“Tell me a story,” you say. “Tell me about mermaids big as whales that fight the giant kraken in the deep, or the day the Moon floated away from the Earth, or the girl with feet of glass. Tell me a story.” Your mouth hangs open, as if you could taste my words on the back of your throat, inhale them like so much smoke.
“Good heavens,” I reply. “Did I tell you such tales as that? Surely not.”
“Then tell me about the fox who named the stars and the goose who plucked them down to make a jam of starlight.”
“What an imagination you have!” There is a sharpness at the edges of your grin, as if you have been the one eating toast with stardust. It is hard to look away.
“What about the year with no winter?”
I don’t know that one either, and your eyes read mine; you shake your head.
“You must be getting old and forgetful,” you say, and I nod. The brightness in your face does not lie, so I must be as you say.
Yet that does not ring true. How can I be old? It seems to me I know so little, I must be young indeed. There are too many unpopulated landscapes in my head, just waiting to be filled with our adventures.
The idea rolls like a paper cup on a dusty floor, leaving its delicate tracings, and I know.
I have had adventures, alone and accompanied, and the lands I have traveled are not empty, but emptied. Each story I have given you, you have kept, such that I have it no more.
Why have you done these things? I should hate you for my hollowness, but I can only love the greedy joy in your face and the spasm of your hand on mine at each coil of our characters’ fates.
“Tell me?” you ask, softer than before.
Perhaps you know.
You are my last adventure.
“I suppose I have one more story,” I say.
“There once was an adventurer, who legend said had seen all the realms in, under, and above the Earth, who asked the world for all its mysteries, and kept them safe within her stories, her memories, her dreams. But the dream world is a place more dangerous than any, and when the adventurer tired of walking the same well-known paths, she knew there was but one left. So she crossed into the realm of dreams, there to meet her heart’s closest companion: another being who—like her—hungered for all the stories the world could offer.”
“The adventurer did not know how all-consuming such hunger could be, at first, so she kept her companion close, to walk the sparkling shift of road and wood together. In the dream-world one never tires, never needs sleep, but still night falls, so she filled the darkness with words. Her companion ate those stories up with a sunset smile, and every day the adventurer’s love grew as her companion grew more lovely and alive, barely noticing she herself was fading. Until one day, her companion said…”
“Tell me a story.”
—Margaret Winikates is a freelance writer and museum educator from Boston, MA. She writes poetry and fiction as well as Brain Popcorn, a blog on interdisciplinary education. She majored in English Literature and Language at Harvard University and studied poetry and composition with Peter Sacks and Douglas Powell, as well as the ghost of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (when working as a National Park Service Ranger). When not writing, she enjoys traveling, scuba diving, and dabbling in the visual and musical arts.