Love Letters to Earth

by Henry Quicke







The Mystery of the Spectacular Ending to the Story of the World


The Ahala believe that before the earth was created, all of the gods gathered around the great campfire for a feast, and Agwan, the god of contests, suggested that they celebrate the plentiful feast with a storytelling competition.  Agwan began, and each god in the circle of gods took a turn telling an astonishing and infinitely complex tale, far beyond human comprehension.  When all of the stories were told, a heated discussion arose which lasted perhaps thousands of years in human time, but which was of course very brief in the life of a god.  Finally, and by the narrowest of margins, it was resolved that the story of the goddess Ma’hal, the silver-tongued goddess of words, was the most interesting, particularly because of its spectacular ending.  Thus it is that Ma’hal’s story became the story of the earth, of all that has happened since the beginning and all that is to come, including the spectacular ending that is far more interesting and exciting than anything humans could ever imagine.

There was one god who refused to accept the results.  La’nat, the goddess of mystification, had come in a close second.  Her story, she claimed, was more spectacular in every respect but the ending, and she could have invented a more spectacular ending, but that would only have detracted from the mysterious spectacle of the rest of the story.  The other gods laughed at La’nat, refusing to hear her out.  Unappreciated and angry, La’nat vowed to disrupt the story of Ma’hal in every way possible.

This is why, say the Ahala, things don’t always go as planned, and why people sometimes get confused, and why people sometimes say one thing and do another.  La’nat is at work.  An exasperated Ahala will tell you, when you don’t understand what he has asked you to do, “You’ve been kissed by La’nat!”  And then he’ll knock on your skull.

Despite the steady stream of curses hurled at La’nat, the Ahala are secretly thankful for her.  They know that were it not for La’nat, they’d have no will of their own and would speak and act only to play out the prize-winning story already told by Ma’hal.  Of course, the important features of Ma’hal’s plot are too sound to be corrupted; it’s on the smaller details and the lesser events that La’nat works her mischief, so that the minor characters in the story take on lives of their own, and many of the day’s decisions fall into the hands of humans, who are fair enough storytellers but lack the sweeping vision and the good judgment of the gods and so are likely to foul things up--only in small ways, but enough to bring a wry smile to La’nat’s lips.

To honor the gods, the Ahala recreate their competition with storytelling competitions of their own at the village’s weekly campfire.  A good story there doesn’t make you a god, but it can win you a new and colorful set of evening wear.  Then you’ll be the toast of the village for many days, with many people admiring your new clothes and praising your storytelling abilities.

Occasionally, an Ahala will tell a story out of revenge.  If a man feels he has been wronged by another, he may invent a story that makes fun of the other.  Then, when the story is told around the evening fire, the offender will be forced to buy the story so it is not told again.  For this reason, too, the best storytellers are also the best treated.  You wouldn’t want to offend someone whose revenge story might be so compelling that others would want to hear it again and again; the price will rise accordingly and you’ll end up paying dearly for your transgression.

What is the spectacular ending to Ma’hal’s story?  This is a favorite speculation of the Ahala, even though they know it is beyond their wildest imaginations.  Some say the entire world will crumble apart and float up like sparks from the gods’ campfire.  Others say that when the gods grow tired they will simply stomp out the story and go to bed, which is a spectacular enough ending for weary gods.  Some say Ma’hal’s story is really a revenge story against La’nat, and this explains La’nat’s anger and her desire to steal the story away from Ma’hal.  But Ma’hal, in her wisdom, has accounted for that: knowing that La’nat really is the better creator of spectacular endings, Ma’hal has a plan.  She will allow La’nat to disrupt the story so thoroughly that she finally rests control of it and smashes it to bits in some wild, mysterious fashion, thus ensuring the spectacular and in that case rather ironic nature of the world’s end.

Such a story, so full of intrigue and high drama, say the Ahala, would certainly want to be heard again and again.

They hope the gods agree.