The Tale of a Tale

It was a tale like any other – words following words.  Of course, it had its own self.  A character, a personality that made it unique, or sufficiently different to its peers that it had self-worth.  There was just one problem: it was very, very old.  So old, in fact, its creator had almost forgotten it entirely.  Right up until one day of ‘sorting out the mess’.  Oh, what a fateful day that was!  For the tale’s creator, browsing through a battered, dusty box that had been stuck at the back and rear of an ever growing pile of boxes, discovered it again.  At that moment, it wasn’t the focus of the creator’s attention.  That was given to the bulky, bulging ring binder in its entirety.  Yellowed paper, with damaged edges, was jutting unevenly from the binder.  Dozens of fragments, notes made hastily, whole passages standing proudly, lists that niggled at the creator’s memory but refused to be recognised.  There were even some fragments that spanned several sheets.  And it was all a mix of handwritten and typed.

The creator, with motes of dust floating in the streaky sunlight all around him, settled on the floor and gave brief attention to each sheet of aged paper, sometimes smiling in recollection, sometimes snorting at the nonsense pieces.  It was not a quick process.  The rays of light swung slowly across the scene as hours trickled past.  And then, there in the very heart of the binder-cramped papers, the tale came to the surface.  It was anxious, longing to be something more, something complete.  Perhaps it was so very weary because it was, like all the rest, merely a fragment.  Oh, but what a fragment!  It felt its worth, its superiority to the rest, its possession of a moment of real genius from the creator, who trapped the moment on seven sheets of once-white paper, bound in the ink from a dancing typewriter ribbon in a frenzy of activity.  To be left, a sentence hanging unfinished at the bottom of the seventh sheet.  The casualty of circumstance as the creator discovered that he had used the very last of his paper supply.

As dull sounds came from below, where others went about the day as usual, the creator almost moved onto the next fragment, but the tale fought back, jamming its last sheet against the sixteen line poem on the next sheet of paper.  The creator used various idle methods to pass on, but his eyes drifted across the neat, though faded, lines of typing, with the ‘e’ consistently too high and the overly sharp ‘o’ making dark ringed holes in the paper.  And as his eyes followed the trail of words, he began to see what was there.  Before long, he was reading properly, gradually leaning closer to the foxed, discoloured paper.  The tale could feel the creator’s heart moving to the rhythm of its words, faster, slower, stronger, fainter.   Seven sheets of typing, single line spacing for economy.  It didn’t really take the creator long to read it, though it seemed an eternity.  With the last word of the unfinished sentence, and after a frustrated hunt for the non-existent rest, the creator collided with great force against the wall of lost opportunity.  With a frown, the creator fights the age stiffened rings, without success.  His old fingers just can’t manage the metallic resistance.  The tale feels fear.  If he can’t release it from its prison…

There is a soft but rather horrible sound as paper gone almost brittle tears.  Fingers mottled with age, with a hint of arthritic swelling in a couple of knuckles, grip the liberated sheets.  The binder drops back into the box.  The whole war field of ‘sorting out’ is forgotten, abandoned.  The creator hurries, in a shambling way, out of the small room, long unused, and along a landing only dimly lit.  Down stairs that aren’t safe, the aged carpet threadbare in places, torn or loose in others.  The banister creaks and shifts very slightly under the stress of the creator needing it for support.  A lighter area, where staircase joins a wide hallway.  Voices in a room at the rear of the house, the kitchen, which is the accepted place for people to congregate and talk.  The creator turns from the voices and enters a large, comfortable room, drowned in sunlight competing with a bulb that’s never turned off.  He goes to a comfortable chair at a small but sturdy desk and sits down.

The tale can’t sense the presence of a typewriter and it becomes uncertain.  The creator pulls the chair closer to the desk and places the tale on the flat surface.  He takes a moment to smooth out the creases his grasp made in the paper.  The tale becomes aware of something new, something wondrous, something with a growing hoard of precious words.  It can’t know, of course, that this new thing is called ‘computer’.  But tale becomes aware of being read again, of some essence of its words rising, passing through the creator into computer, to appear on a shining screen, every letter perfectly in place.  The tale feels a strange fading sensation as its words, its phrases, its sentences are channelled into computer.

The tale is very, very tired.  It wants the creator to finish before it rests.  Deep down, it knows that it won’t be waking again.  It came back into the light for a while, and was read.  That will be enough.  The final sentence, its promise unrealised, is drawn up and granted entry into computer’s strange, bright world.  And as the last letter of the last word is taken, the tale plunges into the darkness, ready for oblivion.


Incredible.  Light everywhere.  A sense of something unfamiliar, something that the tale has always dreamt of, wished for, but the identity of which evades it.  There is a peculiar sensation, of being drawn quickly into a tiny space, darker than the binder, or the box, but just as full of others.  But now the others look at the tale with envy and wistfulness, and just a hint of admiration.  And the tale realises what the new feeling is.  It is almost complete.  Somehow it knows that its words would now fill many, many sheets of paper.  It feels the growth, discovers new knowledge, an expansion far beyond its wildest dreams.  It is more than a simple tale, now.  It is reincarnated as a veritable novel!

By, and Copyright (©) of, Steve K Smy, June 2013.

I hope you enjoyed this little tale of how a forgotten fragment of a story can be reincarnated!  Who knows?  Perhaps one day you’ll aid in the reincarnation of a forgotten tale…


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