So, every so often I like to prove that I’ve actually been accomplishing something with all the hours I claim are dedicated to making words on a page.
What I’m about to show you may be a little frightening. It has only been edited once, and it was written all in one massive word blurt. Why am I showing this rough, misshapen thing to you in it’s current state?
Because I think that raw words keep us humble. It’s good to be honest about the work we do, at every stage of the creative process. It’s good to be transparent in our thoughts and the way we strive for better things. Is this piece still a little bit of a mess? Certainly. Could it be much, MUCH better than it is? Most definitely. But I like to think that as unpolished as it is, it still is more beautiful than first drafts from six months or a year ago. Anything can be fixed up and made pretty, but that first burst of words can sometimes be the clearest indicator of how far we have come.
If I haven’t scared you away yet, here in all it’s unedited glory is the story:
She was a woman born and formed of ice, though she walked the summer pathways in cherry scented air, and when the sandman came to sweep her away in his house of stardust she was too weighty to leave earth.
He marveled at this, for humans were the lightest of all beings, made of shadows and dust, lacking substance. It seemed that a woman all of ice should be flimsy and easily destroyed. Though her body was lined with gray-black cracks and her face broken in places, she was shining solid and not at all afraid.
“Would you be more frightened if I was sun instead of moon?” He slithered sheer black arms around her silvery figure.
“Not at all. I don’t become afraid so easily – at least, not of living things.” Smooth in his grasp, her cold filled the hollow places where he normally packed dreams. “Do you wish I was afraid of you?”
“Most people are. I don’t always bring good dreams and deep sleep, you know.”
“And sometimes you bring sleep exactly when wakefulness is needed.” She rested lightly on his porch, her back against the railing as the glow around them filled in her cracks and scars. “Why do you bring those dreams of darker things? Can’t you keep them in yourself and not burden weary souls still more?”
“If I were to swallow up all the blackness dreams are capable of, I’d wither away and cease to exist. The world would be free of dark dreams, yes, but along with them would go all dreams.”
“I fear I could still fall into reverie.”
He leaned his blackened form against the railing beside her, though the stardust passed straight through him until he and the rail were part of the same substance.
“You are not like the rest.”
Her frozen hands crept lightly over his chest, steaming breath rising despite the fruited breeze rustling the orchard around them.
“I was, once.”
“We were all different than we are now. It’s a story without an ending.”
When she moved there was a tingling in the air and the chiming of a thousand tiny bells, chorusing with haunted joy in defiance of the crickets singing gaily in the dusk.
“Why were you out walking tonight?” he asked.
She sat atop a tiny galaxy beside his front door. “Don’t pretend you haven’t seen me other nights. Your travels take you far and wide, I can’t believe you haven’t passed this way before.”
“I have, many times.” He hesitated, waiting to see if he should go on. Her frozen eyes met his, rushing waters under solid stillness, so he did. “For years I have passed by this very orchard, at the setting of the sun, and here you have always been, walking this same path through the cherry trees and wearing that same look of desire and pain. Why have you never asked for dreams before?” He leaned in close enough to feel the chill rising from her. “Why were you out walking tonight?”
She lifted off the galaxy and swept forward across the stardust porch to him, icicles trembling on her lashes and lips, her steps glassy and her face transparent. “I want something much bigger than dreams.”
He came to his feet and stood before her, an inky blackness of what might have been a man and now was only hollowed spaces holding horrors and imaginings. Her wintry hands settled on his formless shoulders as the bitter chill of her presence tried to rest in the space that should have been him.
“I want realities.”
“They might be too much for you to bear. You might be shattered by their weight.”
She pressed a shining finger to her lips, silencing him. “I won’t be. Many things have tried to shatter me, and none have yet succeeded. Dreams are frightening because the promises they make may never come to be. Realities are simply as they are.”
“You’ve been on this earth so long you’ve forgotten what power can truly be.”
Of his own accord his shadow-hands rested on the marbled curve of her waist.
“Not forgotten. Overcome.”
Her icy breath belonged to him. He could feel it, though he wasn’t anything and couldn’t feel and shouldn’t have had breath or even voice; the air she took in and released entered him and he thought perhaps he did have some kind of substance, something shimmery and temporary and swiftly dispelled once again but still a form, if only for a time.
“You did say you’re not afraid.”
His arm, dark with desire and things not yet formed, snaked further around her as he brought her to walk beside him. He captured the rope in his grasp and in one smooth motion set them free from the tethers that bound the house to the ground. When he let go he called to the stars and begged them to shine as they so rarely did, called to the night to take them in, called to the darkness to lift them on their way.
The woman of ice did not weight down the sandman’s house this time.
The blackened blue of a summer dusk embraced them as they lifted on summer breezes, sliding over the tops of the cherry trees in a trail of stardust and faded memories turned to mere imaginations. As they went the dreams fells smoothly, out the windows and doors and up through the chimney, wended on their way by the eager desires of slumberers below.
The woman climbed to the peak of the house beside him, her glittering feet finding their steps as surely as if she’d never known another world than this. Below them the lights in the villages clustered in valleys glowed with all the warmth of late-summer contentedness and branches in orchards all along their way moved smoothly in their silent dance.
The stars called out to their brothers forming the walls and windows and doors of the sandman’s house, and the woman born and formed of ice drank in the cherry-scented air of a summer’s night, swept up in the reality so large she was no longer afraid of dreams.