Michiko clutched the wet sand in her fists and she giggled softly as the tickling water lapped up around her feet and up to her bottom, dragging the sand back with it, leaving the print of her little legs on the quiet beach.
‘Tell me a story, Grammy, tell me some stories so I can go.’ She looked up at the ancient woman perched on a rug beside her. The rug was wet and sandy.
Old Minerva frowned. ‘So you can go. Hmmm,’ she murmured, ‘maybe I don’t want you to go. Maybe it’s better that we stay here.’
Michiko laughed. ‘You know I can’t go till I know how to tell the stories Grammy. Tell me the stories like you were told them. Tell me, so I can be a story-teller like you.’
‘But if I tell you the stories, then……..’
‘Then you’ll live on and I’ll live on. Don’t you want that Grammy? Don’t you want to live forever?’
Old Minerva looked out onto the horizon. The sea was quiet, and a light breeze brushed their skin. It was abnormally calm out there. She didn’t trust herself; she sensed a storm welling up within her. Clouds were painted across the red sky, elongated orange cigars leaving trails of golden smoke in their wake. She blinked as an old saying flashed through her mind. Red sky in the morning, shepherds warning. Michiko looked at her questioningly.
‘Mommy’s going to give birth soon,’ the little girl implored. ‘Please tell me the stories. We haven’t time. I need to go’.
Minerva looked upon the little girl, her eyes suddenly filled with loving concern. She made her decision.
‘The stories are ancient,’ the old lady began. Michiko smiled and sat up straight. She crossed her legs and listened intently. ‘The stories are older than the story of the world. Perhaps I should start with the story of the world,’ Minerva said. ‘The story of the world began as a seed, and as it was thrown into the soil of Cosmic Consciousness, so the world sprung up. ‘
Michiko piped in. ‘Who created the story Grammy?’ Her eyes burned with a light Minerva hadn’t seen before now.
‘We did. Both you and I. Without the story we have no world. We have to create a story we can live in, right?’
‘So the world is a story Grammy?’ Michiko turned and stared at the sea. The waves were coming in more quickly. She stayed put as they washed around her lower body. ‘I thought the world was real. What will happen if I stop telling the story? Will the world disappear?’
‘For you it will, but not for other people. The world feels real when you’re telling the story of it. It wouldn’t be a good story if it didn’t feel real, now, would it? If you choose to stop telling the story, of course the world will disappear.’
‘But what about the other stories I’m supposed to know about Grammy? What are they?’
‘Those are the stories within the story. There is the story of the world, and the story of who you are. Without the story of who you are, you can’t be in the story of the world.’
‘But I’m real Grammy!’ Michiko pinched herself dramatically to make her point. She leaned over and pinched the old lady’s withered skin. ‘And so are you! We are NOT a story!’
‘Of course this feels real,’ Minerva replied, ‘you have to become the story for it to be real. That’s what good storytellers do. You’re a good story-teller, just like me. You feel the story, you live the story. You laugh, you cry, you’re happy, you hurt. It’s a good way to tell a story. You tell it properly by living it.’
Michiko looked concerned. Fear crept into her eyes as she lifted herself onto her knees. The water was bothering her now. ‘If I’m not real…’ Her voice trailed off as she fought back tears. ‘If…if I stop telling the story of who I am…’
‘Who are you Michiko?’ Minerva asked the little girl. She waited while Michiko found her voice.
‘I’m Mommy’s little girl, I’m your granddaughter,’ Michiko smiled, her tears gone. ‘I’ve got a brother, Favian, who likes cocoa and riding horses with Grandpa Ethan. I look like Daddy and I love pink liquorice and strawberries with cream. My teeth aren’t good, and I tend to get toothache very easily. Mommy and daddy don’t love each other and are thinking about a divorce, and I’m from a land where…’
Minerva interrupted Michiko’s happy litany. ‘You speak a good story, Michiko. Now how does it feel to be that story?’
Michiko thought for a moment before she began talking. ‘I feel happy, I feel close to Daddy and Mommy and my heart feels warm…’ A dark cloud chased across the little girls eyes. ‘I feel jealous, ugly inside, when I think of Grandpa Ethan taking Favian out horse-riding. It makes me want to push Favian to one side and hold Grandpa all to myself.’ Michiko was scowling now. ‘ I know that Mommy will never let me go riding until I am big like Favian.’ She held herself and rocked in the sand. ‘ And I feel afraid, I know something, but I don’t know how, I’m afraid that Daddy will go away and leave Mommy, and she’ll cry, and we’ll cry…’ Michiko’s eyes widened to the sound of her grandmother’s fingers snapping. She looked around her. They were both on the beach with the water caressing their bare legs.
‘Get lost in the story for a moment did we?’ Minerva was smiling. ‘All our feelings make us lose ourselves in the story. We’re not just telling it. We’re being it.’
‘Oh,’ Michiko moaned. ‘But for a moment I was there, with everyone, and I forgot this moment with you, Grammy.’
‘That’s how story-telling works little one. You tell the story and you live it. But there are dangers as you can see. You can get lost in the feelings that make it real. You get lost and think it is actually real. It’s our feelings and emotions you see. They are powerful things. Because of these feelings, you find yourself telling the story over and over, and living it over and over, because you pass it on to your children and your grandchildren…’
‘…and then you die,’ Michiko took over from the old lady. Suddenly she didn’t look so young any more. ‘And you keep returning to the story of human life because you believe it is real and important.’
The two women stared at each other. Minerva looked into the mirror of her own soul, signs of the story of her
advanced age vanished. Michiko said quietly, ‘What will we do Minerva?’
‘Stop telling stories. Allow the world to disappear.’
‘But what about my mother, father…’ Michiko looked childlike for a moment as she pondered this question.
‘With your action, you’ll sow the seed of their awakening.’
‘It’s as easy as simply letting go? I thought I had a purpose. I was going to be the one who would teach my parents about love…’ Michiko marvelled at this thought.
‘So you’re telling more stories? Let it be as simple as it is. Let it go’
Minerva and Michiko laughed as they jumped to their feet. They watched in delight as the world dropped away and their bodies became the light of Cosmic Consciousness.
Somewhere in the world, a woman cried as her stillborn baby lay dead before her. Something inside was broken. This child was going to be special. She’d known it for sure, but now this…Through the broken wall in her soul, a light shone through. It would be a long journey before she understood why she’d lost her newborn baby, the child she’d named Michiko.