, there was no saying where it came from. Maybe it was magic, maybe we willed it to happen, maybe some unknowable, all-powerful force deemed it should be so. Perhaps we had simply evolved.

It started with the women. They would be beautiful again, at the end of their spring, but then they would be ill for days at a time, and bleeding from the place that the men loved in women (if the men were not in the place that they loved in the other men). Then it would happen that almost all the women would suddenly stop their bleeding, and they would grow round and fat, and we became aware of a bizarre, unfamiliar beauty, an unnamable quality in the female form that hinted at a secret, at a new kind of knowledge waiting to escape, something we had been waiting to learn all our lives.

After that the cycle fell apart, breaking away from its selfsame path and veering linearly forward. We were the first, and suddenly there was a next, and that was who they were, the small ones who had lived in the women but who also looked like the men. The men, they did not swell and produce the newlings, how could they when the small ones would have been trapped inside the men, there was no opening as there was with women. And the women, something changed with them, and after many of the newlings came to us the women would lie still, and they would not move and they would not age. They were the first to escape the sunrise.

Then our winters came. One by one we submitted, in our frailty, to the unmoving stillness that those first women had succumbed to. Everything we had ever known, it would have gone with us into the shadows if we did not tell it away. Our inheritors were the newlings, and we parted from them to sojourn to the final mystery, to the place where fires have died and ashes have cooled and left nothing behind. They carried our knowledge out of our old world and into a place beyond the present. This is a place I cannot go to, now I am obsolete. There is nothing left to tell now; I am the last one to leave.


borvise said...

This is beautiful. It holds nothing back and doesn't apologize. You hold the purity of knowledge and life so delicately....

Amelia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amelia said...

Sorry, something went weird with my first comment:

I love love love love love myths and creation stories and this is just an amazing example of one. I can't get over the beauty of it, especially the description of pregnancy. It's a wonderful and good way of describing something from the POV of someone without the experience to really understand it.

I had a little problem with this sentence "Who knew what a child was, and what it was for, we created ideas, and what we made together was life for the present." I had to read it a few times before I understood what you were saying. Maybe re-word it? Different punctuation? Maybe I'm just tired and slow right now.

This has nothing really to do with the story itself, but I was wondering if you had thought about what gender the narrator was? I'm only saying this because it read as male to me, there appeared to be a disconnect between the men and the women and the narrator and the women. It might be interesting to examine how the women felt about menstruating and pregnancy, as they appear to be the ones who changed the most. Just a thought!

And now I'm going to read it again because it hits all my story kinks!