The Hand and The Time

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Nobody in the village knew how long the hand had been there. Everyone in living memory could only remember their parents and grandparents telling them the story of how one day long ago, the hand appeared out of thin air. Where once there were only the green grasses of the rolling hills and the graves of the ancestors, there now stood a hand. It looked both ancient and of the future with weathered cracks like wrinkles and material that no one could identify. It did not rust and though it made a noise like a bell when struck, the walls felt thick and solid.

At first, nothing changed. The farmers planted and harvested their crops. The old taught the young and the young kept the old child-like at heart. The women worked alongside their husbands while the older children watched over the homes.

Then one day a child became sick with a violent illness the likes of which no one had ever seen. The child was a girl who had only just passed her seventh autumn. Her body was covered in boils and she burned with fever. She vomitted every few hours and could barely keep water and tea down. Her symptoms did not appear over time but came upon her with startling speed.

On the night the child took ill, her brother was walking among the hills, praying to the ancestors, and making his way to offer sacrifices in the graveyard. As he walked passed the hand, he stopped. There was a small set of stairs he had never noticed before. As he climbed them, he raised his eyes. Bright lights, multi-colored crystals, and jewels hung from the fingers illuminating the fissures of the hand. The crystals reflected like shining mirrors across the hillside.

The brother gasped as his gaze rose higher. The moon was blood red and seemed to be encircled by half a dozen rings that grew further apart the farther from the epicenter they were. But what caused the brother’s mouth to gape was the woman who floated a few meters above the palm. She wore strange clothes. Her body was covered in some form-fitting black material and over this was a thin, flowing dress that seemed to iridesce as it moved in the wind. Her hair was grey but her features were that of a middle-aged woman.

“I know what it is you seek,” she said as she looked down at the brother. “I am sorry to have brought this upon you and yours.”

“Who are you?” the brother asked

“I am a woman from another time and place.

“I do not understand.”

“Neither do I. But I do know how to help your sister.” She pulled a vial from the folds of her dress and with a wave it floated out of her hand and stopped within the brother’s grasp. “Mix this with dandelion root tea and give it to your sister.”

The brother clutched the vial tightly to his chest. “And what price must I pay for such a gift?”

The woman smiled at the brother with tears in her eyes. “A life for a life. You must wander the years and spaces with me. Everyone you know and love will die. Every thing you have ever held dear will fade away as you watch from a distance. You will live to see this cycle repeat itself endlessly and when at last your days have ended, you will fade out of existence. Your memory will be gone forever.”

The brother thought for a moment then asked, “But my sister will live?”

The woman nodded.

“Then I will return tomorrow at this time.”

The women bowed her head before pulling a hood over her face and disappearing.

The brother returned to the village and gave his sister the liquid prepared the way the woman had instructed. His sister’s fever broke immediately and the boils on her skin began to disappear. The brother kissed his sister on the forehead and hugged first his mother then his two brothers, eldest sister, and father. As they all marveled at the young daughter’s recovery, he slipped out of the room and packed a satchel. Although he had told the woman he would return the following night, he could not bear to stay with his family knowing he would have to wrench himself away from them. Better to slip away now and start the next part of his life.

The brother was exhausted when he arrived at the hand so he lay down at its base and slept. In his dreams, he had visions of strange places and things long past. When he woke the hills were once again bathed in blood and the woman again floated above the hand’s palm.

The woman held her hand out to the brother and without hesitation he reached for it. He began floating toward her and the moment their fingers touched, they vanished from sight.

The two strode across the centuries riding the flow of time. Sometimes they were simply observers, watchers on the edge of history witnessing the sign posts on the journey. Other times they stepped into give time a hand, shaping moments and moving people to their correct places on the stage. And still other times they stepped in to the current of time to become key players in the production.

And across these years, the woman and the brother came to love each other. They shared joy, sorrow, pain, and ecstasy in ways and depths only each other could understand. Their love stood outside the bonds of time and knit their souls together for all eternity.

Finally, the day come when death called to them both. They returned to the spot of their meeting though the hand was now buried beneath the ground. They lay down inside the hollow base, wrapped themselves in each others arms, and faded away into the tides of time.

(Artwork by Viv Tanner as found on Pinterest.)

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My First Love

Other than my faith and loyalty to my family and friends, books and stories were my first love.

I first fell in love with bed time stories: Cordoury and his missing button; Whinnie the Pooh and all the delightful adventures he went on with his friends; Amelia Bedelia and her countless mishaps. I fell in love with the things that made me laugh and the things that made me sad. I learned from these stories that life is full of wonder.

Then, I fell in love with an amazing place called Narnia. This ordinary girl finds herself in an extraordinary situation and rather than stepping back to think about what should be done, she follows her heart and steps bravely forward into an entirely new world located…in a wardrobe. I fell in love with the magic and creatures and characters. No matter who they were, I could relate to them on some level. From The Chronicles of Narnia, I learned magic does exist even in the ordinary.

As I grew older, I fell in love with the world of reading. I read as much as I could get my hands on. Science fiction, the entire American Girl series, The Saddleback Club, Star Wars fiction, fantasy, The Lord of the Rings, classics–the list was endless. I obviously had preferences for certain genres but my “to read” list has alway been a smorgasbord.

Sometime around sixth grade, I feel in love with creating my own stories. My first attempts were reflections of favorite stories I had watched or read. I loved describing characters, discovering worlds, and finding out what happened to the people in these places. I loved writing with pen and paper. I loved typing furiously on the computer when my thoughts raced ahead of my fingers. I loved knowing that I was making a place that was as real as anything I could see or feel.

In high school and college, I fell in love with seeking truth through writing. I had amazing teachers and professors who helped me hone my craft through writing columns for school newspapers, analyzing literature, researching history and politics, and learning how to best present my opinions in a logical, well-thought out way. I fell in love with people disagreeing with my words or relating to them wholeheartedly. I fell in love with the truth that words and idea should can change the world*.

Now, as an adult, I am in love with the process of writing and understanding the creation of stories in any medium. I love writing without having to think about it. I love working hard and planning my sessions. I love research. I love looking at other books and films and television shows and songs and seeing how they can make me a better writer. How did they approach a character? Why did they make this decision about the character’s costume? Why is the setting so important? What is a camera angle contributing to a scene? How do cliffhangers work as effective storytelling devices? How does a key change or specific instrumental solo elevate a song from notes to something that touches the soul?

So when I doubt my abilities, I think of all these things and remind myself of this simple truth: I am a writer and no one will ever be able to take that away from me.


*Paraphrase of quote from Robin Williams’ character in Dead Poets Society.

Dear Carrie Fisher

Dear Carrie,

I’d like to think you are somewhere out there watching all of us post tributes, videos, and tell stories about how much you meant to us. You’re probably touched, moved, and–let’s be honest–laughing up a storm.

I’ve never met you. I can’t say that I know you.

But I kind of feel like I do. I’ve been reading your biographies and while I’m well aware that reading someone write about his or herself does not make one an expert about that person’s life, you’ve provided a window–however small–into your life. Your candor is refreshing; your stories are heartbreaking and hilarious. You’ve managed to capture that weird, sweet, beautiful thing we call life somehow sounding elegant and brash all at the same time.

I’m currently reading The Princess Diarist. I don’t know where exactly you were in your life when you wrote your entries. I do know that you’ve captured the convoluted mind of someone dealing with a mental health disorder. It’s beautiful and disturbing and haunting and perfect.

Like I said, I never met you but your passing has left this odd emptiness in my heart. I was upset when I first heard of your death but like so many things with life you figure out how to box it up and move forward.

It wasn’t until more recently while watching your friends talk about you at the Star Wars Celebration in Orlando and staring at a piece of fan art I have as my wallpaper on my tablet that I realized what exactly I was missing.

There was no one like you and there will never be anyone else like you. No one can sit on couches at chat shows with Gary at their side and make us feel like you’re sitting in our living rooms. No one can make us laugh and cry all in the same moment the way you did.

No one else will ever be our Princess.

With Much Luv,

Jana

Why I’ll Keep Watching Marvel Movies

A lot of people say the Marvel movie franchise is repetitive and familiar. They’re not wrong. But I’m still going to keep watching Marvel films.

Even though the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has been pretty impressive in its scope and scale, many people would argue they’re not very good films. The storytelling isn’t original. The villains are predictable. The action (while impressive in its visual scale) follows the same model.

All of these things are true.

I suppose as a writer, I should be more critical of the MCU. Generally speaking, I analyze films the way I analyze literature. I dissect characters. I look for symbols. I seek out plots that are original and have twists you don’t see coming.

However, I generally suspend my critical mind when I walk into a Marvel film. Part of it is because I’m such a huge geek. Part of it is because I love comic books.

And I don’t think there’s a problem with that. I think there’s a place for stories that are written and played out just for the sake of entertainment.

I know there are those out there who think I’m committing some kind of cinematic crime.

But I don’t really care.

I’ll keep watching Marvel films. I’ll keep cheering at the screen when there are cool fight moves and hero shots.

And I’ll certainly keep sitting through all the credits to watch the last few seconds of screen time.