Sunday, 1 January 2012

Fabrication no. 4 (Fable)

‘I'm sure we've been here before,’ said the ancient traveller to his companion as they entered the village.

‘I don't remember this place,’ said his companion. ‘What makes you think that we've ever passed through here?’

‘You see that cloud in the sky?’ said the traveller, pointing upwards. ‘See how it looks somewhat like a charging horse, but also like the fingers of a hand, holding a thin crescent-moon?’

‘Yes, I see it,’ said the companion, ‘although to me it seems less like a hand, more like a woman in a bridal gown, her train caught on a gatepost. But the horse I see. Yes, I agree on that.’

‘I have seen that cloud before,’ said the ancient traveller, ‘years ago. Although I do not remember anything other than that cloud, we have passed this way on another occasion.’

His companion laughed. ‘You silly old fool!’ he said, ‘Have you lost your mind? Even if we had been here before, that cloud would not have been here also. Clouds are always changing, moving across the earth as we do. See, even that cloud no longer resembles a horse, but has become a hare, with two long ears where the horses’ mane was not a moment ago.’

‘Yes,’ said the traveller, ‘that's what happened last time we were here.’

‘Well,’ said his companion as they walked through the village, ‘even if you have seen a cloud like that before, and if, as you say, it changed from a dragon into a hare, just as the one above us has done, it does not follow that it happened above us, here in this village. I say again, I do not recognise this place, and I do not believe that we have passed through here before.’

‘Perhaps not,’ said the traveller, ‘but who is to say that places do not change the way clouds do, and this village will lose its form as soon as it is behind us, and become a field, or an ocean, or a mountain?’

‘Why, only a total idiot such as yourself would think that!’ laughed his companion as they neared the other side of the village, and the open road once again beckoned.

‘But we have only ever gone forward,’ said the ancient traveller. ‘Never once in all our years of wandering have we ever turned back and retraced our steps. How are we to know as to whether the village we have just passed through is still there, or has become another thing entirely: a mighty citadel on a hill perhaps, or a sunken ship?’

His companion paused, saying nothing.

‘We could just turn back now, of course,’ said the traveller. ‘Then we would know for sure if the village was still there and that the world is not constantly changing like the clouds as I said it does. Maybe I am just a silly old fool after all.’

‘Then that is what we shall do!’

The companion began as if to turn around. Then he stopped sharp, and shifted back to the way he had been facing. They looked at each other, and without a word, they began walking again.

‘Why didn't you turn round?’ asked the traveller, as they continued their journey away from the village.

‘If you are right,’ said his companion, ‘and the world does change its form as soon as your back is upon it, then our travelling has been in vain. All the ground we have covered will have gone, and it will be as if we had never passed over it. We must keep walking, and never turn back, or we risk losing all hope.’

The ancient traveller nodded, and they carried on walking along the path to the next village, the shadow of a cloud passing over them as they went.

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